The Bookshelf: Part 1 of 3


There are at least three people who stop off here on a regular basis and have asked in the past few days about the annual book list. Well, it’s here. . . . I have done this for a while now, writing thumbnails on books I have read over the previous 12 months. Perhaps this will help with your Christmas shopping or your own Christmas list. . . . And whatever you do, don’t forget to treat yourself!

As for the books on my Christmas list, you can start with Barack Obama’s A Promised Land; Finding Murph, by Rick Westhead; Broken, a collection of short stories by Don Winslow; and James McBride’s best-selling and award-winning Deacon King Kong. . . . Yes, you also can include The Sentinel, the latest in Jack Reacher’s adventures; Michael Connelly’s The Law of Innocence; and A Time for Mercy, by John Grisham. . . . I also had Al Strachan’s Hockey Hot Stove: The Untold Stories of the Original Insiders on the list, but I cheated and purchased it earlier this week. . . . And I eagerly await Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player. The story of Fred Sasakamoose, who died last week, it is to be published on April 6. . . . But enough of that . . . here’s the first of three parts of this year’s Bookshelf . . .


Agent in Place — This is another Gray Man novel by Mark Greaney. I will tell you that the first chapter grabs you and before you know you’re 30 chapters in, and I will leave it at that. . . . Agent in Place is No. 7 in Greaney’s ultra-successful series.


The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport — Rafi Kohan, a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City, has given us a really intriguing look at the arena/stadium/sports facility game. He visited numerous facilities and saw the nooks and crannies, and he wrote about all of it. From the huge food service crew for a New York Mets game at Citi Field, to the end of the days for the Pontiac Silverdome, the Olympic facilities in Utah and a whole lot more . . . it’s all here in an engrossing and ultra-informative read.


The Black Russian — Frederick Bruce Thomas was born in 1872 in Mississippi. He would go on to become an entertainment mogul in Moscow and later in Constantinople. Author Vladimir Alexandrov tells Thomas’s story between the covers of this book, and it’s an amazing tale. In places like Moscow and Constantinople, Thomas, a Black American, rarely had to deal with a colour line, but it was a different story when it came to politics and upheavals.


Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth — This book, written by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, opens with the opening of a gas station in Manhattan and before you know it you’re drawn into what is a stunningly good read. It’s about the oil and gas industry and I guarantee that you will never fill up your car again without thinking about what you read here. You also will have your socks blown off by the amount of money that is in play; you may have heard or seen figures before, but not like what you will read about here. However, if there is a thread here, it is Vladimir Putin and his rise to power. Scary and amazing, all at the same time.


Blue Moon — Jack Reacher finds himself between Albanian and Ukrainian gangs in Lee Child’s latest book — it’s No. 24 — on the vagabond former military cop who roams the United States righting wrongs as he travels. If you are a Reacher fan, or even if you aren’t familiar with him, you’ll enjoy this one as he eliminates two camps.


The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood — It was one of the milestone films in big screen history, and author Sam Wasson’s book is just as good. Wasson shapes the book around screenwriter Robert Towne, director Roman Polanski, and actors Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson as he writes about the before, during and aftermath of Chinatown. Good stuff!


Burke’s Law: A Life in Hockey — Hockey lifer Brian Burke tells his story, with the help of Stephen Brunt, a former newspaper columnist who, like Burke, now is at Rogers Sportsnet. This book is about what you might expect from Burke — loud, obscene and opinionated. It is interesting how he claims on more than one occasion that “white noise” from the media never bothered him, but he then spends a lot time ripping into those same media types. I would have liked a bit more inside dope on the NHL-NHLPA battles, but it wasn’t to be.


California Fire and Life — If you haven’t yet discovered author Don Winslow through his drug wars trilogy — The Power of the Dog, The Cartel and The Border — get thee to a book store. After that, go back and start reading Winslow’s earlier stuff. California Fire and Life is an insurance company; Jack Wade is an insurance claims investigator. There is a fire and, of course, not all is as it seems. There are good guys and bad guys, and Winslow’s writing.


Circe — Oh my, what an interesting book! It’s a novel based on Greek mythology. Admittedly, the only time I have an interest in that subject is in the odd crossword puzzle. But author Madeline Miller can write — oh, can she! — and she really brings the subject to life. Circe, a daughter of Helios, the Titan sun god, and Perse, a sea nymph, is banished to an island where she learns all about witchcraft. Give this one a look; you won’t be disappointed.


The Colorado Kid — Written and marketed in the style of pulp fiction that once was hugely popular — hello there, Mickey Spillane — it is easy to tell that author Stephen King, he of horror fame, had fun with this one. It’s a quick read and it’s different, as you will discover if you give it a try. The story involves two veteran small-town newspapermen relating a local murder mystery to an intern, with some terrific dialogue. King also had fun burying some pearls of wisdom along the way.


Fair Warning — Chances are that If you are a reader of any kind you have a favourite writer or two or even six. That being the case, you trust your favourites to deliver for you. That’s exactly what Michael Connelly does time after time. In Fair Warning, he brings back journalist Jack McEvoy for a third time, and this time he’s tracking a serial killer.


Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O’Malley, Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles — I always was of the belief that Walter O’Malley picked up his Brooklyn Dodgers and moved them to Los Angeles in 1957 because he was a greedy old you know what. It turns out I was wrong. As author Michael D’Antonio details in Forever Blue, O’Malley badly wanted to stay in Brooklyn, but with the dawning of the automobile era he needed a ball park with parking. O’Malley was prepared to build the facility with his own money, but he needed land. In Brooklyn, he was up against Robert Moses, who was unelected but immensely powerful. Ultimately, O’Malley came to realize he wasn’t going to get the help he needed. Through it all, city officials from Los Angeles were courting him, all of which finally paid off. . . . I’m a sucker for baseball books from this era, and this one didn’t disappoint.


The Girl in Saskatoon: A Meditation on Friendship, Memory and Murder — Alexandra Wiwcharuk was 23 years of age in May of 1962 when she was murdered alongside the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. The murder hasn’t been solved. Author Sharon Butala, who attended school with Wiwcharuk but was hardly what one would call a close friend, decided to write a book about it and, she hoped, come up with some answers. When she was done she had a book that was more about growing up in Saskatoon, at the time a little city that also was growing up, and all that came with it. Butala can write, and this is good, really good. . . . BTW, The Girl in Saskatoon is a seldom-heard Johnny Cash tune. You’ll have to read the book to find out the back story.


The Girl Who Lived Twice — This is another in the series of books about the adventures of Lisbeth Salander. Author David Lagercrantz had done an admirable job of picking up where the late Stieg Larsson left off. This one is a bit — OK, quite a bit — different than the earlier ones, in that it involves a Sherpa and an Everest expedition as key plot elements. I would have liked to have had more Salander, but, then, that’s all part of the mystery, isn’t it?


NEXT: Part 2 of 3.

CHL, Hockey Canada shut things down on day we will never forget . . .


The WHL, like so many other sporting organizations, put its season on hold Thursday afternoon as the world works to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Each of the WHL’s 22 teams plays 68 regular-season games. As of now, there are a total of 54 games remaining on the schedule, which was to have ended on Sunday, March 22. The first round of the playoffs, which would have started with 16 teams,  was to have started on Friday, March 27.

Now . . . who knows?

“Our goal,” a statement from the WHL read, “is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so.”

Teams that were on the road were instructed to return to their home cities. All players were to return to their billets and remain there while awaiting word on what comes next.

The CHL, which encompasses the WHL, OHL and QMJHL, announced the shutting down of all three leagues on Thursday afternoon. That announcement came after the NHL announced that it was suspending play.

Later in the day, former NHL executive Brian Burke, now an analyst with Sportsnet, said that he would be surprised if the NHL was able to hand out the Stanley Cup this season.

Because of the way COVID-19 has spread and continues to do so, I am inclined to agree with Burke.

With the WHL, of course, it’s all about the Ed Chynoweth Cup, which goes to the playoff champion, and the Memorial Cup, which is to be played in Kelowna, from May 22 through May 31.

It is far too early to know what will happen next. Will those 54 regular-season games be played? What about the playoffs? Is there a Plan B . . . Plan C . . . Plan D?

What about the Memorial Cup, which is only a bit more than two months away? If you’re wondering what could happen between now and then, think about where we were two months ago — in mid-January — compared to now.

Regardless, Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, says it’s full speed ahead in Kelowna.

“We are still marching straight ahead,” Hamilton told Global News in Kelowna. “That’s been the marching orders from the CHL. That is still 10 weeks out. It’s a long ways away.”

If you are looking for a time element to all of this, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner whose league suspended operation on Wednesday night, told Sports Illustrated on Thursday:

“This hiatus will most likely be at least 30 days. . . . Is there a protocol, with or without fans, in which we could resume play? It’s too early to tell.”

Anyway . . . could it be that the Victoria Royals’ 3-2 victory over the host Rockets on Wednesday night will have been the WHL’s last game of the 2019-20 season? If, indeed, that is the case, F Brayden Tracey of the Royals will have scored the season’s final goal, breaking a 2-2 tie at 11:22 of the third period.

And if you’re wondering, the Portland Winterhawks are atop the WHL’s overall standings at this point, which, I suppose, gives their fans bragging rights, at least for now.

Early Thursday evening, Hockey Canada announced that its board of directors had made the decision “to cancel all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including our national championships, until further notice, effective Friday, March 13.”

I’m not sure if “cancel . . . until further notice” means postponed or cancelled. Either way, Canada’s arenas will be mostly dark for the foreseeable future.

BC Hockey issued a statement indicating that it supports “the leadership shown by Hockey Canada to suspend all hockey operations . . . and will be following the direction to suspend all BC Hockey games and events until further notice.”

In a later tweet, Hockey Alberta pointed out that Hockey Canada’s edict includes league games, playoffs, practices, camps and provincial, regional and national championships . . . at the minor, female, junior, senior and sledge levels.”

Hockey Canada’s decision brought an end to the U Cup, Canada’s university men’s and women’s championship, both of which had started in Halifax and Charlottetown, respectively, and were to have ended on Sunday.

Ken King, a longtime president and governor of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer. He was 68. He was the vice-chair and chief executive officer of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which owns the NHL’s Flames, CFL’s Stampeders, NLL’s Roughnecks and the Hitmen. . . . There is more right here.