Reviews & Press – Loyalists

Praise for Loyalists and Layabouts

“Kimber provides a vivid portrait of men and women — from once-wealthy gentry to former slaves — and their struggles to make their lives over are both comic and tragic… He has drawn not only on secondary sources, but on the diaries and correspondence of a wonderfully mixed cast of characters, from British army administrators to literate former black slaves, freed by the British for fighting on their side in the Revolution… Burgoyne, Clinton, Cornwallis and Carleton all make cameo appearances, but what really makes Kimber’s storytelling especially effective is his use of the papers of the central figures, like the versatile businessman Benjamin Marston, the passionately Christian ex-slave Boston King and John Parr, the gout-ridden, hot-tempered governor of Nova Scotia. Their stories are skilfully combined to make an integrated account of a colourful pilgrimage, taking his heroes and heroines from their uneasy days in the triumphant and hostile new revolutionary America, to their hopeful and energetic strivings in Shelburne, to what became of them when the once ambitious colony began to disintegrate. He offers a fascinating might-have-been in the history of Canada.”
— Neil Cameron
Montreal Gazette/National Post
August 23, 2008

“A thorough gallop through the town’s history, and a lovely romp it is, with the town and its sad-sack history front and centre… Kimber tell this story with great panache. The characters he has chosen all contribute lively bits to the tale…. A tale well told.”
— Marq De Villiers
The Globe and Mail
July 19, 2008

“Stephen Kimber can bring life to long-dead figures of history and give long-forgotten events a ‘breaking news’ quality… It is one thing to build a life and setting around one or more historic figures and places but imagination needs to be firmly rooted in at least some fact. Conjecture has its limits. As well, not all historians, thorough though they may be, can write entertainingly of their work… Kimber set out to ‘reconstruct’ Port Roseway/Shelburne. He looked at the details of Shelburne’s Loyalist history from a journalist’s perspective. The result is almost as though he had interviewed such figures as Benjamin Marston, Sir Guy Carleton, and others who played key roles in the early days of the town.”
— Lorna Inness
Halifax Chronicle Herald
July 20, 2008

“Impeccable research, along with Kimber’s eye for detail and engaging style, make Loyalists and Layabouts a must-read.”
— Joyce Glasner
The Beaver
August-September 2008

“A lively and surprising account… a comprehensive and at times poetic narrative.”
Michael Goodfellow
Atlantic Books Today
Fall 2008

“Always entertaining and informative, Halifax journalist-extraordinaire Stephen Kimber marks the 225th anniversary of the Loyalist landings in Canada with a colourful account of the decades-long hopes, dreams and decline of those who chose to settle on Nova Scotia’s south shore. Told through several narrative voices of early settlers, Loyalists and Layabouts is a fascinating perspective on all that went wrong and right at one of the world’s foremost harbours near Roseway Bay.”
— Stephen Clare
Halifax Magazine
June 2008

“If you want a book that evokes an era of Canada’s past that is dramatic but little known, this is an enjoyable entry into a fascinating world.”

— William Christian
Guelph Mercury
June 28, 2008

“Kimber achieves a surprising intimacy and helps us understand that the reactionary at times requires as much courage and imagination as the revolutionary.”
— Ben Fried
Canadian Geographic
July/August 2008

“What a splendid tale of our Loyalist and our layabout ancestors, summed up in the tragicomic settlement of Shelburne… Kimber’s eye for diverse and fascinating characters is an overdue reminder of the price white Loyalists paid for the choice to remain impoverished but faithful subjects of George III. Black slaves paid an even higher price, gaining freedom at the cost of justice, equality or respect. No one who reads this book can ever again be comfortable with ancestral stereotypes.”
— Desmond Morton
Hiram Mills Professor of History (Emeritus)
McGill University

“Using the narrative style popularized by nineteenth century historians, Kimber draws us through an engaging – and sometimes very painful – non-fiction accounting of the awkward birth and sad decline of a town which never filled the great, optimistic promise held for it 225 years ago. His ease and familiarity with the material is obvious and his genuine interest in the lives of his subjects shines though in the 300-plus pages… Kimber deftly threads their individual stories into a very workable tapestry of the first tumultuous decade of the town, we see glimpses of Sir Guy Carleton, Stephen Blucke, David George, the Robertson and Sword brothers, Gideon White, Edward Winslow and dozens more. The fast-paced narrative moves between characters and time frames and we watch as best intentions of seemingly earnest people often come to calamity or other unproductive ends… Stephen Kimber’s Loyalists and Layabouts should be essential reading for anyone who has a real interest in how Shelburne became the place we now call home.”

— Timothy Gillespie
South Shore & Shelburne County Today
May 2008

“This book is a must read for anyone wanting to better understand the forces that shaped our country, Canada and our neighbour to the south, the United States of America, and as well, Great Britain.”
— Logan W. Bjarnason
President, Regina Branch
United Empire Loyalists Association

“Prodigious research, a dash of imagination and an engaging literary style make Loyalists and Layabouts an interesting and informative romp through the American Revolution and Shelburne’s first decade. Extensive use of diaries, letters and first-person accounts allows Stephen Kimber to present his narrative from the perspective of the historical actors themselves. Visitors to Shelburne and townsfolk alike will be enchanted with this vigorous tale of the city’s hopeful rise and precipitous decline. The book is a delightful and satisfying read and a serious contribution to Loyalist studies, with appropriate attention to the formerly enslaved Black Loyalists who built much of Shelburne’s initial infrastructure.”
— James W. St.G. Walker,
University of Waterloo
author of The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone

“In Loyalists and Layabouts, Stephen Kimber explores the immigrant dream gone spectacularly wrong: how 15,000 Americans flowed into Shelburne, Nova Scotia, in 1783 to build ‘the envy of the American states’ — only to see their aspirations ebb away like the Nova Scotia tide.”
— Christopher Moore
Governor-General’s award-winning author of The Loyalists

“… Opening the pages of this book is the type of thing H.G. Wells dreamed of when he wrote The Time Machine, but without actually disturbing the time continuum… [He] uses the actual diary entries, memoirs or letters written by those who appear in the narrative. He peppers the quotes so effortlessly into the events, we can hear the actual voices of people like Sir Guy Carleton – General George Washington’s British adversary. [He] follows a wide range of figures in his narrative, from David George, a freed slave who became a Baptist preacher, to Edward Winslow, a Mayflower descendent who petitioned Sir Guy Carleton for grants of land due to the British regiments on behalf of the men who had fought for the king. We meet Margaret Watson, a camp follower (army wife) whose first husband died in battle and who remarried his friend, a fellow captured soldier. And John Parr, Governor of Nova Scotia, a veteran of the Battle of Culloden in the Scottish highlands, a career soldier and eventual colonel promoted to Major of the Tower of London, and then on to the governorship of Nova Scotia.
— Julia M. Smith
A Piece of My Mind
May 28, 2008