The Fugitive’s Son
Author: Bruce Kemp
360pp, $21.95 CDN/$16.95 USD
When General William Tecumseh Sherman asks his old friend Frederick Douglass Macdonald to write to the widow of President Lincoln and describe his service as a black soldier in the Union Army, Macdonald produces more than just letters. His journals and letters reveal an unseen side of the Civil War. Son of a fugitive slave who escaped to Canada, Macdonald was a reporter who met and worked for North America’s first black woman publisher, Mary Ann Shadd, before meeting Martin Delany and the legendary John Brown. After turning his back on a promising career, he finds himself in the thick of Sherman’s “march to the sea” and working directly for the General. Even after the great victory parade in Washington, the war isn’t through with Macdonald. He has no reason to suspect the impending upheaval with his wife – whose own Civil War secret will rock him to the core.
Available on Amazon.ca or through select bookstores including: The Merrickville Book Emporium, The Sarnia Book Keeper, Novel Idea (Kingston) and other quality independent outlets…
Weather Bomb 1913: Life and Death on the Great Lakes
Author: Bruce Kemp
283pp. $29.95 CDN/$24.95 USD
In the dark hours of November 9, 1913, death screamed across the Great Lakes in the guise of a rare white hurricane. The Storm continued to brutalize the region for most of the following week. It left in its wake crippled cities, paralyzed communications, 12 lost freighters, the corpses of more than 250 men and women, and a mystery that remains unsolved to this day. Weather Bomb 1913 is an accurate accounting of the causes and costs of the Storm as told by the few surviving witnesses who had a living memory of the carnage, courtroom testimony and newspaper reports of the day. Now modern ship captains and weather scientists contribute their expertise to help explain and define this horrendous “extra-tropical cyclone” and Bruce Kemp adds his skills as a writer to bring to life one of the most compelling dramas of the tragedy.
Available from Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/Weather-Bomb-1913-Death-Great/dp/1389360504 and through your local independent book sellers including The Merrickville Book Emporium, The Sarnia Book Seller, Novel Idea (Kingston), Finchers (Goderich), the Ginger Press (Owen Sound) and many more. Soon to be available from independents in the United States.
Raves for Weather Bomb Continue…
“The 1913 hurricane that devastated communities surrounding the Great Lakes, bringing in its wake the destruction of property, the loss of ships, and significant casualties is deeply embedded in the region’s collective memory. Author Bruce Kemp dedicated 40 years to researching this “act of God”. The richly detailed book packs a dramatic punch made all the more so because it is, as such stories are customarily described as “based on actual events.” In this case, of course, Kemp is also a journalist and prolific local historian, so his telling of the story analyzes the “actual events” rather than merely using them as a “true” starting point. As he states in the preface, he was concerned from the outset to let “those who were there tell the story in their own voices.” The dialogue that he recreates in the prologue, “The Face of the Witch,” most of it representing Captain McConkey’s ideas and actions is imagined but convincing. This approach adds an immediacy to the events of a century ago and really draws the reader into a tragic story about the human and environmental effects of a historic weather event.
The “weather bomb” of the title refers to the so-called “white hurricane” that hit the Great Lakes with unprecedented (and still unmatched) ferocity over four days – November 7-11, 1913 – brought about by the impact of two conjoined storms. The outcome was at least 256 deaths as twelve big ships went down with all hands aboard. Those who did not sink to the bottom with their ship, like the S.S. Regina’s captain Edward McConkey, drowned and were swept to shore or simply froze to death on lifeboats. Kemp notes that there were likely more casualties, since some of the deaths were not accounted for by names on the ships’ individual registers. To date, only six of the ships have been recovered.
The author’s objectives are straightforward: he aims to identify the weather and sea conditions that gave rise to the disaster, the sociopolitical context that shaped public responses at the time, and the storm’s repercussions locally, provincially and nationally. In addition, he makes what he classifies as “educated guesses” as to the fate of two ships, the S.S. Regina and S.S. Charles S. Price, to allow for “a reasonable answer to the mystery” of what befell them on November 9, 1913.
While he conceded that these “guesses” might be “totally wrong,” Kemp is a seasoned sailor, scuba-diver, and travel writer as well as a careful researcher and historian, which positions him to put forward plausible theories about the events of that terrible night. He spent ten years with other divers to locate the wreck of the Regina at the bottom of Lake Huron, visiting the location when it was found. The idea for this book began percolating in the mid-1970s, when he became interested in wreck-diving, which he compares to “visiting a battlefield after the fight and before the broken equipment of war was cleared away.” His long-held fascination with the Great Lakes fueled a self-proclaimed obsession with the storm, which led him to pursue an increasingly wide net of contacts – with survivors and descendents of the Regina’s captain, Edward McConkey – as well as digging in local archives, in repositories of weather and navigation information and lore, among meteorologists and mariners, and in newspaper accounts at the time and for years afterward. Along with these more traditional historical sources, the author is able to provide significant personal insights from his own wreck-diving experiences. The result is an eminently readable and compelling account of what remains, in many ways, a historical mystery.” – Ontario Historical Society August, 2019 Bulletin
“… And then there is Bruce Kemp and Weather Bomb 1913: Life and Death on the Great Lakes (Waypoint, $29.95). Yes, it is about the Storm of 1913 when weather fronts collided over the lakes. Before when I needed to know about that event, I turned right leaving my office and found it, Gales of November, sitting on a shelf, ignored.
“I don’t think readers will ignore Weather Bomb, a complete… coverage of the darkness that covered the Great Lakes beginning on Nov. 9, 1913. Then, suddenly, a great white Class I hurricane brutalized the lakes with devastating wind storms, a blizzard and general carnage, leading to 256 men and women from a dozen of the largest ships on the freshwater sea [dying]. It was an “extra-tropical cyclone,” a storm almost unheard of a century ago.
“Bruce Kemp is an award-winning, internationally known writer and photographer who has covered the globe, reached the Northwest Passage, cover[ed] the America’s Cup and written about fine dining in Europe. His cruising guides to the Great Lakes are welcomed by many a sailor.
“Kemp is also a researcher. Listen to him. ‘Still we make our own luck, and there is no substitute for legwork in chasing down stories – particularly if they’re a century old. Long hours sitting in from of microfilm machines or interviewing people who actually witnessed an event are the things that pay off, but plain old outhouse luck often smiles on the bone-weary researcher.’
“Weather Bomb is especially fine when Kemp describes the real scene of desperate sailors and the near shore. After this book, I am not sure that there is much left to tell about the Storm of 1913. But there is much left to say about subsequent blows on the Great Lakes, stories left to tell.”
– Andrew Armitage, Owen Sound Sun Times, June 15, 2019
Fun Night Reading At Owen Sound’s Ginger Press
Available from Amazon
Photos by Ron Hepler
More than two dozen people turned out for my reading at Owen Sound’s Ginger Press Bookstore and Cafe (www.gingerpress.com) on June 20. Lots of interesting questions and comments. Many thanks to Maryann Thomas at Ginger Press for hosting the event. What a wonderful independent bookstore.
Andrew Armitage – Read This – Owen Sound Sun Times – 16 June 2019
Merrickville and District Historical Society Presentation
Image courtesy of Laurie Carter/lauriecarter.com
We had a packed house at the Merrickville Legion on September 25 for my presentation to the Merrickville and District Historical Society. Lots of people knew about the Great Storm and the questions afterward made for a terrific discussion. Had to send people home to their beds 😉 Thanks to Ann Martin for organizing the event as part of Merrickville’s 225th anniversary celebrations.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum Presentation
The docents at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, located on Whitefish Point, Michigan on Lake Superior gave me a splendid reception. Bruce Lynn and his crew hosted me for two days of book signings and A/V presentations. Hundreds of people passed through the gift shop where I was set up signing books and asked hundreds of good and insightful questions about the Great Storm of 1913. I sold a few books too, which always helps. Bruce arranged for me to stay in the Freighter View cottages just down the road from the museum and it was a real treat to wake up in the morning to see a freighter making for the Soo and a commercial fishing boat out setting nets for whitefish. The museum is one of the best marine museums on the Great Lakes. The setting is marvellous and it is located in the old U.S. Coast Guard life saving station on Whitefish Point where the Edmund Fitzgerald was heading when she went down. The light is still an operating aid to navigation, but you can climb its tower with a guide and from the top you can see the area (17 miles out) on the lake where the shipwreck occurred. The staff I had the privilege of working with were knowledgable and passionate about lakes history. The exhibits in the museum were nicely laid out to tell a cogent story about the history above and below the waters of the fresh water seas. If you’re in that part of the world I cannot recommend highly enough, visiting the museum. You can link up to it at: www.shipwreckmuseum.com
New Review From Canadian Yachting Online
Weather nerds and boaters of all stripes will be absorbed by Bruce Kemp’s account of the monstrous early winter storm, perhaps the largest ever, that hit the Great Lakes in 1913. Countless commercial vessels did not survive the rampage while the communities on the shores also experienced horror.
Kemp grew up in Sarnia, literally fishing on the pier, and has spent his life not far from water as a photographer and journalist bringing boats and sailors’ stories to life. The book reflects that dedication, and equally Kemp’s commitment to detailed research about a topic that grabs his interest.
Goderich Historic Book Fair
Despite the cool spring weather the Huron County Museum’s Historic Book Fair brought out several hundred people to hear discussions and purchase books. I was there with Weather Bomb 1913: Life and Death on the Great Lakes and had a great time meeting new people. Pictured above is yours truly courtesy of Melody Falconer-Pounder/Bayfield Breeze email@example.com
Below with Tom Fincher of Fincher’s Books and Gifts of Goderich – the local outlet for Weather Bomb firstname.lastname@example.org It was great to finally meet Tom in person and to talk about local history.
Weather Bomb Reviewed By Boatnerd.com
“Most Great Lakes enthusiasts are familiar with the Great Storm of 1913 and the resulting horrific loss of ships and men. There have been many other excellent volumes written on the subject over the years, and now comes another, by Canadian journalist Bruce Kemp. Kemp’s research included interviewing the last surviving witnesses and combining through courtroom testimony and newspaper reports, adding insights from contemporary ship captains and weather scientists about what caused that momentous event. Forty years in the making, this worthy 283-page volume is a detailed, engaging and highly personal account of disaster that still resonates with those who love the lakes.” – Roger LeLievre, boatnerd.com
Weather Bomb Review In Salty Dips
From time to time, book reports will appear in The Binnacle drawing attention to new works or older books that should not be forgotten, particularly Canadian publications. The Binnacle is the newsletter of the Naval Association of Canada-Toronto Branch)