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Hoar into Howard

Despite having published seven books I have never before replied to a reviewer's comments. The review by Douglas Fetherling of The Gallant Cause: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 unfortunately requires some response because Mr. Fetherling's obviously cursory reading led him to make some incorrect observations and assumptions about both my research and writing style.

First, Mr. Fetherling states that I fail to mention in the bibliography a book by Victor Hoar and Mac Reynolds called The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. Had he looked one line down from where Hoar would have appeared in the bibliography he could not have failed to see this book cited under the name Victor Howard (full title being The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion: The Canadian Contingent in the Spanish Civil War, which is still available through Carleton University Press with authorship cited as Victor Howard with Mac Reynolds). At some point, Mr. Hoar changed his last name to Howard and I actually drew upon two of his books (the other being We were the Salt of the Earth: The On-to-Ottawa Trek & the Regina Riot published in 1985 by the Canadian Plains Research Centre). I am indebted to both Mr. Howard and Mr. Reynolds for having managed in the early 1960s to collect the reminiscences of many veterans of the war. Indeed, in the acknowledgements to my book I specifically thank Mac for his kind agreement to allow the CBC to open its quasi-closed tape collection to my use. Mr. Fetherling's inference over the supposedly missing citation was that I either conducted poor research or attempted for some unexplained reason to exclude Mr. Howard's work from the due recognition it deserves. Hopefully the material above proves neither of these assumptions to be true. He also reproduces a passage from my book that captures the thoughts of William Krehm, who was sympathetic to the anarchists of Barcelona, as an example of "mock-stirring or mock-sentimental" writing. The thoughts attributed to Mr. Krehm in that passage are delivered exactly as he worded it himself in a 1960s interview with Mr. Reynolds. Yes, Mr. Krehm is overly sentimental when viewed through the more jaded and cynical lens of pre-millennium Canadian perception. But surely when we attempt to recreate the experiences of people living in other times it is a falsity to dismiss the sincerity of their thoughts and feelings for failing to mirror our own attitudes.

Finally, Mr. Fetherling concludes that I decided to write this book after visiting the Toronto Queen's Park monument to the veterans which was erected in 1995. In reality, the decision to write this book was made in 1985 and I was actually nearing the end of my research journey on the night when I visited the monument. That night, as set out in the introduction, I did decide to use a style known either as literary non-fiction or creative non-fiction. If Mr. Fetherling chooses to find nothing literary in this style of writing that's his prerogative; he should, however, show more journalistic and intellectual rigour by giving the books he chooses to review a closer reading than was obviously accorded The Gallant Cause before offering comment.

Mark Zuehlke



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