John­ston hopes for a hit in In­dia

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By Bob Arm­strong

AWINNIPEG writer is hop­ing for a hit in one of the world’s big­gest mar­kets this month with a real-life ad­ven­ture story of war and sur­vival. Four Miles to Free­dom: Es­cape From a Pak­istan POW Camp is Faith John­ston’s story of three In­dian Air Force pi­lots who were shot down dur­ing the 1971 war with Pak­istan. The three es­caped from a POW camp, at­tempted to flee to Afghanistan and were cap­tured in the Khy­ber Pass. John­ston, in In­dia for the launch this week in the city of Pune, learned about the story be­cause one of the men is a friend of her hus­band, also a for­mer In­dian Air Force pi­lot. Her last book was the novel The Only Man in the World, pub­lished by Turn­stone Press. Did you sing We Are the Cham­pi­ons when you heard the news of Alice Munro’s No­bel Prize? Are you more afraid of wait­ing for the den­tist with­out a book to read than you afraid of the den­tist? When you see a story about Ben John­son, do you still think some­body’s mis­spelled the name of the El­iz­a­bethan satirist? If you an­swered yes to any of th­ese ques­tions, the high­light of your fes­ti­val sea­son awaits Wed­nes­day at Finn McCue’s Ir­ish Pub at The Forks. The Manitoba Writ­ers’ Guild and the Writ­ers’ Union of Canada are team­ing up to put on a literary pub quiz with prom­ises of mer­ri­ment, prizes and “ex­cel­lent gram­mar.” The quiz en­try fee is $5 per per­son and the fun runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Af­ter more than 20 years as a prom­i­nent en­vi­ron­men­tal jour­nal­ist, Al­berta’s An­drew Nik­i­foruk re­ceived this year’s Writ­ers’ Trust Matt Co­hen Award, which hon­ours a Cana­dian writer for a life­time of dis­tin­guished work in French or English. Nik­i­foruk’s most re­cent book, The En­ergy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servi­tude (Grey­stone Books), which com­pares our re­liance on nearly free en­ergy with the re­liance of slave so­ci­eties on un­paid labour. His ear­lier books ex­am­ined the en­vi­ron­men­tal risks of Al­berta’s oil­sands, the role of cli­mate change in the de­struc­tive spread of the pine bee­tle, and the vi­o­lent cam­paign against oil and gas waged by Wiebo Lud­wig, the leader of a ru­ral re­li­gious com­mu­nity. Five Cana­dian books are on this year’s list of 100 No­table Books, pro­duced by the New York Times. On the fic­tion side, the late David Rakoff’s novel Love, Dis­honor, Marry, Cher­ish, Per­ish joins CanLit Queen Mar­garet At­wood ( Mad­dad­dam, the third in­stal­ment in her dystopian tril­ogy) and sort-of-Canuck Eleanor Cat­ton (the Booker Prize win­ner for The Lu­mi­nar­ies). Two Cana­dian non-fic­tion ti­tles made the list: Mar­garet MacMil­lan’s The War That Ended Peace, about the causes of the First World War, and Amanda Lind­hout’s A House in the Sky, about her har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ences af­ter be­ing kid­napped by Is­lamist rebels in So­ma­lia. Lind­hout’s mem­oir also scored a spot on the Slate mag­a­zine top books list. A sym­bolic die-off at a literary con­fer­ence, a demon­stra­tion out­side Mon­treal’s Bi­b­lio­theque Na­tional and a YouTube video of au­thors go­ing silent are all part of a cam­paign by Que­bec writ­ers to have the price of books reg­u­lated. The Que­bec writ­ers or­ga­ni­za­tion UNEQ launched the “Sau­vons les livres” cam­paign this fall to call at­ten­tion to the loss of in­de­pen­dent book­stores and small pub­lish­ers. The cam­paign fo­cuses on the im­pact of big-box re­tail­ers of­fer­ing best­sellers at dis­counted prices.

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