By: The Working Forest Staff
Things were wild during the timber times in Renfrew County.
Larry Cotton’s new book The Turbulent Square Timber Era, the sixth book in the Whiskey and Wickedness Ottawa Valley series, examines life in the Valley during the bustling time.
“People will find it entertaining, informative and educational,” Cotton said of his newest book. “I’m very happy with the way it turned out.”
This is a sequel to his Canadian bestseller Whiskey and Wickedness Renfrew County, published in 2008.
Cotton has a passion for writing historical-based books and is currently writing three more books.
“This is a retirement project. The important thing is to determine a passion, I would have gone crazy,” said Cotton on his love of writing. “Some people slow down but I drive by a small town and wonder if that old hotel could talk. Well it can. I can walk by and say I read a story about that. People have to realize how important the town’s histories are.”
Cotton has written 18 historical-based books and the new one on the timber era was published in October.
He uses early newspapers, criminal court records, coroners inquests, journals and diaries to write his stories.
“I try and get most of my stuff from primary documents but I like to put by own narrative to it,” said Cotton. “I think I have a strong sense of whimsy.”
The Perth-based author, is originally from the Barrie area but also taught at Madawaska High School and started as the planner for the County of Renfrew in 1976, serving for decades.
Some of his other books look at Barrie, Orillia, Muskoka/Parry Sound, Simcoe, Toronto, Halton and Hamilton.
Cotton says a large majority of the male population in eastern Ontario worked in some capacity of the timber trade.
“It was unique in terms of the number of men occupied in the trade, it was different than the northern Toronto area,” said Cotton. “In eastern Ontario and western Quebec, you have the river and 80 men died in one year. Along the Madawaska River you had a very high mortality rate because there was quite a bit more violence because of the ethnic groups, the quality of timber and the number of taverns.”
But there was one specific reason this area was more unique.
“It was a wild and woolly place to work,” said Cotton.
He says the new book is really the story of the average working man’s life in the bush in the mid-19th century, which was calls it a rite of passage into manhood.
“If you go and ask half a dozen people in Renfrew what their great-grandfathers did, they worked in the shanty or hauling supplies. It’s a universal experience every man went through.”
Cotton has two book signings coming up.
On Nov. 26, he will be at the Arnprior Book Shop from 2 to 5 p.m. and he will be in Renfrew on Dec. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. at A Sense of Country.
Books can also be purchased at Century 21 in Renfrew, Something Special in Burnstown, Book Worm/Top Shelf Distillery in Perth and Balderson Cheese.
For more information on the books visit: http://www.whiskeyandwickedness.ca/ .