Victoria author, historian honoured

Local author receives high honour for Canadian history book

A Victoria author has received the prestigious 2014 Pierre Berton Award, recognizing his contribution to raising awareness about Canadian history.

Mark Zuehlke was at Rideau Hall in Ottawa Monday to receive the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media. Presented by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, the award celebrates those who have brought Canadian history to a wider audience.

The award comes as Zuehlke launches the 11th title in his acclaimed Canadian Battle Series of books last week, Forgotten Victory: First Canadian Army and the Cruel Winter of 1944-45, the untold story of how the Canadian Army paved the way for an Allied victory in Europe in the Second World War through an attack against the Rhineland.

To receive the award bearing Berton’s name and for the body of his contribution, as opposed to a single title, is particularly rewarding.

“I personally think Pierre Berton was a person who truly made is legitimate to write popular history in Canada,” Zuehlke says.

Harbour Publishing describes the bestselling Canadian Battle Series as “the most detailed account of any army during World War II ever written by a single author. The series continues to confirm Zuehlke’s reputation as one of the nation’s leading popular military historians.”

“To me, the whole idea is to take these stories and put them in the hands of the people and be informed by them,” Zuehlke says.

When Zuehlke wrote the first book in what would become the Canadian Battle Series, Ortona, he had no idea of the series to come. Sparked by a group of veterans speaking about their experiences at the long-ago battle, it was one Zuehlke himself hadn’t heard of.

“I thought it was going to be a one-off but it turned out it did quite well,” he says.

Several more titles about the Italian campaign followed, along with books about Juno, Dieppe and other campaigns deserving recognition. His fifth title in the series, Holding Juno, captured the 2006 City of Victoris Butler Book Prize.

“From there I started looking at campaigns that I thought hadn’t been given their due,” Zuehlke says.

While he had no finite end to the series in mind, he anticipates 14 or 15 books in all.

Why are all these stories important?

“I think it’s important because when you look at the generation that went through World War II . . . when they came back, everything they did for the rest of their lives was incredibly pushed forward by these experiences,” Zuehlke says, pointing to the creation of the welfare state as an example. “They had depended on each other for their lives and that kind of bond was an unbreakable one.”

Upon their return, that desire to take care of each other continued.

“And of course, it affected all of us because we were all descended from that generation.”

At the same time, because so many of that generation did not speak about their experiences, it’s the rolls of historians and authors like Zuehlke to share them with those who came after.

The response to the series has been very positive, Zuehlke says. Initially coming from the expected veterans and history community, “readership has shifted,” he notes.

Readers are now 40 to 45 per cent female, many in the 35 to 65-year old group; the male readers fall in a similar demographic. These are people who are interested in their family stories, and learning about the generations that came before, reflective perhaps of a similar upsurge in interest Zuehlke sees in Remembrance Day generally.

“I’m very heartened when I go to the cenotaphs on November 11 and see all these families there with their kids; you didn’t see that 15 years ago,” he says.

 

Book Launch

Join Mark Zuehlke at Munro’s Books beginning at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 26 (doors open at 7 p.m.), to celebrate the launch of Forgotten Victory.

Just Posted

Police seek potential victims of bad ‘nanny’

Saanich Police seek potential victims of Johnathon Lee Robichaud from Central Saanich

Needles found at Goldstream campground in Langford

West Shore RCMP respond to several calls for service associated with homeless campers

Oak Bay firefighters help fund new Monterey playground

Sausage Fest cash handed over to Monterey PAC

Paving complete, lines coming to the Malahat this week

$34 million safety project is 95 per cent complete with hope to relieve traffic congestion between Victoria and Nanaimo

Only tent city residents allowed access at Goldstream Park campsites

Local RCMP point to reports of criminal activity and drug use in the area as cause for safety concerns

Neighbours fear impact of tent city residents on Goldstream Provincial Park

Langford residents opposed to campers voice concerns at campground gate

5 things to do this weekend in and around Greater Victoria

Sooke Apple Fest returns, Saanich lights up with lantern festival and anarchists unite for downtown book fair

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read