Ian Wilson's blog

Welcome to the blog of Ian Wilson, author of the award-winning books on 1950s Canadian steam railway operations.

First update on Steam Scenes of Stratford

March 22, 2017

I’ve taken a short break from working full-time on Steam Scenes of Stratford to give you an update on the book’s progress.

I’m finalizing the selection of photographic images for the 48-page volume. This amounts to selecting approximately 70... an exercise I have gone through twice. Just to be sure, I’ll do this a third time.

As mentioned during the pre-launch of Steam Scenes of Stratford, the pictures to be included cover many aspects of the late steam-era at the terminal. Shots around the station, the motive power shop, yard tracks, the roundhouse area and more. On this third pass through the images, I’m taking care to select those that tell the best story of railway operations.

A large part of my work as a narrative nonfiction author is forensic in nature. In the case of organizing images for Steam Scenes of Stratford, I am going to great pains to reconstruct the exact order that negatives were exposed by the photographer whose work will encompass the vast part of the book.

By way of background, almost every steam-era photographer catalogued his negatives (or slides) by engine number or equipment type. There’s no getting around that reality... but being a rare narrative-centred author in this field, I need to undo all that classification and start fresh from a chronological point of view. Instead of presenting subject matter organized by theme (locomotives of specific type, structures, rolling stock, etc.), I present my stories in moment-by-moment detail. That re-constructing exercise is actually the single largest component of the time going into producing this book.

In terms of the narrative, that is roughly half-finished, in draft form. Once the final selection of pictures is made, and the image spreads designed, the writing will proceed.

Back in February, when we went through the pre-launch for Steam Scenes of Stratford, I was aiming to turn the book over to the printer by the end of March. Given that I am committed to producing the best possible book for you, that forecast looks a little optimistic today. What I will do is provide you with regular updates—every week or two—on the book’s progress.

PS—If you ordered one or more copies of Steam Scenes of Stratford during our online pre-launch, thank you. Ditto for those who didn’t, but took advantage of the coupon/flyer we mailed.

PPS—We will print a few extra copies of Steam Scenes of Stratford for a planned promotion in the Stratford area. As we have no idea of ascertaining local demand for the book (given an upcoming documentary movie about the steam locomotive backshop, that interest is sure to be high), it might be wise to order any copies you need ahead of time.

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