OTHER BOOKS

WHEN THE EARTH WAS FLAT
Remembering Leonard Cohen, Alden Nowlan, the Flat Earth Society, the King James monarchy hoax, the Montreal Story Tellers and other curious matters


READ ABOUT THE ROYALS IN EXILE


l. to r. The Duke of Northumberland, King James III, the Prince of Fortara and the Archibishop of Canterbury. As revealed in the book, when secretly mingling with commoners they were accustomed to assume the identities of Raymond Fraser, Jim Stewart, Alden Nowlan and Leo Ferrari.(Photo by Frank Prazak)

BLURB
In this collection of nineteen memoirs, essays and sketches, Raymond Fraser writes of a variety of fascinating subjects, including Leonard Cohen, Alden Nowlan, Leo Ferrari, Hugh Hood, Queen Elizabeth II, Bob Dylan, John Metcalf, Lord Mountbatten, Al Pittman, Irving Layton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Santa Claus, the Flat Earth Society, the notorious Stewart Monarchy in Exile, Halloween on the Miramichi, tabloid journalism, New Brunswickers in Hollywood, evangelistic miracle workers and assorted eccentrics met along life's way. Published by Black Moss Press, Windsor, Ont. Sept 2007. 162 pp.

"Reading When The Earth Was Flat is next best thing to a voyage of discovery, a ride on a runaway train, the thrill of a roller coaster, and a front row seat in the theatre of the absurd. This wonderfully entertaining book is the work of a gifted and accomplished author." — The Guardian

"It is superb. Remarkable!" — John Moss, FRSC, author and founding editor Journal of Canadian Fiction

"A highly original voice that is occasionally sad, sometimes very comic. A real pleasure to read." — Vancouver Sun

"This insightful, powerful and comedic writer has been hailed by Farley Mowat as the best literary voice to come belling out of the Maritimes in decades."
Telegraph-Journal

"One of the most gifted writers I know, and among his gifts are two that all too rare: a zest for life and a sense of humour." — Alden Nowlan

"When The Earth Was Flat is a collection of autobiographic snapshots—a mosaic of memoirs, histories, essays and short stories of almost poetic intensity which are held together by Fraser's ubiquitous sense of humour and idiosyncratic eye. For those of us who have read all his books it is an added treat to our collection. For those who have never read Fraser, this is the book to begin with, and doubtless, the rest of the author's library will follow in its tracks. Raymond Fraser has many distinctions as a writer. As a novelist, story writer, poet, biographer and journalist, he has been called New Brunswick's greatest living writer and one of Canada's foremost authors. His novel The Struggle Outside easily fits into the top-ten list of Canada's all-time greatest books and The Bannonbridge Musicians was runner-up for the Governor General's Award in 1978.
— Bernell MacDonald, author, Birds of Passage, etc.

If you can't find the book in a store near you (and far as I know it won't be in Chapters-Indigo-Coles, just smaller independent stores), there are signed copies NOW AVAILABLE at Fraser Books Inc. Just click here:
Fraser Books


Raymond Fraser and Yvon Durelle in Baie Ste Anne.



Cover of the first edition of my book The Fighting Fisherman (Doubleday, 1981). There has also been a French edition, Le Boxeur Qui Venait de la Mer, and two other English editions, the latest from Formac Publishing in 2005. Yvon Durelle died on January 6, 2007.

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I've been given a niche in here, along with a few other people (roughly 12,600). Sherlock Holmes will be able to look me up now, next time he's on my trail.



Visitors:

SEAFARING DAYS


This comely portrait is from my days as captain of the famous ship SPANISH JACK. (Photo by Sharon Fraser)




Here we see the redoubtable Spanish Jack riding at anchor in Miramichi Bay, with the skipper ashore searching for buried treasure. (Pencil drawing by Nancy Tremblay)

Visitors:

OF DUST & SMOKE & THE COSTA BLANCA


This is the cover of my novel In A Cloud Of Dust And Smoke (Black Moss Press, 2003; cover photo by Marty Gervais). Due to popular demand (or something of the sort) I've decided to accompany it with some comments from the more astute critics, as follows.
"A beautiful novel, written from the heart."
— Fred Cogswell
"An entertaining novel with serious and even sombre overtones — a kind of anti-romance in which the narrator keeps a comic perspective on his own and others' woes, and remains to the end an innocent, reminiscent of Tom Jones and other picaresque heroes."
— Robert Gibbs
A fine, fine book... well-written, provocative, engaging."
— Michael Holmes, ECW Press
"Endearing and engaging... provides a nuanced insight into a time that will never return."
The Gleaner


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Below is the cover of a novella and story collection called Costa Blanca (Black Moss Press, 2001; cover photo by Marty Gervais). "A must read, by one of Canada's truly great writers." — Gail MacMillan, author, Ceilidh's Quest.
"A Canadian literary legend. If every writer wrote with the clarity and gusto Fraser does, more people would still be readers." — Allen Tepper



Much of Costa Blanca was set in and around the town of Denia, Spain, seen in the photo below.







This is roughly what the author looked like in his Costa Blanca Period, in the 1970s.


















Another book our author worked on in Spain (as well as in Chatham and on board Spanish Jack) was the novel, The Struggle Outside, published in 1975 by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. "Represents the best in contemporary satire. Outrageously funny." Best Sellers, New York


Below is a review of The Struggle Outside by the late Dave Butler, as good a book reviewer as I've ever read. His assessments were not only accurate and insightful but entertaining to read, literary gems in their own right.

THE STRUGGLE OUTSIDE FILLED WITH ZANY ANTICS
By Dave Butler
Times Correspondent

The Struggle Outside is, on one level, the story of a gang of revolutionary cowboys who swoop down on Fredericton and carry off a cabinet minister. The minister is to be held for ransom to help finance the Revolution, as will a comic preacher they also kidnap.

lt this sounds a bit fantastic, well, it’s all part of the fun in Raymond Fraser's recently published novel, The Struggle Outside (McGraw-Hill Ryerson). Fraser, a native of Chatham, lives and writes in New Brunswick.

The novel chronicles the madcap adventures of the Peoples Liberation Army, a revolutionary group out to overthrow the N.B. government and establish their party, which, they are positive, will be truly of, by, and for the people.

The hectic tone of the whole bizarre story is set by the narrator in his Author’s Preface. There he tells us that he is a member of the "Army", that he has been captured by the authorities who are holding him in an insane asylum, and that he has managed to smuggle out his "combat journal", so that we may read it and keep the faith.

Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the novel is its plot: the conflicts are very sharply defined and the story moves at a very brisk pace. As readers of Fraser’s short story collection, The Black Horse Tavern, will readily agree. he is a marvellous storyteller.

The characters in The Struggle Outside are out of this world. Truly. the "Army" seems to consist of six demented revolutionaries, and Fraser fixes them quickly, surely, and firmly in the reader’s mind.

Besides the narrator, the characters are:

Chief Magaguadavic, certainly the sanest of the lot, the original revolutionary, and, among other things, a symbol of the vanishing culture of the North American Indian. ln keeping with his symbolic role, the Chief does not, naturally, actually 'appear' in the novel.

Cavanaugh, a former university professor, blinder than a baseball bat, yet the Army‘s munitions expert, who spends a good deal of his time constructing time bombs and dynamite grenades.

Liz, a paranoid feminist who wants to be a sex-symbol. or a paranoid sex-symbol who wants to be a feminist.

LeBlanc, an alienated French-Canadian, who's out to get "dose h’english."

And Moses, a violent, opportunistic scoundrel, who is out to use the group for his own sadistic purposes.

Certainly these characters are recognizable types, then caricatures, then individuals, and finally, symbols. Not an amiable lot, but certainly an unforgettable one.

The Struggle Outside is sub- titled A Funny Serious Novel. The comedy is derived basically from the absurdity of the plot and the idiosyncracies of each of the kinky characters.

The plot piles one absurdity on another in Mel Brooks' fashion. Anyone who takes the plot seriously ought to apply for membership in the Army. the pivotal move in the plot, for example. is the kidnapping of the cabinet minister, and this is the fail-safe move – blow it, and the Revolution's over. Yet when the Army arrives on the scene to capture him, they have to use a telephone call to locate him. Sly planning. And the minister, for his part, good-naturally goes along with them, because, after all, he’s been elected to serve the people.

No character is kinkier than Cavanaugh, the brilliant intellectual-cum-lecher, who is continually ambushing Liz.

On the serious side, the novel may be regarded as a satirical fable on revolutions and revolutionaries. l say fable, because, while the plot and characters are ridiculous, the theme is not.

Just as George Orwell used the fable Animal Farm to satirize totalitarianism, so Fraser turns his lunatics loose in NB., and beneath their frenetic activities we can glimpse some facets of the revolutionary process. For example, there are times when the novel reminds one of such groups as the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

The Chief, for one, is used to make a thematic point: he was the original revolutionary, but as the others came in, the group moved from revolution for a cause to revolution for revolutions sake.

Fraser keeps the reader reeling from the comic to the serious and back to the comic. Fraser is a literary Muhammed Ali – he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, always moving, always keeping the reader off balance.

And while this style might be irritating in another novel, it is superbly suited to the zany antics and wacky freaks in The Struggle Outside.

The Struggle Outside, by Raymond Fraser, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1975.
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The Bannonbridge Musicians, on the other hand, wasn't written in Spain, but in Saint John and Black River Bridge. It was published by Breakwater Books in 1978, and for what such things are worth was runner-up for the Governor General's Award. (Cover painting by Gerald Squires)
"A rollicking tale, well told." — William French, Globe & Mail
"It's well-written, it's touching, it's full of life, and it's funny."
— Andre Vigneault, CBC Radio

Posted by Picasa


The book you see below, Rum River (novel & stories), was written in Black River Bridge, Montreal and Fredericton, and published by Broken Jaw Press in 1997. After you've dallied a moment over the cover you'll find an extra treat at the bottom. (Cover photo by Joe Blades)


SIGNED COPIES AVAILABLE $20 + $4 Shipping


What some critics and readers had to say about Rum River:
"Comic and horrifying."
— Heather Sanderson, Canadian Literature
"As with all Raymond Fraser books, almost impossible to put down." — Brian Jeffrey Street, author, The Parachute Ward
"A wonderful enthralling read — intensely personal yet universally relevant. It's the first time I read a book straight through in a long time. I'm no critic, but Rum River belongs on the same shelf as such masterpieces as The Catcher In The Rye."
— Bernell MacDonald, author, Birds Of Passage
Message on answering machine from Dave Butler, calling from Chatham, NB (April 8/98)
"God knows what roads you're running these days. In any friggin' case I'll call you by and by. Just one point... I don't know how long your message machine runs... I was talking to Billy Daley, the outstanding former baseball player with Chatham Ironmen, and I loaned him a copy of Rum River a few days ago, and he read the whole damn thing — he's quite a literate guy — he read the whole thing in a sitting or two, and called me and told me it was tremendous! And so he's doing some good oral reviews around the local saloons and that. Daley is very quick-witted; he's looked upon by some as a dumb jock, but he's not that, which is why I loaned him the book. Anyway, he recounted (and he's got a pretty good memory) excerpts from the book, and quoting a few lines which he thought particularly delicious, shall we say, and all the boys in the local saloons think it's great stuff, and they're all... "[machine cuts him off]


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Fredericton Gleaner
Review of RUM RIVER

FRASER DOESN'T MINCE WORDS
By Anne Ingram


The deep-feeling narrator of many of the stories in this recently published collection is an alcoholic writer who knows he is living on the edge. He documents with brutal honesty, in page after page, the devastating toll that "booze" is taking on his body.

"I kept awake, shaking and horrified, ripped by convulsions, levitating and plunging towards the abyss..."

Yet, because he is addicted, he can't stop himself from returning to the bottle. Despite the fact that, after teetering on what he thought was the brink of death, he vowed to stay sober, he justifies taking another drink by saying "good physical health is all well and fine, but once the novelty wears off what are you left with? -- a life without fun."

This brutally honest approach to life is the theme running through all the stories in "Rum River." Fraser doesn't mince words and he doesn't pull punches.

The people he writes about are, for the most part, rough around the edges and plagued by problems.

Together with the aforementioned writer, whose drinking bouts often leave him depressed and unapproachable, there is Tommy Waggoner, a drunken old reprobate who lives in a "rough-shingled smelt shanty, measuring seven feet by seven feet;" Lena, "a raw-skinned woman with untidy hair and a toothless smile -- sitting smoking at the kitchen table which was covered with dirty dishes." Hazen, a pulp mill worker, fired for drinking on the job who sits in a tavern waiting to grab an unsuspected fellow drinker and regale him with stories about how he nearly became a Hollywood scriptwriter; and Eva, a former nurse who big mistake was falling in love with the wrong man.

Yet, despite their shortcomings, their addictions and their refusal to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, these people live by their own code of ethics.

If Tommy has money, he is always willing to help out a friend, and Eva stoically deals with her husband's shortcomings. They accept others for what they are, warts and all. They roll with the punches and expect little or nothing out of life.

"Rum River" is Fraser's first book of fiction since 1978 when he was short-listed for a Governor General's Award. Too bad it took him so long to put the stories he has written over the years into a collection.

Had he been more prolific or ambitious, he could probably have achieved the type of recognition given to another New Brunswick author, David Adams Richards.

Fraser's writing is perceptive, insightful and magnetic. Driven by the need to tell it like it is, he refuses to shelter from the hard rain of reality.

Yet despite the raw subject matter, his stories are laced with humour and his prose in compelling.

"Wonderland," for instance, in which a man falsely accused of rape is freed by the hand of fate, leaves the reader feeling light-hearted, while "Caught," the tale of a young boy molested by a pedophile, is a gut-wrencher. Fraser is a skilled storyteller.

You may not understand what motivates some of his characters but I guarantee, you will not easily forget them.

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This photo is here for two reasons. It shows the author as he looked while writer-in-residence at Fredericton High School in the mid-nineties, during the time he was working on Rum River. And it shows how he looked when disguised as a man without a beard. (Photo by Stanya)









As can be seen from this snapshot, it apparently wasn't the only time he wore such a disguise. (Photographer unknown)







And speaking of Black River Bridge, here we see (or almost see) the author in his one-time residence there. With him are two renowned Newfoundland artists who were guests for the night. From l. to r., Stewart Montgomerie, Raymond Fraser and Gerald Squires.












Caught in another beardless moment, the author relaxes aboard Spanish Jack in the summer of 1972. This photo was used on the back cover of his first book of fiction, The Black Horse Tavern. (Photo by Roman Gordy)









The Black Horse Tavern was published in Montreal by Ingluvin Publications in 1973. The book comprises a novella (The Quebec Prison) and nine stories, and received such great reviews in newspapers all across Canada that it sold out in a few months and was never reprinted -- until now! (see new edition below) (Cover photo by Raymond Fraser)

"A highly original voice that is occasionally sad, sometimes very comic. A real pleasure to read." ALAN DAWE, Vancouver Sun

"Rattling good yarns without managed thrills and contrived tension, The Black Horse Tavern is the reflection of a man who has lived a life far from quiet desperation. Like Fraser's poetry, it is relentless, subtle, disturbing, bearing the stamp of immediately recognizable talent and nifty writing." JOHN RICHMOND, Montreal Star

"All ten stories in The Black Horse Tavern bear the Fraser touch: gutsy realism, originality, and humour. The effect is hilarious, moving, and sad. It's quite a book." BETTY SHAPIRO, Montreal Gazette

"Fraser's characters are so strong and so very accurate that the reader remembers them and will for some time. A good book, one I would recommend." BLAINE MARCHAND, The Canadian Review

"Raymond Fraser happens to be one of the liveliest and most entertaining writers in the country." ALDEN NOWLAN, Telegraph-Journal

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The new revised edition of THE BLACK HORSE TAVERN. Published in the spring of 2014 by Lion's Head Press, it features a new Introduction by the author. Scroll down for more about it.
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That's it for book covers for now, except for the next one. It's called Before You're A Stranger, and as sole representative of the poetry faction it might (I fear) attempt to sneak in some humble comments on the author as poet.




Some comments on about various Fraser poetry collections...

"I read the book from cover to cover — I found the verses so delightful I couldn't put it down until I finished. The everyday subjects and events the poems deal with ring so true."
T.C. "Tommy" Douglas

"Fraser notices so much and responds with feeling and humor, and it's all so accessible to the reader. There isn't a poem in the book that isn't worth reading."
Alan Pearson

"Unfailingly interesting and impossible to put down once I started. Wonderful stuff!"
Louis Dudek

"I've never been a big fan of poetry, but I enjoyed Before You're A Stranger immensely. The humour helps of course, but I go to it to get a little relief from (or perspective on) everyday living."
Peter Waddell

(In the late seventies, while doing a reading in Halifax, Irving Layton was asked who in his estimation were the best of the younger poets in the country. He said there were three: Patrick Lane, Seymour Mayne, and Raymond Fraser.)

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Another rare poetry book you might want to pick up
next time you're shopping is Macbride Poems.
It's not a long read, only twelve pages, and is available
at Amazon.ca. When last checked it was listed as follows:

Macbride Poems (Paperback)
by Raymond Fraser (Author)
Publisher: Wild East Press

Available from these sellers:

1 used & new available: CDN$ 794.92
Frobisher Books, USA

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TIMES-TRANSCRIPT STORY ON THE NEW EDITION OF THE BANNONBRIDGE MUSICIANS



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The young author with his sisters Helen and Carmel, on Cunard Street in Chatham, New Brunswick, with St. Michael's Catholic church in the background.


Visitors:

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, HENRY MILLER, JAMES JOYCE, ETC. THE PARIS PERIOD



In case you're unable to deduce from the Moulin Rouge in the background, this photo shows The Author In His Paris Period. It was here he wrote among other things a rough draft of In A Cloud Of Dust And Smoke. The picture is sure to bring to mind other illustrious writers who had Paris Periods, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Henry Miller. (Photo by Cynthia Losier)

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BELOW IS THE COVER of issue #14 of Intercourse Magazine, which I co-founded with LeRoy Johnson back in the sixties. The cover on this number was drawn by Alden Nowlan under the pseudonym "Hodge" (his cat's name). Alden guest-edited issue #14 along with Louis Cormier and Bernell MacDonald. For a good close-up of this and all photos just click on them with your mousie.



And here's a look at the covers of the first five issues. One of them is completely black, with no print on it. This was supposed to attract the attention of the curious and inspire them to buy it.



The magazine ran from 1966 to 1971, and besides LeRoy and myself, the staff included Sharon Fraser, Al Pittman, Marilee Pittman, Ken Pittman (alias Kenneth Mann), Katie Pittman, Dave Ryan, Louis Cormier, Marc Plourde, Keith Colin Scott, Loren Chudy, Marilyn Beker, Phil Desjardins, Alden Nowlan, Claudine Nowlan, Bernell MacDonald, Eddie Clinton, Ken Foley, Dave Butler, Jim Beckta, Marilyn Johnston, Jacintha Ferarri, and no doubt some I'll think of later.

In addition to the above-mentioned (most of them), the magazine published Irving Layton, Al Purdy, Elizabeth Brewster, Leonard Cohen, Fred Cogswell, Hugh Hood, C.H. Gervais, Eugene McNamara, John Glassco, Robert Gibbs, John Drew, Len Gasparini, Dorothy Farmiloe, Patrick Lane, Robert Hawkes, Robert Currie, Seymour Mayne, Silver Donald Cameron, Ted Plantos, Tom Ezzy, Jim Stewart, George Bowering, Jamie Brown, Barry McKinnon, Richard Partington and numerous others.

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THE MONTREAL STORY TELLERS
This is the fiction performance troupe I toured with in the early seventies. It seems we were responsible for starting the plague of public fiction readings in the country. To find out more read When The Earth Was Flat.


l. to r. Ray Smith, John Metcalf, Clark Blaise, Raymond Fraser, Hugh Hood. (Photo by Sam Tata)


Notes on last fall's launch

WHEN THE EARTH WAS FLAT was officially and with great success launched Sept 20, 2007, at Westminster Bookstore in Fredericton. When the evening was over only a few copies of the original boxcar load remained in the store. Among those in attendance were such illustrious figures as Sheldon Currie, Phil Foreman, Leo Ferrari, Lorna Drew, Tony Tremblay, Robert Hawkes, Michael Nowlan, Pat Belier, Joe Blades, Bill & Janet Mullin, Jim Petrie, Allison Calvern, Diane Reid, Robert Power, Paul Lavoie, and — most distinguished of all — those I've inexcusably failed to mention. I was pleased as well to meet a number of young writers who showed up, and will definitely keep an eye out for their future works.

There was also a Miramichi launch at Books Inn Oct 12, 2007, and despite torrential rains and the store unexpectedly closing an hour prematurely there was an enthusiastic turnout. I was gratified to see and chat with so many friends of my youth, and sorry to hear next day that others who attempted to attend were met by a locked door.

If you're in Montreal, a good place to pick up the book is at THE WORD bookstore, owned and operated by my old friend Adrian King-Edwards. It's on Milton Street near McGill University, and is listed by Yahoo Travel as number 22 among must-see places to visit when in Montreal.

In Chatham (Miramichi East) you'll find the book in Bill's Kwik-Way. In Sackville check out Tidewater Books, and in Kingston, Ont., A Novel Idea Bookstore. You can also find it at the UNB Bookstore in Fredericton. I daresay it's in thousands of other locations, but these are some that come to mind.

The above-mentioned Sheldon Currie, by the way, was the English Department (that's not a misprint) at STU for a few years in the early sixties, when I was there as a student. It was under his expert tutelage that the late John Brebner and I founded and edited the literary magazine Tom-Tom in 1962. Sheldon later moved on to St FX and in time became the distinguished author he is today.

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THE ATHLETE YEARS

Unlike the four earlier mentioned writers (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Miller, Joyce) who didn't go in much for team sports (just a little sparring and bull-calf fighting), I was on a lot of teams in my early youth. As evidence I offer the following photo of the Chatham All-Stars, provincial midget baseball champions in the nineteen-fifties. Literary sleuths will no doubt wonder whether any of these lads have served as models for characters in my writings.


Back Row, l. to r. Cuffy McLaughlin Sr (manager), Paul Duplessie, Louis McMahon, Ray Fraser (ahem!), Hughie Moar, Bill Lordon, Ronnie Hachey, Bobby Hill, Joe Cook (coach).
Front row, l. to r. Neil O'Brien, Vince Thibideau, Greg Morris, Freddie Thorburn, Jackie Smith, Joe Breen, Neddie Whelan.


IN THE PREVIOUS winter of that year, 1957, the Chatham Midget All-Stars hockey team also reached the provincial finals, but narrowly lost out to the Moncton Beavers.


Back Row, l. to r. Frankie Daley (coach), Joe Keoughan, Dougie Myles, Elmer Cain, Duncan Jardine, Blair Carroll, Joe Richard, Jimmy Petrie, Louis Nowlan. Front row, l. to r. Art Leggatt, Ronnie Hachey, Dave Butler, David "Major" Fraser, Maurice "Bliss" Comeau, Bernie Keating, John Lordon, Ray Fraser (himself).

And here we have the Chatham Juvenile All-Stars, NB-PEI champions 1957-58


Back row, l. to r. David "Major" Fraser, Dick Morrisey, Ray Fraser, Ronnie Hachey, Bernie Keating, John Lordon, Bob Reid (coach), Don Ross, John Kerr, Herbie Dickson, Charlie Ryan, Fr. Winfield Poole (manager)
Front Row, l. to r. Joe Richard, Elmer Cain, Freddie Irving, Albert Hachey, Doody McCarthy, Gerry Niles, Dave Butler, Matthew McFadden.

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This is something I circulated a while back. It was picked up and published in full by the Miramichi Leader (Nov 30/07) and the online magazine, Mysterious East (Dec 2/07). Anyone who would like to reprint it is free to do so.

INVASION OF THE KILLER BEEPERS
By Raymond Fraser




Backup beepers... You can hear their cry everywhere; fierce, piercing and merciless. It's become so imprinted on the human psyche that people have begun hearing it in their sleep. For a time the main carriers of these pernicious gadgets were vans and trucks and tractors and bulldozers, but recently they've spread to the motorized hydraulic lifts used by roofers and painters in place of ladders and stagings.

The other day I was walking around Beeper City (formerly Fredericton) when I happened upon such a lift sending out a beep you could hear all the way to Napadogan. I asked the man at the controls what the racket was about.

"Well," he said, "it's supposed to be some kind of safety thing, I think. To protect blind people, in case one comes along with a ladder and climbs up and gets in the way."

"Has that ever happened?" I asked him.

"Not yet," he admitted. "But you never know. Anything's possible."

"Well," I said, "if it did happen, couldn't the painter see him and warn him?"

"You'd think so. Unless the painter was dumb and couldn't speak. That's possible too."

"What about deaf people? How do you warn deaf people who might get in your way?"

"Deaf people are okay. They can see what we're doing."

"So can I," I said, "and everyone else who's not blind." And with hands covering my ears resumed my walk.


When I got home I decided to do a little investigating on the Internet. One thing I found was that every vehicle of every description at every worksite of every kind across the entire country is busy beeping with every backing move (not too mention all the trucks, buses, plows and so forth on town and city streets). And yet most fatalities from backing vehicles occur in driveways, and always have.

And a statistic I came across is that children under four years old represent 30 percent of these off-road fatalities in the US, even though they make up only six percent of the population. And related research shows that children up to the age of five "have no concept of personal safety and do not understand the warning of backup beepers".

Also, workmen on worksites have been getting injured and killed because, (a) the drivers of vehicles are less likely to check behind them when they have a beeper beeping, and (b) like the fable of the little boy who cried wolf, when you sound too many alarms people stop heeding them.

The thinking behind beepers seems to be that people today are a lot slower (denser, dumber) than they used to be. They didn't use to need a screaming beeper to tell them to get out of the way of a moving vehicle, they would rely on common sense and their faculties of sight and hearing.

It could be the fault of the education system, not teaching them simple things like stop, look and listen. Or it could be the fault lies elsewhere. As best I can make out, these backup (and sideways and up-and-down) devices serve only one real purpose, which is to fill the pockets of those who sell them. That may be considered a good purpose in some circles, but it's the kind of good that's outweighed by considerations which are not so good.

Here's a quote from a 2001 CBC Marketplace broadcast on the dangers of noise:

Noise, the invisible pollutant, has been blamed for everything from hypertension and learning difficulties to suicide. More than a decade ago, Health Canada labeled noise as a "real and present danger."

Many studies link noise to health problems, including: headaches, stress fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart and digestive problems, immune system problems, aggressive behaviour, and learning problems in children...

In Britain, health officials estimate 12 million people suffer from noise-related health problems. In Toronto, noise was blamed after a man was charged with shooting to death two of his neighbours.

Now that I think of it, I saw on the news just a short while ago that a fireman shot and killed four of his neighbours because of noise.


There are alternatives to backup beepers, solutions that are not only more effective but which don't contribute to the ever growing problem of noise pollution and beeper rage.

There are for example rear crossview mirrors which cost about $50, which give a clear view of what's directly behind a vehicle. In the U.S., Washington State law requires all delivery trucks with cargo boxes up to 18-feet long to be equipped with these. Federal Express tested them on its delivery trucks in four major cities for a year and discovered a 33 percent reduction in backing crashes. They have since installed them on 36,000 vehicles.

There is also the alternative of rear-view cameras which can be purchased individually for about $150, and much cheaper in quantity.

And there are Backup Warning Devices, radar alarm systems that sense objects behind a vehicle and alert the operator to their presence.

Or even this simple invention, which I offer free of charge to the world, or to anyone who's quick enough to patent it: a one-second melodious sound (like the tone that precedes announcements in airports) emitted by the vehicle to universally indicate "I'm going to back up!" While it's not actually necessary, it's much better than the blood-curdling shrieks that go on continuously even when a vehicle is reversing an entire city block.

The root cause of these wretched devices is of course a mental affliction that's been going round in recent times, known as Absolute Safety Psychosis (ASP). Those who suffer from it are compelled to make endless rules and laws and introduce unnecessary inventions designed to guarantee that no one will ever get injured or contract any disease or indeed, die.

Their ultimate goal is a decree obliging citizens to stay locked in their homes permanently so they won't have any kind of accident out of doors. And while in their homes, for safety sake, they will presumably have to live in suits of armour, or strait-jackets.

A common rationale you hear about things like backup beepers is, "They're worth it if they save even one life." If that's the case, why not put them on cars as well, and not just that, but on all vehicles even when they're moving forward? That would make sense since 99.99 or whatever percent of vehicle-pedestrian fatalities occur when the vehicle is moving forward, not backward. Or even better, ban motorized vehicles altogether; that would be bring these fatalities down to zero.

"Well," you say, "we can't do that. Both solutions would be intolerable. We have to accept a certain amount of collateral damage in the course of things... We can't have the solution being worse than the problem."

And that's it exactly. These beepers are worse than a problem which they don't solve anyway.
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Another Opinion


(The Scream by Edvard Munch)

PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE. May his name live on in infamy. Matsusaburo Yamaguchi of Yamaguchi Electric Company, Japan, invented the back-up beeper which was first manufactured as model BA1 in 1963.
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From Wikipedia:

Back-up beepers are criticized by the public and in scientific literature. Beepers top lists of complaints to government roadbuilders relating to road construction noise. There is published concern that people habituate to the ubiquitous noise diminishing its effectiveness. Strategies such as adjusting the volume according to the ambient noise and changing the tone to include sounds above 1600 Hz and below 800 Hz for improved localization would improve the alarm, but improvements are not cost-effective for the manufacturer and, if implemented by the equipment owner, introduce liability for the owner.


And this, from Workplace Magazine, Dec 15, 2016:

Reversing vehicles can pose a significant safety risk on work sites. WorkSafeBC statistics show 11 workers were killed in the 10-year period from 2006 and 2015 when backing vehicles or mobile equipment [with back up alarms] pinned them against an object and/or struck them. "'When we hear beeping from back up alarms all the time, we gradually learn to ignore it as a warning signal,' says WorkSafeBC Occupational Audiologist Sasha Brown."

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SINCE YOU BROUGHT THE SUBJECT UP...

As can be gathered from WHEN THE EARTH WAS FLAT's subtitle, it's only partly (one might even say slightly) about planoterrestrialism. To get the complete story on this most fascinating of subjects, you'll want to pick up a copy of Flat Earth by Christine Garwood (Pan MacMillan). There's a great chapter on the notorious Flat Earth Society that sprang up in Fredericton some years back, founded by Leo Ferrari, Alden Nowlan and your modest servant, my humble self.
The author of Flat Earth is a charming young lady from England who had the pleasure of interviewing me during the Fredericton phase of her researches. While I naturally make an appearance in the chapter mentioned, the stars of it are Professor Emeritus Dr Leo Ferrari, the Society's President, and the late Alden Nowlan, the world-renowned poet who served as the Society's Symposiarch (I was merely Executive Chairman or some such thing). Truly, there's stuff about Leo and Alden in the book that you won't want to miss. And while there you can find out everything there is to know about why the earth really is flat (or at least why Leo said, "Of course it's flat — any fool can see that!").

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AUTHOR'S MOTHER AND FATHER: Robert "Bob" Fraser & Ursula (Graham) Fraser



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SEVERAL YEARS AGO

From l. to r. Paul Duplessie, Raymond Fraser, Joyce Keating, Jerry Duplessie, Joan Keating. I guess that's me second from the left, everyone says it is, although I can't quite remember if I was playing in the snow that day or not. I thought I was at home reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (a terrible book, by the way, not worth the bother)... but that must have been the previous Saturday. Yes, I can see now that it is me, without my beard. The clean-shaven face fooled me for a minute -- hadn't realized I'd started shaving that early.

Here's another one and there can be no doubt about it. It's myself and four other young philosophers busy studying the effects of winter on the human psyche.


From l. to r. Jerry Duplessie, Bubs Duplessie, Joyce Keating, Raymond Fraser, Joan Keating.

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Below is a piece that appeared in the Times & Transcript about my novel THE MADNESS OF YOUTH.


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And a more recent one. TIMES & TRANSCRIPT, MAY 16, 2014


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NEW MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF NEW BRUNSWICK 2012

Newest members of the Order of New Brunswick (2012). They were invested with the province's highest honour by the chancellor of the order, Lieutenant-Governor Graydon Nicholas, at a ceremony at Government House in Fredericton. Front row: Salem (Sam) Masry; Premier David Alward; Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas; Ronald (Ron) Turcotte; Raymond Lagacé. Back row: Audrey Lampert; Cindy Hewitt; Philip Sexsmith; Arthur Irving; Anne-Marie Tingley; Raymond Fraser; Calixte Duguay.

GLEANER front page coverage of the ONB announcement.


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See where I made the cover of this book, lending it some distinction.


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Paparazzi photo from 2013 Lieutenant-Governor's Awards gala evening. The author with M.T. "Jean" Dohaney (another former winner) and Marion Smith.


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CLIPPING FROM 1988
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