About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Uncle Hugo's and Uncle Edgar's - A Bookstore Burned by Rioters

A photo I believe of the burning Uncle Hugo's
and Uncle Edgar's
A few weeks ago I watched on television and the internet the protests arising from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It was a shocking wrongful death that was far away from me. Downtown Minneapolis is exactly 1,600 kilometers from Melfort. When riots erupted and buildings were burned and stores looted I was upset over the destruction and lawlessness yet it was still distant for me. Events became personal when I read that the building housing Uncle Edgar’s and Uncle Hugo’s bookstore had been burned. I had visited Uncle Edgar’s on every trip I made to Minneapolis in recent years. There are posts on the blog about Uncle Edgar’s in the page on mystery bookstores.

Rational or not I think it is human nature to feel more deeply events to which you feel a connection. The burning of Uncle Edgar’s made me angry. I doubt it was targeted. It is hard to see how a business selling science fiction and crime fiction could cause offence. I expect it was a mindless act of arson.

Burning a bookstore is an attack upon knowledge. The stores contained thousands and thousands of books. I know they were fiction but they contained stories that enlighten, inform, entertain, even challenge readers.

I consider our society diminished whenever a bookstore closes. When the loss is due to arson the destroyed books make the loss greater.

I condemn the violence that included the burning of Uncle Edgar’s and Uncle Hugo’s. Society does not move ahead because of such violence. The advances in human rights during my lifetime have come from the actions of legislators and court judgments.

I believe violent acts such as the arson in Minneapolis provoke reactions that make change harder. 

Owner Don Blyly says he was told there was video on the internet of a white guy in a mask setting the fire.

There are several clips on YouTube of arrests for arsonists in Minneapolis. I have yet to read that any of them are charged with burning the bookstore.

The American ATF of the federal government said it is investigating over 150 fires in the Twin Cities.

Don describes what happened in a message he sent out after the fire:

There was a call from the security company around 3:30 this morning that the motion detector was somebody in the building. I threw on clothes and headed over there. When I was 2 blocks away I received a call that the smoke detectors were showing smoke in the store. Every single building on both sides of Chicago was blazing and dozens of people dancing around. As I pulled into the dentist’s lot I could see that flames were leaping out of the front windows on the Uncles. It looked to me like they had broken every window on the front of the Uncles and then squirted accelerant through each broken window. It looked hopeless to me, but I went around to the back door to see if could get to a fire extinguisher. As soon as I opened the back door a wave of very thick black smoke poured out, so I quickly closed the door again.

More particulars are available on the website for the stores.

I have spent my life working to uphold the Rule of Law. As a defence counsel representing those charged with offences I seek to have the laws of our province and country justly applied. Rioters and arsonists challenge the Rule of Law. I hope the arsonist or arsonists are soon caught and tried and punished.

For Don the financial loss was huge. He has advised that he is eligible for insurance. He is not sure if he will rebuild. I hope he will find the will and resources to have a new Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s.

Rather than just be angry I have decided I want to help Don. His son, Sam, has started a GoFundMe page. A link is at the end of this post. To date almost $150,000 has been raised.

The conflicting emotions Don is experiencing are set out in links on the GoFundMe page.

I hope my modest donation and the contributions of 2,500 other readers will convince Don to open a new store. It would be a powerful example of determination and faith in the future. I believe books are important to the future of all peoples and nations.
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5 comments:

  1. I'm sorry for Mr Blyly. Losing your life's work and livelihood is a tragedy, but I'll adda a grimly funny side-note:
    Some years ago there were less serious riots in London. There was looting, not arson.
    Bookshops were left untouched.

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    1. Roger: Thanks for the comment. I would be interested in the reason for not looting bookshops. I guess I am glad.

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  2. George FLoyd's death was wrong, tragic, and, as you say, shocking, Bill. It was a stark and ugly reminder that we as a society have a long way to go. In many ways, I'm still letting it sink in, if you want to know the truth. And the looting and destruction, whoever has caused it, has made the whole situation worse. This kind of loss really is terrible. Whoever is responsible for that arson has destroyed knowledge, to say nothing of a person's life work and livelihood. Especially since you know the owner and have been to the store, I can see how you'd feel a deeper connection to what happened here. You're right that, irrational as it may seem, we feel much more strongly about people/places/things we know.

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    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Periodically democracy is challenged. Those who would riot and loot need to face major consequences for the sake of society.

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  3. I am very glad the protests have been huge and taken place all over the country in overe 2,500 cities and towns over the senseless, brutal, yet nonchalant murder of George Floyd. And the worldwide support has been terrific. The New York Times estimates that 15 million to 26 million joined in the U.S. alone.

    And I am sad about the bookstores and loss of a life's work and of books, as I treasure them.

    But as long as police murder Black people and Latino and INdigenous callously and with immunity, there will be mass protests, and some will result in destruction of property. The Supreme Court recently upheld immunity for police officers.

    And, even with protests, it took four days for the cops to be charged.

    And looking at the recent history of police killings, how many of the perpetrators have been charged and convicted? Even with Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child playing in a park, the cop who killed him was not charged. He had been moved from a prior police force for cause, and he was rehired elsewhere. To look at Tamir Rice's beautiful face and think of his mother is just heartbreaking.

    And now the truth comes out about the police killing of Elijah McClain in Colorado and nothing was done. Protests have caused the district attorney to relook at the case.

    The anger and grief at these constant occurrences which we now see due to videos are deeply felt by millions of people here. Black Lives Matter is now supported by a majority of people.

    And there are still protests going on about Breonna Taylor's killing during a no-knock warrant scenario. A 26-year-old EMT.

    Until this killing stops and there is justice for those killed, there will be protests and some will result in the destruction that happened in Minneapolis. People have to have justice and cops have to be held accountable every single time they kill someone.

    The lack of concern on that cop's face, the nonchalance, on the cop's face as he killed George Floyd is unfathomable by anyone who cares about human life and despises bigotry. Like Black lives don't matter at all was his message.

    The systemic racism has to be uprooted and change.

    When I mentioned Elijah McClaim's killing to a friend, an AFrican-American woman in her sixties, she replied, "That could happen to any one of us." That is true, and that is chilling.

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