FEATURED EXCERPT
The Count
The Count

The meeting was not going well. “I appreciate you taking the time, Sergeant Barnes,” the businessman, Travers, said kindly as he leaned forward in his chair and linked his hands on the table before him. It was the sort of earnest gesture that was undoubtedly meant to seem warm. “We have reviewed your plan most carefully, and because we will adopt some of the recommendations you’ve suggested, I will insist that we pay you a fee for your help.” As much as he wouldn’t admit it, those words actually took some of the sting out of what Edwin Barnes knew was coming next. “But for the mission itself, we have decided to go with a different provider of security.” There it was. As he heard the familiar words, the ex-Sergeant – who still wore his khaki, perhaps in defiance of some … Continue reading

The Champions of 1940
Iceberg Reaches South Africa
Iceberg Reaches South Africa

Khaki-clad soldiers spent Saturday, July 26 advancing up a dry, grassy hill called Talana, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Some 115 years ago, this hill had been the site of the first battle of the Second Boer War; this time, the soldiers were members of the Dundee Diehard historical re-enactment team, and their foes were neither Boers or British, but savages of the new world. Their mission: to provide images for a new project from award-winning Canadian publisher, Iceberg Publishing.

“We can now say we’ve conducted an inter-continental photo shoot,” says Iceberg Senior Partner and Editor-In-Chief, Jacqui Tam, “and we’re absolutely delighted with the outcome.”

This fall, a new entry will join Kenneth Tam’s His Majesty’s New World universe, which is currently progressing with the Champions series. Set in 1896, the project will fill in some of the universe’s backstory, but its plot presented certain logistical problems when it came to covers.

“With His Majesty’s New World and Champions, we’ve built a tradition of strong, historically-authentic, photographic covers,” explains author and Iceberg Partner Kenneth Tam. “We wanted the same for this new project, but the right sort of re-enactors simply don’t exist in Canada. Our military history doesn’t include many ‘khaki soldiers’, so groups like the Canadian Military Heritage Society usually start with the War of 1812, then jump to the First World War. We needed someone in between.”

Diehards-Webstory-01Enter the Dundee Diehards. Based in Dundee, South Africa –– at the foot of Talana Hill –– the group was formed in 1991 when the Duke of Kent opened the Talana Museum, to help preserve their country’s military history. Throughout the ‘new Imperialism’, modern-day South Africa was the site of numerous British colonial wars, including the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, and the Boer Wars of 1880-81 and 1899-1902. The Diehards routinely re-enact engagements from these conflicts, while also appearing at historical events, participating in commemorative ceremonies, and taking part in media projects. Their expertise was perfect for Iceberg’s project.

“As soon as we found the Diehards, we knew we wanted to work with them,” Kenneth says. “The only problem was geography –– could we coordinate a photo shoot from the other side of the Atlantic, and the other side of the equator?”

Though a small Canadian company, Iceberg has a long history of punching above its weight; the decision was quickly taken to try. Contacting the Diehards, Kenneth outlined the project, its requirements, and Iceberg’s past experience working with the Canadian Military Heritage Society. The South African team quickly came on board –– and, most importantly, put their experience and expertise at Iceberg’s disposal.

Diehards-Webstory-02“We obviously have no infrastructure on the ground in KwaZulu-Natal,” Jacqui says. “The Diehards handled the location scouting, the equipment, the uniforms, the transportation, and the timelines. What might have taken us months to put together, they managed in a matter of weeks. We went from first conversations to camera in just six weeks. Full credit to them for making it possible.”

The Diehards also recommended South African photographer Pierre Janse van Vuuren for the project.

“We were very anxious to find the right person to go behind the lens,” Kenneth states. “We had a good team on the ground for the His Majesty’s New World shoot in 2007, and Olivia Witzke sets an extremely high standard with her work on Champions, so there was a lot of pressure. Pierre couldn’t have been a better choice.”

While the Diehards were cementing plans for the location and equipment, the Iceberg team was in regular contact with Pierre, discussing details from photo composition, to lighting, to poses, to style.

“Anything that could possibly come up, we tried to discuss in advance,” Kenneth continues. “When we’re present at a shoot, we can improvise to take advantage of things we see on the day. We needed to give Pierre an idea of what we’d be looking for, so he could keep an eye out on our behalf.”

The preparation worked. Through multiple setups across the day, Pierre and the Diehards captured images that fit perfectly with the style established in His Majesty’s New World –– and with what the project demanded. Armed with these images, Iceberg can now target a fall launch, though details about the project remain limited.

Diehards-Webstory-03“Readers of The Grasslands will probably recall the significance of the year 1896,” Kenneth deflects, “but that’s all we can say for now.”

Although the full details of the story remain under wraps, the photos are a point of pride for the Canadian company.

“We had to draw on all our experience to commission this shoot,” Jacqui Tam concludes. “If we hadn’t done the same sort of shoots numerous times before, in Canada, we couldn’t have been able to try to execute one half a world away.”

“We were also very lucky with the people on the ground. The web has made the world smaller, but finding people with the both the talent and dedication that we found in KwaZulu-Natal is rare. The Diehards and Pierre took onboard all the information we offered, then added their own expertise and passion,” Kenneth elaborates, then smiles. “The results speak for themselves –– Mike Strong would be impressed.”

Diehards-Webstory-04

More information about Iceberg’s newest project will be available on this website in the weeks ahead. Additional stories about this shoot, and other Iceberg projects, can be found here in the Author Notes of Kenneth Tam and Jacqui Tam.

 
 
LATEST AUTHOR NOTES
Kenneth Tam: A Different Martini
Kenneth Tam: A Different Martini
The world as I see it is made up of two different kinds of people: those who hear the words 'Martini Henry' and think they refer to a guy called Henry who likes Martinis... and everyone else, who knows (obviously) that those words refer to one of the most iconic rifles in the history of the British Empire –– one that deservedly stands alongside the likes of the Brown Bess and the Lee Enfield, even though its time in service was far shorter than those other two. A breech-loading rifle that relied on cartridges, the Martini Henry represented a great leap forward for redcoats across the world. It's safe to say that it was responsible for the deaths of thousands of my ancestors, and in the process, it shaped human history in ways that cannot really be calculated. It's sort of a shame, then, that it doesn't appear in The Count. Our new introduction to His Majesty's New World has been having a banner first month –– top ten amongst Amazon's free alternate history titles –– and on its cover, you'll see rifles that look like Martini Henrys. In reality, they are Martini Henrys, in the hands of the Dundee Diehards... But in the story, the men of Sergeant Barnes' outfit are carrying not Martini Henrys, but Martini Metfords... a distinction that will make little sense to anyone who didn't study a lot of military history. It works like this: in the old days, the British named rifles based on two main components –– the action (the thing you load the cartridge into, which might open and close through the working of a bolt, or a lever, or even semi-automatically) and the barrel (the long tube, which could be engineered with different types of rifling to spin the bullet as it flies out of the muzzle). The Martini Henry thus had a single-shot lever action by Martini, and a rifled barrel by Henry. Skip ahead some years, to the adoption of the .303 cartridge that would (with some evolution) accompany the b'ys of the Newfoundland Regiment in The Grasslands, and you find the same Martini action being married to a .303-caliber barrel by Metford. This new barrel came with a strange sort of polygonal rifling, that unfortunately didn't hold up too well when it was hard-used. The Martini Metford, then, is not the finest rifle to be carrying to the new world, where super-strong, cannibalistic savages roam free. But the veteran soldiers of Barnes' outfit know the Martini action well, and because Metfords are not so advanced as contemporary Lee-rifles, they are affordable. When savages are in the picture, any rifle is better than none... [caption id="attachment_8022" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Sergeant Barnes and his Martini 'Metford'...[/caption] Still, Barnes knows that newer rifles may be essential to the survival of his men and their families on the new world. Perhaps if a good employer comes along –– a mysterious German Count called Petersen, for example –– the men can upgrade to Magazine, Lee-Enfield rifles... MLEs, or 'Emilys' if you like. I wonder how that would turn out... In any case, the Martini action is what Barnes' outfit relies on in The Count, and instead of me trying to explain what that looks like, let me simply refer you to YouTube. Canadian enthusiast britishmuzzleloaders offers a fine array of videos about historic British firearms, and he's done so much specific homework about rifles like the Martini Henry (and the equipment that went with them) that, when I first came across his channel, I honestly had to go back into The Count to see what I got wrong. Fortunately, I didn't completely blow it like last time. So if you want a sense of the military tradition and training that produced Barnes' outfit, how their equipment was used and how their rifles worked, start here (skip to 5:10 if you just want the shooting): And next time you see a guy named Henry drinking a Martini, buy him a glass of whiskey. It'll make everything less confusing.
Jacqui Tam: Paying Respect
Jacqui Tam: Paying Respect
I am currently back in Waterloo. The reason for my visit isn’t a happy one –– Arthur Stephen, the person who brought me to this city and Wilfrid Laurier University in 1999 –– died suddenly last week. Boss, mentor and ultimately a fast friend, he is gone from us too suddenly and too soon, and so I am here to pay respect. I was working at the University of Lethbridge when someone told me about a Director of Public Affairs & Publications opportunity at Laurier. I didn’t know much about the university at that point, and in the three-and-a-half short years I’d been working in higher ed, I hadn’t actually crossed paths with Arthur. In retrospect this is surprising, since he was a legend in university advancement even then. But I’ve always believed we meet people at the exact moment we’re supposed to. The role itself sounded interesting, and I was increasingly eager to be closer to Newfoundland and my mother. I put together my application package –– letter, resume, and a ‘Before & After’ portfolio –– and sent it off. Not too many days later I received a call from a soft-spoken gentleman with an accent I couldn’t immediately identify. He’d received my package, and while the competition was still open, he wanted me to know I’d be on the interview list. You don’t get that kind of call often, but when you do you don’t forget it. The first part of my interview process was a one-on-one meeting with Arthur on what I recall being a Thursday afternoon in June. The next day started with an early morning meeting with the President –– Bob 'the Builder’ Rosehart –– followed by what must have been a two-hour interview with the large interview panel. After all the standard-type questions had been asked, Arthur turned on a slide projector, and a whole new round of questions started. He was looking for a particular reaction to each photo or design… I had absolutely no idea if the answers I was giving were right or wrong, and marveled at the sheer volume and variety of the slides. But I made it to the next step, and the next, after which Arthur offered me the job, waiting patiently and answering every question I had until while we made another significant family decision. It was a choice we never regretted –– I ultimately arrived at Laurier in September 1999 and stayed for 14 years. I learned fairly quickly that the selection of slides Arthur had used in the interview was just a small segment of what he had compiled over the years. He was a masterful visual communicator, and he had what must have been tens of thousands of scans of images, covers, news clippings, posters, etc. I have never known anyone with his ability to weave a story using images that on the surface seem not to be connected very much at all. I have never known anyone else with the foresight and discipline to collect and store them all. Less than a year after I started working for him, I ‘helped’ Arthur prepare for a presentation he was to give at a conference we were attending in Whistler. He was surprised when I wanted to sit in on his session though, because, in his words, I already knew everything that was in it. I chuckled when he said that. I knew what all the slides were, yes, but I had absolutely no idea what he was going to say, and I wasn’t going to miss that for the world. [caption id="attachment_8008" align="alignleft" width="2048"] Arthur at his Laurier desk, sorting through slides on his light table, all his white binders on the shelves over his shoulder, and pictures of his family on the wall in front of him.[/caption] Arthur was, I think it’s fair to say, one of the fathers of university branding in Canada. In much of this he was self-taught, something I learned on a late night drive back from downtown Toronto after a Laurier event. And he shared his knowledge and experience selflessly, watching proudly as the people he mentored and inspired moved on in their careers. He also was the type of leader who did his best to make sure you had the information you needed to do the job he entrusted to you, and he would offer advice as needed while still challenging us to stretch beyond what we had done before. Knowing Arthur as I do, I can’t imagine him ever giving himself any credit for our successes, but he deserves it. He most certainly does. There were times he drove me a little crazy, and I imagine I did the same to him. There were also days I worried about him, because I knew he worried much and cared deeply. I can only hope that all of us, as a collective of Arthur Stephen protégés, somehow made his worry and efforts worth what they must have cost him. To Arthur’s wife, Yvonne, and his daughter, Jennifer… you don’t need anyone to tell you how much he loved you. But I will share with you that one of the things I cherished most about Arthur was that when the phone rang in his office, I would always know the moment he picked it up if he was speaking to one of you. He didn’t have to tell me. It was evident in his voice –– tender and so clearly filled with the love he felt. It’s a voice I only ever heard when he talked to each of you. Arthur, you left us too suddenly and too soon. It doesn’t seem real there will be no more conversations about Laurier, universities, politics, Scotland, the British Open, golf, football, or hockey pools. No more quick coffees (well, most recently waters) at William’s. No more inquiries after Peter and Kenneth. The world is emptier now, without you. It’s almost sixteen years ago that I began telling colleagues I was leaving Lethbridge to take on a role at Laurier. The reaction of people in the post-secondary sector was always the same: “Ooohhhh… Arthur Stephen…” spoken in almost reverent tones. Then they’d say it was the opportunity of a lifetime and tell me how lucky I was. They were absolutely right, of course. Though I think maybe the word I’d use is blessed. Be at peace, Arthur. And thank you. For caring. For teaching. For everything.
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