Caesar, the name still shakes the world. Moguls, barons, tycoons, raconteurs, billionaires—the world throws up these mountains of ego, ambition, and energy, and biographers, historians, and writers are left to make sense of their lives, or to pick up the wreckage around them when they leave the historical scene. Different eras have different degrees of tolerance for these larger-than-life figures.
The Cesarean impulse still beats in the hearts of some men. Conrad Black, Lord Black of Crossharbour, is almost unique over the last quarter century, at least amongst the quiet and modest Canadian tribe, in attempting to amass not just wealth, but international political influence. With considered and serious political ideas he has been active in international think tanks, conferences, and in policy groups the world over. His newspaper holdings, which at one point represented the third largest group in the world, have in many ways been a means to an end.
In this issue of Books in Canada, we have included an extensive essay devoted to the unfolding drama of Lord Black, a story that has fascinated and enthralled much of the Canadian public for the last four years. Our investigation of the Black affair begins with a literary party for a publication, the Kenyon Review, that is not unlike Books in Canada; the story spirals from there through the upper echelons of American business and politics. Small worlds intersect in unexpected ways with larger worlds.
Conrad Black, it should also be stressed, is a writer in his own right. The author of two major biographies and a forthcoming book on Richard Nixon, he is a full card-carrying member of the writing community. As an author, he deserves the same consideration we show any persecuted writer the world over—a thorough investigation of the circumstances, and when deemed necessary, an honest defense! With the popular media almost absent in its coverage of the 'other side' of the story, and with the business community either too complacent or inarticulate to say anything, it is morally incumbent on the literary 'estate' to speak out. We have stepped up to the plate in the hope that some shaft of light, some "truth" might come out of this story and influence the course of events. The story is lengthy and at times complicated, with many digressions, but we believe it warrants the unusual allotment of space. This essay is intended to spur other journalists and writers to investigate further, in a spirited effort to defend Conrad Black as his trial date approaches this March.
There are many outstanding reviews in this issue. It is a veritable congeries, with reviews of Giller Prize nominees and a number of the Governor General Literary Awards winners. We hope it offers our readers a very satisfying helping to enjoy over the holidays.
Christmas and the new year are quickly approaching, so we would like to wish all of our readers happy holidays and a great start to 07. We also wish to thank Amazon.ca and the Canada Council and Heritage for their on-going support. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!