HOW THE WEST WAS WRITTEN: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES H. GRAY
How the West Was Written
The Life and Times of James H. Gray
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His books were on the national and Toronto Star bestseller lists before those of Pierre Berton and have since become classics of Canadian literature. Gray’s Red Lights on the Prairies stunned readers with its straightforward approach to prostitution on the Prairies and was named one of the 100 most important Canadian books of all time by the Literary Review of Canada.
In this first-ever biography of Gray, Brian Brennan covers aspects of the Gray story including:
- His early, poverty-stricken years during the First World War in Winnipeg.
- His working career as an office boy, brokerage firm employee and budding entrepreneur and gambler who invested in racehorses, a candy business that went broke, and a miniature golf course.
- His 12-year career with the Winnipeg Free Press where he “could write like hell and was afraid of no one,” which ended abruptly when he became the “only reporter in history to be fired as a result of policy disagreement with his editor”.
- How he accepted a public relations job at Home Oil to promote a Canadian pipeline project and, when that project evaporated, redirected his energies into writing best-selling histories that produced sales of 400,000 and brought this high-school dropout three honorary doctorates, the Order of Canada, and the Pierre Berton Award for distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history.
Brennan draws on information gleaned from interviews with Gray family members and associates, from Gray’s books, his newspaper articles, research papers, correspondence and diaries. Brennan covers the Gray story with engaging wit and impressive authority.
This is an interview about How The West Was Written that Brennan did with CTV Calgary’s Jocelyn Laidlaw:
This is an interview he did with Shaw TV’s Helena DeVries:
“An engaging biography, rich in personal detail and insight. Gray would have liked this book.”–Bill Waiser, Canadian historian
“Brennan crafts a rich portrait of a man fiercely independent and unafraid to state his opinions. . . Gray’s life unfolds with vigour in this deftly written first biography.” –The Western Standard
“Without a doubt, this will remain the definitive biography of a major Canadian popular historian.” –Fast Forward weekly
“A very readable biography. . . It is a tribute to Brennan’s book that he makes us want to go back and read Gray himself.“–The Literary Review of Canada
“A light and funny book that tells the story of a maverick who first tackled subjects such as the drinking habits and sexcapades of the West’s earliest settlers.” –Calgary Herald