Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hello Fort Liard and points north

Hello to you volunteers for Frontiers Foundation (FF) way way up in Fort Liard and points north. I want to read your blogs and to contribute, but I don't know how to post anything on your blogs. Can you either tell me or e-mail me via Don Irving (for safety's sake so no hacker gets my e-mail address.)You can check nme out on

Elisabeth and I are heading north to Batchawana Bay on Lake Superior to meet some ex-volunteeers there including Olaf who has been building FF houses there for many years. While there, we expect to meet Brad Henry of CMHC in Ottawa who is inspecting CMHC houses to discover their durability/longevity. He and I and Charlie Catto of FF fully expect to find that the FF houses last longer than the CMHC, which is nice because they cost less to build and are easier to maintain.

All this is for my book tentatively entitled The Spirit Builders, about Catto and the Foundation since the sixties.

As for you, Colleen in Fort Liard, yes you are about to get a shock when winter comes. It gets so cold even down here in balmy Ontario that once in a while in a cold winter night, you can hear the trees exploding as the little humidity left in them expands. If you have a phone, please let Don know your number so you and I can talk, or call me at 705 549 8148 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              705 549 8148      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. I want to hear abut your experiences there, especially with people, to help me with the chapter in my book on you northern volunteers.

Have fun

Jim Bacque

Sunday, September 5, 2010

the spirit builders

Hello all

Elisabeth and I have just returned to hot Ontario after a long visit to cool BC, and to many reserves there. We were interviewing some powerfully interesting people, including Chief George Muldoe at Moricetown. He is the chief of the Wet'su'wet people of the village and a survivor of the Canadian residential school system. He cooperated with Charles Catto of Frontiers Foundation/Operation Beaver in 1977-80 to rebuild or build new, some two dozen houses, badly needed in the village. The prospective owners, and or others in the village, worked with 38volunteers from around the world and of course Canada. At the end, the band graciously renamed the main street of the area Beaver Road.

At nearby Hag Wil Get we also talked to the brave and beautiful Chief Dora Wilson whose grandmother and mother both set her an example in 1945 by refusing to allow white people to take her away to be "educated" in the system that pained her friend George. Chief Dora also cooperated with Operation Beaver/Frontiers Foundation to build houses, but her greatest contribution was probably to lead the claim process for compensation for salmon lost because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada illegally dynamited part of the Bulkley River. This wrecked the salmon fishery which had sustained the band for hundreds of years. After years of litigation partly funded by the Government of Canada, Chief Wilson and the band won an enormous settlement--$21.5 million--with which the village has set up a trust fund to improve local life through education, recreation and the arts.
This almost miraculous result and the work of Frontiers Foundation have confirmed my thought that "Yes, there is hope for the white man."
Almost as miraculous is that Dora has planted and tended a pear tree which is yielding fruit despite the cold and high altitude of the region.

We were ably guided and safely driven through this area by the local representative of Frontiers, Don Irving--thanks Don.

Ths trip was part of the research I am undertaking for my new book, tentatively entitled The Spirit Builders, about the work of Frontiers Foundation in Canada since 1964--JB

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

poems written while waiting for a download

Sitting Here

I'm sitting here after dinner
Thinking it's nice to be sitting here after dinner
With most of my past behind me
Where it belongs.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Putting On Conrad: Introduction & Prologue

Click here to play the first installment of the podcast of James Bacque's Putting On Conrad: Introduction and Prologue

Putting On Conrad: Chapter 1

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 2

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 3

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 4

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 5

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 6

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 7

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 8

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 9

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 10

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 11

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 12

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 13

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Putting On Conrad: Chapter 14

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Friday, May 21, 2010

About Me

Curriculum Vitae of the writer James Bacque
320 Watson Road. Penetanguishene, ON L9M 1X9

All his archives have been donated to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Room at the University of Toronto where they are open to the public.

Educated at Upper Canada College; BA Trinity College, University of Toronto; one year postgrad work in history. Married Elisabeth Marani. Four children, Susan, Catherine, Ben and Andrew.
Reporter, Stratford Beacon-Herald, Stratford, Canada.
Assistant Editor, Saturday Night magazine.
Stagehand, CBC TV.
Assistant Editor, Canadian Homes magazine.
Editor, Macmillan of Canada, book publishers, 1961-1969.
Founding partner and president, new press, book publishers, 1969-1975.
Editor, Seal Books, 1976.

Bacque has been responsible as editor and publisher for the publication of more than 200 books, and has written and published nine himself, which have sold over 250,000 copies in thirteen languages around the world.

In 1958, Bacque was a stagehand and member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees union at the CBC and of local 58, Toronto. He was appointed a Steward during a protest movement organized principally by Fred McShane and Nick Treanor, to investigate corruption in the IATSE international union under Hugh Sedgwick, Canadian representative of the American head office of IATSE. McShane, Bacque and Treanor organized a movement to decertify IATSE, which narrowly failed in the first round of voting, but succeeded some years later.

A volunteer teacher for Clara Kellerman of the University Settlement House, University of Toronto, Bacque taught night school for two years 1962-4, helping new Canadians to learn English. He developed a novel system for teaching Canadian pronunciation, by singing and chanting.

The co-founders of The Committee for Canada, 1965, were Ramsay Cook, John T. Saywell, Robert Fulford, Mark Gayn and Bacque. Their purpose was to educate English-speaking Canadians in the subject of French-Candian nationalism and aspirations. The group brought such speakers as Solange Chaput-Rolland, Maurice and Jeanne Sauve and Rene Levesque to Toronto to speak to packed houses in Strachan Hall at Bacque’s college, Trinity, in the University of Toronto. The purpose was to create greater awareness of the possibilities of Quebec nationalism, and of rapprochement between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians. The work of the committee also resulted in Bacque commissioning the English translation and publication of Pierre-Elliott Trudeau’s book entitled Federalism and the French-Canadians. This was an instant best-seller. Over 80,000 copies were sold in the first few weeks after publication, and influenced the Liberal party to elect Trudeau party leader in 1968.

In 1967 Honourable Justice Joseph Sheard, QC and Bacque co-founded Group Action to Stop Pollution, with the CBC nightly news anchor Stanley Burke. The purpose of the group was to raise public concern and to move government to reduce or eliminate air-borne pollution in Canada. The group eventually merged with Pollution Probe, at which point Bacque commissioned the best-selling book Pollution Probe from Dr. Donald Chant, editor, who was also a co-founder of Pollution Probe. The royalties from the book went to support Pollution Probe at the time of its founding, when money was short.

When the Ontario government was organizing its first arts foundation, now the Ontario Arts Council, to help writers and other artists, Bacque advised Ontario representative Ron Evans how to save money and time in judging awards and subsidies to writers. This system, of allocating money to writers on the basis of publishers’ recommendations, has worked without a hitch for over forty years, resulting in savings of millions of dollars through elimination of duplicate and unnecessary judging processes.

With two partners, Roy MacSkimming and Dave Godfrey, Bacque founded the book publishers new press, in 1969, with the aim of publishing high-quality literary works in every genre, with the emphasis on bringing Canadian authors and writing to Canada and the world. In the following five years, they published more than 100 Canadian titles, some of which sold abroad. All three partners also published their own work with new press: Dave Godfrey’s novel The New Ancestors won the Governor General’s award, and Bacque’s novel Big Lonely was published in England and a best-seller in Canada It was included in the prestigious McClelland and Stewart series, New Canadian Library. While at new press, Bacque founded The Trent Native Series, 1970, in conjunction with the representative of Trent University, Professor Harvey McCue (Waubageshig). The purpose of the series was to publish books exclusively by First Nations Canadians. The first in the series was by Harvey McCue, entitled The Only Good Indian. Others followed, notably Geniesh by Jane Willis, about life in an Anglican boarding school for Cree children in northern Quebec; Devil in Deerskins by Anahareo, a memoir of her life with Grey Owl; Red on White, by Duke Redbird, and Prison of Grass by Howard Adams. Bacque commissioned, edited and published all these titles. This was the first series of books ever dedicated exclusively to First Nations writers.

Bacque was one founder with six others, of the Highland Committee, in 1979, whose purpose was to rescue Vietnamese refugees languishing in British camps in Hong Kong. They brought seven young Vietnamese in the first round, guaranteeing their support for years. The Highland Committee helped to clothe, feed, and educate them, especially in the pronunciation of English. After several years, all these young people were happy and productive citizens of Canada, able to help bring in the next few members of their family and friends, whom the committee also supported. The committee loaned them money, found them clothing, jobs and housing, and helped some of them get into university. In the end, 22 members of the family and their friends became citizens of Canada, working in various fields.

In 1970, Bacque was one of the founders of The Independent Publishers’ Association of Canada, which has thrived and become the Association of Canadian Publishers, representing 145 Canadian houses. He organized the founding committee, arranged accommodation for the first meetings, and supported the founding committee with money and volunteer labour. He was also a founding member of the Writers’ Union of Canada and served as Secretary-Treasurer in 1979.

Since that time, Bacque has researched, written and published three novels, two histories, one biography, a play and a book of essays, all published or produced in Canada, three of them also published abroad. One notable book, entitled Other Losses, was featured on the cover of Saturday Night magazine, and became an international best-seller. It revealed the deadly fate of German prisoners of war in French and American camps after World War Two, and literally thousands of Germans wrote to Bacque to thank him for revealing the truth about these camps. The research took him to archives great and small in seven countries, and to dozens of interviews with survivors of World War Two. Four hours of TV film have been made and broadcast of his historical work, and he has given hundreds of interviews about his histories and his fiction. He was the first western writer to be admitted to the KGB Special State Archive in Moscow after the fall of the communist regime. He produced, wrote and co-directed a ten minute film about Other Losses, and his new play, Conrad, was produced by Russell Productions in Toronto, under the prize-winning director Martin Hunter. In 2009, he began cooperating with the German film-maker Prof. Dr. Michael Vogt on two new films based on the German histories. In June, 2009, he toured Germany, speaking in two cities and giving a TV interview. He also travelled to northern Manitoba and Kenora, Ontario visiting reserves and Metis housing projects as research for a book about Frontiers Foundation, which has been building coop housing in the north for fifty years.

In October 2009 his comedy Conrad, about Conrad, Lord Bilk of Crosspurposes opened at the George Ignatieff Theatre in Toronto. It was an instant success and returned in January 2010. Bacque is at work on a sequel.


The Lonely Ones (Big Lonely in paperback) McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1969; Macmillan of London, 1970.
A Man of Talent, new press, Toronto, 1972.
Creation (With Robert Kroetsch and Pierre Gravel) new press, Toronto, 1972.
The Queen Comes to Minnicog, Gage-Macmillan, Toronto, 1979.
Our Fathers’ War, Exile Editions, Toronto, 2006.

Other Losses: an investigation into the mass deaths of German prisoners at the hands of the French and Americans after World War Two; Stoddart, Toronto, 1989; MacDonald, London, 1990; Prima, Rocklin, Calif., 1992, revised edition, Little, Brown, Toronto and London, 1999, 2004. In Germany, Ullstein Verlag, Berlin, 1989 as Der Geplante Tod. Revised and reprinted by Pour le Merite, Kiel, 2008. In France, Editions Sand, Paris, 1990, as Mort Pour Raisons Diverses. Also in Japan (Asahi Shimbun), Italy (Mursia), Turkey, Portugal, Korea, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia.
Crimes and Mercies, Little, Brown, London and Toronto, 1997. Also as Verschwiegene Schuld, Berlin, Ullstein, 1996, Also published in USA by Northwestern University Press, Chicago, in cooperation with Talonbooks of Vancouver, 2007. Published in Spanish in autumn, 2008.

Just Raoul, Stoddart, Toronto, 1990, and Prima, Rocklin, California, 1992.
Dear Enemy: Germany then and now, (With Richard Matthias Mueller); Essays on contemporary Germany seen from the inside by Mueller, and from the outside by Bacque; Fenn, Toronto, 2000.

Conrad, Russell Productions presents, at the George Ignatieff Theatre, Toronto, October 2009. Repeated January 2010 at the same theatre.

Television: Subject of one-hour BBC TV documentary 1990; of four TV documentaries in France, Germany, Canada. Appearances on BBC; Dan Rather CBS Evening News; Good Morning America; CBC TV The Journal; Apostrophes, (in French, live, in Paris); Panorama, Sud-deutsche Rundfunk.
Readings and/or speeches at Harbourfront, Toronto; Universite de Strasbourg; Universities of Toronto, McGill, Manitoba, Alberta, Ottawa, British Columbia, Trent, Harvard Student Union. Readings in Paris, Strasbourg, Montreal, Ottawa, Penetanguishene, Saskatoon, Calgary, Toronto, etc.
Awards, prizes Canada Council Junior Arts Award, 1970; Canada Council Senior Arts Awards, 1976 and 1993; National Magazine Association Gold Medal, 1978; First Prize, Periodical Publishers Association of Canada, 1981; Chatelaine Magazine Fiction Award, 1980; Bismarck Society Medal.
Articles, Anthologies In many places, including Saturday Night magazine, Books in Canada, The Globe and Mail. Most recently in Abuse Your Illusions, Edited by Russ Kick, The Disinformation Company, New York, 2003, and Exile Quarterly, Toronto, Vol. 29, 2006.
Web Site, offers pages describing Other Losses, Dear Enemy, Crimes and Mercies. Excerpts plus explanatory notes for Our Fathers’ War. On Google, james bacque recently produced 50,100 hits; on Yahoo, 81,000 hits.
Over the years, Bacque’s books have sold over 250,000 copies world-wide and are still selling at the rate of a hundred per week. He was the first Canadian Anglophone writer to appear on the famous French TV literary program Apostrophes, and also the first Canadian writer to appear in the best-seller list of Der Spiegel.

In Preparation: Praying Boss, a history of Frontiers Foundation, pioneer in co-op housing for aboriginals and Metis in Canada;
Putting On Conrad: A Fable. Satire on the Canadian Literary establishment


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New word this week: Ken Taylor was a Shambassador in Tehran

The world has now been informed that the Canadian Embassy in Teheran several decades ago was not only not representative of the Canadian people, as usual, but more strangely, was actually an outpost of the CIA. Ken Taylor, the Ambassador, was actually spying for the CIA.

This was not news to some Canadians, because the CIA has for long had an agreement with the Canadian government, to spy on Canadians, then to release this information to Ottawa in exchange for information gathered by the Canadians about Americna citizens. This evades the laws of both countries which forbid the governments to spy on their own citizens.

This information was supplied to me by a former Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP, Rod Stamler.

Your Wit's End

Part of the fun of this blog will be odd sayings, new words, and poems.

Being a writer is frustrating because it requires ego while it enforces humility.

And for Valentine's Day, this bit of wisdom from experience: We used to be madly in love, but now we get along much better.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Stephen E. Ambrose

In The New Yorker of April 26, 2010, Richard Rayner writes that Stephen E. Ambrose, the famous American historian, was lying when he claimed to have interviewed Dwight Eisenhower before writing some of his books. He was also lying when he claimed that Eisenhower approached him requesting that Ambrose write his biography.
I worked with Steve on the manuscript of my book Other Losses in 1988. He read it for me and wrote me a long agonized letter in which he said, inter alia

I have now read Other Losses and wish I had not. I have had nightmares every night since I started reading. have a sensational if appalling story and it can no longer be suppressed, and I suppose (in truth, I know) it must be published...I’m not as convinced as you are that Ike played so absolutely central a role...there were clearly things going on that were not central to him and to which he paid less attention than he should have. Maybe that is all rationalization on my part...But again, you have the goods on these guys, you have the quotes from those who were present and saw with their own eyes...You really have made a major historical discovery, the full impact of which neither you nor I nor anyone can fully imagine. Many will curse you; many will denounce you, many will argue with you; most will try to ignore you...


Stephen E. Ambrose

PS I have written at length about your script to Alice Mayhew, my editor at Simon and Schuster.

Steve invited me to his house at Lily Lake in Wisconsin, where I went with my wife Elisabeth in the summer of 1988. There he worked on and off with me for two or three days, correcting details in the manuscript, and offering some general criticisms. Among them, he advised me to eliminate a short section in which I speculated on the origins of Eisenhower's hatred of Germans, which I did. The book was published in Canada, the UK, Germany and France, creating a storm of controversy around the western world with the evidence it produced of mass crimes in 1945-48 against German prisoners of war in American camps, and in French camps. About one million prisoners died in open-air camps where they were sometimes denied water, and were routinely denied food and shelter for months at a time. Much of the evidence I discovered and interpreted in US Army and SHAEF archives with the help of a great American historian, Col. Ernest F. Fisher Jr., who supplied an eloquent Foreword to the book.

After the book was published in the US, Ambrose courageously supported this thesis during interviews with various people including a journalist on The Dan Rather Evening News. But his support abruptly ended soon after Ambrose had spent a few months lecturing at the US Army War College in Carlyle Barracks, PA. Ambrose without a note to me or Fisher, suddenly decided to set up a hostile colloqium on my book at his Eisenhower Centre in Louisiana. When Other Losses was published in the US, Ambrose also wrote a front-page attack on it and me personally in the New York Times Book Review in which he denigrated my research despite the firm support of Fisher and thousands of documents that we had unearthed, and the interviews I had done with many survivors including US Army guards who had witnessed the slaughter in the camps. Ambrose had done no research at all in support of his thesis: in fact he admitted that he had no support for it at all, writing, "When the necessary research is done, it will be seen that ...( Bacque's thesis is fatally flawed)."

Some years later, Ambrose was revealed as a serial plagiarizer. He died soon afterwards, in shame.

It is a shame that his fervent defence of Eisenhower has been allowed to obscure the fact that, as he said on the Dan Rather show, 'terrible things were done.' Lacking an official investigation of the camps and the death-dealing policy approved by Eisenhower, the American public has been denied the opportunity to investigate what went on. This has meant that the Army, Government and public have tacitly approved not only the disasters in Germany, but also those which have subsequently occurred in other detention facilities of the USA, including Guantanamo.

Yet Steve is not to be blamed, or to be blamed alone. What we as societies require rigorously of our historians is not accuracy in recording events of great consequence, but rather a pleasing chronicle which justifies and supports our society. We should not wonder when a very popular writer like Ambrose is revealed to be a liar and plagiarizer, because he has in fact given us what we demand from him above all, a pleasing myth.

For all those who want to know what really happened to the Germans under our control after the Second World War, please consult the books of Alfred De Zayas, the great American historian, Harvard trained. These include Nemesis At Potsdam, and A Terrible Revenge. Or see the books of another great American, George Gimbel including Science, Technology and Reparations, and The American Occupation of Germany. Or see the work of Count Nikolai Tolstoy in England, notably The Minister and the Massacre. Or consult my books, Crimes and Mercies, and Other Losses.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

All's Well That Ends Well

How often do you get to visit your past, with the chance to reconcile yourself with any part of it? Well, I had that chance, recently.

Elisabeth and I were sitting in front of our cottage beside Georgian Bay on a warm April day. Sitting beside us were our friends, Joan Rogers, and her husband Ian, nicknamed Buck, who had come over for lunch from their house in Collingwood. They have been happy together ever since they married more than fifty years ago, and we also have survived, perhaps gracefully, and for sure gratefully. Our son Andrew was also there with his bright and brilliant daughter Isabella, who was alternately shy behind his legs and then running around the grass. We were a perfect picture of long-settled married harmony. With a difference.

In our student days at university, long before marriage, but while we were definitely thinking about it, I used to be in half in love with Joan and she was very attracted to me. Those thoughts and feelings were now just pleasant memories, but the day was warm, two new generations were listening and everyone was in a good mood, so she and I began to reminisce about our few dates fifty years before. She told a little story about us. We went out to a movie one evening, and enjoyed ourselves. Around 11:30 pm, half an hour before the witching time, we were in my father’s car in front of Joan’s residence at the university. I was nervous, because Joan--who is a no-nonsense person, funny and direct, with a deep hoarse voice roughened by smoking--could be daunting to a love-struck young male presumably intent on her person.

“We were sitting there in the car, about half an hour before I had to go in,” Joan said. “And do you remember what you did?”

“I probably lunged at you.” I smiled, feeling pleasantly embarrassed.

She laughed that deep hoarse laugh, and said, “You read me a poem you had written.”

“I did? Oh, my God,” I said. “Did you like it?”

“I don’t remember,” she said.

“And I didn’t kiss you?”

“No,” she said and laughed. I couldn’t tell if she was offended, or disappointed. But it was obvious to all of us sitting there in the warm sun of our later years that everything had turned out for the best. I was grateful. Joan had picked right, and so had Buck, Elisabeth and I. It had all wound up like a Shakespeare comedy--confusions cleared away, resentments dissolved in laughter, no regrets anywhere, and the Duke smiling benignly on everyone.

She had forgotten the poem of course, but now, fifty years later, she and Buck had come to the opening night of my new play, and she had laughed so much along with others in the theatre, that she could not hear all the dialogue. Now she asked for a copy so she could read it. What was I thinking going into the house to print a copy? I was happy that finally she saw something she liked in my writing.

I printed a copy, brought it out and signed it for her, under the inscription, “For Joanie, thanks for marrying Buck. Love, Jimmy.”