Lifestyles

Lord Strathcona's Horse rides again

Robert Mackay based his new book, Soldier of the Horse, on the life of his father. - Ursula Maxwell-Lewis photo
Robert Mackay based his new book, Soldier of the Horse, on the life of his father.
— image credit: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis photo

When Bob Mackay retired he traded drafting legal briefs for crafting books. Soldier of the Horse, Mackay’s first fiction novel, arrived on his desk last week. The tale of  passion, war, camaraderie, bravery and history takes readers from love and legal wranglings in Manitoba to a young soldier’s Great War survival in France with the famous WW1 Canadian cavalry regiment, Lord Strathcona’s Horse. Based on the life of his dad, Tom Mackay, Bob not only dedicated years to researching the era, the cavalry and the art of writing, but made a pilgrimage with his wife, Pat, to France in 2008 for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Moreuil Wood, where the Straths and their horses launched one of history’s last great cavalry charges on March 30, 1918. Weaving emotions generated by wind, rain and memories of scars (physical and emotional) left with his father and those who survived, Mackay ably translates his impressions into a period tale which returns the reader to a by-gone era.  No GPS, digital strategy, or satellite tracking, but simply the shock and awe of men, horses and brutal, unforgiving steel facing enemies and natural elements in the name of freedom, king and country. Mackay, a former rancher, teacher, submariner and lawyer, has plenty of material for his writing career. As president of the Vancouver branch of the Canadian Authors’ Association and a long time member of the Rain Writer’s group in Surrey, his advice to new writers is: “Just write. Every day. I must have written more than 350,000 words which have been condensed into 86,000 words for the novel.” Beginning with a very rough draft, regular writing kept the flow going. “The fun job was revising,” recalls Mackay, who admits seeing the first draft was exciting as was finally holding the finished work published by Touch Wood Editions, a publishing house focusing on stories about Canada’s West. Confessing that he may dust off a long buried manuscript involving a lawyer tangling with terrorists, Mackay is content to leave his years of law behind him. Currently on his agenda are drafts of a Korean War and submarine stories. A book launch and signing for Soldier of the Horse will take place at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 (Cloverdale) on Wednesday, March 2 at 7 p.m.   The public is welcome to stop in and chat with Cloverdale’s newest author and retired lawyer Robert Mackay. – Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a travel journalist, photographer and editor. She can be reached at utravel@shaw.ca

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