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The Tinsmith [Paperback]

Tim Bowling

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Book Description

Sept. 17 2012 Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

During the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, Anson Baird, a surgeon for the Union Army, is on the front line tending to the wounded. As the number of casualties rises, a mysterious soldier named John comes to Anson's aid. Deeply affected by the man's selfless actions, Anson soon realizes that John is no ordinary soldier, and that he harbors a dangerous secret. In the bizarre aftermath of the Battle of Antietam, this secret forges an intense bond between the two men.

Twenty years later on the other side of the continent, Anson discovers his old comrade-in-arms is mysteriously absent, an apparent victim of the questionable business ethics of the pioneer salmon canners. Haunted by the violence of his past, and disillusioned with his present, Anson is compelled to discover the fate of his missing friend, a fate inextricably linked to his own.

"Altogether, a story of impressive scope, and bristling with action." —Jack Matthews, author of The Gambler's Nephew

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Brindle & Glass; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 17 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1926972430
  • ISBN-13: 978-1926972435
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 422 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #244,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"An odyssey that spans a continent—from the civil war battlefields, to the British Columbia salmon canneries, The Tinsmith is an ambitious and spellbinding read." —Helen Humphreys

"Tim Bowling's . . . descriptive powers take flight . . . his amazing ability to draw cringe-inducing characters is gripping and memorable." —The Vancouver Sun

"The most interesting sections of The Tinsmith, which take place during a turf war among the upstart salmon canneries in frontier-era British Columbia, give the book a heart that's undeniably Canadian . . . there's something wonderful about the way these ruthless cannery owners give a little added mythological heft to Canada's west coast." —Edmonton Journal

"Like any general, Bowling is bold at times, but his attacks are on the mark and his theme strikes the heart of the reader." —Salon Books, Telegraph-Journal

"[A] riveting tale . . . Bowling captures the unrelenting sensory assault of war and industry as they combine in a sort of amoral apotheosis . . . A powerful and emotionally wrenching book." —Quill & Quire

"This vivid and passionate novel opens with the American Civil War, where after the battle of Antietam, we're told that men 'moved among the dead and wounded slowly as wasps over rotted fruit'; it's such writing that makes Tim Bowling's novel memorable—that, and its range, for it ends nineteen years later in western Canada, with two of the major characters. Altogether, a story of impressive scope, and bristling with action." —Jack Matthews, author of The Gambler's Nephew

"The Tinsmith is a provocative, ambitious, exciting story . . . [it] delves with guileless courage into the quagmire of past racial conflict, and will be read and recalled with that admirable quality in mind." —Literary Review of Canada

"The Tinsmith begins and ends in blood. Between, the harrowing, stunning new novel by Edmonton writer Tim Bowling is a powerful, haunting evocation of friendship and cruelty, of grace and inhumanity, of violence and beauty." —The Globe and Mail

The Tinsmith was featured on CBC Radio's All Points West book club. Reviewer Nikki Tate called it a "fascinating story, really well told."

"A story as much about society's heavy hand on our backs as the universal human struggle for acceptance in the face of cultural prejudice . . . Bowling creates a bucolic backdrop stained with the reality of war. Lyrical prose enhances a setting the reader falls into." —Alberta Views

"The Tinsmith is filled with beautiful and vivid imagery . . . The American Civil War, of course, has been written about over and over, but Bowling has a special dark and delicate touch with his treatment of the mad carnival of those times, with its blood and guts, society ladies and grasping businessmen, valour and cruelty. He captures moments from one of the worst periods in the history of this continent." —The Winnipeg Review

"Bowling is a remarkable writer. The Tinsmith is well-served by meticulous research which serves to provide believable settings for the action of this novel. From the battlefields and the cast of characters found there—embalmers, soldiers (from both sides), civilians who came to sightsee, the ladies holding handkerchiefs over their mouths, the photographers who set up their darkroom wagons and provided first-hand visual accounts of the carnage—to the fogs of the Fraser River, he takes the reader into the heart of the dark drama unfolding in these pages." —Harbour Spiel

"Lyrical in both its beauty and its horror, The Tinsmith reveals a writer at the height of his powers. From the battlefields of the American Civil War to the salmon canning wars in British Columbia, Bowling creates vivid worlds that move us. In John Dare—the heir to both of these conflicts—we meet a character of great moral complexity, a man trying to come to grips with the mystery at the heart of his identity. Bowling's vision is grand, fierce, and bloody." —Jury Citation, 2012 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

"Elegantly written, with characterizations and setting descriptions that paint vivid pictures in the mind...this mix of historical novel and mystery should be recommended to all readers of Civil War fiction." —American Library Association's Booklist Online

About the Author

Tim Bowling is the author of ten collections of poetry, four novels, and two works of non-fiction. His most recent books are the poetry collections Tenderman and The Annotated Bee & Me, and the non-fiction titles In the Suicide's Library: A Book Lover's Journey and The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture. A native of the West Coast who now lives in Edmonton, Tim has received many honours for his writing, including a Canadian Authors Association Award, two Governor General's Award nominations, a fellowship for his entire body of work in prose and poetry from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and four Alberta Book Awards.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Slavery and Civil War confronted by Canadian Feb. 26 2014
By Garth R. Mailman - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Tim Bowling is a favourite Canadian author whose father was a Frazer River salmon fisherman in Ladner, BC. Lacking an aptitude for his father’s dying profession he moved to Edmonton, Alberta a province without a coastline. Naturally he writes often about fishing but this time round he has chosen the Battle of Antietam during the American Civil War as the setting for his novel about an army surgeon.

Equally at home in poetry or prose I have yet to read a book of his I didn’t like. Although the subject of this book is rather grisly it is no exception. One is engaged from the first pages feeling the exhaustion of the surgeon at his desperate business days on end without rest. Part II returns us to Bowling’s home turf on the Fraser.

The doctor’s life is intertwined with that of a white slave he met during the war. The progeny of inter-racial couplings are often white in colour but to racists the taint of their African heritage is obvious. The book is not a polemic against slavery but the author’s sentiments are obvious. To the salmon fishermen of the Fraser any competition is frowned upon, the hint that that competitor may be black condemns him.

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