"Howard White and his Harbour Publishing have done more for regional writers, the history of the West Coast, its people, its character, its fast-fading uniqueness, than any other publisher in North America--hell, in the world." -- Barry Broadfoot

Howard White is one of the key figures in the evolution of British Columbia culture--and certainly one of the foremost figures in the rise of B.C. literature during his lifetime.

Born in Abbotsford on April 18, 1945, Howard White was raised in a series of camps and unnamed settlements, particularly at Greene's Bay and on Nelson Island, "and never got over it." Initially his schooling was correspondence courses. His upbringing was remote but not underprivileged. "I grew up pitying poor city boys," he says, "who couldn't walk a slippery boomstick without falling in the drink or tell a red cedar from a yellow cedar." Logging and literature were not necessarily antithetical. The bunkhouse ballads of Robert Swanson, the Robert Service of the West Coast, had been popular in the no-name camps for decades. "Many of the loggers I knew were well-read, they loved to recite poetry, and a lot even wrote their own ballads. I grew up thinking that writing was not a freakish occupation, though I seldom saw a book. My parents belonged to the Book of the Month Club and Dad read Steinbeck to us at night. There was no Mother Goose." In particular, White remembers an aristocratic French logger named Robert La Roix who travelled the world and liked to discourse on the classics to the gypo loggers. "That was MY logger," White once told coastal writer Tom Henry.

White later grew up in Pender Harbour, where he still lives and operates Harbour Publishing from two houses in Madeira Park. Invariably profiles of him mention he used to drive bulldozers and backhoes, or that he only reluctantly gave up his job as 'Solid Waste Supervisor of the Sanitary Disposal Unit' at the Pender Harbour dumpsite in the late 1980s. They fail to note the influence of his father, Frank White, who supplied his son with a model for do-it-yourself creativity, political savvy and hard work. "My Dad used to try and read to me from Organic Evolution and the Wealth of Nations when I was eight. In school I was nicknamed The Professor."

Having attended UBC--where he crossed paths with Scott McIntyre who later steered the Douglas & McIntrye imprint in Vancouver as White's chief competitor--White began writing in 1970 for his own newspaper, Peninsula Voice (1969-74). In 1972, he and Mary Lee began publishing the West Coast journal Raincoast Chronicles. In 1974 he published the first title bearing the Harbour Publishing imprint. "I was trying to prove that the West Coast existed, that it was a legitimate subject." He married Mary Lee in 1975.

The Whites' first book-length, hardcover compendium of Raincoast Chronicles, called Raincoast Chronicles First Five, received the Eaton's B.C. Book Award in 1976, the most prestigious literary prize in the province at the time. It has been reprinted at least ten times. The original foreword states: "Raincoast Chronicles is essentially a no-bullshit book that opens up the past of those of us living along the West Coast of Canada in a way that no other magazine has ever succeeded. No glossy tourist nonsense. No political monkeying with the facts of life. Sweat and grease and silver and salmon. Lovely yellowing old photographs. Steam engines. Diesels. Oars. Easthopes. Rigging. Donkeys."

Howard White was the president of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia from 1988-1990. His home-based firm published approximately 400 titles during its first 35 years of operation, including the Encyclopedia of British Columbia, a ten-year project that was also the culmination of a lifetime spent appreciating and building B.C. culture. The book, edited by Daniel Francis, received two B.C. Book Prizes. White's initiative earned him the inaugural Jim Douglas Award for outstanding publisher in B.C. in 2002. (Jim Douglas was the founder, in 1970, of J.J. Douglas, which later became Douglas & McIntyre.)

"I still miss outdoor work," he told the Toronto Star in 1991, "and I have a sneaking suspicion that what I do is not a legitimate way to earn a living. Someday all this paper shuffling will be found out and I'll have to get my hands dirty again." He remains a director of his family's Indian Isle Construction. White has continued to oversee individual and collected editions of Raincoast Chronicles while publishing distinctively West Coast authors such as Peter Trower, Hubert Evans and Anne Cameron. His close friendship with Garden Bay's Edith Iglauer Daly led to her bestseller Fishing With John, being adapted into a movie. She later married his father, Frank White, with whom Howard Write co-wrote two volumes of autobiography, uncredited.

Howard White is the subject of two related documentary profiles by Paul McIsaac, Books and Water (for Simon Fraser University) and Writing in the Rain (Knowledge Network). He has given many readings, some as a member of a touring stage show called Caulk Boots and Marlin Spikes.

By 2003, Harbour Publishing was one of western Canada's leading book publishers and White had self-published eight of his own books. These have ranged from labour history to poetry to children's literature. His first book, A Hard Man To Beat, documents the life and times of Bill White (no relation), the longtime Marine and Boilermakers Union president. Reprinted in 2012, it was shortlisted for George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, sponsored by Okanagan College and BC BookWorld.

The Men There Were Then pays tribute to characters of the coastal working class and his experiences growing up. Illustrated by Bus Griffiths, his Patrick and the Backhoe is about a boy who just can't resist heavy machinery. The two books he wrote for, with and about Jim Spilsbury, with Jim Spilsbury as the narrator, were both bestsellers. Although Writing in the Rain made him only the fourth British Columbian to win the Leacock Medal for humour, it's an anthology of miscellaneous articles that aren't primarily meant to be funny. He has also edited Raincoast Chronicles: Forgotten Villages of the B.C. Coast and cumulative versions of the ongoing Raincoast Chronicles series.

Howard White has long been active in provincial and community politics, campaigning against the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir powerline project ("a billion-dollar boondoggle") and succeeding in the establishment of a new marine park in Pender Harbour. He was part of a small team that raised an extraordinary donation from Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen to kickstart Canadian funding that was otherwise not forthcoming. He ran unsuccessfully for the provincial NDP in his home riding on the Sunshine Coast in 1991, gaining most of the votes on his home turf of the Sunshine Coast but unable to receive adequate support from the Powell River area where he was little-known. He has been a director on the board of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design since 1997 and the president of Pacific BookWorld News Society since 1988.

Among his many awards and honours that include the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia, he has twice been runner-up in the Whiskey Slough Putty Man Triathalon.

The Whites have two sons, Silas (b. 1977) and Patrick (b. 1981), both of whom are involved in literary careers. Silas is the publisher of Nightwood Editions; Patrick is a journalist.

In 2013, Howard White became publisher and owner of Douglas & McIntyre, adding D&M as a separate imprint, making him the foremost book publisher west of Ontario--while still operating his business from Pender Harbour.

DATE OF BIRTH: April 18, 1945

BACKGROUND: "Fifth generation BCian"


A Mysterious Humming Noise (Anvil 2019) $18 978-1-77214-141-2
Beyond Forgetting: Celebrating 100 years of Al Purdy (Harbour Publishing, 2018) $22.95 978-1-55017-846-3. Co-editor with Emma Skagen.
Raincoast Chronicles 23 (Harbour Publishing, 2015) $24.95 978-1-55017-710-7. Introduction.
The Airplane Ride (Harbour 2006). Children's book illustrated by Greta Guzek.
Raincoast Chronicles Fourth Five (Harbour, 2005). Editor -- Anthology of Issues 16-20. [Preceded by Raincoast Chronicles First Five; Raincoast Chronicles Six/Ten; Raincoast Chronicles Eleven Up]
Raincoast Chronicles 19 (Harbour, 2003) $16.95 1-55017-316-2 - Editor [Preceded by 18 issues of Raincoast Chronicles since 1972]
The Sunshine Coast: From Gibsons to Powell River (Harbour, 1996; reprinted and revised 2011) - history, with photography by Dean Van't Schip, Keith Thirkell, Allan Forest, Darren Robinson & others.
Writing in the Rain (Harbour, 1990) - humour, memoir
The Ghost in the Gears (Harbour, 1993) - poetry
Patrick and the Backhoe (Harbour) - children's picture book, illustrated by Bus Griffith
The Accidental Airline (Harbour, 1988) - history, co-written with Jim Spilsbury
Spilsbury's Coast (Harbour, 1987) - history, co-written with Jim Spilsbury
The Men There Were Then (Arsenal Pulp, 1983)- poetry
A Hard Man to Beat (Arsenal Pulp, 1983; Harbour 2012) - oral history
Raincoast Chronicles First Five (Harbour, 1976) - history. Editor.


Order of Canada (2008)
Honorary Doctorate of Law, UVic (2003)
James Douglas Publisher of the Year Award (2002)
Roderick Haig-Brown Prize (2001)
Order of British Columbia (1997)
Bill Duthie BC Booksellers' Choice Award (multiple recipient)
Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour (1991)
J.P. Wiser Award (1991)
Canadian Historical Association Career Award for Regional History (1989)
B.C. Historical Federation Certificate of Merit (1987)
Eaton's Book Award (1976)
Canadian Media Club Awards, Best Magazine Feature (1975, 1977)

[BCBW 2019] "Eaton's"

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Accidental Airline: Spilsbury's QCA
A Hard Man to Beat: The Story of Bill White, Labour Leader, Historian, Shipyard Worker, Raconteur
Raincoast Chronicles Fourth Five
Spilsbury's Coast: Pioneer Years in the Wet West
The Sunshine Coast from Gibsons to Powell