Long Shots

A Nova Scotia native, Trevor J. Adams is the editor of Halifax Magazine. With more than a decade's experience in the business, Trevor has hundreds of magazine articles under his belt and has co-authored two previous books, Today's Joe Howe, and Atlantic Canada's 100 Greatest Books. Adams’ latest effort is Long Shots, an engaging and entertaining examination of the development of early hockey in Atlantic Canada and the four Maritime clubs that competed for hockey's greatest prize, the Stanley Cup.

What inspired/motivated you to tell this story?
I became a hockey fan around age 10 and right away, got really interested in the sport's history. One year my brother gave me a book called "The Stanley Cup" by D'arcy Jenish for Christmas. In it, he mentioned these Maritime teams that challenged for the Stanley Cup in the early 1900s. There was hardly any detail, just this one little mention, but the idea of teams from Halifax, New Glasgow, Moncton and Sydney playing for the Cup just captivated me. It rolled around in my head for years and as I got older, I started researching the teams a bit, just gathering data. I didn't really have a book in mind. I just wanted to learn more about them. Then about four years ago, my research led me to a woman named Bev Wigney, who lived in Arizona. She was the grand-daughter of a player from one of those teams. She had a trove of information she shared with me--his unpublished memoirs, newspaper clippings, personal letters and more. I spent a few months looking at all this, and the information I'd gathered over the years, and realized I was about 75% of the way to a book already. There was a good story here, and I just needed to do a bit more research and then I could tell it.

Did the work come together quickly or did you really need to work at it?
It wasn't quick, but it wasn't arduous either. It was more of a steady process of chipping away at it. There always seemed to be more research to do, and everything I found led me somewhere else. There were a lot of tangents that were fascinating but they led away from the story I was trying to tell. It took a couple of drafts, each much shorter than the previous, before I drilled down to that core story. It was a lot of sifting and sorting and rewriting and editing, but that's all just part of the process.

What was the most challenging aspect of the process?
It was really important to me that Long Shots be factually accurate. But when you're dealing with events that happened a century ago, it's difficult to ever be sure just what's true. I had a wealth of information to draw on but even then, accounts often differed. Newspapers would spell players' names differently, sometimes in the same story. Team names were "unofficial" and often varied from account to account, and seemed to change every couple of years. Unpublished memoirs were a great source of information, but sometimes said things that were clearly contradicted by other records. It required a lot of sifting through research, fact-checking, confirming and reconfirming everything. Fortunately, I got some great guidance from historians like George and Darril Fosty (authors of Black Ice) and Phil Pritchard at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. You know the guy in the white gloves who carries out the Stanley Cup when it's presented to the winning team? That's Phil.

What was the most rewarding part of the experience?
It's incredibly rewarding to finally tell a story I've been carrying around for so long. Long Shots is a book I've wanted to read for as long as I've been hockey fan, so it's a hell of a thrill that it finally exists, and that I wrote it.

What did you learn during the process?
I learned a ton about seeing through the clutter to your core story. I had an editor at Nimbus, Patrick Murphy, who was great about identifying all the extraneous bits, and really helping me keep the story focused and well paced.

How did you feel when the book was completed?
Relieved. I've been carrying this story around in my head for a long time. It's nice to have it out.

What has the response been like so far from those who have read it?
I haven't heard any actual reviews yet but people I know who have read it seem to enjoy it. A coworker told me she'd read Long Shots even if she didn't know me, which is pretty decent feedback.

What made you want to be a writer?
It's not something I ever really thought about being, really. It just kind of happened. I always enjoyed writing and I had a high-school English teacher named Faye Haley who felt I had a bit of talent in that respect, and really pushed me to do more with it. But I never thought 'Yeah, I want to be a writer.' I studied journalism in university, worked in magazines after I graduated and then these chances to write just flowed from that. It's not a path I consciously chose but in retrospect, I can't imagine how it could have gone any other way. Sometimes life just works the way it's supposed to.

What makes a good book?
I suppose that really depends on the reader. If you're just looking for some fun escapism, it'll be one thing. If you want to be challenged and learn something new, it'll be something else entirely. For me, the mechanics of the writing have a lot to do with it these days. I'm on a real Patrick O'Brian kick these days, mostly because the way he writes just blows my mind. No one should be allowed to use a semi-colon until reading a couple of his books. He crafts these incredibly intricate sentences, but every word, every clause, advances the plot. He's such an efficient writer.

What are your thoughts on the current state of Atlantic Canadian literature?
It's really inspiring to see all the great literature that's produced here, all the time. Both commercially and artistically, there are so many cool things going on here. And it's such a collegial group. When I was working on Long Shots, I got some fantastic advice from Steve Vernon. Silver Donald Cameron is always so gracious and encouraging.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
In journalism school, I learned copy-editing from a ruthlessly blunt professor. Every conversation with him was humbling, and he taught me a lot. But what it all came to was: Master the fundamentals. Read books like Elements of Style and On Writing Well. New writers often feel like they don't need to worry about those nitpicky things like grammar and sentence structure. Those aren't just airy academic ideas; they're essential to effective communication. If you can't effectively communicate an idea, your writing ambitions will never come to anything. Once you master the form, you can violate it, but master it first.

What's next on your creative agenda?
I have a couple historical non-fiction ideas rattling around in my head and I'm sort of feeling an itch to start working on one. I've been outlining and researching a couple ideas. The most promising one is set about two centuries ago in colonial Nova Scotia. It's hard to say how it's going to turn out, but I think I'll be working seriously on it soon.

Long Shots will be launched, Monday, October 15, at 5pm at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame