Author Tags: Fiction, Music
DATE OF BIRTH: 1952
PLACE OF BIRTH: Mission, BC
The Midnight Games, 2016
Commander Zero (Tightrope Books, 2012]
The Battle of the Five Spot: Ornette Coleman and the New York Jazz Field; The Mercury Press, Toronto 2006.
Chainsaws: A History; Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park 2006.
Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz (with Paul Bley); Vehicule Press, Montreal 1999.
Four-Wheeling on Southern Vancouver Island; Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park 1997.
Into the Night Life: Canadian Writers and Artists at Work (ed. with Maureen Cochrane); Nightwood Editions, Toronto 1986.
David Lee was born and raised in Mission, BC. Upon finishing English studies at UBC, he moved to Toronto where he worked for the jazz magazine Coda and with his wife, Maureen Cochrane, ran the publishing house Nightwood Editions. He also studied double bass and became active in Toronto avant-garde theatre, dance and multi-media performances, as well as touring internationally and recording with the Bill Smith Ensemble. Lee’s instrumental work, on bass and cello, can be heard on reissued Boxholder CDs with Leo Smith (“Rastafari”) and Joe McPhee (“Visitation”), and on a recent Static Airport Records CD with Kenny Baldwin (“Row Boat to China”).
Moving back to the west coast, he played in community bands, co-founded the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, wrote a Vancouver Island guidebook, and co-authored Stopping Time, the autobiography of jazz pianist Paul Bley.
David Lee received his MA in Music Criticism from McMaster University in 2004 and currently lives with his family in Hamilton, Ontario. As a freelance editor, he has been a correspondent for Coda and a frequent contributor to the Coast Independent and Geist Magazine.
In 2012, David Lee launched his first novel Commander Zero (Tightrope $19.95) about an injured, memory-less man who is revived by a rural community on the West Coast after being found unconscious and drenched in the forest. Inexplicably wifeless and nicknamed “Zero,” Joseph Windebank packs prawns at a local fish plant and gradually finds the strength to confront murky secrets and dark imaginings. 978-1926639475
In 2016, David Lee released The Midnight Games which he described as "a YA Lovecraftian horror novel, set in the gritty, postindustrial east end of Hamilton, Ontario."
[BCBW 2016] "Music"
The Battle of the Five Spot
Press Release (2006)
The Battle of the Five Spot is an engaging look at a milestone in jazz history. In 1959, when the Texas-born saxophonist Ornette Coleman brought his quartet
to New York’s Five Spot Café, the music spurred a stormy controversy, and a
struggle between old and new styles of jazz that has never quite subsided.
David Lee explores the debate around Coleman’s innovation in terms of its
relationships to social change and issues of power within arts communities, referring to such disparate sources as writer Norman Mailer (a Five Spot regular), composer Leonard Bernstein, (who leaped to his feet at the end of one Coleman set and declared that “this is the greatest thing that has ever happened in jazz”) and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. The latter’s theory of artistic “fields,” in Lee’s accomplished prose, becomes part of a unique, lively and deeply postmodern look at how and why the soft-spoken Coleman’s exciting new music changed the way jazz was played, listened to and talked about.
David Lee was born and raised in Mission, BC. Upon finishing English studies
at UBC, he moved to Toronto where he worked for the jazz magazine Coda and
with his wife, Maureen Cochrane, ran the publishing house Nightwood
Editions. He also studied double bass and became active in Toronto avant-garde theatre, dance and multi-media performances, as well as touring internationally and recording with the Bill Smith Ensemble. Lee’s instrumental work can be heard on reissued Boxholder CDs with Leo Smith (“Rastafari”) and Joe McPhee
(“Visitation”), and on a recent Static Airport Records CD with Kenny Baldwin
(“Row Boat to China”). Moving back to the west coast, he played in community bands, co-founded the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, wrote a Vancouver Island guidebook, and co-authored Stopping Time, the autobiography of jazz pianist Paul Bley. David Lee received his MA in Music Criticism from McMaster University in 2004 and currently lives with his family in Hamilton, Ontario.
-- The Mercury Press
Chainsaws: A History (Harbour $49.95)
Uncle Ned doesn’t need another hockey book about the Original Six, he can’t smoke anymore, an axe is too dangerous and these days you need a goddam license to go fishing.
So what better Yuletide surprise for an old fart, or even a young one, than, at long last, a book entirely devoted to everything you wanted to know about chainsaws but never thought to ask. From 600-pounders powered by steam to diesel units to electric chainsaws powered by generators, David Lee has researched them all for Chainsaws: A History (Harbour $49.95), an illustrated, critical guide to killing trees with metal for profit. Although he’s a jazz aficionado who has just written The Battle of the Five Spot: Ornette Coleman and the New York Jazz Field (Mercury Press $18.95) Lee, a bassist who co-founded the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, has simultaneously compiled the first-ever worldwide history of the chainsaw after moving to the Sunshine Coast where he had to maintain a wood supply for his house.
From Andreas Stihl’s experiments in the Black Forest to the rise and fall of Canada’s Pioneer brand, we learn the following cutting edge cocktail party ephemera.
1. Ed Gein, the real-life murderer (“massacrerer?”) upon whom the movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based, as well as the movies Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs, never used a chainsaw as a weapon.
2. The first chain for sawing wood was patented in 1858.
3. The first commercially produced chainsaw was the Sector, invented by A.V. Westfelt in Sweden before the First World War and driven by a flexible shaft attached to an outboard motor.
4. During WW II, Vancouver became known for producing a chainsaw called
the “Timberhog.” Powered by a motorcycle engine, it required two strong men to operate and could only be run while sitting level. If it was tilted, it stopped.
5. Marilyn Monroe got her start when she was photographed for a newspaper feature on “Women Doing War-work” while working on a wartime project using McCulloch chainsaw parts.
6. David Conover, the US army photographer who discovered Marilyn Monroe, moved to British Columbia soon after and settled on Wallace Island near Victoria, where he wrote the bestseller, Once Upon an Island. Wallace Island is now a marine park.
7. Vancouver became a world leader in chainsaw manufacturing during WW II and held that position through the 1950s, but no longer produces any saws.
8. IEL (for Industrial Engineering Ltd.) an employee-owned company in Burnaby, was one of the world’s leading chainsaw manufacturers in 1943-1956, producing the world’s first one-man chainsaw and direct-drive chainsaw, among other innovations.
9. In the 1950s there were hundreds of brands worldwide. Now two European companies, Husqvarna and Stihl, have a virtual monopoly. Husqvarna, which means “house mill” in Swedish, started as a water mill in the Middle Ages, though it didn’t make its first chainsaw until 1959.
10. Stihl, the other leading chainsaw manufacturer today, was also one of the first, having marketed its first model in 1926, but it had to start over after its factory was bombed in WWII and did not become prominent again until 1959.
Chainsaws 1-55017-380-4; Ornette 1551281236
Press Release (2011)
A former Pender Harbour resident has written a novel that’s making its debut in an innovative e-reader format—and it’s a novel totally set on BC’s Sunshine Coast.
Born and raised in Mission in the Fraser Valley, after graduating in English from UBC David Lee spent years in the Toronto art community, where he did everything from editing the jazz magazine Coda, to playing double bass and cello in avant-garde jazz groups in clubs and art galleries, to publishing books on tango music and Argentine cinema on the small press he and Maureen Cochrane founded, Nightwood Editions.
When he and Maureen returned west to live in Madeira Park from 1991 to 2002, they did a little bit of everything to support themselves and their two sons. David worked for Harbour Publishing and wrote for the Coast Independent; he packed prawns at the fish plant and deckhanded for a season on a prawn boat. He wrote a guide to Vancouver Island back roads and played upright bass with the Harbour Lights big band. He power-washed the government docks and fixed chainsaws at the lumberyard.
“We had family and good friends in Pender Harbour,” Lee says, “and Maureen and I were active in music on the coast. But a book I’d written on jazz had just been published (Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz, Véhicule Press, Montreal) and I thought I should try teaching in the community college world. I understood you needed a master’s degree to do that.”
In the hopes of improving their fortunes, he and his family packed up their Francis Peninsula home and moved from Pender Harbour to Hamilton, Ontario. Lee finished his McMaster University program, and worked in a college bookstore while revising his MA thesis into another jazz book, The Battle of the Five Spot: Ornette Coleman and the New York Jazz Field (The Mercury Press, Toronto):
His experience fixing chainsaws at the Madeira Park lumberyard led him to research and write what became a non-fiction best-seller, Chainsaws: a History (Harbour Publishing):
But all the time he had another book project on the go: a novel set in Pender Harbour, whose main character has lost his memory in an accident and is trying to reclaim the mysteries of his past. However, even though Lee was now living right outside of Toronto, he couldn’t find an interested publisher in Canada’s publishing capital.
“After all, Commander Zero is set among the working-class people of a rural west coast community—an environment totally alien to Toronto publishers. It’s no surprise—I guess—that they pretty much all reacted to ‘Zero’ with an enormous shrug.”
Then early this year, Lee got a publishing offer from a completely unexpected source. The Governor-General’s Award-winning Toronto artist John Oswald—
—had designed a new app, Watchbook, to be used on Apple smartphones. Oswald conceived Watchbook as “a new way of reading books” in which rather than the traditional page layout, the book’s text scrolls continuously at a speed controlled by the reader.
So purchasers could test-drive the app as soon as they bought it, Oswald was hoping to bundle Watchbook with a new, previously unread book. He was on a quest for a novel with “solid evocative writing, and an engaging plot” and he had heard about Commander Zero.
“John seemed to think that ‘Zero’ was just what he was looking for,” Lee says. Now Commander Zero can be read by anyone who for a modest fee, downloads Watchbook 1.0 from the Apple App Store.
From an author’s point of view, is this as satisfactory as print publication? “It’s fantastic,” says David Lee. “A writer wants to get their book read. But at the same time, I miss the publisher-writer-reader relationship that can’t be had through the Watchbook connection. You can’t autograph an e-book. You can’t sell them at readings. You can’t haunt bookstores seeing if it’s on the shelves.”
David will be able to do all that by next summer: a new Toronto publisher, Tightrope Books, has given “Zero” a spring release date:
Meanwhile, is Commander Zero the great west coast novel that Lee hoped to write? It takes place entirely on the Sunshine Coast, mostly in Pender Harbour itself. In fact as the author describes Joey, the protagonist, “he’s barely aware of any world outside of Pender Harbour. He has no memory of having been anyplace else, and he’s developed his own notions of how the universe works, which include spiritual feelings about the mountains and the ocean and their roles in the human cycle of life and death. Among other things, he believes that after death, human beings go on to a very intense afterlife deep under the sea, so that although his relationships with other people are tentative and confused, his relationship to his environment is very passionate and engaged.
“My hope is that however west coast readers view Joey, and whatever they think of the book, they’ll recognize some part of themselves in it: I hope that I’ve captured some aspect of the feeling of living on the coast.”
The new e-reader app Watchbook v1.0 is available from the Apple App Store: