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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Emails with Michael Christie on Greenwood, Trees and Saskatchewan

My last two posts have been about Greenwood by Michael Christie. Caught up in the book I wrote to Michael and he has replied. That exchange forms this post. I appreciate his thoughtful response and look forward to his next book.
Dear Michael

I live almost 600 km north of the prairie around Estevan, Saskatchewan.

At Meskanaw where I grew up and Melfort where I have lived as an adult we are between the plains of southern Saskatchewan where there is barely a wild tree and the evergreen forests of the north half of the province.

After university my sister moved to Oxbow, not far from Estevan, where the bare land rolled and trees were rare except for the river valleys. On an early trip there in the mid-1970’s my brother-in-law, Lynn took me to see the lone full grown tree on the prairie south of town. It was a landmark.

Where I lived near Meskanaw trees were plentiful but most were considered a wasteful use of farmland. They were bulldozed down and then gathered up into vast windrows and burned.

On our home quarter, my Dad grew bountiful crops of grain. The soil is a rich dark loam.

While many neighbours took down their wild trees Dad left a line of trees intact along the west edge of our land. He loved the outdoors and trapped for over 60 years. He wanted the wild animals of the area such as coyotes and foxes to have a safe way to cross our quarter. He also thought having the line of trees was good conservation.

After my sister and I inherited the quarter over 30 years ago we left that line of trees. My sister has been gone 20 years and I now own the quarter alone. The trees are still there. They look out of place amidst the bare fields surrounding them but I have no plans of removing them.

In the backyard of our home in Melfort my wife and I have a huge poplar tree whose branches now stretch out to almost cover our whole house.

As I write this letter I am sitting outside on our upper deck beneath the branches of that tree. While its seed pods and bits of branches and leaves to be raked in fall can be irritating I love listening to the wind blowing through the leaves and the birds around me. There is a sense of peace sitting below a grand tree I feel nowhere else.

Your book reflects the ambivalence of our country towards trees. From greatly valued to disdained trees are very much at the heart of the Canadian identity. I love that a red maple leaf is the symbol by which the world knows Canada.

Thank you for writing Greenwood and making Saskatchewan part of the story. I have posted my thoughts on the book (plot and physical book) on my blog. Links are below. 

All the best.


(I will be putting up this letter as a post in a couple of days. If you are able to reply and willing to have the response posted I will include it in that post or a later post.)
Hi Bill,

Thanks for your patience with regards to my reply. A great and thoughtful message such as yours certainly doesn't deserve a quick, formulaic response. And these things take time, especially when I'm at home with young kids who are climbing all over me, as though I myself were a tree!

But it's truly wonderful to hear from someone who knows the plains of Southern Saskatchewan as well as you do. Your phrase "where the bare land  rolled" is so perfect, I wish I'd written in myself. And it's just fascinating to hear your own family's history with farming and with the few trees of the area. Your dad sounds like a sharp guy, and I'm so pleased to hear that that line of trees has survived to this day. This is very much what Greenwood is about, our ever-evolving concept of our relationship with the natural world, from subsistence, to exploitation, to appreciation, to interconnectedness. Sounds like your father had evolved well ahead of his time.

I'm writing to you from Galiano Island, from a little timber frame house that I built mostly myself (I hired a proper electrician, because I don't have a deathwish!) The house is done now, but I still take great delight in various carpentry projects that I can take on, when I'm not writing. But I share that same sense of peace and tranquility when sitting among trees that you describe, and I too feel it nowhere else. And you're right about the way that our trees and forests are bound to the Canadian identity, from the maple leaf on down. It brings me great pleasure that this book is being published internationally (Germany in a couple months), and I get to share that sense of awe with the world. It's very rewarding.

It was great fun to write about Saskatchewan in this book. I've never lived there, but in my youth, I spent a good deal of time in the Estevan area and it made a huge impression on me. I've also passed through on my numerous cross-Canada journeys (once on a freight train, but that's a story for another time...), and I was always utterly astounded by the place. It's magical. And I just hope I captured an ounce of that magic in my book.

Thanks again for reaching out, Bill, and for reading and reviewing my book. It's the best part of being a writer, hearing from such interesting and engaged folks as yourself. And please stay in touch!


Michael Christie
Galiano Island


  1. Thank you, Bill, for sharing your emails. I love the way you both describe the land, the trees on it, and the way they fit into life in Saskatchewan. Both of you offer vivid pictures and clear mental images. Trees really are an integral part of our lives, and we think about them in different ways, depending on the sort of land it is.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I hope you write about trees in one of your posts.

  2. These two emails combine to make a fantastic post about trees and nature. And a great picture of Saskatchewan. Thanks for sharing them with us, Bill.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the kind words. I enjoy living in Saskatchewan. Greenwood made me think about trees which led me to think about life.

  3. It must be a beautiful part of the world to live in. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    1. Col: Thanks for the comment. I am glad to live in Saskatchewan. Our climate is demanding especially during harsh winters. Some find monotony in plains and forests. I find a lot of beauty in our province in the space and trees of our land. Our provincial motto is "Land of Living Skies".

  4. What a wonderful exchange with the author! Your and Tracy's enthusiasm for the book are tempting me to read it although it is not my usual thing. And what crazy people don't appreciate trees, especially as the world gets warmer and warmer?

    1. CLM: Thanks for the kind words. It is an exceptional book. I hope you read it. I have always valued trees.