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MacKinnon, J.B. 1970- (James Bernard MacKinnon)

MacKinnon, J.B. 1970- (James Bernard MacKinnon)

PERSONAL:

Born 1970; partner: Alisa Smith.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Canada. Agent—Anne McDermid & Associates, Ltd., 83 Willcocks St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 1C9, Canada.

CAREER:

Writer and journalist. Adbusters, writer and former editor.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, for Dead Man in Paradise; won three National Magazine Foundation Gold Awards for travel writing.

WRITINGS:

Dead Man in Paradise: Unraveling a Murder from a Time of Revolution, Douglas & McIntyre (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2005, New Press/ W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.

(With Alisa Smith) Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 2007, published in paperback as Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Adbusters, Explore, and Vancouver.

SIDELIGHTS:

Writer J.B. MacKinnon was born in 1970. Primarily a freelance journalist, he has served as an editor for the periodical Adbusters, and continues to contribute to that publication as well as Explore, Vancouver, and others. Over the course of his career, MacKinnon has won a number of awards, including three National Magazine Foundation Gold Awards for travel writing. His first book, Dead Man in Paradise: Unraveling a Murder from a Time of Revolution, which was published in 2005, won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction and made the short list for both the Pearson Writers' Trust Nonfiction Prize in 2006 and the second annual British Columbia Award for Canadian Nonfiction in 2006.

A memoir of sorts, Dead Man in Paradise tells of MacKinnon's experiences when he traveled to the Dominican Republic in search of information about the death of his uncle, a man he had never met but of whom he had heard stories, and whose death appeared to have occurred under suspicious circumstances. MacKinnon's uncle, Arthur MacKinnon, was a Catholic missionary working in Dominican Republic at the time that United States Marines went into the country in 1965 to put an end to the revolt taking place against the military there. Arthur MacKinnon was discovered dead, having been shot along with two policemen, in the small town of Monte Plata. The pattern of the bullets indicated that he was shot numerous times with a machine gun, as well as once at close range in the back of his jaw—most likely with a hand gun. At the time, a soldier took credit for all three of the deaths, stating he shot the men during a battle. J.B. MacKinnon, however, was unwilling to accept this simple explanation, so forty years after his uncle's death he traveled to the Dominican Republic to determine if he could learn anything more about the circumstances of his murder. The resulting book is part detective story, part murder mystery, and part travelogue, and earned MacKinnon not just the Charles Taylor Prize but comparisons to writer Graham Greene. He recounts his journey and the people he meets over the course of his investigation, including the humorous Charlie, an individual of questionable reliability whom he meets at a local police station. While MacKinnon does not find all of the answers he is seeking through his trip, he ultimately discovers a few things—primarily regarding his own faith—that are something of a surprise. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the book to be "a haunting portrait of a rich land marked by grotesque squalor, brutal inequality and an abiding thirst for social justice." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews commented that "MacKinnon is a fine storyteller and his crisp, imaginative writing is well-suited to this somewhat unorthodox detective story enmeshed in the secret history of the country's volatile politics."

MacKinnon is also the coauthor, with his partner Alisa Smith, of Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, which was later published in paperback as Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet. The book discusses the idea of eschewing modern distribution of food around the globe and instead focusing on locally grown and produced items that are fresh and come from known sources. MacKinnon and Smith set a hundred-mile radius for their effort and spent a year eating only items grown or raised in that region to the best of their abilities. The book includes information on nutrition, as well as the wide range of produce and other items that are available when one concentrates on searching for interesting foods. Christine Holmes, writing for Library Journal, found the book "an eye-opening account and a good read about the couple's particular experience."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

MacKinnon, J.B., Dead Man in Paradise: Unraveling a Murder from a Time of Revolution, Douglas & McIntyre (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2005.

PERIODICALS

Biography, January 1, 2006, Penny Williams, review of Dead Man in Paradise: Unraveling a Murder from a Time of Revolution, p. 233.

Booklist, May 15, 2007, Mark Knoblauch, review of Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, p. 11.

Canadian Book Review Annual, January 1, 2006, Liz Dennett, review of Dead Man in Paradise, p. 318.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, March 7, 2008, "100-Mile Diet Nominated for 2 B.C. Book Awards."

CNW Group, February 27, 2006, "J.B. MacKinnon Wins the 2006 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction."

Journal-World, August 1, 2007, "Traveling Light: ‘100-Mile Diet’ Limits Pollution, Supports Locally Produced Food."

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of Dead Man in Paradise.

Library Journal, June 15, 2007, Christine Holmes, review of Plenty, p. 91.

Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2007, review of Dead Man in Paradise, p. 53.

Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2006, review of Dead Man in Paradise.

Whole Life Times, May 1, 2007, Lynn Peemoeller, review of Plenty, p. 54.

ONLINE

100 Mile Diet Home Page,http://100milediet.org (July 27, 2008).

ABC Book World,http://www.abcbookworld.com/ (July 27, 2008), author profile, Shane McCune, review of Dead Man in Paradise.

Anne McDermid & Associates, Ltd. Web site,http://www.mcdermidagency.com/ (July 27, 2008), author profile.

Straight,http://www.straight.com/ (April 19, 2007), Angela Murrills, "Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon."

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