Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative


December 5, 2013


Much of last week I spent preparing an index for my latest book, an illustrated history of prohibition in Canada titled Closing Time: Prohibition, Rum-runners and Border Wars. It will appear next autumn from my friends at Stanton, Atkins and Dosil. Indexing is pretty much the last job before the manuscript goes off to the printer.

Given that indexing, while necessary, is also finicky, time-consuming and boring, most writers have someone else do it for them. But I...

November 28, 2013

So often when one is travelling the most popular tourist sites turn out to be the most disappointing.

In Vienna recently I took the train out to visit the Schonbrunn Palace, home to the Habsburgs until their empire crumbled during World War One. It is apparently the most visited site in Austria but I was disappointed, make that angry, at the banality of the interpretation. Walking through the spacious rooms, audio guide pressed to my ear, I was treated to a barrage of trivial...

November 24, 2013


Friday evening found me downtown at the annual Mayor's Arts Awards. This year's award for achievement in the literary arts went to my pal George Fetherling so I went along to raise the general noise level.

The Science Centre is a weird venue for such an event, formal and distant. But host Bill Richardson was his usual...

November 21, 2013

In June I mentioned the story of Moby Doll, the first killer whale taken into captivity back in 1964.

The story is told in a book I co-wrote with marine scientist Gil Hewlett, Operation Orca (Harbour Publishing). But more recently Moby was the subject of a radio program in the CBC series Ideas. "Moby Doll: The Whale That Changed the World", produced by Mark Leiren-Young, was broadcast in early November. You can listen to a podcast...

November 20, 2013

Down to the Portside Pub in Gastown last night to attend a joint launch for a pair of books about one of my favourite subjects, Vancouver.

First up was Lani Russwurm, author of Vancouver Was Awesome (Arsenal Pulp Press), a self-described "pictorial history" of the city. He showed some slides and talked a bit about the career of George Paris, boxer/musician/sportsman, as an example of the unusual people and events he features in the book. I've long been a fan of Lani's (I don'...