An­i­mal ad­ven­ture in­spires Ar­chae­ol­o­gist’s first novel

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead Town­ship

Ar­chae­ol­o­gist Robert Chadwick, who is bet­ter known for tak­ing ad­ven­tur­ous Town­ship­pers to coun­tries in the Near East, such as Jor­dan and Egypt, to ex­plore ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ru­ins, has writ­ten his first fic­tion novel and its theme might sur­prise you: it’s a cat and dog ad­ven­ture story.

How­ever, when an ar­chae­ol­o­gist sits down to write about cats and dogs, it’s not sur­pris­ing that his­tor­i­cal re­search on the sub­ject is wo­ven into the story, adding an el­e­ment of ed­u­ca­tional fun to the cap­ti­vat­ing read.

Mr. Chadwick, who also teaches part-time at Bishop’s Univer­sity, re­cently spoke with the Stanstead Jour­nal about his book Buster and the Magic Star – A Cat and Dog Ad­ven­ture Story, and what mo­ti­vated him to write it. “About four or five years ago, we lost our cat Buster for four or five months. It wasn’t easy find­ing him and get­ting him back, but when we did I said: I have to write a book!”

Although Robert had writ­ten an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal book ten years ago, en­ti­tled First Civ­i­liza­tions: An­cient Me­sopotamia and An­cient Egypt, fic­tional writ­ing would prove to be a dif­fer­ent ball game. “I re­ally didn’t know how to write fic­tion when I started. I had to re-write the story dozens of times! I was very for­tu­nate in that I got a lot of good crit­i­cal feed­back from friends and neigh­bours who were nice enough to take the time to read it.”

Thanks to all the cat and dog re­search that Mr. Chadwick did while writ­ing Buster, the book is filled with in­ter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal and sci­en­tific facts about our four-footed friends. “I re­searched the his­tory of cats and dogs, and read vet­eri­nary man­u­als. In the past ten years there’s been an ex­plo­sion in cat re­search. It’s been dis­cov­ered that cats are much closer to their wild an­ces­tors than we pre­vi­ously be­lieved.” Go­ing on to ex­plain why cats seem so aloof when com­pared to dogs, he added: “Cats are not so­cial an­i­mals. They hunt small an­i­mals in the wild so they hunt alone. Wolves, the an­ces­tors of dogs, hunted large an­i­mals so they needed their friends.”

Re­mem­ber­ing how dis­tressed he had be­come when the real life Buster was miss­ing for five months also mo­ti­vated the ar­chae­ol­o­gist to re­search the cat – hu­man con­nec­tion. “In 2004, a French ar­chae­ol­o­gist ex­ca­vated a hu­man/cat burial site on the is­land of Cyprus. That re­ally caught my eye be­cause if you find a hu­man and an an­i­mal buried to­gether, it’s loaded with ques­tions. Un­til that dis­cov­ery, the be­lief was that cats orig­i­nated in Egypt,” said Mr. Chadwick.

Based on the true story of his cat Buster’s dis­ap­pear­ance and set in the East­ern Town­ships, the novel also weaves lo­cal his­tory into the fic­tional tale, mak­ing it a par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing read for Town­ship­pers fa­mil­iar with the Tomi­fo­bia/Stanstead area. It should also be men­tioned that Mr. Chadwick’s other two cats and dogs are also in the book. “They are all in the story – dogs do play a big role – and they were flat­tered to be in­cluded,” he joked.

When asked what he learnt from his lat­est book-writ­ing ad­ven­ture that was most sur­pris­ing, Mr. Chadwick an­swered: “It was sur­pris­ing to learn that we are so much closer to cats and dogs than I re­al­ized!”

Ea­ger to share the in­ter­est­ing facts about cats and dogs that he dis­cov­ered while writ­ing the book, Mr. Chadwick has done sev­eral talks based on his re­search at places such as at the Osher Lec­tures in Ver­mont, Bishop’s Univer­sity and the At­wa­ter Li­brary, in Mon­treal. “My talk is called Cats and Dogs and the Ori­gins of Civ­i­liza­tion, and I can do it in ei­ther English or French, in Canada or in the United States. Now I’m think­ing about writ­ing a book of that ti­tle.” Groups in­ter­ested in hear­ing Mr. Chadwick’s free pre­sen­ta­tion can contact him at 819 876-7916 or at robert.chadwick@ubish­ops.ca.

Buster and the Magic Star – A Cat and Dog Ad­ven­ture Story is avail­able on Ama­zon, at Black Cat Books and at Brome Lake Books, and at the Haskell Li­brary.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Ar­chae­ol­o­gist Robert Chadwick’s is seen here with his first novel: Buster and the Magic Star. The book’s cover was de­signed by lo­cal graphic artist Tim Do­herty.

The real-life Buster is seen here with his loyal com­pan­ion,

Sparky.

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