Mick Lowe said his disability was actually a benefit when it came to writing his soon-to-be published novel, “The Raids.”
The book is set in 1963, during a particularly violent time in Sudbury's history — the Steelworkers' raids on the then-powerful Mine Mill union.
“The Raids,” published by Montreal's Baraka Books, is due to be officially released May 15. The book, which costs $20, will be available at Chapters and online at Amazon.
An official launch and book signing will be held starting at 2 p.m. May 25 at the Steelworkers Hall.
Lowe, 67, who has penned four other books, said because he's in a wheelchair and lives at Pioneer Manor after a 2008 stroke paralysed the left side of his body, he wasn't able to do the meticulous research he put into his other works.
While he had a working knowledge of the union raids through his previous work as a journalist, Lowe said he was forced to use his imagination because of his physical limitations.
At one point, he was writing about a Mine Mill meeting, and his first inclination was to go to the library and look up the minutes of the actual meeting.
“But I can't do that because I'm disabled,” said Lowe, a former Northern Life managing editor and columnist.
“So I had to sit here and make it up. And you know what? It works fine, I discovered. So that creative leap is actually created by this disability. It enabled me to write this book. I think if I hadn't had the stroke, I might never have written it.”
Lowe said his first attempt at fiction — his 2001 book "Kit Coleman: A book of 1901," which explores the experiences of a pioneering local journalist — was “deadened” by the large amount of historical research that went into it.
He admits that writing in his present situation does have its challenges.
With one hand paralysed, he has to do all of his typing with the other, which means fixing a lot of typos.
Because he normally has nursing home staff bustling in and out of his room all day, he usually goes to bed very early, and then gets up to write from 2-4 a.m., before going back to sleep for a few hours.
He said the staff at Pioneer Manor are actually quite supportive of his writing pursuits, asking him questions about what he's working on.
“The Raids” is just the first in a trilogy.
While the first book is set in 1963, during the union raids, the second book is set in 1968, and the third during 1978, during the Steelworkers' long, bitter strike against Inco.
Lowe said he's already half done writing the second novel, which he plans to publish in a year's time. He hopes to publish the third novel a year after that.
All three novels focus on the same characters — Jake McCool, who is 19 in the first book, and his girlfriend, Jo Ann Winters. McCool, a member of the Mine Mill union, experiences the union raids first hand.
Lowe explains that in the early 1960s, Mine Mill was the only mining union in Sudbury, and thought to have communist affiliations. This was a big issue, given that it was the height of the Cold War.
“But then the Steelworkers came in and began raiding the Mine Mill union on the basis that they were pro-communist,” Lowe said.
“Many of the workers at Inco were very loyal to the old Mine Mill. It was the only union it ever had, and they loved it. They resisted very strongly the incursions by the Steelworkers union.”
Lowe said the union raids were almost like “a civil war” on the streets of Sudbury. There was “tremendous violence,” and family members were often divided against each other with their union alliances.
It's all great fodder for a novel, he said. “As you know as a good journalist, all good stories have some element of conflict,” Lowe said.