- Paperback: 200 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Canada (Aug. 30 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014305595X
- ISBN-13: 978-0143055952
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 181 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #385,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Extraordinary Canadians Lord Beaverbrook Paperback – Aug 30 2011
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About the Author
David Adams Richards is the author of the novels The Friends of Meager Fortune, River of the Brokenhearted, and Mercy Among the Children, which won the Giller Prize and was nominated for the Governor General's Award and the Trillium Award. He is the author of the celebrated Miramichi trilogy: Nights Below Station Street, winner of the Governor General's Award; Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace, winner of the Canadian Authors' Association Award; and For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down. His novel The Bay of Love and Sorrows has been made into a feature film.
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David Adams Richards was the ideal choice to portray Max. As a novelist, his approach to Aitken's life bears an intimacy few historians possess. A native of Beaverbrook's home town, he has a fine writer's touch for bringing Max Aitken to life. The author's style is well-tuned to the personality of his subject. Aitken's career seems to have left him little time for reflection, there was always something else to accomplish.
Aitken's drive for success emerged early - he started a newspaper at 13. After a short term as an office boy in a law office, he moved to Halifax, where he came under the tutelage of John Stairs, who taught him financial matters. A somewhat shady business affair led him to leave Canada for Britain. There, he moved upward with amazing speed to earn a Knighthood in 1911. The outbreak of WWI prompted the Canadian government to put him in charge of an archive of Canadian activities in the conflict. Not a record-keeper, Max used the role to promote Canada's role in the war. Before the Armistice was signed, Max Aitken had become Lord Beaverbrook - title taken from the region near his home.
In the interwar years Aitken had his foot in two, related realms. Intelligence and propaganda were closely related in those days. But his other interest lay with the newspaper business, and his takeover of the 'Express" papers rejuvenated the chain. Among other causes it promoted was Free Trade among the members of the British Empire. As a Canadian, Max had suffered a good many snubs and sneers for being a "Colonial", but his wish for equal status really was based on economic issues. The culmination of all these activities, of course, was the appointment of newspaper baron Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, to being in charge of aircraft production shortly after the breakout of WWII. How incongruous - a publisher doing manufacturing? On reflection, the answer is dead easy. Aircraft production requires organisation and management skills. Max Aitken had demonstrated such abilities from an early age. This is a little giant of a book about a little giant of a man. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Perhaps Richards doesn't realize that it's not unscrupulous; restaurant rivals often set up close to each other because it boosts sales for everyone. Further, McDonald's is not a direct competitor to Burger King; like all burger shops, each has distinct demographics. McDonald's customers are loyal, like Burger King and others; occasionally they like a little variety which is why such shops tend to locate in clusters.
The same is true for gas stations and many other businesses. The best newspapers are those involved in tough competition; Toronto has three excellent papers, Phoenix has only one second-rate declining newspaper. Time and again throughout this book, Richards doesn't seem to have a clue about the co-operative/competitive nature of business.
Business, unless it is a coddled monopoly, is not based on what customers do for business owners; success is based on what the owner does for customers. Beaverbrook seems to have been a master at this "service to others" concept; while, of course, helping himself to a share of the proceeds as a reward for his own thoughtfulness.
Likewise, as minister of Britain's aircraft production in the early days of World War II, Beaverbrook knew enough about government to realize that if he took the blame for diverting "vital" war materials to the aircraft factories, the bureaucrats would comply as long as they could blame him if anything went wrong. Bureaucrats can achieve miracles if they have someone else to blame.
Once again, it's not "Here's what you can do for me." It's, "Here's how I can help you." It's the fastest and surest way through any numbskull bureaucracy, whether in business, politics or any government bureaucracy. Didn't Richards ever have a paper route?
Richards seems to blithely stumble over this simple fact again and again in trying to explain Beaverbrook's life and accomplishments; but, every time he picks himself up and blunders on, completely oblivious to the roots of Beaverbrook's success.
It's a pity. This could have been a great book.
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