The book isn’t so much lost as it is stalled.
While still working for The Province, I was asked to write a book about the history of Vancouver rock and roll.
Asked might not be appropriate. When The Province asks you to do something, it really means you are being told.
I accepted the commission because what else was there ?
I was asked many times when I would write a book. I always said I would write a book about Vancouver rock when I retired. Now, all of a sudden, I was being asked to write exactly that on The Province’s time. It seemed like a great idea as I would have the weight of Post Media behind me, all the necessary tools, editors, graphics or whatever was needed.
It didn’t go that smoothly and was a bit rushed at the end, but it got finished only a few weeks after the deadline. There was a little promotional push by The Province that included a few interviews. Reviews were good too.
It was felt that I was the guy to write it. When I started around 1973 I was just finding my feet as a music-crazy writer around the same time the Vancouver music business also was finding its feet. We were both growing together. I was there. I was everywhere.
So, the book was called Tom Harrison’s History Of Vancouver Rock And Roll.
It included some interview clips and video footage and was published by Harper-Collins as a eBook. Harper-Collins had a contract with Amazon, Google and two others to stock my book. This agreement included three other Province eBooks.
After a promising start, the book was deleted. For some reason, Harper-Collins dissolved its contract to distribute The Provinces eBooks. Amazon etc cleared the books off whatever serves as its shelves.
That was about four years ago.
I thought the book had a lot of potential and thought it ironic that it had become a victim of exactly the symptoms that had held Vancouver rock back.
Almost immediately, I got letters from people trying to find the book. Most of them were from those who wanted a conventional book either for themselves or a parent or a husband. It became obvious that someone at The Province or H-C should have considered that such a book would appeal to an older audience that had grown up with conventional books . EBooks didn’t sell either.
Also, The Province didn’t expect the loud buzz created by the topic. It’s three other eBooks were dry by comparison. A history of St. Paul’s Hospital isn’t as juicy or sexy as rock and roll.
I guess Harper-Collins were glad to be divested of eBooks. It became impossible to find anyone at H-C who knew anything about the Province distribution deal. Those that might have no longer were with the company.
A TV series had used the book as a reference as had a professor for one of his lectures as had a podcast using a copy of the history I’d sent them. It could be used as a text book, stocked in libraries or, at least, made a good Christmas gift.
A launch of the book in old hard print form seemed possible so a journey to find a publisher was started.
Almost all but Howard White at Harbour never replied to my emails. He was encouraging and offered advice, but he and I were thwarted by the graphics.
I’d found out that the text reverted to me but Post Media’s copyright department were silent for three years. I needed the graphics to proceed and the copyright department steadfastly refused to answer my req uests.
Fortunately, Carolyn Soltau, who had assembled the graphics, became in contact with someone from copyright. Post Media would step aside but the question of graphics worried Carolyn.
She’d found most of the visuals in The Province archives but a few graphics were taken without pay from other sources. She couldn’t remember what and how many, but it takes only one unhappy photographer to launch a suit – usually against the publisher.
In the meantime, The Province fired everybody but her in the library and also had moved to a new building. The workload must have been incredibly daunting and during this upheaval, Carolyn’s mother had died. Then, the covid-19 plague hit and a new set of ramifications came into play.
So, the book has stalled. There still isn’t anything like it on the market. There also are a few people who are very knowledgeable about different periods of Vancouver’s history and could do their niches very well. No one has come forward, leaving my stalled book all by itself.
After four years there are things I’d like to add or change. For one thing, Red Robinson, who figures mightily at the start, has retired. Another, is that Spotify, which was almost a novelty four years ago, is now the dominant form of hearing music.
Many of the promising new bands haven’t done much. Craig MacDowall , an important pioneer as a promoter and then as a merchandiser isn’t mentioned at all. Tom Northcott deserves a chapter of his own. More should be said about Paul Mercs.
Then there are photographers such as Dee Lippingwell and Kevin Statham and people I didn’t know what to say about them such as Maureen Jacks or Frank Wiepert or Laurie Mercer.
But there is no book for them.
The book isn’t so much lost as it is stalled.