Interview with Larry D. Rose, author of Mobilize!

Interview with Larry D. Rose, author of Mobilize!

Posted on March 18 by Larry D. Rose
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Larry D. Rose stops by the blog today to tell us more about his book Mobilize!

Caitlyn: Tell us about your book?

Larry: The book has two main parts: first, stories of people in the armed forces before the Second World War and when the fighting broke out and, second, an inquiry into why Canada was so terribly unprepared for war in 1939.   The book started strictly as a military history but when you chase back why things happened or failed to happen in the end a lot of it goes back to political decision making.  The book is meant to be very readable so I hope people will learn something but have an enjoyable read at the same time.   Strangely enough for such a serious topic, there are actually some very funny episodes.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the idea for the book?

Larry: A few years ago I was working at CTV in Toronto and was looking for ideas for a documentary.  I thought this would be an interesting one so I started research and kind of mapped out the documentary but it turned out that CTV didn't want this kind of documentary.  It was too bad because I had found quite a number of veterans from 1939 and the pre-war years and some of them were fantastic.  They had great stories to tell and compelling views on what happened.  So when CTV wasn't interested I still thought it was a fascinating subject so I decided to turn it into a book.  I'm really glad I did because in the end I think it is a great story.

Caitlyn: How did you research your book?

Larry: I did an enormous amount of research that stretched over five years.  I went to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa and the  Directorate of History & Heritage which provided some essential material.  Previous books and journal articles on the period were also important.  But in terms of original work the 25 or so interviews with veterans were singularly valuable.  We're talking pre-1939 veterans here so there are not so many left and some have died since I talked to them.  Meeting them and talking to them was the best part of the whole thing.  However, ultimately most of my conclusions in the last two chapters are not in any book and not from any interview.  You just have to look at the evidence and then reason out why things happened.  Finally, I was so lucky because Jack Granatstein, Canada's leading military historian, took a great interest in the subject.  He looked at what I was doing and made numerous suggestions.  Without his involvement the book would not have been as solid as I believe it is.   He is a superb guy--a national treasure in my view.

Caitlyn: What was the hardest part of writing the book?

Larry: I have been a television news writer for 30 years so writing was not a problem.  However, I had never done a book.  At the same time my topic covered a wide range of material: the army, the navy, the air force and the politicians.  So weaving the all these elements together in something as long as a book was a real challenge.   It was very frustrating at times trying to keep all the elements going at the same time and have individual stories pop in and out but, in the end, it was a great experience.  I think it works. 

Caitlyn: What's the best advice you ever had as a writer?

Larry: One of the very best things about writing at CTV News was its constant emphasis on keeping people at the forefront of the story.  It's the real, gritty, human stories that are the most compelling.  So I tried to do that in the book.  It was easy to stick to the big picture and the sweep of great historical events but to me the most interesting part was how those events affected individual sailors, soldiers or airmen.   They brought the story to life.

Larry D. Rose

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
Larry D. Rose photo

Larry D. Rose

Larry D. Rose is the author of Mobilize!: Why Canada Was Unprepared for the Second World War. His articles have appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and other publications. He lives in Toronto.