Paddling Routes of North-Central Saskatchewan
University of Regina Press / 16 January 2015

Paddling Routes of North-Central Saskatchewan by Gregory P. Marchildon and Carl Anderson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-304-2 The photo on the cover of Paddling Routes of North-Central Saskatchewan shows a paddle dipping into the water. If this doesn’t make you want to pack up your troubles and explore the province’s pristine lakes and rivers, then the detailed descriptions and instructions of authors Gregory P. Marchildon and Carl Anderson surely will. Never canoed before? No problem. The authors rate the difficulties of each route so readers can choose the one most suitable for their level of expertise. If you’re up to the challenges as a seasoned canoeist, the authors have suggestive ideas aplenty. Marchildon and Anderson guide readers through twenty-three trips. Each lists the length of the trip in both miles and kilometers, the approximate time it takes to complete the trip, the number of portages required, and a list of map coordinates. Following some of the trip descriptions are endnotes with nifty tidbits of information that may surprise even some long-term Saskatchewan residents. Did you know, for instance, that Ile-a-la-Crosse takes its name from the game of lacrosse? The book provides the…

Blackfoot Stories of Old
University of Regina Press / 24 December 2014

Blackfoot Stories of Old by Lena Heavy Shields Russell and Inge Genee Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-318-9 Blackfoot Stories of Old is the third in the series of books produced by the University of Regina Press, written in Aboriginal languages with English translations. The book was written, translated, and edited by Lena Heavy Shields Russell and Inge Genee, with illustrations by William Singer III. His etchings, in many ways, look like silhouettes. Fluent in her native tongue, Lena Russell, whose Blackfoot name is “Gentle Singer,” has published 13 resource books – the first Blackfoot resource books ever published and approved by Alberta Education – and helped develop the Blackfoot language curriculum. Blackfoot Stories of Old is a collection of eight very short stories, each about the size of a postcard. Each story is told in Blackfoot on one side of the page, with English on the other. The stories are short, simple, and powerful, with an almost poetic quality. They may well cause a reader to pause and reflect. These are true stories based on Lena’s childhood. Some of the stories, like “A finger bone and a rag doll” and “A Spirit”…

Thugs, Thieves, and Outlaws of Alberta
University of Regina Press / 18 December 2014

Thugs, Thieves & Outlaws: Alberta Crime Stories by Ryan Cormier Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-300-4 In the decades before Canada abolished capital punishment, hanging was a popular mode of execution. It was not an efficient method. An executioner mistakenly cut down one man while he was still alive, with his neck grotesquely dislocated. As the young man struggled for breath in front of witnesses for another 12 minutes, prison officials discussed hanging him a second time. In the 40 chapters of Thugs, Thieves & Outlaws: Alberta Crime Stories, author Ryan Cormier describes many grisly crimes and their punishments. He explains that “good people can be fascinated by gruesome things.” A reporter for the Edmonton Journal, Cormier relies heavily on court transcripts, newspaper accounts, and his own notes. While acknowledging that “every crime has at least two sides,” he uses only the official version, the one sanctioned by the courts. Cormier’s book covers crimes in Alberta from 1870 to 2008. Many of the stories are ripped straight from the headlines, such as the murder of four RCMP officers at Mayerthorpe in 2005. Some stories seem beyond belief, like the banker who embezzled millions…

Potash
University of Regina Press / 13 November 2014

Potash: An Inside Account of Saskatchewan’s Pink Gold by John Burton Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-314-1 When Rita MacNeil sang “Working Man” about “Men of the Deep,” she wasn’t referring to Saskatchewan’s potash miners, but she might just as well have been. Some of these mines are more than 3,000 feet underground, and at that depth, danger lurks. Rather than dealing with the dangers below, John Burton focuses on the threat above ground. He fears that Saskatchewan may lose this precious resource to privatization. The value of potash is reflected in his tantalizing subtitle, Pink Gold. Burton explores the history of potash production in Saskatchewan from its beginning in 1942 to the present. He knows what he’s talking about. As a close associate of NDP Premier Allan Blakeney and a former board member of the Crown-owned Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, he’s in a position to provide the inside scoop. Burton claims that the aggressive potash development policy of Ross Thatcher’s Liberal government brought about a “crisis that almost brought the industry to its knees.” He notes, “There were even suggestions that some ministers and officials would be arrested if they entered the…

One Family’s War: Second Edition
University of Regina Press / 11 November 2014

One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa, 1940-1944 (Second Edition) Edited by Rollie Bourassa Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-320-2 One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa is a book that had to be written, a story that had to be told – and a story important enough to be retold. That’s why the University of Regina Press printed this second edition. The first edition sold out, and no one should be deprived of reading this fascinating first-hand account of a Saskatchewan hero in World War II. The story is told through the wartime letters of Clarence Bourassa, a lad from Lafleche, SK, who enlisted in the South Saskatchewan Regiment, leaving his wife Hazel and two young sons at home. He kept in touch by writing, almost daily, letters home. Clarence recounts both the drudgery and routine of army life, and the horror of combat. He also expresses the loneliness he felt being separated from his family. This 603-page book is supplemented with two dozen black and white photos of Clarence’s family and army life. A highlight of the book is Clarence’s firsthand account of his participation in the…

The Vaults
University of Regina Press / 25 September 2014

The Vaults: Art from the MacKenzie Art Gallery and the University of Regina Collections edited by Timothy Long and Dr. Stephen King Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-289-2 Opening The Vaults is like cracking open a safe, revealing the cultural treasures stored in the collections of the MacKenzie Art Gallery and the University of Regina. This visually inspiring coffee table book explores only a fraction of the more than 4,500 works of art. The core of this collection originated when prominent Regina lawyer Norman MacKenzie started amassing art by European and Asian masters, along with emerging Canadian artists such as Inglis Sheldon-Williams. When MacKenzie began building his collection, art was not greatly appreciated in Regina. People thought he was foolish to spend his money this way. He lamented that it would be easier to sell 200 automobiles than to give away oil paintings. MacKenzie had to rebuild his collection after a tornado in 1912 virtually wiped out the pieces he had accumulated. One painting, ironically titled Storm at Sea, survived the storm and is reproduced in this lavishly illustrated book. When he died in 1936, MacKenzie bequeathed his collection of artwork and antiquities…

Beyond the Farm Gate
University of Regina Press / 27 August 2014

Beyond the Farm Gate: The Story of a Farm Boy Who Helped Make the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool a World-Class Business by E.K. (Ted) Turner Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $29.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-334-9 You can see a lot from the farm gate. Ted Turner does just that, peering into the past of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. More importantly perhaps, the reader can also peer into the past of the farm boy who helped transform the Pool into the world-class business that it became. Beyond the Farm Gate serves a dual purpose – it’s both Turner’s autobiography and a history of that prairie icon, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. The two are so entwined that it’s hard to think of one without the other. The son of one of the original Barr Colonists, Turner was born in a farmhouse near Maymont, SK, and raised in the Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties. He tells how he “rescued” his wife from her 9 to 3 job as a bank teller so she could work on the farm, “where she had the privilege to work from dawn to dusk.” The book explores Turner’s own learning process, how he developed an…

Settling Saskatchewan
University of Regina Press / 21 August 2014

Settling Saskatchewan by Alan B. Anderson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-284-7 Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover? The evocative cover of Settling Saskatchewan – a photo of newly arrived immigrants crowding together on a railway siding – effectively conveys the theme of this book. Author Alan Anderson covers the full gamut of ethnic settlement – starting with First Nations people and Métis, to English, French, German, Scandinavian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Asian – from early days to the present. Some immigrant communities are well known, such as the English settlers of Cannington Manor and the Barr Colonists. Others, like the Patagonian Welsh from Argentina, are either unknown or forgotten. Pity. Their stories are worth telling. Many ethnic minorities, such as the Scottish crofters at Saltcoats, Oklahoma Blacks near Maidstone, and Old Colony Mennonites, settled in blocs for security or ethnic cohesiveness. These pockets formed a patchwork pattern throughout the province. Drawing on his research spanning four decades, Anderson packs a lot of very detailed data into his 485-page book. In addition to a list of sources at the end of each chapter, Settling Saskatchewan has endnotes, a bibliography, and…

Fists Upon A Star

Fists Upon A Star: A Memoir of Love, Theatre, and Escape from McCarthyism by Florence Bean James, with Jean Freeman Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-260-1 “Speak up!” This was Florence James’s admonition to aspiring actors. It was something she often did herself, speaking up on behalf of the deprived and downtrodden. Fists Upon A Star is Florence’s autobiography, assisted by her former student and co-worker, Jean Freeman. The title comes from a poem by Stephen Vincent Benét. The book includes an index and 28 black and white photos of productions that Florence directed. Florence details the excitement and perils of live theatre. Once, dressed in a new gown – she always bought a new gown for opening night – she was waiting in the wings for the curtain to rise when the theatre caught fire. At its core, this is a story of love between Florence and her husband Burton, and especially the love they shared with live theatre. They were a dynamic duo acting in tandem, perfectly complementing each other. Together, they formed their own company, the Seattle Repertory Playhouse. They also made innovations that were ahead of their time, including…

Inside the Ark
University of Regina Press / 30 January 2014

Inside the Ark: The Hutterites in Canada and the United States by Yossi Katz and John Lehr Published by Canadian Plains Research Center Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-282-3 Ever wonder what goes on inside a Hutterite colony? Inside the Ark: The Hutterites in Canada and the United States tells the intimate story of a people little known and even less understood. The impact of the Hutterites is significant. Authors Yossi Katz and John Lehr point out that the 40,000 Hutterites living in 474 colonies throughout Canada and the United States form the largest communal society in the world. The authors show the inner workings of a hardworking society, industrious as a colony of ants, toiling quietly in seclusion. One rural municipality in Manitoba, for instance, is home to three Hutterite colonies that “constitute the three largest operations in the area.” Yet according to the RM’s economic development officer, “we never hear from them, they just go about their business.” Like a protective ark, the commune provides shelter and safety against meddling and corrupting outside influences. But the authors believe that “today, the Ark is leaking.” Technology – especially computers and the Internet – is forcing Hutterites to emerge…