Review of Thomas, A Secret Life

January 2014

CBU Press just drew a review to my attention. Please follow the link below. I’m pretty pleased, especially about altering this reviewer’s expectations and understanding of what historical fiction is and can be. Speaking of which, I prefer to think of it as period fiction, rather than historical fiction.

http://www.antigonishreview.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=519

Twitter @ajbjohnston

January 2014

I don’t like to think it’s vanity, but rather another way to stay abreast of what’s going on. I also like the challenge of expressing myself on a topic in 140 characters or less.

Recollections of the Fortress of Louisbourg

January 2014

Vol. 30 of The Nashwaak Review, published by St. Thomas University in Fredericton, is just out. It contains the usual range of articles from across the spectrum of the arts. One of the pieces is a forum on what it was like to work at the Fortress of Louisbourg over the years. Forum participants were B.A. (Sandy) Balcom, Ken Donovan, Brenda Dunn, Bruce Fry, Christopher Moore and me. The issue also has an article by Sandy Balcom any historian interested in the 18th century will want to read.

New 1758 Source

December 2013

Two Louisbourg items went on the auction block last week at Sotheby’s and there was great interest among those of us who follow such things. One was a map and the other a previously unseen journal of the 1758 siege (or rather of its aftermath) as recorded by an anonymous officer in the Cambis Regiment. The map went to a private buyer, but the journal — in a move that completely surprised everyone I know — was purchased by the Government of Canada. Well done! The journal will end up with Library and Archives Canada. Here’s hoping LAC makes a digital version available so all interested can have a look. Presumably, the journal had never been sent by the Cambis officer to any higher up French officials, because it then would have ended up in a French archives. The diary must have remained in his family for a while, perhaps 250 years. This is a major new source, and one that is likely to shed light on what happened at Louisbourg after the surrender and then during the crossing overseas.

Based on … inspired by

November 2013

The words ‘based on’ — or inspired by — is a code phrase often used by film-makers. It allows them to claim a connection with a real person or event at the same time as they are re-shaping it pretty much as they want. I have to plead guilty to that charge as well. In both of my novels — one out and one to be released in 2014 — I go far beyond what the literal history of Thomas Pichon would allow. In Thomas, Secret Life I followed the rough chronology and sequence of events of the real personage’s life. In The Maze I stay true to the “essence” of Thomas Pichon’s ambitious, secretive and sensual personality, but I have done so at the expense of any known chronology of events. I have taken aspects of a period of Thomas’s life, the late 1750s and 1760s, and transposed it to the 1730s. That was simply because it worked better for me; nothing more complicated than that. It’s fiction, after all.

To gush or not to gush

October 2013

Whatever happened to understatement?

I don’t know, but it’s nowhere in sight these days. Radio interviewers, with CBC headliners leading the way, just gush and gush. There is no superlative they do not bring out when they interview musicians, writers and anyone from the arts. Politicians, on the other hand, are treated like liars and cheats. (Well, some of them are, of course.) But I personally think things have gone too far. It’s the journalistic equivalent of the Standing O when none is deserved.

Here’s hoping journalists start to rein themselves in a bit. Not everyone they interview is Shakespeare or Ray Charles.