Firewater
University of Regina Press / 28 February 2017

Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours) by Harold R. Johnson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $16.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-437-7 Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours) packs a wallop as Harold Johnson unveils the harsh truth about alcoholism on Aboriginal reserves. He exposes the truth, and the truth hurts. But by having the courage to confront alcohol head on, he stares it down into submission. Johnson himself is an Aboriginal who has struggled with the crippling effects of alcohol addiction, so he knows what he’s talking about and speaks with authority. Although he directs his highly controversial book primarily at Aboriginals, non-Aboriginals could also benefit greatly from it. Johnson is at heart a storyteller, using the storyteller’s technique of repeating certain words and phrases to create a hypnotic effect on readers. He elaborates on the devastating effects alcohol has had, and continues to have, on Aboriginal people. Johnson’s shocking statistics are real eye-openers. He estimates, for instance, that fully one-half of all Aboriginals on Treaty 6 territory will die from an alcohol-related death, whether they drink or not. He also produces statistics showing that 35 per cent of Aboriginals don’t use…

Corvus
Thistledown Press / 19 April 2016

Corvus by Harold Johnson Published by Thistledown Press Review by Allison Kydd $19.95; ISBN 978-1-77187-051-1 Corvus is a novel that repays the reader’s persistence. Its setting is eighty years in the future, during a time of uneasy peace after a period of war, caused in turn by ecological disasters that have moved populations north, which causes overcrowding. The wars, therefore, are primarily to protect territory and the technological bubble enjoyed by the wealthy. This futuristic setting may initially discourage some, but ultimate rewards make it worth reading on. The fact the novel is set in La Ronge, Saskatchewan, and involves a First Nations community might also give one pause. Fortunately, it is not overly derivative nor an obvious political agenda thinly disguised as fiction. The theme does remind one of Thomas King’s The Back of a Turtle, which also features the tragic destruction of First Nations communities by corporate greed. As a rule, such corporations are represented by whites/“Europeans” or (in the case of King’s protagonist) by First Nations descendants who have lost touch with their origins. At first, Corvus seems to justify reservations. First the raven appears, a familiar totem for the First Nations psyche, suggesting the book will…

The Cast Stone: A Novel of Uprising
Thistledown Press / 21 November 2012

The Cast Stone by Harold Johnson Published by Thistledown Press Review by Fleur Macqueen Smith $19.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-89-8 The Cast Stone is the third novel from Harold Johnson, who was born and lives in Northern Saskatchewan and balances his time between practicing law in La Ronge and operating his family’s traditional trapline using a dog team. While Johnson sets the tone for the novel with its subtitle, a novel of uprising, the story unfolds in a thoughtful, unhurried pace, often interspersed with humour. This novel won the 2012 Fiction award at the Saskatchewan Book Awards, and the judges called it an “ambitious, wide-ranging and wise novel whose roots extend from the land and local community to the world.” It is narrated by Ben Robe, a retired political science professor who returns home to his reserve at Moccasin Lake in Northern Saskatchewan to finish his life in peace and solitude. Within quick succession, he is drawn into two situations that interrupt his plans. First, he reconnects with Monica, a former student who wants him to become involved in insurgency activities arising from the sudden and unwelcome annexation of Canada by the United States. Second, he learns that his brief affair with…