The Bookshelf: Part 3 of 3


What follows is Part 3 of my annual look back at a year in reading. The list concludes with a list of the 10 books that I most enjoyed in 2021, in alphabetical order. I didn’t include books by Don Winslow in that list because they would have dominated. You really can’t go wrong with anything by Don Winslow. . . .

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate — Despite the lengthy title, this was a truly fascinating read. It was published in August 2013, and you can bet that not much has changed in the intervening eight years. Author Rose George was able to spend five weeks on the Maersk Kendal, one of those giant container ships you may have seen going under the Lion’s Gate Bridge. To say that this one is an eye-opener would be a real understatement.

Nothing Ventured — In the Clifton Chronicles, author Jeffrey Archer’s seven-book series following one family, one of the characters, Harry Clifton, is a writer of crime novels involving a copper named William Warwick. Now Archer has spun Warwick into a series of his own, starting with Nothing Ventured. There’s nothing deep here, just an easy read. The second and third Warwick books, Hidden in Plain Sight and Turn a Blind Eye, also helped get me through a few days in the latter part of 2021.

October 1964 — Published in 1995, this was picked by The New York Times as its sports book of the year. As much as it’s a story of the 1964 World Series, it’s a story of that MLB season with a heavy focus on the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees. They would meet in that World Series, and this is more a story of how they got there than anything else. Written by the legendary David Halberstam, it is impeccably researched and loaded with anecdotes and notes on many greats and a lot of not-so-greats. I had read this 20 years ago; I think I enjoyed it even more this time around.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — First, Quentin Tarantino made the movie of the same name, then he wrote the novel. If you have seen any of his movies, well, this is just as quirky. It is, as The New York Times, put it “a pulpy page-turner.” It also features Charles Manson and his crew and a whole lot of Hollywood-based gossip.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft — A few years ago, Stephen King — yes, that Stephen King — took a break from writing thrillers to bang out this really neat book. In the first bit, he tells about his early life and how he came to be a fiction writer. Then he goes on to write about writing — some dos and a lot of don’ts. And he finishes up with a detailed report on the accident — he was drilled by a guy in a blue van — that almost killed him. This was a nice, enjoyable look into the life and thought process of one of today’s most-prolific writers.

Pain Killer: A Memoir of Big League Addiction — This one, by former WHL/NHL enforcer Brantt Myhres, is hard to read, especially the first two-thirds. Myhres didn’t have much of a childhood, then went on to fight his way through the WHL and into the NHL. But a lot of it was snort coke, guzzle Jack Daniels, punch an opposing enforcer in the face, get punched in the face. Rinse. Repeat. Myhres really should be dead. Really. This book is ample proof of that. Instead, despite having only a Grade 9 education, he turned things around to the point that he ended up working for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings as player assistance director. That lasted for three seasons until he lost his job in a regime change. If only this book had fewer cocaine-and-Jack anecdotes and more on Myhres’ life after snorting and drinking, more on why none of the NHL’s other teams has hired him, more on his work with First Nations youngsters. If only . . .

Pat Quinn: The Life of a Hockey Legend — Despite never having met the late Pat Quinn, author Dan Robson has done a more than credible job of chronicling the life of the cigar-chomping guy who was known as The Big Irishman. Quinn never gets nearly enough credit for being ahead of the game as a coach, especially when it came to using video, basic analytics, nutrition and various training techniques. Robson also explores the downside of Quinn’s career, including the eye-opening episode where he agreed to join the Vancouver Canucks — and accepted a hundred grand — while under contract to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Second Life of Nick Mason — After five years in jail and with at least another 20 years ahead of him, Nick Mason, the creation of author Steve Hamilton, makes a deal with a devil named Darius Cole. And thus begins Mason’s second life, one that is on the outside, mostly in the streets of Chicago, but is controlled entirely by Cole. Mason is one of those good bad guys, so this is quite readable and enjoyable. . . .  Exit Strategy is the second book in what surely will become a long-running series.

The Sentinel — This is the 25th book in the series that chronicles the adventures of Jack Reacher, the lone wolf who makes his way aimlessly across the highways of a nation, always seeming to find a mess to clean up. In this one, there are Russians and Nazis and a whole lot more. Yes, it’s all good fun. This is the first Reacher book not to have been written solely by James Grant under his pen name of Lee Child. He shares writing credit for this one with his younger brother Andrew Grant, who is Andrew Child in the publishing world.

Serge Savard: Forever Canadien — This book, written by journalist Philippe Cantin, was a huge success in Quebec with the French version selling more than 30,000 copies. And it’s no wonder. Serge Savard was one of the great players in the history of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the NHL’s proudest franchises. Cantin, with Savard’s co-operation, runs through his childhood and his climb up hockey’s ladder — from all-star defenceman to Montreal’s GM, a job he lost four games into the 1995-96 season when president Ronald Corey fired him. Savard lets it all hang out, too, as he pulls back the curtain to show the Canadiens, warts and all.

Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink — It was May 17, 1979, and the Philadelphia Phillies were at Chicago’s Wrigley Field for a game with the Cubs. The Phillies scored seven runs in their half of the first inning but, with the wind blowing out, it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. Author Kevin Cook takes an entertaining inning-by-inning look at what transpired on that glorious afternoon, with lots of anecdotes and sidebars on participants like Dave Kingman, Bill Buckner, the troubled Donnie Moore and a whole lot more. This is a wild and crazy read.

A Time for Mercy — John Grisham has brought back lawyer Jake Brigance for a third time — after A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row — and he doesn’t disappoint. This time, Drew Gamble, 16, whose family is all but indigent, has shot and killed a policeman. Of course, the story isn’t that simple and, yes, it’s a page-turner.

The Wanted — The homes — 18 of them — belonging to some of the elites have been broken into and it turns out that the perps are three young people. The mother of one of them hires Elvis Cole to get to the bottom of this mess, and he brings sometimes-partner Joe Pike along for the ride. Cole and Pike are regulars in books by author Robert Crais.

The Winter of Frankie Machine — If you haven’t figured it out already, I am a big, big fan of author Don Winslow. And I absolutely loved this book that was published in 2006, Frank Machianno, aka Frankie Machine, is a retired hit man trying to make an honest buck. He runs a bait shack on a pier in San Diego and has a few other things on the go. He’s got an ex-wife, a daughter and a girl friend. But now someone wants him dead. Yes, it’s a familiar story, but Winslow’s writing makes it different.

Without Remorse — It had been a long, long time since I cracked open a Tom Clancy-written book, so I didn’t know what to expect from this one that was published in 1993. The paperback version is 685 pages and I really enjoyed it. This is the first book that features John Clark as the primary character and it bounces smoothly between the various storylines.

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret — Nashville had the A Team. Motown had the Funk Brothers. In Los Angeles, it was the Wrecking Crew. These were the studio musicians who played on oh, so many hit songs, including for the Beach Boys. Did you know that Glen Campbell — think Wichita Lineman and By the Time I Get to Phoenix — was a member of the Beach Boys? Did you know there were two Beach Boys bands, one for the studio and one on the road. Author Kent Hartman has all that and a whole lot more here. I guarantee that if you read this one you won’t ever look at ’60s and ’70s music the same ever again.

Year of the Rocket: John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, a Crooked Tycoon, and the Craziest Season in Football History — There may be just a bit of hyperbole in the title but the CFL’s 1991 season really was one to remember. Prior to the season, comedian John Candy, a true, blue Canadian, hockey star Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, then a tycoon and later a convict, purchased the Toronto Argonauts. Then they signed Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish star who likely would have been the NFL’s first overall draft pick had he not headed north. The Rocket got what then was football’s richest contract and, all these years later, it still makes an observer shake his head. Author Paul Woods, who has followed the Argonauts for years as a journalist, writer and fan, was there for all of it and details the entire story — the good, the bad and the ugly that followed 1991.


A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

Billy Summers, by Stephen King

Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Crosby

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player, by Fred Sasakamoose

Deacon King Kong, by James McBride

The Dynasty, by Jeff Benedict

Newspapering: 50 Years of Reporting from Canada and Around the World, by Norman Webster

Serge Savard: Forever Canadien, by Philippe Cantin

Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink, by Kevin Cook

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret, by Kent Hartman

Part 3 of 3

Scattershooting one night after spending some time with The Bachman-Cummings Band . . .



Hey, is this a great time to be alive, or what? . . . I mean, some of the walking dead who live among us are taking their anti-everything protests to various hospitals on Sept. 1, choosing for some reason to thumb their noses and everything else at healthcare workers who mostly are in crisis after almost two years of this crap. . . . Some restaurant owners, who should be thankful that governments haven’t shut down eat-in dining again, say they won’t be checking for vaccination status when the mandates arrive. . . . And some of the New York Mets have taken to flashing thumbs down to their fans at Citi Field. Why? Javier Báez, the chief rocket scientist on that roster, says: “To let (the fans) know when we don’t get success we’re going to get booed, so they are going to get booed when we have success.” . . . Yeah, that’ll work. Especially in the Big Apple.

Saw this comment on Facebook earlier: “pages that are protesting vaxx passports say, if you don’t follow the rules you can’t join, haha oh the irony.”

A black bear takes a stroll at the treeline of a hayfield near Barnhartvale, just southeast of Kamloops, on Saturday afternoon.

The  Bachman-Cummings Band rocked Shaw Park in Winnipeg as part of the Unite 150 show on Saturday night. I was fortunate enough to catch a lot of it on my laptop and, yes, it was a whole lot of fun, and a whole lot of Guess Who memories. . . . And, yes, it’s still hard to comprehend the decision by CBC Radio pooh-bahs to axe Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap after 16 years. . . . BTW, you are aware that Burton Cummings now calls Moose Jaw home, aren’t you? Seriously. You can look it up. . . . That has to stick in Regina’s craw, don’t you think?

While I was away from here for a few days, Don Hay, the winningest head coach in WHL history, had his title changed by the Portland Winterhawks. Where he was an assistant coach for the past three seasons in Portland, he now is the club’s associate coach. And here — silly me! — I thought he had retired in May 2018 after spending four seasons as head coach of his hometown Kamloops Blazers.

Ian Henry, who had been the media relations, communications and digital media director with the Seattle Thunderbirds, lost his job last month in one of those mind-numbing COVID-19-related moves. Henry, who had been with the Thunderbirds since July 2002, really was one of the WHL’s good guys, and if there is a team or organization out there in need of a communications/public relations-type with a boatload of experience, well, look no further. . . . Hey, Seattle Kraken, how about it?

Sorry, ESPN, I tried to watch the Sunday night game with the New York Yankees in Oakland against the A’s. I really tried. But there is way too much chatter. The game just doesn’t get a chance to breathe and a baseball telecast needs some of that in order to be watchable.


ICYMI, the state of Oregon has imposed a mask mandate for people who gather outdoors. You’re right. This isn’t going away. . . . If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the numbers, trending and modelling aren’t good in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, along with Washington state. . . . Throw in Manitoba, where various mandates and restrictions are in place, that covers the six jurisdictions in which the WHL operates. . . . And don’t forget that indoor games being played in B.C. are limited to 50 spectators at least through Sept. 20.


Meanwhile, I would suggest that the WHL, which has teams scheduled to open training camps on Wednesday, will be coming up with a revamped 2021-22 regular-season schedule. . . . Bruce Hamilton, the owner of the Kelowna Rockets and the chairman of the league’s board of governors, has told Regan Bartel, the team’s long-time play-by-play voice, that “we do have plans in place that if we have to adjust for a month or two, we can.” . . . The original schedule doesn’t include any interlocking play between conferences. But the B.C. Division teams, for example, are supposed to play games against their U.S. Division counterparts. I wouldn’t bet on that happening, at least not before Christmas. . . . Hamilton told Bartel that having teams cross the U.S.-Canada border remains “in question.” Keep in mind that while the border is open to Americans wanting to visit Canada, the reverse isn’t true, with the next update expected around Sept. 21. . . . “To have our team travel (to the U.S.),” Hamilton explained, “we would have to take a rapid test going down and a PCR test coming home, so you are looking at $5,000 to $6,000 each time for every trip you make across the border.”


BTW, just because WHL training camps open in a couple of days doesn’t mean you should expect to see pre-season team-by-team rosters on the league’s website. As of Sunday evening, only the Edmonton Oil Kings and Kamloops Blazers had posted rosters. . . . It is absolutely mind-boggling that the WHL, which one might think needs a strong marketing effort after being mostly out of sight and perhaps also out of mind for far too long, isn’t able to provide its fans with something as basic as rosters.

Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe: “One of those stories I had to double check to make sure it wasn’t satire: National Rifle Association just announced they’ve canceled Sept 3-5 annual meeting because of worsening Covid-19 situation in Houston. Is this first time Texas has behaved too stupidly for the NRA?”


It isn’t often that I will pre-order a book, but I jumped all over the opportunity to do just that when I found out about Year of the Rocket: John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, a Crooked Tycoon, and the Craziest Season in Football History. . . . It was written by Paul Woods, a long-time fan of the Toronto Argonauts who was an editor with The Canadian Press. . . . The Rocket, of course, was Raghib Ismail and the Crooked Tycoon was Bruce McNall. . . . The bottom line is that the early-1990s was an amazing time — take that any which way you want — to be around the CFL, and this sounds like it will be a fun book. . . . Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun has more on it right here.

So . . . the Winnipeg Rifles travelled to Regina for a Prairie Football Conference clash with the Thunder on Sunday afternoon. Uhh, the Thunder turned a 64-3 half-time lead into a 64-19 victory. Now that’s calling off the dogs.

Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Here’s an idea for the NFL: Put all the non-vaccinated players on a new team named the Freedom Fighters. Each Sunday, tell the Freedom Fighters that their game is canceled due to COVID concerns, and they have been awarded a forfeit victory. At the end of the season, announce on some murky internet site that the Freedom Fighters have been declared Super Bowl champs by default. The team’s players will believe it, because they believe anything they read on the internet. The rest of the NFL players can play football. Everyone is happy.”



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