The Tinsmith

By (author): Tim Bowling
ISBN 9781926972435
Softcover | Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Book Dimensions: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
320 Pages

About the Book

During the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, Anson Baird, a surgeon for the Union Army, is on the front line tending to the wounded. As the number of casualties rises, a mysterious soldier named John comes to Anson’s aid. Deeply affected by the man’s selfless actions, Anson soon realizes that John is no ordinary soldier, and that he harbors a dangerous secret. In the bizarre aftermath of the Battle of Antietam, this secret forges an intense bond between the two men.

Twenty years later on the other side of the continent, Anson discovers his old comrade-in-arms is mysteriously absent, an apparent victim of the questionable business ethics of the pioneer salmon canners. Haunted by the violence of his past, and disillusioned with his present, Anson is compelled to discover the fate of his missing friend, a fate inextricably linked to his own.

“Altogether, a story of impressive scope, and bristling with action.” —Jack Matthews, author of The Gambler’s Nephew

About the Author(s)

Tim Bowling is the author of ten collections of poetry, two works of non-fiction, and five novels including The Tinsmith. A native of the West Coast who now lives in Edmonton, Tim has received many honours for his writing, including a Canadian Authors Association Award, two Governor General's Award nominations, a fellowship for his entire body of work in prose and poetry from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and four Alberta Book Awards.


The Tinsmith begins and ends in blood. Between, the harrowing, stunning new novel by Edmonton writer Tim Bowling is a powerful, haunting evocation of friendship and cruelty, of grace and inhumanity, of violence and beauty.” —Globe and Mail

“A haunting tale of quiet courage and friendship in the face of racism, corruption and cruelty that runs from the Battle of Antietam to a remote fishing village in British Columbia…Dynamic, dazzling.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Elegantly written, with characterizations and setting descriptions that paint vivid pictures in the mind…this mix of historical novel and mystery should be recommended to all readers of Civil War fiction.” —Booklist

“[A] riveting tale . . . Bowling captures the unrelenting sensory assault of war and industry as they combine in a sort of amoral apotheosis . . . A powerful and emotionally wrenching book.” —Quill & Quire

The Tinsmith is a provocative, ambitious, exciting story . . . [it] delves with guileless courage into the quagmire of past racial conflict, and will be read and recalled with that admirable quality in mind.” —Literary Review of Canada

“Tim Bowling’s . . . descriptive powers take flight . . . his amazing ability to draw cringe-inducing characters is gripping and memorable.” —The Vancouver Sun

“The most interesting sections of The Tinsmith, which take place during a turf war among the upstart salmon canneries in frontier-era British Columbia, give the book a heart that’s undeniably Canadian . . . there’s something wonderful about the way these ruthless cannery owners give a little added mythological heft to Canada’s west coast.” —Edmonton Journal

“Like any general, Bowling is bold at times, but his attacks are on the mark and his theme strikes the heart of the reader.” —Salon Books, Telegraph-Journal

The Tinsmith is filled with beautiful and vivid imagery . . . The American Civil War, of course, has been written about over and over, but Bowling has a special dark and delicate touch with his treatment of the mad carnival of those times, with its blood and guts, society ladies and grasping businessmen, valour and cruelty. He captures moments from one of the worst periods in the history of this continent.” —The Winnipeg Review

“A story as much about society’s heavy hand on our backs as the universal human struggle for acceptance in the face of cultural prejudice . . . Bowling creates a bucolic backdrop stained with the reality of war. Lyrical prose enhances a setting the reader falls into.” —Alberta Views

“This vivid and passionate novel opens with the American Civil War, where after the battle of Antietam, we’re told that men ‘moved among the dead and wounded slowly as wasps over rotted fruit’; it’s such writing that makes Tim Bowling’s novel memorable—that, and its range, for it ends nineteen years later in western Canada, with two of the major characters. Altogether, a story of impressive scope, and bristling with action.” —Jack Matthews, author of The Gambler’s Nephew

“An odyssey that spans a continent—from the civil war battlefields, to the British Columbia salmon canneries, The Tinsmith is an ambitious and spellbinding read.” —Helen Humphreys

“A fascinating story, really well told.” —Nikki Tate, CBC’s All Points West book club

“Lyrical in both its beauty and its horror, The Tinsmith reveals a writer at the height of his powers. From the battlefields of the American Civil War to the salmon canning wars in British Columbia, Bowling creates vivid worlds that move us. In John Dare—the heir to both of these conflicts—we meet a character of great moral complexity, a man trying to come to grips with the mystery at the heart of his identity. Bowling’s vision is grand, fierce, and bloody.” —Jury Citation, 2012 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize