Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Award-Winning Author Don Reddick And "Killing Frank McGee"

A portion of this article first appeared in the November 2010 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper.

Every November 11th, we honour and remember our soldiers, men and women that have sacrificed so much, allowing us to continue to live in a free and democratic society. There are many accounts of these sacrifices, but one book that captures the pain and terrible losses of war is award-winning author Don Reddick’s Killing Frank McGee.

Frank McGee is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and played with the famous Ottawa Silver Seven; a team that dominated the early days of hockey. Many consider McGee to be one of the greatest hockey players that ever hit the ice. In Killing Frank McGee, a work of historical fiction, Reddick chronicles McGee’s life and death from the point of view of his coach, Alf Smith, and a young private in the Canadian Forces in World War I - William Kinnear.

“If you go to the Hall of Fame, they have a plaque that says, ‘Frank McGee - Ottawa Silver Seven star, killed on September 16, 1916’ and that’s it,” Reddick explained on the telephone from his home in Vermont.

“I come from a big hockey town - Norwood, Massachusetts, and I grew up during the 60’s. Five guys were killed in Vietnam during that time and no one in my town can probably remember their names, but they can all remember the name of Richie Hebner (Hebner survived Vietnam and went on to have an 18-year career in Major League Baseball). I thought that it was quite remarkable that the guys that give their lives are kind of forgotten and athletes are exalted. In Frank McGee you have both of these realms come together; it is quite a story.”

“For me it became very personal. I used to deliver the Patriot-Ledger, and I actually delivered on my paper route to the Hebner household and a block further was the Fitzgerald household. Fitzgerald was one of the guys that was killed. I vividly remember to this day, when I would go collecting, they had built a shrine to their son, with a picture of him in his Marine uniform sitting on the mantle, surrounded by flowers and candles. I would find his father sitting there in the dark staring at it. That’s something that I have never forgotten.”

The accounts of Kinnear’s life in the trenches during World War I and his chance encounter with Frank McGee on the battlefields of France are incredibly moving. The camaraderie of the soldiers and the absolute horrors of war are depicted in stunning detail and realism.

Don Reddick
“I think you have to love to read in order to write,” said Reddick. “I read over 35 books about World War I. Specifically about a lot of the Canadian angles, which as an American, I didn’t know as well as I might have, so there was a tremendous amount of research that went into it. With McGee, it was even more so because I found that even his family knew nothing about him.”

“Not only did they not know how he died, they didn’t know where he died, other then that it was at the Battle of the Somme. There was a lot of mystery surrounding the guy, once I get a project I take it to heart, and I want to do a good job. I went to France and we were actually able to figure out what happened to McGee.”

“The thought behind the whole thing was that so many guys died, millions died in that war. There was a conscious effort to show the other side of it, that these were regular every-day kids that went to war and never came back.”

In telling the story of Frank McGee through the eyes of Smith and Kinnear, Reddick has created a vivid, realistic account of life in the trenches, and he received a tremendous compliment from a very knowledgeable reader.

“Books of this nature don’t make you rich and famous, so a lot of the satisfaction is in the smaller things. I received an email from a member of the Canadian Air Force and he mentioned that he thought every Canadian kid should read the book. Something like that is a bit overwhelming; to get a letter like that validates all of the work. That is a wonderful thing.”

Thank you to Don for sharing his thoughts with Main Street, and thank you to all of our veterans for their service and sacrifices. Whether it is November or July, when you meet a veteran, take a moment, shake their hand and say thank you! Have a great sports day everyone.

For more information about Don Reddick and his wonderful books, visit his website at http://www.donreddick.com/.

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