Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Boundless: The Avalanche

Avalanches were a constant hazard in the mountains when they were building the CPR -- one of the many hardships the workers had to endure.

When Will drives the Last Spike, pistols are fired jubilantly in the air; cheers ring out; and the company locomotive blasts its whistle.

It's avalanche season, and the noise is enough to trigger one.

A lot happens during that avalanche.

Someone tries to steal the golden spike, Cornelius Van Horne is swept over the precipice, and the local wildlife stirs...

(We're almost at the sasquatch part.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Boundless: The Golden Spike

It was traditional for 19th century railroads to forge a ceremonial last spike out of gold. They were never left in the ground of course. It was merely for the photo op. After the ceremony it was hastily replaced with an ordinary spike.
But in 1885, up in Craigellachie, the last spike was not made of gold. Cornelius Van Horne grandly said that ordinary iron spikes had been good enough to make the railroad from coast to coast -- and an iron spike was good enough to finish it.
Which basically meant the CPR was nearly bankrupt and couldn't afford fancy things like gold spikes.
That’s not what happens in my world. In The Boundless, the spike is indeed gold, and encrusted with diamonds that spell "Craigallachie."

It is worth more than any worker could make in twenty lifetimes.

There’s no picture of Will driving the last spike. (The CPR keeps that photo quiet. That’s why you haven’t seen it, and never will.)

But up there in the mountains, it's Will who drives that spike.

Too bad about the avalanche...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Boundless: Will Everett

This is Will Everett. He's come up to Craigellachie to meet his father who’s been working on the railway for the better part of three years. (Will actually hooked a ride up into the mountains with Van Horne and the other CPR dignitaries in their private train.)
And here's a secret about the Last Spike.
It isn't Donald Smith who drives it. 
It’s Will.
You won't find it in any official photos. But after Smith bungles the first attempt, Van Horne offers the hammer to Will. The railway belongs to a new generation and a new century, says Van Horne, and Will should be the one  to drive the spike home. He does so.

The spike is solid gold.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Boundless: The Last Spike

If you’re Canadian you’ve probably seen this photo.
It's 1885 up in Craigellachie, BC. It’s not even a real town. (It’s near Revelstoke.)
This is where the tracks coming from the East met the tracks coming from the West, up in the mountains.
You can see the workers in the foreground.
The fellow driving the spike is Donald Smith, the President of the CPR. (He actually bent the first spike, and had to do it again. He had a desk job.)
Behind him to the left is William Cornelius Van Horne, the General Manager of the railroad and its driving force.

To the right of Van Horne, looking like his beard is about to explode is Sandford Fleming, surveyor and engineer.
And who is that kid, peeking out to the right of Donald Smith...


Well, I know who he is in real life... but in my next post, I'll tell you who he is in the world of The Boundless...

(The sasquatch? Look very closely. It's hard to see, but it's there...)


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Boundless: Leaving the Station

It's huge.

It has to be.

Embarking on its maiden voyage across the continent, The Boundless pulls over 900 cars and more than 6000 people, on a train seven miles long.

 It’s a rolling city.

It carries tycoons and newly arrived immigrants, famous inventors and murderous charlatans. It contains opulent lounges and staterooms, a swimming pool, a cinema, a raucous saloon and a shooting range.

It pulls hundreds of freight cars -- and another eighty belonging to the world famous Zirkus Dante. Inside are acrobats, giants, stilt-walking Siamese twins -- and other wonders of the world, including a sasquatch.

And right behind the massive locomotive is a funeral car containing the remains of the rail baron whose dying wish was to travel forever back and forth across the continent on the train and tracks he masterminded.

* * *

When I was growing up, stories always seemed to take place somewhere else. For me, it was usually England or the United States. Stories could happen in the English countryside, or London, or in New York City, or in Utah or in Mammoth Falls, Wisconsin, but they never seemed to happen much in Canada. It’s changed a lot now, but I still think, as Canadians, we’re not so great at telling our own stories. And especially mythologizing our stories so that they lodge in our memories and even psyches. I used to think history was boring. It had nothing to do with me. Over the years I’ve come across lots of amazing things about our country.
One of them was the building of the national railway.
Canada is huge. It’s incredibly wide. Imagine building a railway from  coast to coast.
Truly, Canada might not have existed as we know it, without the railway. It stitched the  country together. Not only that, the path of the CPR had a huge hand in deciding how the country was going  to be settled and the where the major western cities would rise.
The building of the railway was a truly epic undertaking. Explorers and surveyors spent months and years finding the best routes. Then came making the road, and then laying the steel.

They had to blast through the endless Precambrian rock of the Canadian Shield north of the great lakes.

And then there was the muskeg, hundreds of miles of it,  land so boggy that ton after ton after ton of gravel fill just disappeared into its watery wastes, The muskeg ate gravel and steel. Whole trains were sucked into the depthless morass.


Then there were the trestle bridges to cross river valleys.

 And then came the Rockies.
Work slowed down in the mountains.
There were cliffs and gorges and avalanches, dynamite and blasting.
There were terrible conditions for the workers, especially for the Chinese workers who were brought in and paid much less than the white men, and given the most dangerous jobs.
But they did it. Despite all the hardships and inequalities, the work was finished in 1885.
In my next post: The Last Spike.
With sasquatches...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Boundless Tour Dates

Credit: Ian Crysler Photography
Where I’ll be this spring, to talk about, and read from, THE BOUNDLESS!

 APRIL 2014
Toronto ON

April 26th
Chapters Brampton, 2:00PM


April 28, 2014, 4:30 PM
Children's Book World


April 29, 2014, 10:30 AM
Politics and Prose

St. Louis, MO

April 30th, 6:30PM
St. Charles City-County Library - Spencer Rd. Branch 


May 2, 2014, 7:00PM
Anderson's Bookstore

MAY 2014


May 5th 7:00 PM
Munro's Books

May 6th 9:15 AM
Belfry Theatre
Greater Victoria Public Library


May 6th, 7:00 PM
Vancouver Kidsbooks
Teacher’s Night Event
3083 W Broadway.

May 7th, 7:00 PM
North Vancouver District Library (Lynn Valley branch)
1277 Lynn Valley Road. North Vancouver

May 9-10
School and Library Readings

May 10th, 2:00 PM
Fish Creek Library,
11161 Bonaventure Dr SE, Calgary, AB T2J 6S1
(403) 260-2600


May 10-11th
School and Library Readings

May 11th 2:00PM
Chapters Sherwood Park
#500 - 2020 Sherwood Drive. Sherwood Park AB


May 12th, 7:00PM
McNally Robinson Grant Park
1120 Grant Avenue Winnipeg, MB

May 13th
School and Library Readings
Montreal/ Point Claire QC

May 14, 2014, 1:00PM
Point Claire Public Library

May 14th, 7:00PM
Beaconsfield Public Library
303 Beaconsfield Boulevard, Beaconsfield QC

Sherbrooke QC

May 15, 2014
De Mots et De Craie Conference


May 16th 10:00AM -
Red Maple Festival
Nepean Sportsplex

May 20th, 7:00PM
Copperfield's Books
Petaluma, CA

May 21st, 7:00PM

May 22nd, 7:00PM
Reading Bug
San Carlos, CA


May 29-30
School and Library Visits