Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Five Things Literary: Windsor, with Marty Gervais

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As part of our mapping of literary Ontario, we're highlighting five things about literary life in communities throughout the province. What do our cities, towns and villages have to offer writers, readers and the curious? Follow Five Things Literary to find out.

Today's feature on literary life in Windsor was contributed by Marty Gervais, author of The Rumrunners and over a dozen other books that span every genre.

This weekend you'll find some of Canada's finest writers at BookFest Windsor, which runs Nov. 4th to 6th. Visit the BookFest Windsor website for more details.


1. Novelist W. O. Mitchell of Who Has Seen the Wind spent seven or eight years writing in Windsor. He lived not far from the University of Windsor and spent his days in the English Dept., writing some of his later novels. He said it was the “most productive” place of his career.

2. Other writers who made Windsor their base for a time include Marshall McLuhan, Wyndham Lewis, Joyce Carol Oates, Judith Fitzgerald, Adele Wiseman, David French, Nino Ricci and Morley Callaghan. Dylan Thomas, who read his poetry in Detroit in the 1950s, came over for a night and read to a group in an apartment. It was arranged by a Basilian priest, Father Stan Murphy.

3. The very first copies of James Joyce’s Ulysses ever to enter the U.S., where the novel was banned, came through Windsor, Ontario. These books were printed in Paris and mailed by Ernest Hemingway to a friend in Windsor who worked for Curtis Publishing. These were then smuggled on the ferry boats that used to ply the Detroit River.

4. Canadian short story writer, poet and novelist Raymond Knister, who was considered “the first modernist” writer in Canada and whose work appeared alongside Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway in Paris literary magazines in the 1920s, used to write a regular book review column for The Border Cities Star, now called The Windsor Star.

5. Windsor holds a regular BookFest every November, but it also holds a regular reading series called The Literary Quickie, a noon-hour reading that runs for no more than 45 minutes every other week at the University of Windsor.

Would you like to contribute five things about literary life in your community? Send an email with your ideas to [email protected].


Marty Gervais is an award-winning journalist, photographer, poet, playwright, historian and editor. He has written more than a dozen books of poetry, two plays and a novel. The Rumrunners, a book about the Prohibition period, was a Canadian bestseller in 1980. The expanded version published was released by Biblioasis in 2009 and made the Globe and Mail’s Canadian bestseller list for non-fiction books. Another book, Seeds In The Wilderness (Quarry Press/General Publishing) stemmed from interviews he conducted with such notable religious leaders as Mother Theresa, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Hans Kung.

His distinctions include the prestigious Toronto’s Harbourfront Festival Prize, the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award and the City of Windsor Mayor’s Award for literature. Gervais has also been the recipient of 17 Ontario Newspaper Awards for journalism. He recently received an honorary doctorate from Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario.

Besides teaching editing and publishing at the University of Windsor, where he is also the Resident Writing Professional in the English Dept., Gervais runs Black Moss Press, one of the oldest literary publishing companies in Canada.

Visit Marty Gervais at his website.

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