If you have been looking into obscure Canadian writers of the First World War over the last six months or so, you’ve probably noticed one reference work in particular keeps popping up near the top of every online search:
Brian Douglas Tennyson. The Canadian Experience of the Great War: A Guide To Memoirs.
After Google had offered it up a half-dozen times in the course of my research, I went looking for a copy and ending up buying directly from the publisher: The Scarecrow Press (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield a scholarly press based in Maryland, USA).
I cannot recommend it highly enough. But I warn you, if you pick up a copy it will soon look like mine, with each interesting and obscure entry flagged with a sticky tab, waiting to be uncovered online and purchased whatever the cost.
Tennyson’s The Canadian Experience of the Great War: A Guide To Memoirs really is a tremendous work of scholarship with 1885 entries (and 810 informative notes) spread over 561 pages. What makes this reference work stand out is it’s not just an annotated bibliography of Canadian prose, poetry and memoirs of the Great War, but Tennyson has tracked down biographical details of every author; in many instances, this book is the only published place these details exist. I contacted Dr. Tennyson about how he managed to uncover the personal histories of extremely obscure authors, and he told me that in addition to the usual research methods, he basically cold-called/e-mailed people he suspected might be related to the author in question, and many, many responded, all too happy to share information on their family members.
To give you an idea of the detail, here is a typical entry from Reginald Watters’ A Checklist of Canadian Literature 1628-1960 the standard reference work that nearly every bookseller, academic and serious book-collector has fairly close to hand:
And here is Tennyson’s entry for W. Redvers Dent in The Canadian Experience of the Great War:
Now I’ve been pretty diligent about tracking down obscure articles in newspapers, magazines and pulps of the 20’s & 30’s, and I’d never heard of these two Dent stories in The Legionary. I suspect you’ll find many similar items, particularly those published in periodicals, related to whichever Canadian author of the war you’re interested. Dr. Tennyson spent more than five years working constantly to unearth these gems, and it shows.
I know what has thrilled me about The Canadian Experience of the Great War (and I’ve read it cover to cover twice), is the ability to quickly find additional material or cross-reference material related to a particular author. So you’re interested in Peregrine Acland say, 15th Battalion, 48th Highlanders? A quick perusal of the index will tell you all the members of his regiment who published anything in book/magazine form about the war. A wonderful resource. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The only downside of the book is the cost (typical of scholarly-press books), and The Canadian Experience of the Great War comes in at $115.oo U.S. direct from the publisher. It’s worth every penny, but I realize that’s a steep price for many.
I contacted the publisher, explained who I was and what I wanted to write, and they’ve offered readers of Field Punishment No. 1 a 25% discount on either the Hardback Bound edition or the e-book. Here is a link to the book on the publisher’s website. When you check out, use promotion code 7A3AUTHF And then you’re good to go.
Consider it an early Christmas present to yourself.
Oh, and in the spirit of full-disclosure, this blog is mentioned briefly under the entries for Peregrine Acland and we’re chuffed to bits to be included in such an outstanding book.