Dreams to Remember

April 2019

I cannot say when the book on the Lincolns — tentatively entitled “Dreams to Remember: The Life and Times of The Lincolns, Nova Scotia’s Legendary ’60s Band” — will be on bookstore shelves.

But an important step was taken this week. I sent the 51,000-word manuscript off to Nimbus Publishing. At some point in the weeks or months ahead, Nimbus will assign an editor and designer to work on it. I’ll let everyone know when the book moves on to that step.

Today, I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who contributed a story, gave me a lead, or helped locate an image. There is a very long list of all those people, too long to give here.

My greatest thanks go to the Lincolns themselves, for sharing their stories with me. In alphabetical order: Barry, Dick, Don, Frank, Jack, John, Layne and Rod gave me great material for the book—and so did dozens of fans.

In addition, John MacLachlan Gray wrote a terrific Foreword and Frank MacKay composed an Afterword days before he died.

As I was writing the final few words, a crazy and unexpected thought popped into my head. An earlier book—”Endgame 1758″—came to mind. What? I said to myself. That was about an imperial struggle 250 years ago, not a rock ‘n roll band. Then it occurred to me, like “Endgame 1758,” “Dreams to Remember” is a continuous and compelling narrative about a collection of fascinating individuals. Rock ‘n roll and a massive siege: they are all about life, aren’t they?

Lincolns’ Book Update

March 2019

It’s been a fascinating seven months, talking to members of The Lincolns and collecting memories from their fans. After a long time with my head down figuring out what goes where, I can now report that we are on the homestretch. The finish line is not yet quite in sight, but it’s just around another couple of bends.

Frank MacKay’s passing less than two weeks ago added a sudden sense of urgency to getting the book finished at my end and into the hands of Nimbus Publishing. It also turned the book — deservedly — into something of a memorial to Frank.

I’ll share more information on the book’s status in the weeks ahead when there is something to tell. My immediate goal is to deliver the package of words and images to Nimbus as early in April as I can. Whether or not it will enter the publisher’s queue at that point is out of my hands. As things stand, publication is slated from the spring of 2020. I am ever the optimist, and hope that my early delivery might see the book come out sooner. But that may not happen—there are other people’s books already in the queue.

The photo comes from the first reunion of the Lincolns, at the Teachers’ College in September 1978. Several in the photo are now gone.

Frank Mackay

March 2019

You reach the age that I’m at and you get used to having people you know pass away. It’s simply a part of life.

But last Wednesday, March 6, sitting on my bed in a Charlottetown hotel after a very long and busy day, I took my phone in hand to see if there were any emails I should read. The one I read from Eleanor Norrie stunned me. Frank MacKay, the legendary singer of the Lincolns and Soma and various plays, had undergone four hours of surgery after a heart attack and it wasn’t looking good. I couldn’t believe it.

And then Eleanor wrote again to tell me Frank was gone.

For me and thousands more who loved The Lincolns back in the 1960s, Frank MacKay was the essence of energy and vitality. And so he remained, including at the September 2018 reunion dances. The clock had seemingly rolled back fifty years. Frank’s voice and spirit were as full and powerful as ever. Six months later, that force of life was gone.

In late 2018 and early 2019, I sat down with Frank a couple of times to ask about his memories of Lincolns part of his life—for the book I’m writing. He was generous with his time and recollections, and keen to share anything he could. More than that, he responded to my requests for more information by writing about different chapters of his life, so I could extract what I needed. It was rich material.

My last request of Frank was that he consider writing the Afterword for the book. He agreed, and he sent me that work-in-progress one week before he died. It was not finished yet, but it was personal and moving. Frank said he thought it needed another few paragraphs. His focus was on how The Lincolns had likely saved his life. I don’t know if Frank went back to that text or not in the last week of his life. I’d like to think he did, that he had said exactly what he wanted to.

Here are three of the many photos I’ve collected over the last six months as I work on Dreams to Remember: The Life and Times of The Lincolns, Nova Scotia’s Legendary 1960s Band. Another departed Lincoln appears here as well, lead guitarist Frank Mumford.

Review of The Hat

December 2018

In the Chronicle Herald of Dec. 17, 2018, Brendan Ahern offers a review of my YA novel, The Hat. The reviewer got a few things wrong, like my initials, but overall I thought he did a good job. My only big regret is that the paper did not include an image of the cover of the book. So I’m putting one here.

https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/living/the-novascotian/historian-and-author-abj-johnston-has-a-new-take-on-the-deportation-of-the-acadians-268054/

The Hat - book cover by Lio Lo

Cape Breton Christmas

December 2018

I am one of many writers to have a short piece in the newly published Cape Breton Christmas, No. 5, edited by Ron Caplan. All stories are short; mine is three pages.

Giving Books?

December 2018

I am delighted to see my coming-of-age novel Something True featured in the Cape Breton Catalogue. Copies can be ordered from Cape Breton Books, or picked up at Woozles in Halifax, the Colchester Historeum in Truro and the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop in Sydney. Or via Amazon.