As a journalist and author who has been self employed since 1993, I’ve written widely on history, business, the environment, and sport. After a 30-year absence, I returned to higher education in 2010 as a doctoral candidate in history at Canada’s York University, earning my PhD in 2015. For more on my scholarly career, visit my Academia page.
Business has figured significantly in many works (I had a stint as a staff writer at the Financial Post, during which I completed my Canadian Securities Course in 1987). Open Ice (Penguin Canada, 1994) was both a biography of hockey star Tim Horton and a detailed study of the founding of the restaurant phenomenon that has long outlived him. Eighteen years later, in 2012, I published with Harper Collins Canada a book dedicated to the restaurant chain story, Double Double, which was a finalist for the National Business Book Award in 2013. The Glory Barons (Penguin Canada, 1999) an unauthorized history of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, was a proxy study of the travails of small-market franchises and the NHL’s expansionist urges in the American southwest.
Molson (Penguin Canada, 2001) examined the founding of the eponymous brewery empire by John Molson, a teenage immigrant from Lincolnshire to Montreal in 1782. The Bubble and the Bear (Doubleday Canada, 2002), which dissected the tech-stock bubble through the rise and fall of Nortel, won Canada’s National Business Book Award. The commercial imperatives (and chicanery) of the age of exploration are important elements of both God’s Mercies and Half Moon.
God’s Mercies (Doubleday Canada, 2007) revealed the traumatic intersection of the careers of Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain and was a finalist for both the Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize and the Governor-General’s Literary Award.
Half Moon (Bloomsbury Press, 2009) tells the story of Henry Hudson’s 1609 voyage and the discovery of the Hudson RIver.
History for me falls into the broad basket of whatever has happened, be it two days or two centuries ago, and I have explored it through every means available: travel, archival research and interviews with living witnesses. Book subjects have taken me to the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries (The Race to the New World, God’s Mercies, Half Moon, The Place of Stone), the 18th and early 19th centuries, the American Revolution and the Napoleonic wars (The Place of Stone, Molson), the First and Second World Wars (War Games) and many points between. Beardmore (forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press in Fall 2018), travels to the 9th and 10th centuries in the course of explaining a 20th-century museum scandal. The Race to the New World reveals the relationship and rivalry between Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, and the lost history of the New World’s discovery. Palgrave Macmillan published it in the US/World English-language market in September 2011, while Douglas & McIntyre brought out the Canadian edition in Spring 2012. In 2017 the University of North Carolina Press published The Place of Stone, a book that builds on the research in my doctoral dissertation.
Sailing has been a lifelong passion. My first two books, Against the Odds (Personal Library Press, 1981), and Trials (Macmillan of Canada, 1984), with coauthor Jeff Boyd, were about yacht racing. I also provided the text for photographer Sharon Green’s Ultimate Sailing (Stoddart, 1998), and I was coauthor (with Steve Killing) of Yacht Design Explained (W.W. Norton, 1998). Scratch the surface of many of my other books and you’ll find a boat or two. John Molson was a global pioneer in commercial steamboats and first crossed the Atlantic in a 50-gun Royal Navy warship. Much of the narrative in God’s Mercies and Half Moon takes place on vessels of some kind, ranging from canoes to shallops to pinnaces to a Dutch jaght.
As a self-confessed “puck head” I have written a half-dozen books on hockey, and have been particularly interested in the social history of the game, particularly in how players’ rights evolved over the history of the professional game. My interest in the intersection of the sport with culture may have been best expressed in War Games (Penguin Canada, 1996), which explored the convergence of hockey, politics and combat in Canada during the conscription crisis of the Second World War.
While I have yet to write a book on the subject, the environment has provided a steady stream of subject matter for my magazine writing, and this interest has informed the content of a number of my books. The natural history of the Hudson RIver is so important to Half Moon that the river almost qualifies as a character in its own right.
I’ve also enjoyed a lengthy career as an illustrator and graphic designer. (My initial formal education concluded with a B.A. from McMaster University, where I was enrolled in the studio art program, which included obligatory studies in art history.) You can find examples on my Illustrations page. In addition to designing as well as illustrating three of my own books for mainstream publishers Penguin Canada and W.W. Norton, I was the designer of artist Allen Smutylo’s Wild Places Wild Hearts, named the Best Adventure/Travel Book (2007) at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. For my book, Half Moon, I executed more than a dozen maps and other illustrations. The Race to the New World includes a two-page locator map. I provided a great whack of illustrations for Ghost Mountains and Vanished Oceans, by John Wilson and Ron Clowes (Key Porter Books, 2009). Two recent titles from Bloomsbury Press in New York (Ted McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama and Doug Merlino’s The Hustle) featured my full-page maps. And I have contributed a map to Lunch-Bucket Lives by Craig Heron (Between the Lines, 2015) and two maps to A Guest at the Shooters’ Banquet by Rita Gabis (Bloomsbury USA, 2015).
I am also continuing my longstanding work as a contract researcher/writer and “book doctor,” collaborating with clients and publishers to make books happen.