Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Shameless Self-Promotion.

Ken Favrholdt, executive Director and Curator at the Osoyoos & District Museum and Archives, was the man who reviewed my book for British Columbia History, publication of the British Columbia Historical Federation.
His review appeared in their Fall 2012 issue, and I now include it in this post so that you, too, can read it.

The Pathfinder: A. C. Anderson's Journeys in the West by Nancy Marguerite Anderson

"Alexander Caulfield Anderson was born 10 March 1814 near Calcutta, India, son of military officer Robert Anderson and Eliza Charlotte Simpson.
His family returned to England; there young Alexander received a good education before joining the Hudson's Bay Company in 1831.

"First posted at Lachine, Quebec, Anderson was sent west to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River in 1832.
He worked first on the Northwest Coast, then in New Caledonia -- as north-central BC was called -- at Fort Alexandria, the northern terminus of the fur brigade trail.

"Anderson was most closely associated with the exploration of trails used by the HBC, especially the all-Canadian route used by brigades after the border was settled along the 49th parallel in 1846.
In 1848, he was transferred to Fort Colvile until 1851, when he returned to Fort Vancouver.
Besides his journals of exploration, Anderson also wrote many articles on British Columbia as a civil servant and produced the first unofficial map of the whole of what is now BC in 1867, after he retired to Vancouver Island.
Anderson died 8 May 1884 at Saanich, near Victoria, B.C.

"Anderson is little known to most British Columbians despite his lengthy career and so this book by descendant Nancy Marguerite Anderson answers the call for a thorough biography.
Nancy Anderson followed her ancestor's footsteps through the Pacific Northwest and conducted archival research in the BC Archives and elsewhere to reconstruct his peregrinations.
Ms. Anderson compiled her great grandfather's life in a deft manner by incorporating excerpts from Anderson's writing in the thirty chapters forming vignettes of his life which are backed by many extraordinary details and many well-chosen illustrations.
Details of Anderson's maps highlight each chapter; as well, a few colour plates of his maps of beautifully reproduced.
The book is thoroughly footnoted with a selected biography.

"Nancy Anderson has filled a gap in the historiography of the fur trade of the Pacific Northwest and at the same time has created an entertaining read.
In a way, A. C. Anderson was not a fit for the fur trade.
He was a scholar whose writings, and especially his great map of the Colony, represent his greatest legacy.
In the words of Nancy Anderson:

Anderson always knew the work he did was important.
In spite of the fact that he often did not fit into the culture of the place he found himself in, Anderson's work -- first for the fur trade, then for the communities he lived in and finally for the Dominion government -- was aimed at improving the future of the people he lived among.

"This book, like the life of A.C. Anderson, is central to the history of the fur trade and of colonial British Columbia.
The Pathfinder is a must-read for the avid history buff, student and academic."

Thank you, Ken, for your fine review, and I appreciate it very much.

As I told you in a post a few weeks ago, I attended the British Columbia Historical Federation Conference, held at Kamloops in May 2013.
I came to attend the Brigade Trail talk that Ken put on at the Conference, and my sister came up with me to attend a few talks that interested her as well.
Her job was to sell my books, however, as I had made arrangements to do so at their Conference.
I thought it was the perfect spot to sell books at: I thought that at a conference for people interested in British Columbia history that I might find quite a few people interested in buying my book.
I also thought that Ken Favrholdt's excellent book review, published in the BC Historical Federation's own magazine six months earlier, might spark some interest in my book in some of those people so interested in history.

But no....
I sold books: to Kamloops residents who were invited to shop at the book sale; to parents of children that came to meet the Lieutenant Governor who was viewing their projects displayed in the book room; to other authors who were also selling their books in the book room.
But there were times when the book room was empty for hours at a time, and those were the hours that the book room was actually advertised to be "open."
All book sales were made at times when the book room was supposedly "closed" but we were encouraged to stay at our tables because the opening hours had been mistakenly listed in the local newspaper and they thought that people might shop.
They did, thank God, because the delegates certainly did not!

I knew a few of the delegates at the meetings, and I know none never entered the book room.
One older woman visibly shied away from the table: apparently she thought she might have to purchase a book.
A man talked to me about the book and Anderson's 1872 manuscript (which I think is his least interesting), and eventually told me he had already purchased a copy (great!)
We sold one book to someone who belonged to the Federation: a woman rushed up to my table saying "I'm Jean Wilson: I want to buy a copy of your book!"
I knew the name and thought she belonged to the Victoria Historical Society; as I told you on Twitter it took me nine days to figure out who Jean Wilson actually was.
She is the now-retired Editor of University of British Columbia Press: I talked to her five or more years ago when I submitted a still-unedited copy of my manuscript to UBC Press -- long before I even knew how to write the argument for manuscript submission.
Of course she rejected the submission, but she told me that she was looking forward to learning more about Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

Obviously, she was telling me the truth.
Her excitement was refreshing: for the most part there was little excitement at that Kamloops conference.
And little warmth: we paid to attend the Conference but no one welcomed us, and certainly none of the delegates came around to shake our hands and to say they hoped we would return.
Will we return?
I made some good contacts there, but they were certainly not the delegates!
Jay Sherwood arrived with his books and sat at the next table. He writes about early surveyors in British Columbia and some of those surveyor's early photographs are in my book.
The authors of a book about the Japanese people in Victoria were also at our table, and they began their book with the story of the Japanese shipwreck on the Washington coast in 1833.
Of course you know the full story is in my book (the fur trader part of it anyway), and more information has been posted on this blog.
We had a lot to talk about -- and to my surprise and delight, at the banquet that evening I discovered that they had won one of the major Book Prizes!
Ann-Lee and Gordon Switzer are authors of the book, Gateway to Promise: Canada's First Japanese Community, published by Ti-Jean Press, Victoria, B.C., in 2012:  ISBN978-1-896627-21-2.

The B.C. Historical Federation is "talking" about blogging; they are considering opening a Twitter account.
The Conferences are attracting fewer delegates every year, and they are trying to attract people of my age group.
But it my age group they are disappointing.
We are there, and they don't see us.

So the question was: will I ever return to the B.C. Historical Federation Conference?
I might. In two years the conference will be held at Quesnel, and that is new territory for my book sales.
Not only that, but the person who is putting on the conference is hearing all our shared concerns and taking them into account -- I think it might be a much improved conference.
Quesnel will be concentrating on the gold rush, of course, and by that time I will know quite a good deal about the early gold rush in the days before the miners even heard about the Fraser River mines in 1858!
If things work out (and I hope they do), you might see me there!


  1. As an author with four published books on Canadian and BC history, I need to comment. I have sold more books through Twitter than any other online mechanism. But, far more, important, I have met other experts (all in their 50s and 60s) from around the world through my online presence and they have increased my knowledge a hundred-fold; shared images; sent out ideas; and have promoted my books for me too.
    What is the BC History Federation waiting for?

  2. My thought at the book fair was "so many books, too little money." The BCHF is a volunteer organization; they need new members with a positive attitude and the willingness to volunteer their time and expertise. Julie - the BCHF is waiting for people like you.

  3. Yes, I agree with you, Julie. The BCHF will get new and active members, which they are in dire need of, by joining Twitter. Moreover, they will get members who can afford to do the travelling required. But I, an author, was invited to attend the book fair and I expected to sell almost enough books to pay my way. It was an expensive experiment and one that should not have happened, as the members of the BCHF later told us they were having trouble with the Book Sales room.
    But the BCHF is also selling the books that we, the authors and publishers, sent in to them for judging for the book prizes, at half price to their members, at the height of the author's prime book-selling time, and of course, the author is not getting any residuals for their sales. That, more than anything else, needs to be changed immediately.