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- Canada News · Arts · Literature · War · Warfare and Conflicts · World Politics · Politics · Vietnam · United States of America · United States Armed Forces · Asia · John Blake · Newfoundland and Labrador · Washington State · Washington · Virginia · St. John, Indiana · Toronto · Cold · Vancouver · Manitoba · Winnipeg · Great Lakes · Jackie Shane · Sherlock Holmes · Prairie · Hudson Bay

One for the Boys: John Wayne Blake’s Ex­tra­or­di­nary Story by Cathy Saint John Sin­jin Pub­lish­ing, 480 pages, $29.95

Tens of thou­sands of young Amer­i­cans fled north to Canada to es­cape the draft dur­ing the Viet­nam War. Much has been writ­ten about these war re­sisters, many of whom stayed in Canada fol­low­ing the end of the war.

Less is known about the nearly thirty thou­sand young Cana­di­ans who headed in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to en­list in the U.S. mil­i­tary to stop the spread of com­mu­nism in south­east Asia. Among them was John Blake, a pa­tri­otic teenager from the New­found­land com­mu­nity of Top­sail, who in 1968 an­nounced to his fam­ily that he was head­ing off to fight.

Blake did two tours in Viet­nam, earn­ing the U.S. Bronze Star Medal along the way. Like so many other Viet­nam vet­er­ans, he re­turned home suf­fer­ing from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and didn’t re­ceive the treat­ment or sup­port he de­served.

That story alone is worth read­ing. But it’s what hap­pened next that truly el­e­vates Blake’s tale. After ad­vo­cat­ing tire­lessly for his fel­low vet­er­ans, in 1982 Blake de­cided to march across Amer­ica to raise aware­ness of their plight. Dressed in full com­bat gear and car­ry­ing an Amer­i­can flag, the proud New­found­lan­der walked alone from Wash­ing­ton State to Vir­ginia, a jour­ney of roughly 5,100 kilo­me­tres.

Along the way, he helped to dis­pel the stigma that un­fairly sur­rounded Viet­nam vet­er­ans. As Amer­i­can news me­dia picked up on his story, it fos­tered greater com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy for all the vet­er­ans of that war. The book’s fi­nal sec­tion deals with the fall­out of Blake’s PTSD, his de­ci­sion to take his own life, and the heartwrenc­h­ing tale of what hap­pened next.

One for the Boys is truly a labour of love for au­thor Cathy Saint John. Blake was her older brother, and his de­ci­sion to en­list changed their fam­ily for­ever. The book is a poignant re­minder of the sac­ri­fices we de­mand of our vet­er­ans and, sadly, of how quickly so­ci­ety can for­get about their ser­vice.

— Mark Collin Reid

Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer edited by Jane Far­row, John Lor­inc, et al. Coach House Press, 368 pages, $25.95

This large, var­ied col­lec­tion of es­says is con­nected by a de­sire to un­cover Toronto’s queer his­tory in all its di­ver­sity. To this end,

Any Other Way be­gins with a story about Jackie Shane, a queer, black, work­ing-class, trans mu­si­cian who per­formed in Toronto’s thriv­ing rhythm and blues scene in the 1960s.

There is no sin­gle ed­i­to­rial voice. Many es­says are per­sonal rec­ol­lec­tions, some are more stan­dard his­to­ries, and still oth­ers can­not eas­ily be cat­e­go­rized. One par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing por­tion of the book re­pro­duces an LGBT mag­a­zine’s 1979 “Guide to Ar­rest and Trial.”

The book’s or­ga­ni­za­tion is loosely the­matic and non-chrono­log­i­cal, fre­quently jump­ing from 2017 to 1917 and back again. Given the per­sonal na­ture of many of these es­says, the em­pha­sis is largely on more re­cent queer his­to­ries. Many es­says are less than two pages long, mak­ing this a fairly ap­proach­able book in spite of its of­ten-heavy sub­ject mat­ter.

Be­cause the es­says in Any Other Way un­cover hid­den his­to­ries in Toronto’s streets, parks, bars, and ho­tels, read­ers fa­mil­iar with the city are likely to find this book par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing. — Alex Judge

Blood, Sweat, and Fear by Eve Lazarus Arse­nal Pulp Press, 219 pages, $21.95

Au­thor Eve Lazarus fol­lows up her pre­vi­ous book, Cold Case Van­cou­ver, with a book that is just as fas­ci­nat­ing. One of Van­cou­ver’s top early twen­ti­eth-cen­tury crime cru­saders, In­spec­tor John F.C.B. Vance ( J.F.C.B. to his fam­ily) was an in­ter­na­tional leg­end and earned the nick­name “Sher­lock Holmes.”

Vance in­vented many of the tools and equip­ment he needed at a time when foren­sics was in its in­fancy, and his ap­proach to foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion is re­flected in tech­niques used to­day. Lazarus is quick to point out that her book isn’t a bi­og­ra­phy of the man: “It’s the story of Vance’s ex­tra­or­di­nary work in foren­sic sci­ence … a his­tory of the early work in foren­sics.”

None­the­less, as­pects of Vance’s char­ac­ter are brought to the fore. Ac­cord­ing to Lazarus, he was a “white hat” work­ing in an ocean of “black hats.” His ca­reer be­gan shortly be­fore the Anti-Asi­atic ri­ots and con­tin­ued through pro­hi­bi­tion, the De­pres­sion, and two world wars. And if the bad guys weren’t enough, Vance was em­ployed by two of the most cor­rupt po­lice chiefs Van­cou­ver ever had.

The ev­i­dence he ob­tained led to the suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tion of many crim­i­nals, but it came with a cost — Vance and his fam­ily be­came tar­gets. In 1934 alone, there were seven as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts; car bombs and mail bombs were the pre­ferred meth­ods of the day.

A rare treat, Blood, Sweat, and Fear also presents many im­ages that were pro­vided to the au­thor by Vance’s grand­chil­dren. Vance’s wife made a scrap­book of all his news­pa­per clip­pings, and the case files he kept after re­tire­ment were found in a box in their at­tic. For those who en­joy true crime or mur­der mys­ter­ies, this book is a must-read. — Tanja Hüt­ter

Lake Agas­siz: The Rise and Demise of the World’s Great­est Lake by Bill Re­dekop Heart­land, 280 pages, $29.95

De­spite be­ing one of the Prairie prov­inces, Man­i­toba is un­doubt­edly also a prov­ince of lakes; thou­sands of them dot its land­scape. More than eight thou­sand years ago,

most of the land com­pris­ing the present- day prov­ince — and re­gions be­yond — was cov­ered by just one body of wa­ter: Lake Agas­siz.

In his book Lake Agas­siz: The Rise and Demise of the World’s Great­est Lake, for­mer Win­nipeg Free Press jour­nal­ist Bill Re­dekop pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive look at a lake that is un­known to many Cana­di­ans. With a size larger than all of the Great Lakes com­bined, it was, per­haps, the largest lake the world has ever known.

Re­dekop traces Lake Agas­siz’s his­tory from its for­ma­tion dur­ing a pe­riod of glacial melt­ing to its drainage into Hud­son Bay. But what truly cap­tures a reader’s at­ten­tion is the way he re­lates the hu­man his­tory of the re­gion to its en­vi­ron­men­tal his­tory. Re­dekop in­ter­weaves ge­o­log­i­cal and sci­en­tific data with the nar­ra­tive of those who dis­cov­ered the his­tor­i­cal lake and sto­ries of his own ex­plo­ration of the prov­ince.

While do­ing this, he shows that, while Lake Agas­siz no longer ex­ists, it con­tin­ues to af­fect peo­ple’s lives to­day. Filled with beau­ti­ful pho­to­graphs and packed with in­for­ma­tion, Lake Agas­siz is a fan­tas­tic read that brings new mean­ing to the phrase “I’m head­ing to the lake.” –– Brooke Camp­bell

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