Literary thrillers, song-and-dance cartoons, East Van gangs at this weekend’s Word Vancouver

Katherine Collins will talk about her groundbreaking Canadian comics creation, Neil the Horse, at this year’s Word Vancouver.

From the 1900 salmon strike to the 2017 women’s march, Vancouver boasts a long history of activism. This history is the subject of City on Edge: A Rebellious Century of Vancouver Protests, Riots, and Strikes, a new book by Kate Bird.

Bird is one of many authors featured at this year’s Word Vancouver Festival. The festival gets underway today (Tues. Sept 19) and features (free!) readings and events throughout the week.

But the whole thing culminates on Sunday, Sept 24 with a full, multi-author day of activities in and around the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library (350 W. Georgia). Events include readings, presentations, workshops, kids books, and even poetry (poetry! in this day and age!). Below, we’ve listed a few of Sunday’s authors and presentations we think might be worth checking out.

11:20 am Aaron Chapman—Chapman is a Vancouver historian with a penchant for the city’s demi-monde. Previous books include a history of the notorious Penthouse Nightclub as well as the city’s historic concert and show venue, the Commodore Ballroom. The author will talk about his most recent book, The Last Gang in Town: The Epic Story of the Vancouver Police vs. the Clark Park Gang (Arsenal Pulp Press $24.95).

Sunday 11:45 am Kate Bird—Drawing from her book City on Edge: A Rebellious Century of Vancouver Protests, Riots, and Strikes (Greystone Books $32.95), Bird presents images and background on flashpoint events in the city’s sometimes tumultuous history. A former Vancouver Sun/Province photo archivist, Bird is the author of the bestselling Vancouver in the Seventies. (Note: From Sept 28-Feb. 18, 2019, The Museum of Vancouver presents City on Edge: A Century of Vancouver Activism. The exhibition expands on the book with a showcase of 650 images drawn from the Sun/Province archives.)

Thousands of people filled the Vancouver Art Gallery lawns Sat., October 15, 2011 as part of Occupy Vancouvert. Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG.

2:05 p.m. Robyn Harding—Who doesn’t love a good literary thriller? Apparently, Harding’s The Party (Simon & Schuster Canada $22.00) delivers the goods; the publisher likens it to Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. In her review, the Vancouver Sun’s Aleesha Harris wrote, With more twists and turns than a turn on the wooden coaster at the PNE, The Party delivers a thoroughly damning view of not only the superficial value set that the appearances-driven family it’s centred around holds so dear — but also broader modern values, in general.”

3:50 pm Katherine Collins—From 1975 to 1988, cartoonist Katherine Collins (in her pre-transition identity of Arn Saba) wrote and drew the adventures of Neil the Horse and his friends. Earlier this year, Conundrum Press published The Collected Neil the Horse, a mighty tome that reveals the groundbreaking nature of the strip—a wonderfully absurdist funny-animal comedy incorporating song-and-dance, music notation, fashion and more. Meet the fascinating individual behind this most distinctive of (Canadian) comic strips.

4:20 pm Michael V. Smith—We admit that we’re including Kelowna-based Smith based on the cover of his latest book, Bad Ideas (Nightwood Editions $18.95), which features a cat smoking a cigarette. From “Nobody knows bad ideas quite like Michael V. Smith. In his new collection of poetry, he speaks to an intangibility of sense, or a sense beyond the rational. Bad Ideas explores the inevitability of loss and triumph with characteristic irony and tenderness.” The site lists Smith’s accomplishments as “writer, comedian, filmmaker, performance artist, and occasional clown.” His other books include My Body Is Yours (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015), a Lambda Literary Award finalist.

There are tons more authors and events. Check out for a full schedule and more info.

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