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May 25, 2007

Max Burnsí Unresolved Connections


Max Burns is an award winning writer of a wide variety of articles and books on such things as building docks or cottage water systems that have sold thousands of copies to, motorcycle lore and some great fiction.  I read his book These are a few of my favorite roads and used it as a reference on a trip to B.C. last summer.  A book signing at Gulliversí for his new book of fiction Unresolved Connections got my eye but I was on duty at North Bayís Doors Open that day.  Knowing that he lives just over my township boundary I called and dropped in to see him. 

Max Burns at home at work with his new book and antique motorcycle close by.  Doug Mackey photo.

Maxís unique passive solar home which he built with his wife Jackie is nearing completion.  I spent an hour with Max and he gave me a signed copy of his book while his costume designer wife worked her sewing machines in her studio.  I read the book and was surprised at how good it was for a non-fiction writer.  He has been a closet or drawer fiction writer for years it turns out and we are lucky he decided to come out. 

First let me say that as a published photographer and with three years at the Ontario College of Art he has produced a beautifully designed self published book.  It includes 28 drawings and an interesting treatment of the poems that are a part of the main (145 page) story. 

The five short stories each have an unresolved surreal overtone and each is powerful in its own way. 

Two of the stories have a motorcycle presence which is to be expected from someone with a passion for bikes and bike travel.  Note the antique bike behind him in the photo in his kitchen.  Maxís website (www.worddust.ca) mentions that when reading the book one should abandon disbelief and travel to fantastical places.  This I did and could not, as they say, put the book down.  As a mystery book fan I appreciated the characters, the plot, and the mystery and highly recommend it.  The abandon disbelief caveat mentioned above was a bit difficult at times like other mysteries but did not stop the flow.  It would be interesting to see another Max Burns mystery at some time in the future depending on where his creative urges take him.  Unresolved Connections should be available in bookstores and libraries anywhere in the Community Voices area. 

New Book on Trans Canada Highway 

Iím sure Max Burns has used the Trans-Canada on his many excursions although it is clear he likes the side roads and if he doesnít have one he makes one up for his stories.  There is a new book out by Daniel Francis A Road for Canada The Illustrated Story of the Trans-Canada Highway (2006).  Francis has written many books including the Imaginary Indian which has a chapter on Grey Owl that I have found useful.  Francisí new book will interest people who have traveled the highway, would like to, or are just interested in Canadian history and the making of the nation. 

In 1912 a group of motoring enthusiasts met to campaign for a Trans-Canada highway.  The book has a photo of the event and notes that the highway did not materialize for 45 years.  To encourage the development of the route the Canadian Highway Association offered a medal for the first motorist to make the trip in spite of numerous gaps in the road.  Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney took the trip in 1912.  The book gives a 16 page colourful profile of the trip among many other fascinating photos and stories. 

For a local look at the Wilby/Haney trip see my May 30, 2003 article on the trip based on a book by John Nicol in 1999.  I got my copy of the Francis book at the North Bay Public Library but other libraries or book stores should have it or will get it. 

The Doors Open crew at the Empire Living Centre on May 12, 2007.  Mary Recoski (L) and Noreen Vezina.  Doug Mackey photo.



The Captains of the Clouds Fly Again 

Part of the display at the Empire Living Centre at the highly successful North Bay Doors Open event May 12 was reference to the famous James Cagney movie Captains of the Clouds shot in North Bay in 1941.  As the tour guide at the Empire, one of 11 venues, I met several people who had an interest in the film.  Cagney and the other stars of the film stayed at the Empire when it was a Hotel but soon left because of the crowds.  As a part of the 10th anniversary of the Empire Living Centre the centre is sponsoring a showing of the movie at the Capitol Centre on June 16 at 2pm.  Itís free, and everyone is welcome.  (See my article on the film and the one on the Empire Living Centre on my website under the dates August 29, 2003 and May 11, 2007 respectively. 

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