Winnipeg 8: The Ice-cold Hothouse
Fay Lando was Projects Officer at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Toronto.
The eight biographies in this collection are of Etienne Gaboury, architect of the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg and the Canadian embassy in Mexico; violinist Donna Grescoe; social service worker Yetta Gold; two police sergeants; former NHL hockey star Ted Green; a Christian Scientist, Joyce Milgaard; and a former German prisoner of war in Canada after World War II, Ernest Werdermann. Some of these people are known internationally; others only in their circle.
The success of a biography depends on the rapport and confidence established between the author and the subject, and on the author’s writing skill. Since each biography in this collection has been written by a different author, the biographical insight into each subject and the literary quality vary. But there are gems to be read.
Two excellent sections are those on Donna Grescoe and on police sergeants Jack Taylor and Peter VanderGraaf (a joint biography). In writing about Grescoe, Lesley Hughes fills in the blanks for those of us who have wondered what happened to this brilliant young violinist of the 1940s. It’s a sketch brimming with warmth and love for the subject. The piece on the sergeants is an effective literary contrast. Author Jake MacDonald lets his iconoclastic cops do the talking, and intersperses their remarks with those of a former Winnipeg mayor, a convicted safecracker, a judge, and others.
The biographies share a common bond. They live in Winnipeg. The bond is not strong enough to make this a cohesive book, but it is one worth reading for its sociological and general interest.