About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Bill's Best of 2016 - Non-Fiction and Most Interesting

In addition to my Best of Fiction picks I highlight each year my favourite non-fiction reads and a category I call Most Interesting for books that caught my attention in some special way.


1.) Church of Spies by Mark Riebling - Whenever I think I have exhausted the history of World War II a book comes along to surprise me with new information.

Riebling provided an abundance of information on how Pope Pius XII provided assistance and support for the German Resistance to the Nazis.

Had any of the plots succeeded in assassinating Hitler and installing a new government the Pope was ready to publicly assist peace negotiations.

Most remarkable was the story of a German Catholic hero, Josef Muller, a Bavarian lawyer who plotted against Hitler and was a courier between Germany and the Vatican. There is a great spy story to be written using Muller as inspiration.
2.) John Le Carre by Adam Sisman - I had barely known any of the personal history of David Cornwell until I read this fine biography.
With a father who was a self-styled businessman, but really a con man, Cornwell grew up in a world inhabited by vivid characters.

I had not known of his proficiency in languages, especially German, and his significant employment in British Intelligence until I read the book.

The discussions on how he wrote his books were fascinating with the depths of his research impressive.

I continue to believe it will be the definitive biography of Le Carre for this generation.
3.) This Old Man by Roger Angell - The author continues to write a few articles a year for the New Yorker in his 96th year.

While his primary vocation was editing fiction for the magazine his avocation has been covering baseball for over 50 years. As someone who has written a sports column while carrying on the practice of law I can appreciate the duality of his life.

In This Old Man are essays about himself, baseball and miscellaneous topics of interest. Sprinkled here and there are haikus.

Angell is remarkable for the grace of his prose. His words flow across the pages.

He faithfully follows the dictum of his stepfather, E.B. White, to "be clear" in his writing. 

3.) Jack – A Life with Writers by James King - I do not think I know any current publishers as men or women who are great characters in themselves.

Jack McClelland from the Canadian publisher, McClelland & Stuart, was very much in the public eye for over 40 years as a publisher after World War II.

Yet what made him unique was wide and varied and pungent correspondence with his authors.

You have to love a man who would write to one of Canada's leading poets, Irving Layton, as follows:

      Are you really all that bloody insecure? I could vomit. Let’s get
      a few things straight and on the record ……Another thing I
      should tell you, old friend, is that the most important thing that
      your poetry accomplished in this country is to make poetry
      respectably unrespectable. Of if you prefer, unrespectably
      respectable. Poetry in Canada used to be in the hands of old
      ladies and the odd gifted human being like Bliss Carman ….

1.) Tundra Kill by Stan Jones - I have enjoyed every book in the Nathan Active series set on the northwest coast of Alaska in the fictional town of Chukchi.

While the mystery in Tundra Kill is well done it is the character of Alaskan Governor, Helen "Wheels" Mercer, who makes the book one of my Most Interesting books:

      Active masked his astonishment as she swept into the room,
      complete with the Helly-Hansen parka, the rectangle glasses,
      the weapons-grade cheekbones, and a cloud of the famous
      perfume, though he couldn’t remember what it was called. And
      the calf-length high-heel boots – what was the brand?

Mercer was clearly inspired by former real life Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin. Mercer dominates Tundra Kill.

As she is a real northerner I was able to post a photo of Palin in a bright red parka.

2.) Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo by Joseph Greaves - The book revolves around the lives of the quartet of characters named in the title. All are real life people - Tom Dewey, Lucky Luciano, George Morton Levy and Cokey Flo Brown.

Greaves follows their lives through the first third of the 20th Century culminating in the highly publicized trial of Luciano in New York City that made Dewey famous.

The book reached Most Interesting for two reasons.

First, the book used actual excerpts from the transcript of the trial. Dewey's cross-examination of Luciano demonstrated the folly of Luciano refusing Levy's recommendation he not testify at the trial alleging he was the mastermind of prostitution in New York.

Second, Levy was a powerful example of a non-flamboyant very successful criminal defence lawyer. I admit bias in favour of an unassuming skilful litigator.

3.) A Candle to Light the Sun by Patricia Blondal - The book is an excellent portrayal of life in rural Manitoba during the Depression and after World War II.

Life was already bleak in Mouse Bluffs from the economic effects of the Depression. Adding drought and dust storms left many in despair.

What drew me to the book was the story of the author. Knowing she was dying of cancer Blondal voluntarily left her husband and children to spend three intense months writing the book. She died soon after knowing it would be published.


  1. You've really chosen such interesting books, Bill. There's such a variety of different sorts of books, too. And you've gotten me really interested in several of them (not that my TBR needs that..).

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I think one of the great joys I reading is looking beyond a person's "usual" books. You have great insights into books. I look forward to your thoughts on some of these books in the future.

  3. Another great collection, Bill, remembering some of your previous mentions of these.

  4. Moira: Thanks for the comment. Overall there were more outstanding books for my 2016 reading in these categories than in fiction.