The Argus Grab

Yesterday’s testimony at the Conrad Black trial by his long-time secretary, Joan Maida, brought back memories of my dealings with a previous office-holder. It was 1978, and I had just joined Maclean’s as business editor. Conrad, then 33, had recently bought Argus Corp. but no one had interviewed him on the topic. I phoned his secretary, lodged my request and got nowhere so I used one of the oldest techniques in the journalism handbook, the campout. At 2 p.m., I showed up at his borrowed digs at Dominion Securities and asked his secretary if I could see him. She said,...

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Coming Home

Publicizing a book can be hard work. When you’re on a national tour, you get up at 5 a.m., do two-or-three pre-breakfast broadcast interviews, then another half-dozen during the day, before heading on to the next city for an overnight in another hotel and then a repeat of the previous day. Those who conduct the interviews are usually flying blind. Just before you go on air the host invariably drops his or her voice and says, “I’m sorry, I haven’t read your book. We get so many, you know.” I always nod and smile sympathetically as if this is the...

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Don’t ask, don’t tell

The toughest part about being a newly published author is the lure of the bookstore, the irresistible desire to go in and see your latest book on display. Of course, that’s a big mistake. When my first book, “The Moneyspinners,” about the CEOs who ran Canada’s Big Five banks, came out in 1983, my publisher Doug Gibson gave me some wonderful advice that – for the most part – I have carefully followed. First, he said, don’t ever go into a bookstore looking for your book. Second, if you break rule number one, and then can’t find your book, walk...

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Feste permanente

More than forty friends joined Sandy and I for our book launch last night at the Nicholas Hoare bookstore on Front Street East in downtown Toronto. One of the guests, Jim Cullen, told us about the good fortune that smiles upon visitors to Rome who are greeted by thunder and lighting. It was a reassuring tale to hear, given what was going on outside. Some of food was the same as at the farewell reception described in the book when we said thank you to our many Florentine friends: platters of Genoa salami, Prosciutto di Parma, veggies and dip. The...

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Go with the flow

The CBC has suffered through numerous budget cuts, but it still takes a lot of people to get something on air. My appearance early this morning on The Current, Radio One’s national public affairs show, began yesterday afternoon with a call from the “chaser” who tracks down possible participants, checks their availability and picks their brains a bit. We spoke three times over a one-hour period. Today I talked to three more people before finally chatting with host Jane Hawton, sitting in for Anna Maria Tremonti. The topic was boards of directors, how the world of corporate governance has changed,...

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The now or never plan

Our new life in Florence had its beginnings after the death of Sandy’s mother in 2000. Sandy had been her mother’s major caregiver for many months so she knew she would need something to fill the void and help her deal with her grief. Art had always tugged at the hem of her life but there never seemed to be enough time available to nourish her talent. Sandy had taken some lessons from watercolorist Pat Fairhead who praised her natural ability and urged her to enroll at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) in order to improve her...

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The fantasy becomes a reality

Two years after returning home from in Florence, Italy, our book about our time there has finally been published. “Fantasy in Florence: Leaving Home and Loving It,” is very different than anything I’ve ever written before. My wife Sandy has long been by muse, but this time she is a collaborator. The words are mine, the illustrations are hers. The result is part travel book, part celebration of artisans we met, and part sheer joy at the ability to step outside our normal lives. If you take risks, there are rewards. The appearance of the book in stores during the...

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All booked up

As regular visitors will have noticed, I haven’t posted a new blog since November. That’s because I’m busy writing the book about BlackBerry and have precious little time for anything else. Meanwhile, you’ll be interested to know that in December I began conducting interviews in Waterloo, Ont., with executives and others at Research in Motion. The story they have to tell is even more exciting than I dared imagine. Look for the result in bookstores soon. It’ll be worth the wait.

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