Q&A and Giveaway with Cathy Marie Buchanan
I am extremely excited to introduce everyone to Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Day the Falls Stood Still. I reviewed it several weeks ago and have the pleasure, now, of hosting her for a Q&A. Welcome, Cathy!
1. One of the most profound aspects of the book, for me, was the deep appreciation Tom had for the river. It seemed to be almost the same spiritual relationship that many of the pro hydro-electric characters had with their church of choice. Having grown up in the area, is this an intensity and love that you share with Tom?
In The Day the Falls Stood Still Tom describes the Niagara River as “something that would cause a man walking by to stop, and maybe fill with wonder for a bit and be lifted up from the drudgery of his day.” While I cannot claim that my appreciation for the river runs quite as deep as Tom’s, I have absolutely felt the wonder he describes. I think it is the reason I wrote The Day the Falls Stood Still.
2. I loved the old photographs and stories about daredevils. I had no idea that such activities were all the rage, especially with women as the “performers”. That said, while Tom has an adventurer’s spirit and would dive head first into the falls on a rescue mission, he doesn’t seem like the kind to pitch himself over the falls in a shaky barrel for spectators. Would you say that William “Red” Hill (inspiration for Tom) followed the St. Bernard-like rescue tactics of Tom or was he more likely to need saving, himself, due to bravado?
Tom Cole, my William “Red” Hill inspired riverman, would absolutely not take part in the stunts carried out on the Niagara River. His reverence for the river ran much too high for that. Not so for Red Hill, who shot the Whirlpool Rapids in a barrel three times. The real danger in shooting the rapids is a daredevil’s barrel becoming trapped in the Niagara Whirlpool until the oxygen inside the barrel runs out and the daredevil suffocates. It’s how Maud Willard died in 1901. In one instance Red Hill did become caught in the whirlpool and did require rescuing. The oldest of his sons, Red Junior, lashed a rope around his waist and plunged into the water, eventually hauling his father’s barrel to shore. While I am reluctant to diminish Red Hill’s bravery by calling it bravado, I cannot help but wonder about the impact of his heroics on his sons. Red Junior and his brother Major both shot the rapids. Both attempted “the big drop.” Major’s trip was cut short when his barrel was tossed ashore in the upper rapids. Red Junior was not so lucky. In 1951 he plunged to his death in a barrel constructed of inflated rubber tubes, canvas and fishnets.
3. The setting hit an emotional chord for me because of the long standing mystique (both Native lore and more industrialized) of the Great Lake Basin. Is this an area you think you will write about again in the future?
Born and bred in Niagara Falls, I grew up awash in an endless stream of local lore─the Maid of the Mist and her canoe, Sir Isaac Brock and the War of 1812, Blondin and his tightrope, Annie Taylor and her barrel, William “Red” Hill and his daring rescues, Sir Adam Beck and hydroelectricity, Roger Woodward and the miracle at Niagara… With such a storied past and the staggering beauty of the falls themselves, it’s tough to definitively say that I won’t write about the area again. Still, I think I’ve told the story I wanted to tell about Niagara Falls. I’m currently working on a story set in and around the Paris Opera in the 1880s.
4. As a modern day environmentalist, I found the struggle between industry and nature really compelling. Is there still a debate between machine and conservation at the falls, today?
These days, with concern over greenhouse gasses and global warming, there does not appear to be much of a lobby crusading to preserve Niagara Falls. In 1950 the Niagara Diversion Treaty set the minimum flow over the falls at about 50 percent of the natural flow for the daylight hours of the tourist season and about 25 percent at all other times.
The treaty is still in effect, with water in excess of the minimum flows being available for diversion for hydroelectricity. Today, with existing diversion tunnel and canal capacity, the power authorities on the river contend that water beyond the legislated requirement flows over the falls 65 percent of the time.
To remedy the situation, at a cost of $1.5 billion, the world’s largest rock boring machine began cutting the largest-ever diversion tunnel − it’s six stories high − under the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 2006. It’s slated to come on line in 2013, again reducing the flow over Niagara Falls.
Thank you so much, Cathy, for such a wonderful story! If you’ve read my review (If you haven’t go do so, now. I’ll wait.) you know I was pretty gushy. It is a fantastic book, through and through. Want to read it? You’re in luck! I am giving a copy away.
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Picture caption and credits:
William “Red” Hill (right)
Credit: Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library
Credit: Library of Congress, cph 3b15325
Building Niagara’s Toronto Powerhouse
Credit: Photo courtesy of Ontario Power Generation