In Ancient Rome, before a Caesar dared to launch a major campaign, he always consulted the natural world for predictions of success. The entrails of slaughtered goats, sheep, or pigeons would be messily probed, and events like high tides, floods, or thunderstorms would be pondered by skilled authorities. It was serious, head-scratching stuff.
Which brings us to Vancouver, and the launch of my new book on Monday, August 31. That evening the launch was held in the Book Warehouse on Main Street, hosted by James and Mary Ann. About 30 people came to hear me talk, and to celebrate the fact that a book whose title began with the words Across Canada should most appropriately take off there, in that great West-Coast book centre. Hal Wake (who runs the superb local Vancouver Writers Fest) gave me a very generous introduction, and then, wearing a tie whose colours you can guess, I chatted about my adventures. The world of books was well represented in the audience, by Mel Hurtig, Mark “Raincoast” Stanton, Mary Nicol (wife of Eric), Alan “BC Bookworld” Twigg, Trena (former colleague) White and other friends. It was good to be able to pay my fond respects to two retired book stalwarts who were sadly absent, Jim Douglas and Allan MacDougall.
All went well, and a fair number of books were sold and signed. The omens seemed good.
But a soothsayer would have been concerned. The weekend before the launch the Vancouver area was hit by freak storms that smashed down hundreds of trees. Power cuts affected more than 600,000 people. Our own North Vancouver hotel was left powerless and dangerous, since groping our way through the blacked out corridors required the use of our cell phones for slivers of light. We moved, delightedly, to The Sylvia, where I once lunched with George Woodcock, and which Jane and I on an earlier trip flip-flopped from, en route to a swim in English Bay.
But what would the ancient soothsayers have made of this freak weather? Is it very good news for my book, or the reverse? Time will tell.