The Book Assassin

This week’s challenge over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog is to randomly choose three things from three different lists and create a 1,000 word story with them.

I got a library, an assassin, and a bomb. It’s nice when things work out.

The Book Assassin

Some books were never meant to be written.

Quarto reflected on this as he tightened his cloak around his shoulders. The rain was steady, but his hat and cloak were thick and waterproof. Rainwater filled the gaps in the cobblestone streets, and darkened the facades of the ancient buildings which grew ever more ancient as Quarto made his way deeper into the narrow alleyways. Finally he stood before a door. He knocked firmly with a gloved hand.

The man who answered appeared elderly, but opened the heavy door with little effort. He regarded Quarto for only a moment, then stepped back to allow him to pass through the doorway.

“Greetings,” said Quarto. “A pleasant evening.”

“Indeed,” said the man who had opened the door. “May I take your things?”

Quarto removed his dripping hat and cloak, and handed them to the man.

“Your boots and bag as well,” he said.

“My boots?” said Quarto.

“Our collections here are quite precious,” said the man. “Priceless, and irreplaceable, and quite delicate. We do what we can to keep out the mud and rain.”

“I understand,” said Quarto. He placed his boots by the entrance and, removing his notebook from his leather satchel, handed that over as well. The man took them, then disappeared into an adjoining cloakroom. As he turned Quarto noted the brief flash of steel beneath his formal jacket.

Continue reading

Songs of the Day Catch-Up, Part 2

Continuing my catch-up of recent “Songs of the Day”:

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Terrified

So apparently these folks are playing a show two shows in St. John’s in March. I do miss live music sometimes…

Hey Rosetta! – Carry Me Home

Another of the Christmas season tunes from Newfoundland’s own Hey Rosetta!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – What Child is This?

While I’m not a big fan of much “traditional” Christmas music, I am a big fan of TSO’s hard-rock infused reinterpretations of many classic Christmas songs. I also appreciate the many strong vocal performances on many of their tracks, including this one from Broadway performer Rob Evans.

Katzenjammer, Ben Caplan, and the Trondheim Soloists – Fairytale of New York

The second cover of “Fairytale of New York” that I couldn’t resist posting because of the great strings and awesomely contrasting voices of Katzenjammer and Ben Caplan.

Brianna Gosse – My Christmas Song for You

A good, jazzy start to my Christmas Songs of the Day.

Songs of the Day Catch-Up

So I’ve been a little slack keeping up with my “Songs of the Day” posts, but I suppose that’s no surprise for an online project like this.

In any case, here’s a listing of some of my favorite “Songs of the Day” postings from the last couple of months:

Hozier – Take Me to Church

My sister sent me this amazing song a while ago. I’m really enjoying these great videos that are essentially miniature movies.

Carina Round – For Everything a Reason

Another tune I discovered from the TV show ‘Rookie Blue.’ The music director for that show knows what’s up.

Not sure why she’s singing into an antique telephone, but I like it.

Sean Rowe – Jonathan

Sometimes all you need is an acoustic guitar and a cavalry jacket.

Bear’s Den – Agape

Harmonizing both vocals and beards. The album reminds me a little of Bon Iver.

Alan Doyle, Russell Crowe, Samantha Barks et al – “Fairytale of New York”

This round of songs got me into the Christmas season. I managed to mostly refrain from sharing an endless stream of covers of The Pogues/Kirsty MacColl classic “Fairytale of New York.” However, this version featuring the cast of the 2012 film version of “Les Miserables” was too much fun to pass up.

Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

In the spring of 2008, I visited France and Belgium with my sister. Among our many stops were the D-Day beaches at Normandy and several World War I battlefields and memorials, including Vimy Ridge and Beaumont-Hamel, although in truth most of northern France seems like one never ending memorial. The place is heavy with history.

I published this article in The Newfoundland Quarterly later that year. In honour of Remembrance Day, I’m posting it here.

Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

“It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further.”

– Major-General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle, Commander British 29th Division

The Danger Tree

The Danger Tree at Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

The case arrived by courier one day in April, all the way from Ottawa. The General Manager called me into his office to open it.

Inside were the medals of Tommy Rickett’s, on loan from the Canadian War Museum. They were nestled inside on the foam padding: The Victory Medal and the British War Medal, the “Mutt and Jeff” of First World War military medals. The French Croix de Guerre with star, and one other.

The Victoria Cross looked small in the case. If you didn’t know that it had a story to tell, it could almost be insignificant, just a piece of bronze and crimson ribbon.


Two weeks later I was driving from Normandy to Belgium, roughly following the route of the Canadian Third Infantry Division in as they moved across Europe towards Germany in 1944-45. One look out the window and you know this is tank country, rolling fields divided by roads and hedgerows.

Suddenly in the distance were the pylons of the Pont de Normandie, big inverted Y’s reaching up from the ground to carry the A29 Autoroute over the great River Seine. It looked mystical in the mist, the biggest bridge I had ever seen.

I was traveling with my sister, and she had the same reaction. ‘Do we get to cross that?’ she asked. After the next turn, the next crest of the hill, the river came into better view.

Yes, we do.

The speed limit on the autoroutes is 130 kilometres an hour, and we were across the two kilometre bridge in less than a minute. The big Y pylons soared above us, while below us the Seine moved lazily towards the English Channel and sea.

This trip was a succession of bodies of water to be crossed: the Atlantic, the English Channel, the Seine River.  We had taken the ferry from Portsmouth to Ouistreham and the Normandy landing beaches, Juno Beach and Pointe du Hoc and later Mont St. Michel where the Couesnon River empties on the salt flats.

But those were all behind us now. Ahead of us lay Belgium, french fries and good beer. But we weren’t leaving the battlegrounds of France just yet.

Continue reading

Songs of the Day, September 29 – October 3

So I spent last week in a hotel in Rankin Inlet, attending, organizing, and presenting at the Kivalliq Trade Show, which put me in an even more bandwidth-challenged situation than normal. Fortunately, some friends stepped up and shared some songs while I couldn’t. Here’s a few favourites:

Julian Taylor Band – Never Gonna Give You Up

Double creative points for the video:

Stars – The North

Seems appropriate.

Continue reading

Songs of the Day – September 15 to September 26, 2014

I’ve got a couple of weeks of music to catch up on. So here goes.

Monday, September 15

Bastille – Pompeii

It’s the history geek in me, I guess.


Tuesday, September 16

Scary Bear Soundtrack – Fault Lines

Scary Bear Soundtrack are an electric synth-pop due who live in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. “Fault Lines” was written in response to issues of violence against women and abuse, and was entered in CBC’s Rock Your Campus Competition.

Check out Scary Bear Soundtrack on Soundcloud.

Continue reading

History Podcasts & Interviews

Back when I was working at a museum, and later completing my master’s degree in history, I was occasionally asked to do some media interviews on historical topics. In addition to validating my choice of study and proving that at least one other person found history interesting, these were fun to do and the chance to share these stories did influence how I thought about the past’s influence on the present.

I came across one of these again recently so I thought I’d share a few of them here.

The first was an interview I did for Calgary’s CJSW “Today in Canadian History” series about the 1948 Newfoundland Referendum.

CJSW Today in Canadian History – June 3, 2011 – The Newfoundland Referendum of 1948

Anti-Confederate Propaganda, from the Heritage NL Website:

The next two I did with Jeff Gilhooly of the CBC’s St. John’s Morning Show. One was about early attempts to create a tourism industry in Newfoundland in the early 1900s, while the other looked at a long-forgotten plan to cut shipping canals through the island to reduce trans-Atlantic crossing times and dangers.

St. John’s Morning Show – September 22, 2008 – The Norway of the New World

St. John’s Morning Show – February 10, 2009 – The Trans-Newfoundland Canal

Enjoy! As always, comments and questions are welcome. Twitter is the best way to reach me: @KeithCollier