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Twigg. Alan.

Madeira Park (B.C.). Harbour Publishing, c1986. 153pp. paper. S 10.95, ISBN 0-920080-77-4. C1P

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Adele Case

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

Vancouver and Its Writers offers a surprising compendium of information about writers who have lived, worked, or simply passed through the city. Some have chosen to leave for greener literary environs, while others have been deported, or gone into military service. All the Canadian west coast cities have brief chronological histories, and few Vancouverites have heard of more than a dozen or so of the writers Alan Twigg introduces during his tour of Vancouver's literary landmarks. The sector by sector format allows the author to pinpoint dozens of authors throughout five lower mainland areas. Keen readers will be able to trace the homes, hotels, book stores, beaches, theatres, markets, academic sanctuaries, ferry terminals, places, and spaces that somehow sheltered or influenced many of the fiction writers mentioned. Vancouver is still in a slate of flux, and a number of the well-known landmarks will be remembered only by those who grew up in the days of the (now refurbished) old central post office, the (now razed) Alcazar Hotel, or the (now vanished) ramshackle shacks along False Creek.

A number of the writers introduced in Twigg's book are obscure. The biographical tidbits are served up interestingly, though, and ought to spark at least local interest in some of the works mentioned. Hubert Evans is just one example: his works span several decades, and range from outdoor anecdotes to novels about west coast Indians, as well as stories about the Japanese-Canadians well known and trusted by Evans. Another little-known author is Donald Murray Fraser. An alcoholic, he squandered his gifts, saying "Don't worry about what 1 do in my spare time. When I die, I'll let you know." One feels driven to look for his last novel. The Voice of Emma Sachs (Arsenal Pulp. 1983).

Of course, there arc a dozen or more famous Vancouver authors sprinkled throughout the book. High school students have all enjoyed Pauline Johnson's nostalgic works, or have studied an Ethel Wilson short story. College and university scholars continue to ponder Malcolm Lowry's motivations. The linking of writers and places will allow keen readers to search out the Pauline Johnson monument in Stanley Park, the Kensington Place apartment building, and Malcolm Lowry Walk in North Vancouver's Cates Park.

With capsule entries from one half to just over two pages, Twigg sketches writers' backgrounds, their major works, and the influence they have had on national or international literature. The pity is that Twigg reflects on so many largely unrecognized writers. For each work of a Margaret Atwood or Raymond Chandler there are a dozen largely unexplored novels that are so deftly introduced that even a desultory reader begins to make a list of must-find-and-read books.

The book is printed in soft cover, and is very well indexed. It will be an invaluable reference for readers of Canadian literature; alternatively, it could be a useful gift for a visitor to Vancouver who seeks more than views of the sea and mountains. Recommended.

Adele Case, Britannia S.S., Vancouver, B.C.
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