After his twenty years as columnist for the Times Colonist, the first book by Jack Knox, Hard Knox: Musings From the Edge of Canada (Heritage House), was shortlisted for the $15,000 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Another B.C. contender in 2017 was John Armstrong for A Series of Dogs (New Star). The previous Leacock winner was Susan Juby of Nanaimo for Republic of Dirt: A Return to Woefield Farm.

Knox was raised in the B.C. interior, and worked at newspapers in Kamloops, Regina, and Campbell River before joining the Times Colonist in 1988. His second compilation of columns will be called Opportunity Knox: Twenty Years of Award-Losing Humour Writing.

Advertised as a treasure trove of West Coast wit, Hard Knox (Heritage House, 2016) is a collection of writing by Jack Knox who refers to Vancouver Island as an "Island of Misfit Toys." He writes that it's a place where millennials and elders pay more for their bikes than their cars, Albertans come in droves for a double dose of craft beer and culture shock, and any single man who still has some teeth is referred to as "a catch." In the book's dedication, Knox thanks someone named Lucille, "who has stuck with me for more than thirty years. I question her judgment."

Marijuana in rats. Canada's fertility rate. Swearing politicians. The best of Knox's humour columns for the Victoria Times-Colonist make for delightfully terse reading in Opportunity Knox: Twenty Years of Award Losing Humour Writing (Heritage House $19.95). The subtitle is an oblique reference to the fact that his previous book Hard Knox was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour but didn't win. His bio states: "Women adore him. Men want to be him. His hobbies including playing in a rock-and-roll band, being awesome and self-delusion."


On The Rocks with Jack Knox: Islanders I Will Never Forget
by Jack Knox (Heritage House $19.95)

Review by Keith Norbury

It’s often said that journalism represents the first draft of history. As a reporter, editor, and columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist daily newspaper for the last thirty years, Jack Knox has written early drafts of a lot of the recent history of Vancouver Island and its satellite islands.
Best known as a humour columnist —his two previous books were long-listed for the Leacock Medal—Knox also has a knack for serious reportage. However, in the vein of Mark Twain and Matt Taibbi, Knox knows how to turn a phrase in On The Rocks, and will frequently colour even his most serious writing with bon mots:

“I will die contented if I never have to write another word about sewage treatment.”

More often, descriptions wax toward poetry: “You can actually sniff out a good beachcombing tide, one where the telltale odour of rotting seaweed and other flotsam is carried on the south winds hammering in from the open ocean.”

That’s Knox paraphrasing Barry Campbell about how he hunts down Japanese glass fishing floats that drift ashore on the west coast. “It smells like glass balls are coming,” Knox quotes the beachcomber, who once found 36 of the treasures on a single day in 1987.

On The Rocks consists of portraits of memorable folks Knox has stumbled across during the last three decades. Many of them are people he bumped into while travelling to remote parts of the islands with Times Colonist photographer Debra Brash.


Keith Norbury has worked full-time as a journalist since 1986.


Hard Knox: Musings from the Edge of Canada (Heritage House, 2016) $19.95 9781772031492

Opportunity Knox: Twenty Years of Award Losing Humour Writing (Heritage House, 2017) $19.95 978-177203-208-6

On The Rocks with Jack Knox: Islanders I Will Never Forget (Heritage House, 2018) $19.95 978-1772032666

[BCBW 2018]