About Me and My Books
I was born in 1951, the fifth of eight children, in Hearst, Ontario, a mostly French-speaking town about 150 miles south of James Bay on a northern leg of the Trans-Canada Highway.
One of my first memories is seeing a childhood friend laid out in his coffin. I had been with him the day he died, playing on a pile of sand dumped in the middle of a muddy driveway that was our sandbox. His father, who was in the gravel hauling business, came home at the end of the day unaware that his son was still playing on the pile of sand, and drove over him.
I was thirteen or so when I, too, was crushed under a giant wheel. My playmate’s death and my near-death experience would serve to remind me, later in life that we are not here just to occupy space. In 1967, my parents’ decades-old business selling logging and farm equipment was forced into bankruptcy. The year before, the family home and much of our belongings had been destroyed in a middle-of-the-night fire.
Having to start over again with next to nothing, our family decided to try its luck out west. On a cold Sunday afternoon in late November, in a scene reminiscent of The Grapes of Wrath with a snowstorm threatening and my mother at the wheel, we set out on a journey of over 2,000 miles to begin again.
My parents found a business they could afford in Ashcroft, a small town in the B.C. interior. How welcoming would a town that catered to miners, ranchers, and cowboys be to people who spoke English with an accent and were responsible for that foreign language on cereal boxes? There was no need to be apprehensive. I attended Simon Fraser University for a few years but abandoned my studies when mother died, and instead went to work for a finance company. It was not for me.
In 1972, on the spur of the moment, I decided to visit the National Capital and perhaps find work there for a year or two before returning to B.C. A few months after arriving in Ottawa, I took the public service exam and was invited to join the federal government. Twelve years later, I was terminated for alleged insubordination, losing my job as a Financial Systems Analyst with what was then the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Without the assistance of lawyers I could not afford, I appealed my dismissal first through Federal Court Appeal, then at the Supreme Court of Canada where the Right Honourable Chief Justice Brian Dickson dismissed my petition with a curt “not a question of national interest!”
During the two years it took for my appeal to be heard by the highest court in the land, I developed a ground-breaking software application. The Boreal Shell, an easy-to-use multilingual database interface, opened the door to a prosperous new career in the private sector despite my firing and what I refer to in Shooting the Messenger, a book I wrote about the experience, as “The Appraisal from Hell”.
After 9/11, with the words of young Muslim working girl from West Africa I met in Montréal still roaming my consciousness, I read the Koran for the first time. I abandoned writing computer code to write prose. I have been a student of Canadian history since forever; it was therefore only natural that, in my first attempt at writing a book, I would combine Canada’s past and current history, including the challenge posed by a resurgent religion and what I had learned from reading the Koran. The result was Canada – The Fractured Nation Interviews, a series of five imaginary television dialogues that uses that history to trace the root causes of a make-believe breakup of the country. The Interviews were nominated for The Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.
The Interviews brought me face-to-face with the not-so-brave new world of post 9/11. A television producer expressed an interest in a mini-series, excluding the interview with my fictitious Ayatollah and his explanation of Islam’s role in the breakup. “I don’t want to open my front door one morning and be confronted by a guy with a bomb,” he explained. That is when I decided that more people needed to get acquainted with Islam’s core religious text.
With my wife’s support and assistance, I used my skills as a systems analyst to bring order to what British historian Thomas Carlyle described as “a confused, jumbled, crude, incondite, endless iteration” and Edward Gibbon labeled “as toilsome a reading as I ever undertook; a wearisome confused jumble.”
Ten years later, with the publishing of the Legacy Edition of Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice: The Koran by topic, explained in a way we can all understand, my wife (BA, MA, MBA) and I had accomplished what I believe was a world first: a book on the Koran written for and by laypersons, which contains the entire book.
In 2012, I published Alice Visits a Mosque to Learn about Judgment Day, a one-act, thought-provoking, often brutal (it could not be otherwise) sometimes funny play/script about an important concept in Islam on which the Koran expounds at length. In October of 2013, thinking that time was not on my side, I stopped working on Going Swimming Fully Clothed, a comprehensive introduction to Islamic law for the layperson to concentrate on a less ambitious manuscript about what Muhammad said and did that informs the decisions of Sharia tribunals to this day.
I thought Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice was the most important book you could read about Islam. After completing 1,001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, I am not so sure. My next book on the Koran explored the concept of abrogation. The Verse of the Sword, which nullifies any pretences to compassion for those who refuse to submit to the Will of Allah, is its most momentous and violent manifestation. For the rational mind, it is inconceivable that a god, in a book in which He lays claim to infallibility, would need to retract or modify what He had said earlier. Welcome to Let Me Rephrase That!
Children and the Koran, a comprehensive argument against exposing children to the hate, violence and brazen sadism of Islam's core religious text, followed. In August 2018, with my wife having less than a year to live, I began to work in earnest, with my poor Lucette as an always reliable sounding board, on a book that I had put off for more than a decade.
A friend said he had given up on Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice due to the constant verses that he said interfered with the story. He challenged me to write the story of Islam without the interruptions. I thought it impossible. Six months after my wife’s passing, I published Remembering Uzza: If Islam Was Explained to Me in a Pub.
Last, but not least, Love, Sex & Islam, likely my last and what I consider my most important text about the world's fastest growing religion.
When writing about Islam, you are always concerned that you will not get to finish what you started because someone will take exception to what you have already written. Therefore, you tend to rush the next thing you are working on, and that has been my unfortunate reality. If you find any errors—and by errors I mean typos, problematic sentence structures, punctuation that is not always punctual, or malapropisms (the bane of writers expressing themselves in a language other than their own!)—after my passing, feel free to correct them in your sharing or selling of my work.
In my last will and testament, I have instructed my executor to transfer all my published and unpublished material, including cover art, into the public domain. Just give credit where credit is due.
Ottawa, September 14, 2020.