Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Dirty Dozen, with John Cooper

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John Cooper

Everything Runs Like a Movie: The Strange but True Story of Bank Robber Hermann Beier (Dundurn) by John Cooper tells the story of a charismatic Alliston, Ontario man and would-be bank robber who survived a hail of police bullets.

Today we talk to John as part of Open Book's Dirty Dozen series, where authors are invited to share twelve unexpected facts about themselves. In his responses, John speaks with us about an inheritance in retail and gambling, adventures with the Dewey Decimal system and a little light dog-whispering.

  1. I am a distant cousin of the Eaton family, of retail fame…though I am far too distant from Timothy E. to have shared in the wealth. Ah well.
  2. My dad used to call me Butch when I was a kid. I do not know the origin of that nickname. “Hey Butch!”
  3. One of my great-grandfathers, a man by the name of Dusty Harcourt, was a carny at the Canadian National Exhibition in the 1920s. Games of chance anyone?
  4. Another great-grandfather, ‘Brother Bill’ Cooper, was a tough-as-nails union leader in the early years of the 20th century.
  5. My first job was shelving books at the Don Mills Public Library. I liked working in the ‘stacks,’ a repository for out-of-circulation books. It was a pretty-much-airless room in the basement with a few small windows to let in light, floor-to-ceiling shelves and ladders-on-wheels. I would be sent to the stacks to spend an hour or more putting books in Dewey Decimal order…which I would do quickly, then settle back and read some of my favourites for the time remaining.
  6. I have several favourite authors, including Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Cormac McCarthy, and Charles Portis. Waiting for a new Portis novel to come out is like waiting for Christmas morning. Is it ever going to arrive?
  7. I have an old Underwood portable manual typewriter that my father once pawned for grocery money. It is a small reminder that people have the ability to survive in very tough times.
  8. We have woods behind our house. If it’s early in the morning and somewhere a fire truck goes by with sirens blaring, this sets the pack of coyotes that lives there howling. Quite a sound.
  9. I am no Cesar Millan, but when I was a teenager I taught Nanook, our German shepherd-Collie cross, how to go up and down a slide, climb over vertical walls, find hidden objects, etc. Basically police-dog stuff (except for the slide). Nanook would do just about anything for a Milk Bone.
  10. I read Black Like Me when I was 12 years old. It was a memorable read and a paradigm-shifting experience.
  11. I caught my first fish, a perch, at age 4 during an early morning fishing trip with my dad at Eagle Lake near Sundridge, Ontario. I ate the same fish, fried in butter, about an hour later. I will never forget the taste. Amazing.
  12. Growing up, my sister Pat had the keenest mind of anyone I knew, open to every new experience. She once brought me back a marine fossil from a mountaintop in Nepal.


John Cooper has published a number of books on African-Canadian history, including Shadow Running: Ray Lewis, Canadian Railway Porter and Olympic Athlete and Season of Rage: Hugh Burnett and the Struggle for Civil Rights. He is also the author of the teen novel The Greyhound.

For more information about Everything Runs Like a Movie please visit the Dundurn website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the Dirty Dozen interviews in our archives.

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JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications

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