Kevin Callan
Credit: Kevin Callan

I know what you’re thinking. How many books can be written about Tom Thomson’s death?

It’s a good point. I’ve read them all—including one of the best: Roy MacGregor’s Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him.

So why read the latest, Geoff Taylor’s Tom Thomson’s Last Bonfire? I’ve known Geoff for many years. He teaches in the area where I guide students at-risk. I’ve even paddled with him in remote parts of northern Quebec. So, I gave him grace when he handed his working manuscript to me a year back and asked me to give it a read.

I gotta admit, however, it sat on the coffee table for a wee bit before I started flipping the pages. I was actually reading Roy MacGregor’s book at the time. But when I did sit out on the front porch one night, with a stiff dram of Scotch, I read it from front-to-back. It’s a good read. A unique read. Refreshing.

Geoff mixes in the background of who found Tom’s body and what was going on with their lives, and their minds, at the time they found the waterlogged corpse.

Tom Thomson

“Taking him to a remote island, they stand vigil over their friend around the clock. The events of the next twenty-four hours have fuelled the speculation and intrigue surrounding Tom’s life and untimely demise for more than a century.”

Geoff is able to effectively illuminate one of Canada’s most complex and controversial icons. But so have many others. However, Geoff also captures the culture of the time when the body was found.

I was honoured to place a review on the back cover: “A great read to pull out of a canoe pack.” But Roy MacGregor’s review on the back cover says it best:

“No one owns the Tom Thomson story.  Nor does anyone truly know what happened among the several intertwined mysteries. I like to think the mystery is Canada’s to play with and be forever entertained. Geoff Taylor’s Tom Thomson’s Last Bonfire is a welcome new addition to the family of Tom mysteries.  It’s a fine read that raised some intriguing possibilities.”

Check out my interview with Geoff Taylor on my YouTube Channel: