The next best thing
I’ve just completed an extensive project, Volume Five of the history of CIBC, covering the years 1973-1999. Four other authors wrote the previous four volumes, one of whom was Arnold Edinborough, editor and publisher of Saturday Night, so I am in good company. Research for the commissioned book included lengthy periods poring over the bank’s archives as well as conducting 150 interviews with people who worked at the bank and others who had relationships with the institution during that era. The book will be published by ECW Press later this year.
This is my twentieth book in the nearly forty years since my first, The Moneyspinners, was published in 1983. I well remember the feeling as I delivered that manuscript (produced on a typewriter in those days) to the publisher. It seemed like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. In fact, it was more like a sending a son off to war. The editors urged changes all the way from restructuring chapters to the proper use of semi-colons. Reviewers took swipes and, of course, there was the repetitive nature of a national promotional tour. I visited a dozen cities doing seven or eight interviews a day. I’d start to tell an anecdote from the book during a radio interview and then wonder, “I know I’ve told this story previously today, but have I already told it during this interview?”
As an author, people regularly tug on my drinking arm at receptions and then say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” I listened to numerous ideas until I finally devised an answer. “All you have to do is write 500 words a day,” I’d say. “At the end of a year, you’ll have more than 100,000 words, plenty for a book.” People would look askance, thinking, “Can it be that simple?” Of course, It’s not. Few can muster the commitment required to write every day. One who took my advice was Arthur Labatt. He wrote a wonderful book called A Different Road about how he did not want to work for the family brewers in London, Ont. Instead, he founded Trimark Investment Management, and made his fortune.
Over the years I have focused mostly on business, writing about the Eatons, Edgar Bronfman Jr. and BlackBerry, but I’ve also ghosted autobiographies for politicians including Thumper about Donald Macdonald and The Duke of Kent about Darcy McKeough. When people ask me, “What’s your favourite of all the books you’ve written,” I always reply, “The next one.” Whatever that turns out to be.