As local author James L. Turner began doing his book research two years ago, he discovered that he hadn’t realized growing up the anti-Semitic views of such leaders as Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton and former prime minister Mackenzie King.
“I became instantly captured and fascinated by what I was reading… I wanted to know how this can arise,” he said.
And so, as with many works in progress, Turner’s first novel “started off being one thing, and ended up being another.”
Turner had begun writing a memoir of family vignettes, and then decided to do more.
“My older sister Josephine, five years older than I am, remembered POWs working at Haley’s Cinder Block company; the prison was in Hull,” said Turner, who was born in 1944.
The resulting novel, Strange Wind, is set in Ottawa in the late 1950s with flashbacks to Europe during the Second World War, addresses the horrors of the concentration camps and the Holocaust and their relevance to today’s world, and institutional racism and anti-Semitism, then and now.
A retired computer professional, Turner has worked as a chaser/killer in a slaughterhouse; in the Royal Canadian Navy, serving aboard Canada’s last aircraft carrier, the Bonaventure; as an executive for 20 years for a large U.S. computer firm, and, for five years prior to retirement, as a contractor for the Canadian Forces National Counter Intelligence Unit. Now a resident of Aylmer, Quebec, he has lived in many cities and travelled extensively.
Turner said his book’s editor, Rene Moesser, is the son of a German immigrant and that he provided “a lot of insight into how it could happen there,” referring to the rise of the Nazis to power and the ensuing evils they committed.
A non-practicing Catholic, Turner has six sisters and three brothers who “weren’t very happy about me rattling family skeletons” as he tells his family’s story as well in the novel.
“I point strong fingers at the Catholic Church… I touch on residential schools, Japanese internment camps, and Canadian anti-Semitism throughout the war,” he said.
Turner said he hopes his book will help open eyes so that readers will “recognize things for what they are and question them.
“As I talk to kids, and my own family, I see they have a limited understanding of history, they don’t understand the reality of it. You kill 10 people it’s a terrible disaster. You kill 10 million, it’s a statistic… I’m trying to point out the evils that happened in the camps are universal, not a one-time aberration. ”
Strange Wind is available at Amazon.ca as an eBook.