Friday 22 December 2017

The Boy on the Cover: Onni Kokko

The cover for SILENCES: A NOVEL OF THE 1918 FINNISH CIVIL WAR was designed by Heather Dickson, aka H. Leighton Dickson, a Thunder Bay writer of science fiction and fantasy--and a fine designer.

Because the internet is a magical place, it's possible to find all kinds of photos of this time in history, which I drew on extensively in setting Jussi, Karl, and Ivor in various locations in Finland.

The image above is of Onni Kokko in his uniform as a soldier in the White Army. Just 14 when he was wounded in the battle of Tampere, he died in hospital. Before he died, Mannerheim granted him the 4th Class Cross of Liberty. He was the youngest to receive this award. A photo, available online, shows him lying on his deathbed, his head wrapped in bandages, with the award on the pillow beside his head.

Another photo, also available online, shows Arvo Koivisto, a thirteen-year-old boy who served in the Red Army.

Both Onni and Arvo informed the character of Ivor, who is barely fifteen when the fighting begins.

I was pleased--if that's the right word--that Heather suggested the photo of using Onni on the cover. I wanted readers to remember that this war tore apart families.

Now Available: SILENCES

I'm pleased that my novel, SILENCES: A NOVEL OF THE 1918 FINNISH CIVIL WAR, is now available from Shuniah House Books.

Here's the back cover:

Labour Day, 1955.
Near a creek in Port Arthur, Ontario, a man's body hangs at the end of a rope. The story of the body, and its missing shoe, begins in Finland, decades earlier and an ocean away.

In January, 1918, civil war breaks out in Finland. Jussi Mantere and his friends, the Solbakken brothers--Anders, Karl, and Ivor, known as Rabbit--as well as Karl's wife, Viktoria, are swept into the fighting. The war rages for months and the county is laid waste. When peace is declared, the price of mending the fractured country is silence: to heal and forget, both victor and vanquished, White and Red, are asked to not speak of the war.

In the ensuing years, Jussi and other survivors immigrate to Canada, bringing their silence with them. In Port Arthur's summer of 1955, events set in motion in 1918 come to haunt Jussi's family. A stranger--or is it someone Jussi knows?--threatens the peace and safety of his family. Jussi must decide whether and how to break his silence about the past and its horrors, and spare his grandson the bitter burden of generations-old resentments.

In the coming weeks and months, I'll share more about the war and my reasons for writing this novel.