Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year 2011 Precedes a New Age

This photo is of the Consolation Lakes in Banff National Park, Alberta.

As 2010 comes to a close, I sit looking toward another year wondering what it will bring. As with most matters it is best to look forward with a clear mind and fortitude for whatever comes forth.

Being an avid astrology buff, the New Year brings with it planetary changes that will benefit all the signs. This is the forerunner to 2012 when the Age of Pisces gives way to the Age of Aquarius in the latter part of December.

2011 will hallmark the path toward a new age brimming with new ideas and a new consciousness, not only for our planet, Earth, but the entire cosmos. It is a time of change from 'self' to a heart-centred consciousness where love is the answer for all things. A caring for others, be they people, flora and fauna, or even intergalatic travellers.

For those who recall 1969 and the music by the Fifth Dimension: The Age of Aquarious

For a peek into your yearly astrological sign provides an overview for 2011. An alternative site is Planetary Rhythms.

Photo Credit: whipstar CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings

This is the Flathead Range in the Crowsnest Pass on Highway 22 in British Columbia.

The last several weeks have been fraught with internet connection problems and hopefully once Mercury Retrograde is over things will be easier.

This is the time of year I look forward to, to reflect on the season and the meaning behind the holiday. It's a special time of sharing and giving of oneself for the benefit of others.

Again, I'm having Christmas dinner with friends and am really looking forward to stuffing myself. I hope your holiday is wonderful and fulfilling.

Photo Credit: tipkodi-CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall (Book Review)

From inside flap:

“Murder is no laughing matter.

Yet a prominent Indian scientist dies in a fit of giggles when a Hindu goddess appears from a mist and plunges a sword into his chest.

The only one laughing now is the main suspect, a powerful guru named Maharaj Swami, who seems to have done away with his most vocal critic.

Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesn’t believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence, and proving who really killed Dr. Suresh Jha will require all the detective’s earthly faculties. To get at the truth, he and his team of undercover operatives—Facecream, Tubelight, and Flush—travel from the slum where India’s hereditary magicians must be persuaded to reveal their secrets to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges.

How did the murder weapon miraculously crumble into ash? Will Maharaj Swami have the last laugh? And perhaps more important, why is Puri’s wife, Rumpi, chasing petty criminals with his Mummy-ji when she should be at home making his rotis?

Stopping only to indulge his ample Punjabi appetite, Puri uncovers a web of spirituality, science, and sin unique in the annals of crime.”

This is Tarquin Hall’s second book in the Vish Puri, most private investigator, series. The first book The Case of the Missing Servant was very successful. The story begins with vivid detail to provide the reader with the feeling of being present in Delhi. The heat is palpable combined with the customs within the Indian culture. As with the first book there is a glossary to provide explanations for meanings for unfamiliar Indian terms.

Vish Puri continues to sneak snacks throughout the day despite his wife, Rumpi, providing a lunch. The detective continues his habit of a voracious appetite while at work, eating delectable snacks, of various descriptions, that expand his waistline and ease his tension.

Vish Puri, a 50-ish man, follows a traditional role rather than a modern one, often reflecting upon the social and political structures of Delhi and India such as “India’s recent economic rebirth”. It is this theme that reoccurs throughout the entirety of the book.

Mr. Hall provides thorough though brief glimpses at the history of India to reflect the current conditions including political corruption, and how the characters relationships interact within that framework.

The investigation leads Vish Puri to the Godman, Maharaj Swami, who runs a spiritual centre. This centre, the Abode of Eternal Love, is located in the foothills of the Himalayas. There, Swami’s clientele pay exorbitant sums in an attempt to reach enlightenment. Puri’s investigative undercover team, Facecream and Flush, infiltrate the spiritual centre with the intention of finding “proof” whether Swami arranged the death of Dr. Sha, and more particularly, how the levitation and disappearance of Kali was done. There is a scene where Facecream learns a vital lesson about healing herself, which in itself contradicts Mr. Hall’s inference throughout the book that spiritualists are nothing more than conmen.

However, the endings for the investigations into Dr. Sha’s murder and Rumpi and Mommy-ji’s “kitty party” theft are plausible. There were several hilarious portions throughout and some tense moments. It’s a good read and should content anyone looking for a cozy.

Review copy provided by Lucinda Blumfeld.

Book format: hardcover, 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author website: Tarquin Hall
Available: June 1, 2010

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Exile by Diana Gabaldon (Book Review)

From inside flap:

After too long an absence, Jamie Fraser is coming home to Scotland—but not without great trepidation. Though his beloved godfather, Murtagh, promised Jamie’s late parents he’d watch over their brash son, making good on that vow will be no easy task. There’s already a fat bounty on the young exile’s head, courtesy of Captain Black Jack Randall, the sadistic British officer who’s crossed paths—and swords—with Jamie in the past. And in the court of the mighty MacKenzie clan, Jamie is a pawn in the power struggle between his uncles: aging chieftain Colum, who demands his nephew’s loyalty—or his life—and Dougal, war chieftain of Clan MacKenzie, who’d sooner see Jamie put to the sword than anointed Colum’s heir.

And then there is Claire Randall—mysterious, beautiful, and strong-willed, who appears in Jamie’s life to stir his compassion and arouse his desire.

But even as Jamie’s heart draws him to Claire, Murtagh is certain she’s been sent by the Old Ones, and Captain Randall accuses her of being a spy. Claire clearly has something to hide, though Jamie can’t believe she could pose him any danger. Still, he knows she is torn between two choices—a life with him, and whatever it is that draws her thoughts so often elsewhere.”

The Exile, a graphic novel, is a new addition to the Outlander series. Some of Ms Gabaldon’s avid fans may find several of the scenes depicted as being too revealing, such as enhanced bosoms in provocative costumes. This is the nature of this type of book.

That said, the story is presented in a shortened form while following the major plot points. New insights are revealed through the viewpoints of Jamie Fraser, Murtagh and Gellis Duncan.

Every reader has an image of what a character’s appearance is from the description provided by the author. That image carries over from book to book and grows as the character changes. The illustrator, Huang Nguyen, has done an excellent job of portraying the characters in appearance and historical detail. Several of the scenes that caught my attention were the opening of a stormy sea and rugged shoreline, the end of a carrot sticking out of a horse’s mouth, the wild boar, Scottish building exteriors and one of Jamie riding a galloping horse on a saddle without a girth.

This was an enjoyable read for a couple of hours while allowing me a new glimpse at another’s interpretation of a favourtie saga.

The review copy was kindly provided by Cassandra Sadek of Random House.

Book format: hardcover, 208 pages
Publisher: Random House
Author website: Diana Gabaldon
Illustrator’s webite: Hoang Mguyen
Available: September 28, 2010

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Road Closed by Leigh Russell (Book Review)

From the back cover:

“When a man dies in a gas explosion, the police suspect arson. The Murder Investigation Team is called in. The case takes on a new and terrible twist when a local villain is visiously attacked.

As the police enquiries lead them from the expensive Harchester Hill Estate to a local brothel, a witness dies in a hit-and-run. They must discover if it was a coincidence – or cold-blooded murder.

The Murder Investigation Team has problems of its own – and so does Geraldine Steel. A shocking revelation threatens her peace of mind as the case races towards its dramatic climax.”

Road Closed is Leigh Russell’s second crime novel of the DI Geraldine Steel series. Managing a hectic work schedule with a partner, Craig, who has difficulties coming to terms with her job, and family pressures over a recent death.

When DCI Kathyn Gordon is stricken with a heart problem and hospitalized, her position is temporarily filled by Chief Detective Inspector, James Ryder. This new character is one I would like to see again in future books of this series.

Once again, Ms Russell uses short chapters to keep the pace steady while ramping up the suspense. The subplot twists with multiple points-of-view creates a complex story that reels the reader in. The criminals are memorable, especially Calum Martin, a particularly nasty individual.

Book format: paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: No Exit Press
Author website: Leigh Russell
Available: August 1, 2010

ROAD CLOSED, is available in Canada at and

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

My computer problems will be soon rectified. Thus, book reviews and other assorted posts will resume in due course.

To pass the time until then please enjoy this photo of Spirit Island in Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park in Alberta.

Photo Credit: alpeck99 CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

I have a computer glitch where my windows program has flipped the view upside down making it extremely difficult to do any typing or posting. When I get the quirk fixed, hopefully in the next day or so, I'll be back to regular posts.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Interview with Author Leigh Russell

CUT SHORT came out in 2009 as Leigh Russell’s debut novel and soon began collecting multiple fave reviews. My review is here.

Recently CUT SHORT has been shortlisted for the internationally prestigious Crime Writers' Association 2010 John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award for the best first novel from a previously unpublished author.

Leigh Russell's second novel in the PI Geraldine Steel series, ROAD CLOSED, is now available in Canada at and

Leigh has agreed to an interview so her readers can get to know a little more about her and how she developed the characters in her two crime novels.

1. Who is the first person who gets to read your manuscript?

This has been different with each of my books as my writing career has developed. When I started, I never expected anyone to read CUT SHORT, let alone publish it. When I finished the manuscript I sent it to three publishers who specialise in crime fiction, with no expectation that I would hear back from any of them. Two weeks later I had a phone call from a publisher who subsequently offered me a three book deal – and here I am. So the first person to read my first manuscript was my publisher! I showed the manuscript for ROAD CLOSED to a few close friends before I sent it to my publisher. I now have an agent, and so far he is the only person who has read the manuscript for DEAD END, which will be published in 2011.

2. How do you choose your characters' names?

Names are very important to me. With some characters I start with a name and the character follows, but usually I have a character in mind and cast about for a name that seems to work.

3. What do you have in your writer's drawer?

I’m not good at throwing things away so all my drawers and cupboards are stuffed with random scraps of paper, postcards and business cards people have given me. I also have pens, pencils and notebooks.

4. Where is your favourite place to write?

I can write anywhere, at any time, but my favourite place is sitting at my desk where I have a wonderful view along the road. When I glance up I can look out of the window to the street below and see occasional pedestrians and cars disappearing round the corner. I always wonder where they’re going. They remind me that life is full of possibilities.

5. Do you listen to music when you write?

No. Curiously, I can listen to people talking on the radio or television and write, but I find music distracts me from my words.

6. How would you describe the story in Road Closed?

It’s hard to describe my own books, so I’ll tell you what the first reviews have been saying about ROAD CLOSED: “tense and gripping... well-written and absorbing right from the get-go, with just the right amount of guess-work for the reader.” (Eurocrime) “a gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end with its refreshingly compelling and original narrative” (New York Journal of Books, reviewed by award winning author Sam Millar) “This novel keeps you guessing until the end and packs some powerful surprises” (Bookersatz) So I think it’s fair to say that it’s a gripping and exciting plot. But I hope you’ll read and make up your own mind about it.

7. What was the inspiration for Road Closed?

It’s difficult to say without giving too much away, but I began with a “What if” question. That’s how all my stories begin. What if you’re the first one to arrive in the office one morning, and you see a body… What if you know you’re alone in the house at night and as you’re lying in bed, in the dark, you hear a door closing…

8. Do you keep a chart or list of all the things about DI Geraldine Steel?

No, I write very little down. I tend to keep my characters in my head, in the same way that I do with the real people I know. I do have to write down the occasional fact, for example the year Geraldine was born, as I often forget factual details. I’m just the same with real people I know, terrible at remembering details like birthdays - but I seem to understand what makes people tick, and I feel that I know my characters.

9. Are there other characters carried over from Cut Short to Road Closed?

Yes. Geraldine is in the same location so she is working with the same sergeant, and the same chief inspector as in CUT SHORT. They are both with her in DEAD END (which will be published 2011). In the fourth book in the series my readers can expect to see big changes in Geraldine’s life… but that’s all I’m prepared to say for now!

10. How and why did you become a writer?

Before I wrote my first crime novel, I had never planned to write anything. One day I had an idea and started writing and I haven’t been able to stop since then. It was like turning on a tap. Within six weeks I’d written the first draft of CUT SHORT. What surprises me now is that I didn’t discover my passion for writing sooner. As for why – F Scott FitzGerald said: “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” That was my experience.

11. What authors do you read?

I am a fan of Jeffery Deaver so I was thrilled when he emailed me to tell me he’d read CUT SHORT and “loved it!” and described it as “a stylish, top-of-the-line crime tale”. Sam Millar is another author I really admire, so I was equally thrilled when he reviewed ROAD CLOSED for The New York Journal of Books: “We were first introduced to Steel in the gritty and totally addictive debut novel, Cut Short, and once again Russell is in top form with this new crime thriller.” I don’t only read crime fiction. Some of my many favourites are Edith Wharton, Dickens, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro… I could go on...

12. What were your thoughts on the multiple print runs of Cut Short, your debut novel?

I was very pleased, and grateful to all the readers who bought CUT SHORT.

Thank you very much for interviewing me here, with such challenging and interesting questions.

Thank you, Leigh, for your appearance and I look forward to your continued success with ROAD CLOSED and DEAD END.

Saturday, 31 July 2010


The winner of the book THE CASE OF THE MISSING SERVANT by Tarquin Hall is David Cranmer selected by the Annabet Randomizer. This book was supplied by Tarquin Hall's literary agency, Fletcher & Company. David, please email me with your mailing particulars. Thank you to everyone who entered.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Hiking Trails - Glacier House

[1]-nearing Glacier National Park gate with the Sir Donald Range in the background

This post is for Robb Kloss of Ruahine Ramblings in New Zealand who is celebrating his birthday. Please pop over to wish him a good one.

Glacier House is the focal point for ten hiking trails in Glacier National Park, British Columbia. These ten backcountry trails that lead out of the Illecillewaet Campground date from the early days of railway tourism and still follow the routes laid out by the original Swiss Guides of Glacier House.

[2-Rogers Pass rest stop with Illecillewaet Glacier in background - click to enlarge]

Illecillewaet Campground is located 2.6 km west of the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre located in an avalanche shelter on the Trans-Canada Highway (hwy 1).

[3 - Rogers Pass Discovery Centre built in an avalanche shelter - click to enlarge
This avalanche shelter was built as a protection against the multiple avalanches that occur in Rogers Pass. Every year there is a memorial for those who lost their lives in the March 4, 1910 avalanche. This year marks the 100th year anniversary.]

The campground is open from late June to September 1 and offers 60 campsites, flush toilet washroom buildings, log kitchen shelters, food lockers, firewood and drinking water supplies.

[4 - Illecillewaet Campground]

[4A-Gopher (Richardson Ground Squirrel) - click to enlarge]

Go to the second parking lot past the campground, walk up the rail trail toward the Wheeler Hut for about 100m, crossing the Illecillewaet River.

[5- Trail crosses the Illecillewaet River]

There is an interpretative trail at the Glacier House ruins. Glacier House had been demolished in 1929.

[6-Foundations of Glacier House]

Below the Great Glacier (later called the Illecillewaet) and on the main line, the C.P.R. constructed Glacier House - a traditional C.P.R. hotel. Originally, the hotel was built to eliminate the need to haul heavy dining cars over the pass. Trains were conveniently scheduled so that passengers could lunch at the hotel.

[7-Glacier House former wall]

Glacier House quickly became a popular tourist attraction and facilities were eventually expanded to include 90 rooms and related services.

[8-Glacier House old furnace remains]

The C.P.R. brought mountain climbing guides from Switzerland and the hotel became a focal point for mountaineering in the Selkirks and North America.

[9 -Winter scene at Glacier House. Note snow piles surrounding train tracks and station c.1885-1890s - for photo clink on link to Glenbow Archives]

After a massive avalanche on March 10, 1910 that killed 58, the CPR admitted defeat to the weather conditions of Rogers Pass and began in 1913 to build a tunnel underneath Mount Carroll (Macdonald) which was called the Connaught Tunnel. In 1917 the Connaught Tunnel opened for rail traffic with a distance of 1.6km to bypass the dangerous Rogers Pass.

Glacier House continued to operate until 1925 losing its business to the Banff Springs Hotel and the Chateau Lake Louise, as well as the retreat of the Illecillewaet Glacier which had been 150 feet from the hotel.

Source: Source: ParksCanada - Rogers Pass

Photo Credits: [1]-RegNatarajan CC=flickr, [2]-CanadaGood CC=nc-nd-flickr, [3]-Canoe Too CC=nc-nd-flickr, [4][6][7][8]-elinar CC=nc-flickr, [4A]-Jason Liew CC=nc-sa-flickr, [5]-kleinmantara CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Monday, 26 July 2010

My Town Monday - Kicking Horse Pass - The Big Hill

[1-Looking SW toward Kicking Horse Pass, Mt. Stephen on far right - click to enlarge]

When the Canadian Pacific Railway continued construction on its transcontinental railroad in 1885 the Big Hill was the most difficult portion of the route. It was located in the Canadian Rockies west of the Continental Divide and Kicking Horse Pass.

[2-CP Empress 2816 backing up before running Morant's Curve -click to enlarge]

The rail line route along the Kicking Horse River was considered the worst. From the west end of Wapta Lake the original survey revealed a uniform grade of 2.2% (116 feet to the mile) to Ottertail required a 1,400 foot tunnel through Mount Stephen and exposure to avalanche paths. The CPR realized that digging this tunnel would delay things for a year. This resulted in a temporary alternate route being built instead. The new route descended at 232 feet per mile or 4.5%, more than double, passing Wapta Lake to the base of Mount Stephen, along the Kicking Horse to a point just west of Field, then climbing again the meet the original survey at Muskeg Summit.

[3 - CP Empress 2816 crosses the Ottertail - click to enlarge]

Three special reverse grade dead end spurs to control runaway trains were built. Runaways and deaths did occur despite the safety precautions. The Big Hill between Field and Hector that ran for eight miles was ‘temporary’ for almost 25 years. It took four engines to get 710 tons up the grade. Trains were limited to a certain number of cars; freights were allowed more and passenger trains less. The route was dangerous and very expensive to operate. The remains of one accident can be found near the Kicking Horse River campground.

Trains loaded with heavy dining cars and sleeping cars were unable to climb the Big Hill, resulted in the CPR building rest stops at Mount Stephen House and Glacier House.

[4 - CP Empress 2816 entering Field - click to enlarge]

Special locomotives had to be built to haul the trains up the Big Hill. Heavy 2-8-0’s were enormous for their day, the first Consolidation type equipped with water brakes. Hundreds more would follow, larger and stronger, and were stationed at Field where a train stonehouse with turntable had been built for their storage and maintenance. Field had originally been known as the Third Siding until December 1884 when the CPR named it after C.W. Field, a Chicago businessman, whom they hoped would invest in their railroad.

[5 - Big Hill and CPR 1890]

Big Hill” on the CPR, 1890. Safety Switch No. 1 and its uphill spur are shown foreground and right; the truss bridge under the rear of the train, now known as the "Old Bridge", survives as a tourist attraction.

In 1909 the Big Hill was replaced by an engineering marvel, the Spiral Tunnels, reducing the grade to 2.2%, the norm for railroad tracks for maximum grade, at a cost of $1.5 million.

[6 - Spiral Tunnels in early 1920s - click to enlarge]

The tunnel under Cathedral mountain is 3255 feet long with a turn of 291 degrees, and the one under Mount Ogden turns through 217 degrees over 2992 feet. When the tunnels were bored, the measurements were off on one tunnel 1.5 feet when the two ends connected, and on the other tunnel, six inches.

[7 - CP Empress 2816 climbing rise to Spiral Tunnels - click to enlarge]

A bit of trivia about Mount Ogden: it was once the venue for a piano concert. A railway employee had been transferred and decided to move his small piano by loading it aboard a small push car. As he coasted through the lower tunnel he played his piano, much to the surprise of another railway employee who was patrolling the tunnel, watching for rockfall.

[8 - Spiral Tunnels map - click to enlarge]

There is a lookout just off the Trans-Canada Highway from which visitors can observe both portals of the tunnel. Passengers can ride this route, at least in the summer, on Great Canadian Railtours' "Rocky Mountaineer" train from Calgary to Vancouver.

For other participants for My Town Monday go here.

Sources: ParksCanada – Kicking Horse Pass Historical Site ,
CP 2816 inaugural run 2001

Photo Credits: [1]-Matthew Klassen CC=nc-nd-flickr,[2][3][4][7]-Geoff S CC=nc-flickr, [5]-wikipedia, [6]-Sherlock77 (James) CC=nc-nd-flickr, [8]-Robert aka Bob CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Reflections (9)

This is Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks near Lake Louise, Banff National Park.

Photo Credit: brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Code Blue by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. (Book Review)

In the first book of the Prescription for Trouble series, “Code Blue” means more to Dr. Cathy Sewell than the cardiac emergency she has to face. It describes her mental state as she finds that coming back to her hometown hasn’t brought her the peace she so desperately needs. Instead, it’s clear that someone there wants her gone…or dead.

“Cathy returns to her hometown seeking healing after a broken relationship, but discovers that among her friends and acquaintances is someone who wants her out of town…or dead. Lawyer Will Kennedy, her high school sweetheart, offers help, but does it carry a price tag? Is hospital chief of staff, Dr. Marcus Bell, really on her side in her fight to get hospital privileges? Is Will’s father, Pastor Matthew Kennedy, interested in advising her or just trying to get her back to the church she left years ago? When one of Cathy’s prescriptions almost kills the town banker, it sets the stage for a malpractice suit that could end her time in town, if not her career. It’s soon clear that this return home was a prescription for trouble.”

Dr. Cathy Sewell, a capable surgeon, has returned home to Dainger, Texas after breaking up with her fiancé hoping to get her life back on track. Her life is now filled with new challenges: two men who are trying to date her, a medical colleague and her high school sweetheart; someone is trying to discredit her medical abilities; and her life is in danger from the driver of a black SUV.

Situations from her past threaten to overwhelm Cathy, who questions her faith in God, and the old feelings that surface for a former sweetheart whom she left to attend college. She blames God for the death of her parents in an accident that prevented them from attending her graduation from medical school.

The plot moved quickly once the medical detail appeared with clues being provided, bit by bit, to reveal there were a few citizens who found fault with Cathy’s return. As her problems mount, Cathy feels vulnerable, self-critical and questions her sanity while trying to prove herself capable before her colleagues, patients and to herself.

All the characters had definite attitudes and mannerisms that fit in how they dealt with problematic situations. The details surrounding the medical and legal aspects were realistic, although as to the latter there were a few things that raised my eyebrows over procedure.

There were several brilliant twists and turns with red herrings that kept me intrigued and surprised, as I had not seen them coming. There were a couple of places where the consequences of a particular action could only lead in one direction. Despite this, the suspense built up to a thriller level toward the end which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dr. Mabry demonstrated his expertise in the medical field while presenting the terminology in layman’s terms and gripping action. Also, he has done a deft job of conveying that God is always there waiting to assist those who reach out.

Dr. Mabry’s second novel in the series, Medical Error, will be available September 2010.

Review copy provided by Richard Mabry.

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Author website: Richard L. Mabry, MD
Published: April 1, 2010

Available at:

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Reminder for those wanting to enter the draw for this book on July 30, 2010. Please leave a comment below or at my review here.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Every Lost Country by Steven Heighton (Book Review)

From the inside flap:

Lewis Book, a doctor with a history of embroiling himself in conflicts, and his daughter, Sophie, travel to Nepal to join a climbing expedition. One evening, as Sophie sits on the border between China and Nepal, watching the sun set over the Himalayas, she spots a group of Tibetan refugees fleeing from Chinese soldiers. When shooting starts, Dr. Book rushes toward the ensuing melee, ignoring the objections of Lawson, the expedition leader, who doesn’t want to get involved and spoil his chance to be the first climber to summit Kyatruk. Lawson is further enraged when Amaris, a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker recording the expedition, joins Book with her camcorder in hand. When the surviving Tibetans are captured just short of the border, Lawson and Sophie look on helplessly as Book and Amaris are taken away with them, down the glacier into China. From that point, Lawson continues his ascent, and the fugitives are caught in an explosive and thrilling pursuit that will test their convictions, courage and endurance.

“Inspired by an actual event, Every Lost Country is a gripping novel about heroism, human failings and what love requires. When is it acceptable to be a bystander, and when do life and loyalty demand more?”

Mr. Heighton provides an insider’s glimpse into the world of the Sherpa people in Tibet and Nepal, their customs and the simple life they live without material goods. Their spiritual leader is the Dalai Lama, representative of the life they aspire to. These people are the focus of this novel, a small group of Tibetan people seeking refuge and freedom in nearby Nepal. The Tibetans are caught in a conflict between keeping their traditional life and those who co-operate with the Chinese. The Chinese view any Tibetan as a rebel who does not support China’s occupation of their country.

Parallels of the two main plots are clear: the climb of the mountain and the plight of the Canadians in escaping the Chinese military. Multiple sub-plots are seen through the narratives of various characters. Each of the main and sub-characters work through their inner struggles over personal convictions and failures of their complicated backstories. They are seen initially as separate threads then woven together through different perspectives and finally coming together to become one.

Dr. Lewis Book who has spent most of his life working for Doctors Without Borders, living in crisis zones, is committed to assist victims without regard for his own safety. Acting true to character, Book rushes across the border into Tibet to assist those wounded in the shooting. Sophie, not to be abandoned once again by her father, follows. Amaris McRae, documentary filmmaker, sees her chance at a better story than the climbing expedition. When the Canadians are at the mercy of the elements of nature and the Chinese military they begin to understand Wade Lawson’s single-minded desire to conquer a mountain.

Wade Lawson is determined at any cost to reach the summit of Kyatruk at 7,878 metres. He goes through self-reflection during episodes of the psychological battle against the thin air and weather conditions of high altitudes. The climbing sequences are spectacular and gripping, especially at the end.

An engaging character was Zapa, the Himalayan yak, despite his meager part added to the tapestry of the novel.

This book kept me reading, mesmerized. Mr. Heighton’s evocative writing style lures the reader in with perfect detailed descriptions of the landscape, cultures, emotions, climate, dilemmas and sensations experienced by high altitude mountaineers; and complex characters who feel like friends after a couple of chapters. When the ending came I was satisfied with how it closed, but sorry to see it end. I will be reading more of this author's work.

Steven Heighton is the author of the novel Afterlands, which has appeared in six countries; was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice along with a best book of the year selection in ten publications in Canada, the US, and the UK; and has been optioned for film. He is also the author of The Shadow Boxer, a Canadian bestseller and a Publishers Weekly Book of the Year. His work has been translated into ten languages, and his poems and stories have appeared in the London Review of Books, Poetry, Tin House, The Walrus, Europe, Agni, Poetry London, Brick, Best...

Special thanks to Julie Forrest for providing a review copy.

Book format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Genre: General Fiction (Literary Adventure)
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Author website: Steven Heighton
Available: May 4, 2010 – for Kindles

Monday, 12 July 2010

My Town Monday - Samuel B. Steele - Kicking Horse Pass

[1 - Kicking Horse Pass - click to enlarge]

In 1885, the work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad was being made to reach the first crossing of the Columbia River, about 70 miles west of Laggan (Lake Louise)

[2 - Lake Louise train station today]

[3 - Laggan train station - 1889] link to photohere

to a place now known as Donald (named after Lord Strathcona. Donald is in the Rocky Mountain Trench near Marl Creek Provincial Park, B.C.).

[4 - Road in Kicking Horse Pass in 1920s - click to enlarge]

Samuel Steele was to ensure that the Mounted Police were in detachments along the CPR line during its construction. The railroad had constructed a Tote road to assist those working for the CPR to transport their supplies carried by horse and mule teams. Storage areas had been made at convenient distances which were overseen by a CPR employee. From these stores the contractors obtained what they needed for their contracts.

[5 - Tote Road (Eagle Pass Wagon Road 1885)]

The Tote road was cut out of solid rock near the Columbia River several hundred feet above. An exception to this was the Kicking Horse Flats near the Beaverfoot Pass.

[6 - Kicking Horse River Flats - click to enlarge]

The Kicking Horse Pass was named by Dr. James Hector, who had accompanied Captain Palliser during the exploration of western Canada in the 1850s. Hector explored the pass accompanied by a party of First Nations. At one of his camps he was kicked by a horse he had been trying to put a pack saddle on, breaking several of his ribs and knocking him unconscious. The natives thought he was dead, dug a grave and placed him in it. When they saw signs of life they removed him from the grave.

The Tote road near Golden was dangerous at any given point, especially at the highest being more than a thousand feet above the raging torrent of Kicking Horse River. Any horse that tended to shy or is too excitable in nature was considered not suitable for such a trip. Steele found that horses were unafraid of the precipice, but those horses that shied regularly would keep themselves well away from the rocky wall. On one trip Steele took one of the horses sent to the NWMP to Laggan from Calgary. At the most dangerous part of the Tote road Steele “met an Italian navvy with his bundle of blankets, and he, as was then the custom, instead of going to the right, planted himself against the wall of rock furthest from the precipice. At the sight of the extraordinary object, my horse, crazed with fright, whirled about, and I just saved myself and the horse by hurling myself on to the road.”

Steele, known for his strength, managed to keep hold of reins and bridle of the horse, whose hindquarters were over the precipice and its body resting on the edge. Steele's companion on a steady horse assisted in getting the horse back on the road. Steele sent the horse back to Calgary with a letter to the O.C. to send only horses accustomed to working in the mountains and not horses raised on the plains.

For other participants for My Town Monday go here.


For previous posts on this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9.

Sources: Forty Years in Canada (1914) by Col. S.B. Steele, pp. 188-190

Photo Credits: [1]-Matthew Klassen CC=nc-nd-flickr, [2]-Rachelw123 CC=nc-nd-flickr, [3]-Glenbow Archives, [4]=Sherlock77 (James) CC=nc-nd-flickr, [5]-Wikipedia, [6]-babyonborg CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Reflections (8)

The Skeena River belongs to the Skeena Watershed in northwestern central British Columbia and has long been known as the “River of Mists”. From 1864 to 1912 it was used as a major waterway for steamboats.

The Skeena is well known for sport-fishing, particularly salmon of very large size such as a world record Chinook salmon of 92 and one-half pounds, a record Coho salmon weighing 25 and one-half pounds and a 36-pound steelhead. The types of pacific salmon that can be found in this river are: Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, Sockeye and Steelhead.

Photo Credit: DreamEchos CC=nc-flickr. Click to enlarge.

Monday, 5 July 2010

My Town Monday - Samuel B Steele - Twenty Miles For A Drink

[Yoho National Park - Cathedral Peak with CPR locomotive above Kicking Horse River ca. 1920 - click to enlarge]

By the end of 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway had reached the Rocky Mountains, just eight km (5 miles) east of Kicking Horse Pass.

In April 1884, Samuel Steele of the NWMP was assigned to maintain the law during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia. Their jurisdiction was along the surveyed line of the railroad which consisted of an area 20 miles wide. This area was proclaimed on May 6, 1884 by the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada under the Preservation of Peace on Public Works Act. The Public Works Peace Preservation Act was amended on 2nd of June 1884 to the original ten miles on either side of the CPR railroad construction line to encompass one hundred and thirty miles.

In 1884 the sale of intoxicating liquor was prohibited. The only location where liquor could be sold was if there was a bar in a tent or cabin. Any person caught in the act of selling, were liable to a fine of $40.00 for the first and second offences; for the third they could be imprisoned. As the Public Works Peace Preservation Act covered a narrow strip of land, the CPR labourers (“navvies”) were able to leave that specified area at any time after they received their month’s wages to spend the entire amount if desired on a prolonged spree. This delayed the progress of the construction to the railroad line.

The Government of British Columbia determined they should not be deprived of internal revenue and issued licences to sell “spirituous and fermented liquors” within the land proclaimed under the Act. The NWMP were given the right to ensure that the building of the CPR would not be delayed. Steele enforced the laws to the limit, dealing with those under the influence in public places as to set an example to deter others. He recommended to the government to increase the width of the railroad belt to 40 miles and the NWMP’s powers to enable the magistrates to punish with imprisonment for the second offence of selling intoxicating liquor. The suggestions were approved and to good effect. The wholesale and retail stores on the edge of the 20 mile area had to move, and the “navvies” found the distance too long to walk for a drinking spree.

Sources: Forty Years in Canada (1914) by Col. S.B. Steele, pp. 186-187
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

Photo Credit: Sherlock77 (James) CC=nc-nd-flickr.

For other participants for My Town Monday go here.


For previous posts on this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

When I prepared this post it came as a surprise that the Preservation of Peace on Public Works Act was the first one passed in Parliament for the Dominion of Canada in 1884. In the previous MTM post about the protests during the G20 Summit in Toronto I had been only aware of the Public Works Protection Act of 1939 with current amendments.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Reflections (7)

This photo was taken in EC Manning Park which is between Hope and Princeton on Highway 3 in the southern region of British Columbia. This park is in the middle of the Cascade Mountains and a three hour drive from Vancouver or the Okanagan. The park is 70,844 hectares of rugged forested mountains, deep valleys, alpine meadows, lakes and rivers. There is ample opportunity for hiking on trails of 15-minute duration up to six days.

Google Map
Source: B.C. Parks

Photo Credit: marketingfacts CC=nc-flickr. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

CANADA DAY - 1867 to 2010

[1] This post has had amendments made to it from the July 1, 2008 post.

The origin of the name “Canada” comes from the expedition of French explorer Jacques Cartier during a trip up the St. Lawrence River in 1535. The Iroquois pointed out the route to the village of Stadacona, the future site of Quebec City, used the word “kanata”, the Huron-Iroquois word for village. Jacques Cartier used the word “Canada” to refer to both the settlement of Stadacona and the land surrounding it.

In 1841, the British Parliament united Upper and Lower Canada into a new colony, called the Province of Canada. A single legislature, consisting of an elected Legislative Assembly and an appointed Legislative Council, was created. The assembly's eighty-four members were equally divided between the former provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, though the latter had a higher population. The British government, through the royally-appointed Governors, still exercised considerable influence over Canadian affairs. This influence was reduced in 1848, when the province was granted responsible government.

From 1841 to 1844, Parliament met on what is now the site of Kingston General Hospital in Kingston, Ontario. In 1849, the Parliament Building in Montreal, which had been the home of the legislature since being transferred from Kingston in 1843, burnt down. In 1857, the legislature was moved to Ottawa, after several years of alternating between Toronto and Quebec City.

[2-Fathers of Canadian Confederation]

The modern-day Parliament of Canada, however, did not come into existence until 1867. In that year, the British Parliament passed the British North America Act 1867, uniting the Province of Canada (which was separated into Quebec and Ontario), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single federation, called the Dominion of Canada. The new Canadian Parliament consisted of the Queen (represented by the Governor General), the Senate and the House of Commons. An important influence was the American Civil War, which had just concluded, and had indicated to many Canadians the faults of the federal system as implemented in the United States. In part because of the Civil War, the American model, with relatively powerful states and a less powerful federal government, was rejected. The British North America Act limited the powers of the provinces, providing that all subjects not explicitly delegated to them remain within the authority of the federal Parliament. Yet it gave provinces unique powers in certain agreed-upon areas of funding, and that division still exists today.

In 1866, the colonies of British Columbia (formerly New Caledonia) and Vancouver Island were united. British Columbia had been important for British control of the Pacific Ocean, and was a centre of the fur trade between Britain, the United States, Russia, Spain, and China. It did not participate in the original Confederation conferences, but agreed to join Canada in 1871 when John A. Macdonald promised to build a transcontinental railroad across the continent through the Northwest Territories (formerly Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory), which at this time still extended to the U.S. border. The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Dominion Land Survey were begun soon after.

In 1873, Prince Edward Island, the Maritime colony that had opted not to join Confederation in 1867, was admitted into the country.

In 1898, the boundaries were changed in the Districts of Mackenzie, Keewatin, Ungava, Franklin and earlier in 1897 for Yukon. The District of Yukon became a Territory separate from the North-West Territories in 1898, while Quebec boundaries are extended north.

In 1905, Alberta and Saskatchewan were created as provinces to make a total of nine provinces in the Dominion of Canada. The district of Keewatin was transferred back to the Northwest Territories. Due to the changes in adjoining areas the boundaries of the Northwest Territories were redefined in 1906.

In 1949, at its own request, after a plebiscite, Newfoundland enters the Confederation as the tenth province of the Dominion of Canada.

In 1999 on April 1st, Nunavut became Canada's third territory.

[3-Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, as seen from across the Ottawa River at Gatineau, Quebec]

Parliament Hill is a scenic location on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. Its Gothic revival suite of buildings – the Parliament Buildings – serves as the home of the Parliament of Canada; the best known of these buildings is the Centre Block, with its prominent Peace Tower, a national symbol. Parliament Hill attracts approximately 3 million visitors each year.

The entire parliamentary precinct measures 112,360 square metres (1,209,433 sq ft.), bounded on the north by the Ottawa River, on the east by the Rideau Canal, on the south by Wellington Street, and on the west by a service road near the Supreme Court.

The main buildings are: the Centre Block, built between 1865 and 1927, containing the House of Commons and Senate chambers, and featuring the Peace Tower and Library of Parliament; the East Block, built in two stages in 1867 and 1910, containing senators' offices and preserved Confederation-era rooms; and the West Block, built in 1865, containing ministers' and MPs' offices and meeting rooms. The three blocks are disposed around a large grassy quadrangle, while the Centre Block is surrounded by lawns and a walk overlooking the Ottawa River. The Library of Parliament was opened in 1876. The Legislature of the Province of Canadsa met for the first time in the new building on June 8, 1866, and the new Parliament of the Dominion of Canada began its first session there on November 6, 1867.

The overall site is in a combination of the High Victorian Gothic, English garden, formal garden styles popular at the end of the 19th century. The Palace of Westminster and precinct had recently been rebuilt in a similar style, and the choice of a gothic rather than an American inspired neoclassical design, was a symbol of Canada's continued links to Britain.

Source: Wikipedia
Photo Credits: [1]-vtgard CC=nc-nd-flickr; [2]-Wikipedia; [3]-Bobcatnorth CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Monday, 28 June 2010

My Town Monday - Toronto

My idea of a peaceful demonstration is not what happened in Toronto this weekend during the G20 Summit. I attended many peaceful demonstrations during the late 1960s. As a teenager I saw the grim realities of the Vietnam War broadcast every evening on the six o’clock news. A permit was obtained and concerned citizens protesting this war gathered before specific government buildings where our concerns could be seen and heard. Of course, anyone who attends any demonstration is photographed by the police for future reference and investigation.

It was appalling as to what occurred this weekend in Toronto with the many who attended for peaceful demonstrations, those who went to watch and report the events, and those who intended to wreck havoc upon those who represented authority: the police, banks, American franchised stores and businesses.

When there is civil unrest or unlawful activity in progress, the police are entitled to use as much force as necessary to stop those parties engaged in such activity. On Saturday I didn’t see much in the way of the police hampering the unlawful assembly of the supposed ‘anarchists’ and thugs dressed in black complete with hoods, masks and gloves to hide their identity while they engaged in damaging property. In fact, they allowed many of their police cars (7) to be burned to a crisp.

In essence, because of the liberal civil rights citizens have in this country, those demonstrators and agitators who attended in the financial district, Yonge, Dundas and Queen Streets, Spadina and Queen Streets of downtown Toronto were allowed to do what they did. The police did very little to quell the riots though they did protect the G20 attendees in their ‘fortressed area’. The police were entitled under the Criminal Code of Canada (“CCC”) (s.32(1)) to suppress a riot with as much force as they believe necessary. This section of the act also applies to citizens (s.32(4)) who witness or believe serious mischief will result in a riot or an ongoing riot. Citizens or witnesses can hold the offending party until a peace officer is available. The police in attendance on Saturday did not suppress the riots. On Sunday the police took action in rounding up protestors in various locations throughout the downtown area including those who happened to be in the crowd.

All citizens of Canada are expected to uphold the law and are bound by the articles in the CCC. These laws also apply to non-Canadians who reside here. The definitions for unlawful assembly (s.63) and riot (s.64) include those people participating in a lawful assembly who are incited by others to engage in a riot that “disturb the peace tumultuously”.

There are parties to an offense: those who commit it, those who aid, those who know about the offense but fail to do anything about it, combined with a common intention while knowing that to do so is unlawful; those who counsel another person to be a party (procure, solicit, incite). That is, those who committed the damage to private, municipal and government property have committed an offense, as have those who witnessed such offenses. Why did those in attendance who witnessed the unlawful acts do nothing to stop it? That would include bystanders, those protestors engaged in a lawful assembly, emergency service personnel and news reporters.

Those protestors that were rounded up and arrested on Sunday will allege there was police brutality including unwarranted treatment, and the lawyers they obtain to represent them will say the same. It’s amazing what people will do and say to avoid responsibility of their actions during a riot or unlawful assembly or anything unlawful.

It will be interesting to see if and when our liberal civil rights in Canada are taken away from us because of the apathy of its citizens.

The next G8 Summit is in France. I’m quite certain the French President knows exactly how to handle protestors who riot and at less cost.

For other participants for My Town Monday go here.

UPDATE: Those people who were arrested, detained and charged after the sweeps and confrontations made by the police were as the result of the enforcement of the Public Works Protection Act (1990), with Schedule I Ontario Regulations 233/10 being amended June 2, 2010 and published on the Ontario e-laws website on June 16, 2010. This Act was first enacted on September 22, 1939 shortly after the British Empire declared war on Germany. It is an obscure Act that is still in force, usually referring to hydro-electric stations and courthouses. An amendment was passed to cover the period June 14 to June 28, 2010 specifically for the G20 Summit meant as a preventative to protect the leaders, the public, the protestors and the police. Having the G20 Summit in Toronto was expected to attract a criminal element to the city as has occurred in other cities around the globe.

Two weeks ago I heard on the radio that anyone wanting to go near the security fence close to the area where the G20 Summit was being held would be expected to produce ID and a reason for being in that location to a police officer when requested. Also, if the person was requested by a police officer to leave the area they would be required to do so or face arrest. This was repeated daily and on numerous occasions throughout the day on the classical station I listen to. It's not as if this was a new law suddenly enacted at the last minute as if underhanded. I recall reading or hearing about this when it was first known that Toronto would be holding the G20 Summit, that security would need to be increased and that was some time ago.

Photos borrowed from Reuters News Service.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Hiking Trails - Lake of the Hanging Glacier

[1-Purcell Mountains from Radium Hot Springs]

Lake of the Hanging Glacier is an alpine lake at 7,000 feet in a cirque below the Jumbo Glacier and Commander Glacier in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. The Purcell Mountains are located in one of the last pristine wilderness areas in Canada. This is not a hike for the beginning hiker, but one for those who are seasoned and comfortable with being in a remote area without the comforts or relative safety of civilization. It is a good idea to be in a group of six or more people as the hiker will be entering wilderness that is prime grizzly territory. ParksCanada has a webpage regarding bears and your safety.

Rated: Moderate to strenuous hike
Distance: 18km (11mi) round trip
Elevation gain: 720m (2,362 ft)
Location: Rocky Mountain Forest District, B.C. - Purcell Mountains
Map: 1:50,000 scale - Duncan Lake 82K7 available at Government Agents office in Invermere.
Best Time: July to September only, with the trail being driest in September. The B.C. Ministry of Forests recommends waiting until July for the bridges to be put in place.

The trailhead is located at the end of a logging road about 52km from Radium Hot Springs. From the Junction of Highways 93/95 turn west onto Forsters Landing Road and cross the bridge. Here the road will angle to the right. After reaching the fork turn left onto Horsethief Creek Forest Service Road (a gravel logging road, stay to the right and watch out for the logging trucks!). Ignore any of the other turns. Go straight through the 4-way intersection with the Westside Road. At 39km there is a footbridge at a camping site at the Stockdale Creek FS Recreation Site (not large enough for motorhomes or trailers). A little farther on park at the 50k sign where there is room for 10 vehicles.

The trail begins by following an old roadway for 2km to the trail registration box. There is no charge for the use of this trail or the campsite near the lake. The hiker/camper is expected to pack out whatever they bring in.

[2-View of glacier from trailhead]

Here the trail narrows and begins to climb toward the first bridge over Hell Roaring Creek.

[3- Hell Roaring Creek]

[4 - Bull Elk with velvet antlers]

[5 - Hell Roaring Creek]


[7 - Waterfalls along the trail]

[8 - Steep sides of Hell Roaring Creek - click to enlarge]

[9 - Crossing Hell Roaring Creek - click to enlarge]

The bridge is removed during the off season, and crossing the creek without a bridge is not recommended due to the treacherous current and the slick sides.

[10 - Horsethief Creek - click to enlarge]

[11 - Golden Eagle]

[12 - Steep sides above Horsethief Creek - click to enlarge]

[13 - Waterfall from icefield above - click to enlarge]

From the creek the trail climbs up into thicker forest and a junction. Stay left (the right trail leads to a horse crossing) to cross a metal bridge over Horsethief Creek.

[14 - View through the trees on the way up]

[15 - Another view through the trees - click to enlarge]

[16 - Waterfall]

From the second bridge the trail goes along the creek for 1 km or so through mature forest to reach the start of the switchbacks. There are 13 of them, and the grade is moderate. Those hikers unaccustomed to the altitude should take it slower to avoid respiratory problems.

[17 - Waterfall farther up]

Once above the switchbacks, the trail goes through the valley until alpine meadows are reached. This is where the camping area and pit toilet is. Use a gas stove in sub-alpine areas like this.

[18 - Wildflowers enroute]

[19 - Alpine Cinqfoil]

From here an 800 m hike past a beautiful cascading waterfall brings you to the head of the lake. To this point in the trail there has been no glimpse of the lake.

[20 - Cascading waterfall below Lake of the Hanging Glacier - click to enlarge]

[21 - Marmot]

[22 - Ice floes in the Lake of the Hanging Glacier - click to enlarge]

The Lake of the Hanging Glacier is over one mile in length, and often has small icebergs floating in the water.

[23 - click to enlarge]

[24 - click to enlarge]

Access to the vicinity of the glacier is possible along the east shore over rocky terrain with no trails. Do not attempt to travel on glaciers without experience and proper equipment.

After the hike there are several places to take a hot dip in a mineral pool to ease those aching muscles. Try Radium Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs or Lussier Hot Springs just south of Canal Flats.

Research: Research: B.C. Ministry of Forests

Photo Credits: [1]-outofsocks CC=flickr, [2][3][5][6][7][8][9][10][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][20][22][23][24]-brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr, [4]-mike wood photography CC=nc-nd-flickr, [11]-Chris & Lara Pawluk CC=nc-flickr, [19]-anselm CC=flickr, [21]-brewbooks CC=nc-sa-flickr.