Friday, May 30, 2014

Atlantic Gunners & United Church Conference, May 23-24, 2014

We drove to the Legion Hall near the Gagetown Military Base, 
where the Atlantic Gunners had invited me to talk.
I spoke to a roomful of fine Gunners, mostly veterans
...about WW1 and The Gunner, which they enjoyed.
Afterwards, I thanked Capt. Luigi Andreola, 
the president, and still a serving Gunner.
The next day on to Sackville, where I had been 
invited to the Maritime conference of the United Church.
Six hundred clergy and lay delegates 
gathered for their annual get-together.
A book room had been set up, 
where I displayed the six volumes of The Alford Saga  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Perth-Andover & CBC Moncton, May 22-23, 2014

On May 22nd, we drove to Perth-Andover, 
where we visited the small library
...with it’s dedicated manager, Paulette Tonner
... who had thoughtfully put up a poster, as did many of the other librarians.
They seemed to enjoy my talk, and bought copies of The Gunner.
I was pleased to see a copy of the brilliant Yurij Luhovy’s 
“Freedom Had a Price”, which I had narrated, on display with my books.
Stephanie Kelley runs the Blackfly Gazette, 
and published publicity on my talks.
And then off we went two hundred miles to Moncton, where 
the radio chieftain, Karin Reid-Leblanc, invited us to a 
home-cooked dinner for the first fiddleheads of the season.
Friday morning I was interviewed on CBC radio 
for all of New Brunswick by Vanessa Blanch.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

St John River Valley, New Brunswick: Edmundston, Hartland & Nackawic, May 20-21, 2014

I was invited by the brilliant and accomplished librarian, Tonya Eindiguer, 
to visit the libraries along the St John River in New Brunswick. 
We started off with the Edmundston Public Library, 
a six-hour drive from Shigawake!
First, I visited some history classes at St Mary’s Academy in Edmonston.
The history teacher, with Tanya, certainly found my talk amusing.
Ted was photographing, and caught a neat sign for the English class.
Then we drove 100 miles to a lovely small town, 
Hartland, converted from a former Post Office
where I spoke to a small group of readers, 
who nonetheless bought a lot of copies of The Gunner.
I was happy to sign books for them.
As usual, 50% went to Hartland’s Holy Trinity Church, 
whose representative, Cindy Derkson, turned up to hear 
about The Alford Saga and spread the word.
And of course, I went to sit in the chair of one of NB’s famous premiers, 
Richard Hatfield, whose desk from the legislature 
is preserved here in the library.
Later that day we drove to Nackawic, where at lunchtime, the attractive 
small public library shared by, and housed in, the high school, also 
bought The Gunner and other books in The Alford Saga:

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Gazette, Montreal, May 23, 2014


Photograph by: Pierre Obendrauf, The Gazette
Paul Almond could have quietly retired years ago and divided his time between his home in the Gaspé and his retreat in Malibu. The renowned Quebec filmmaker really had nothing more to prove, having directed more than 130 film and TV dramas since the 1950s.
But Almond figured the beach life wasn’t for him. Yet. So he decided to take up a new métier: novel writing. As for a subject, he settled on something rather grand: merely his family’s history over the last 200 years. Which would turn out to be far more than one book.
Folks were skeptical. Well, Almond has proven them wrong. It has taken him close to 10 years but at the age of 83, he has completed his mission. He has written the Alford Saga, a whopping eight-book package that details his family’s earliest days and concludes with the author’s present-day existence.
“The saga covers Canadian history as it relates to my family, and I just couldn’t do that in one book,” explains Almond, over a glass of white wine at a downtown bistro. “It’s been quite the process. First, I had to go back to school for three years to learn how to write novels as opposed to screenplays. Then I had to research the subject for another three years. And then the writing process began.”
The Deserter, the first book in the saga, focuses on the ordeals of Almond’s great-grandfather Thomas Manning, who jumped ship in the Gaspé Peninsula in 1810. He had been serving under no less than Lord Nelson, with whom he had fought in the Battle of Trafalgar, before deciding he had enough, jumped ship and deserted. But though life in the colonies wasn’t initially grand for his great-granddad, he persevered, as did future generations of his family.
The Alford Saga goes on to follow the exploits of Almond’s uncle Jack, the only chaplain to accompany Canadian troops in the Boer War. Then it’s on to his own father, a gunnery officer who barely lived to tell of fighting through all the major battles of the First World War.
“What’s funny is that I was really terrible in history at school,” relates Almond, an officer of the Order of Canada. “Truth is: facts and figures have always terrified me. That’s why I have taken the liberty to call these books factional. All the facts relating to my family are true. But nobody really knows what anyone actually said in 1820, so that’s all imagined.
“But what I did learn for certain was that my great-grandfather was rescued by a tribe of Micmacs in Shigawake in the Gaspé. He then fell in love with a Micmac woman, and so the adventure begins.”
Almond had made his mark in filmdom with Isabel, The Act of the Heart — featuring his ex-wife Geneviève Bujold and Donald Sutherland — and Every Person is Guilty. He won, respectively, the Canadian Film Award and the Genie Award (which the Canadian Film Awards were renamed in 1980) for his direction in the latter two films.
Almond also directed the first installment of the famed 7 Up documentary film series in 1964, focusing on a diverse group of British schoolchildren and their views on the class system. (Michael Apted, Almond’s assistant on the project back then, has continued to crank out episodes every seven years and his name remains more synonymous with the series.) In 2007, Almond was presented with the Directors Guild of Canada’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
But if Almond was seeking serenity on the writing front, he soon learned that such was not to be. “I think dealing with the publishing world is even more agonizing than making films — and that is really saying something.
“I loved directing and I’ve learned to love writing. The only thing I hated about the film business was raising money. But having to deal with publishers can be even more dreadful. I pitched the first in the series after writing it, and got nowhere. So I wrote the second and figured for sure I would get a publisher. Wrong. So I said to hell with publishers, and wrote the third and the fourth and the fifth.”
Almond was finally able to prevail upon a publisher to undertake the entire series. But that deal later went up in smoke after the first five books in the series were published. So Almond found another publisher, Red Deer Press, to release the last three books in the package.
The Gunner, the sixth book in the series that has just been released, is set against the mayhem and tragedy of the First World War at Vimy Ridge in France. “I read 140 books on the Great War while researching that one.”
The seventh in the series, The Hero, comes out in the fall. It deals with Almond’s father, who suffered shell-shock during the First World War. “He really lost that battle.”
The concluding installment, The Inheritor, about Almond’s life, will be available next spring. Almond insists he hasn’t taken fictional liberties with himself in The Inheritor.
“My son Matt (whose mother is Bujold) read it and said: ‘Dad, are you going to publish this?’ I said that I would, and it is factual, dealing with all the women who have left me and have come through my life. I’m close with Geneviève now, but we weren’t at first when she ran off with her lover. I had a hell of a damn time until I found Joan,” the candid Almond says.
It was his third wife, Joan, a photographer he’s been married to for 40 years, who encouraged him to turn his attention to writing.
“She told me I should get out of film and do something less stressful, like writing, before I killed myself. So I quit doing films after having a quadruple bypass. But I have since had five heart procedures in the last five years, thanks to publishers,” jokes Almond, who looks fit and remains remarkably spry in spite of his medical ordeals. “But I must say that there are no tougher genes produced than those of Gaspé pioneers. They lived on that rugged coastline where nobody was living. They hacked down these damn big trees. Those genes must be serving me well.”
Almond got his start with the CBC almost 60 years ago, where he directed Sean Connery in productions of Shakespeare. After his stint at the CBC, Almond headed to England to work at Granada on numerous projects. He later returned home in the ‘60s, where he undertook his ambitious film trilogy: Isabel, The Act of the Heart and Journey.
Almond declares he’s ready to retire now, but the feeling is that he’ll miss the limelight.
“I might miss it a little, but I’ve had more than my fair share. When I was with Geneviève, she got an Oscar nomination and we went to the Academy Awards and sat with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Then we all ate together. Been there, done that with the limelight. Now I’ll be content to hang out by the seashore with my wife, five children and eight grandchildren.
“It’s been a life well lived, but sometimes a difficult life with lots of ups and downs. But I’m still alive and kicking, thank God.”
Some feel that the Alford Saga could easily lend itself to adaptation to the big screen. Almond doesn’t disagree.
“I just had lunch with Carolle Brabant (executive-director of Telefilm Canada). She told me she missed four meetings reading my last book, because she couldn’t put it down. She’s read all of the books so far, and if the head of Telefilm likes them, shouldn’t some producer pick it up and make it a film? Damn.”
What about Almond directing the screen version of the saga?
“No!” the grinning Almond blurts emphatically. “That would finish me off — for good.”
The Gunner, Book Six of the Alford Saga (Red Deer Press), by Paul Almond, is now on sale. $19.95.

Westmount Independent, May 20, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

Canadian Forces Base at Borden, Ontario, May 8, 2014


We were met at the gate of the Canadian Forces Base at 
Camp Borden, Ontario... Lt Commander the Rev Jennifer Gosse.  My Toronto hostess, 
Lynda Robinson, with her husband, drove me there.
I had come to present the original Communion kit 
carried by my Uncle Jack in World War I.
A beautiful program was designed and printed
...on whose back cover was copied the painting of communion 
for the troops of World War I, which hangs outside 
my bedroom door at the Old Homestead.
Before the ceremony, we had coffee with the chaplains, 
known as Padres, who serve under Maj. the Rev Michael Allen, 
head Padre of the base.
My guide during the whole day was Capt the Rev Daniel Forget, 
who videoed my presentation and also my talk to some two to three
 hundred troops in the great cinema they have.
A small but prestigious crowd attended the presentation.
LCol the Revd Paul Acton, Commandant of the Canadian Forces 
Chaplain School and Centre, gave a very graceful
 thank you speech after my presentation.
A portrait of Col the Ven John M. Almond, CMG accompanied the exhibit.
The small sterling silver set is quite a jewel.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Atwater Library, Montreal, May 14, 2014

THE GUNNER was given a friendly launch at the Atwater Library.
Attentive book-buyers listened.
Afterwards, everyone enjoyed mixing, discussing and THE GUNNER.
Rene Sanchez from Trinity Memorial Church helped sell 
The Gunner so that the church got 50% of revenues.
The launch was especially honoured by the presence of the 
famous writer, Roch Carrier.  

An extract from Roch Carrier’s “The Hockey Sweater” on the Canadian $5 bill.

I also signed books for Geoffery Chambers, distinguished advisor 
to the NDP, and his children Frances and Conrad.
Former Quest Film Associate Thom Richardson, now a screenwriter, 
chats with Cary Lawrence, the lead in The Dance Goes On, 
with her husband, a writer-director, Thomas Lapierre.
Longtime Quest film-maker Stewart Harding, now a prestigious 
Producer, with his wife, Cathy Wadas, a supervisor 
at the Montreal General Hospital.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Trinity Memorial Church, Montreal, May 11, 2014

On Sunday, I preached in Trinity Memorial church 
on Sherbrooke Street in Notre Dame de Grace
...founded by my Uncle Jack, the subject of The Pilgrim,
 and The Chaplain.
I was invited by the warm and very humanitarian rector,
 the Rev Joyce Sanchez.
With my publisher, I donated 50% of all proceeds to the church. 
René Sanchez’s sold the books, and Christopher Grocholski’s 
remarkable choir sung the Eucharist, which often moved me to tears.
I was enormously helped by my old friend Jay Iversen, 
whose grandfather, John Molson, gave the great Cassavant 
organ back in the early 30s.
The Rector asked me to robe for the service, 
so I asked Jay to take my picture.
Afterwards, a goodly number of parishioners bought books,
 to help their church.