To Climb a Mountain: Growing up in the Canadian West Adventure Amid Turmoil: Book Review

By Jean Forbes-King


“To Climb a Mountain: Growing Up in the Canadian West Adventure Amid Turmoil” is a memorable book. It brings to life circumstances most of us will never personally experience, such as wrangling with a grizzly bear and panning for gold. The book follows the form of a classic Bildungsroman (novel of personal development), though “To Climb a Mountain” is not technically a novel. It falls somewhere between fact and fiction. The story is based on conversations and tapes provided by the subject, Bill Forbes-King, and is fleshed out in a spirited telling by his wife, Jean. In the book, young Bill Forbes-King confronts and survives challenges that mold his character. He struggles, stumbles and, ultimately, prevails.

“To Climb A Mountain” is not a perfect book. There are structural issues that disrupt the narrative flow. This is not a fatal flaw. The virtues of the book outweigh its defects. As I finished reading “To Climb a Mountain”, I thought of an artist I had recently discovered, Clementine Hunter.

Neither Bill Forbes-King nor Clementine Hunter had the benefit of an advanced education. Hunter worked as a manual laborer. Through her days of physical labor she observed her environment. These observations she immortalized in paintings that lacked technical expertise but that revealed, brilliantly, the world in which she lived. From her pictures, we see her world.

Bill Forbes-King, also, gives an unsophisticated, unfiltered view of his world. Though his wife wrote this book, it is his young voice – adventurous, naive and discovering – that comes through.

Forbes-King began life with few advantages. He never knew his father, a WWI vet who died before his son was born. Forbes-King and his mother leave their native England and migrate to Canada. After years of struggling to support her son, the mother dies while the boy is still a teenager. At this point, the orphan is put into the foster care system. Here he has a varied experience, not all of it positive.

At 17, with WWII raging, Bill Forbes-King decides to join the battle. He signs up for service and is shipped out to Europe. For a good part of the book, readers are given eyewitness accounts of this young soldier at war. His war accounts are some of the most dramatic in the narrative.

Upon his return home, at war’s end, Forbes-King transitions to civilian life with nothing but his wits and survival skills to support him. He takes a series of positions, mostly in the Canadian West, where he meets a host of colorful characters.

While “To Climb a Mountain” could use some reorganization and editing, it is a distinctive and original book. Ms. Forbes-King is a good writer. She offers readers a credible and entertaining account of her husband’s life. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to readers.


A. G. Moore July 6, 2017

North Korea’s Hydrogen Adventure and The Atomic Age: A Look Back at History

By A. G. Moore

nagasaki blast scaled for site
Atomic Cloud Rising Over Nagasaki, August 9, 1945 Photo credit: Hiromichi Matsuda (松田 弘道) August 9, 1945

It was June, 1942.  The world was at war.  In Europe, the war had begun in 1939; in the US active engagement had not begun until 1941.  Fighting was fierce and the outcome uncertain. After much prodding by scientists, including Albert Einstein, US President Franklin Roosevelt agreed to approve development of an atomic bomb. Thus commenced The Manhattan Project.

A debate about the location of the project ensued.  It was eventually decided that physical construction of the bomb would take place in a remote location–Los Alamos, New Mexico. This was to be a top-secret effort, joined by scientists from several nations.

Work proceeded feverishly.  The race was on, participants believed, to beat the enemy in the development of a catastrophic weapon.  They were convinced that whoever got the weapon first would likely win the war. When researchers thought they finally had a workable bomb, many wondered if they should test it. Would the world blow up? This was a question actually asked by one of the researchers, Edward Teller.

On July 16, 1945 the first atomic bomb was detonated in Los Alamos. Though a few scientists thought the device might not work at all, Enrico Fermi, a lead scientist, took bets on whether or not the explosion would ignite the atmosphere. He speculated that if this happened it was possible that not only New Mexico would be incinerated, but also that the world would be destroyed. While some colleagues thought Fermi was jesting, it was seriously considered that the bomb could turn the whole planet into a bomb.

Nonetheless, scientists proceeded with the detonation.  As it turned out, they did have a workable bomb. The results of their labor–the first atomic bomb in history–was given to politicians. At this point, WWII in Europe was over.  Germany had surrendered in May of ’42.  Germany’s defeat allowed the US and its allies to focus energies on the remaining opponent, Japan.
Throughout the war there had been two fronts, one in Europe, against Germany and the other in the Pacific, against Japan. Japan was a tenacious and fierce opponent. As German forces withdrew, Japan fought on and showed no intention of bowing before an invading army.

Faced with a grueling and bloody ground assault, the US decided to choose a more efficient road to victory over Japan.  On August 6, 1945 the atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  Two days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Some observers estimate the number of deaths from the Hiroshima blast to have been about 135,000 and from the Nagasaki blast to have been about 75,000.  Neither of these figures include long-term exposures to the blast.

The Japanese quickly surrendered.  Faced with what appeared to be the obliteration of their nation, they agreed to almost every demand made of them.   WWII came to an abrupt end and the world entered a new era: the Atomic Age.


Much of the above essay was adapted from the book, What is Radioactivity? The Basics, which is a Rhythm Prism publication.

Churchill, A Necessary Leader

By A. G. Moore

Winston Churchill, 1899, as he made a triumphant appearance after escaping from a Boer prison of war camp.

If there are people marked by history to play large roles in the course of human events, Winston Churchill was surely one of these. It might be said that fate was a constant companion on his remarkable path, but in each instance, when fate offered opportunity it was Churchill who gave the final measure. He was audacious, brilliant and ambitious. His character and experience prepared him ideally for the most important task of his life: to hold the British nation fast when all others had fallen before advancing German forces in WWII.

Winston Churchill’s political career began inauspiciously in 1899 when he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Parliament. This was not to be his only electoral defeat. Over a career that spanned more than 50 years there were failures and successes. There were missteps and achievements. Some of the qualities that led to the missteps were among those which allowed him to lead steadfastly and dramatically during the grim days of WWII.

Churchill was tempered by war. He was attracted to military action and at times placed himself in the front line of battle when more secure environments were open to him. By the time Churchill had won his first seat in Parliament he’d seen action in the Sudan, the Northern Frontier (in what is today Pakistan) and South Africa. In the last of these campaigns he earned instant international notoriety by negotiating an escape from a Boer prison of war camp after a brief period of captivity (4 weeks). In each of his military engagements, death was a distinct possibility; it was a consequence suffered by many of his companions–but not Churchill.

Throughout his career Churchill’s political decisions were shaped by a mindset that held firm to the idea of British empire and an inclination to favor war over negotiation. Long before WWI, in anticipation of German ambitions, he advocated for the building of a strong navy. He did so, some believe, at the expense of developing a powerful ground capability. His strategy, it is widely suggested, led to a disastrous defeat in the Dardanelles during the first world war.

Just as Churchill did not personally avoid the battlefield, he forcefully argued against those who would appease aggressors. He saw danger in Bolshevism and wanted to take on Stalin long before the Cold War. He was vociferous in criticizing Chamberlain for making concessions to Hitler in 1938 and he argued forcefully for a build-up of Britain’s nuclear capability after WWII.

Churchill’s view of Britain’s colonies more reflected a Victorian colonialism than a 20th century appreciation of self-determination. He fiercely resisted Indian independence and dispatched the Black and Tans to put down Irish republicanism in 1919.

At any point in his long career, if Churchill had faltered and his career had been cut short, there might have been little mention of him in the history books. But fate served the stalwart leader well. After the 1940 fall of France to German forces in WWII, and before the 1941 entry of the US into the war, Churchill marshaled all the instincts that had served him well and not so well in the past. He was poised in that moment to become a man of history, a man of destiny–perhaps flawed in another context but exquisitely prepared to steer the ship of state in a moment when Britain stood alone before the German aggressor.


If you found this discussion interesting, you might also be interested in one of  Rhythm Prism’s books that deal with colonialism: The Modern British Empire: A Brief History and Exploration and Conquest: Stories of Indigenous Peoples.

The Modern British Empire is appropriate for students who are in middle school or high school.  It contains a study guide that reinforces concepts covered.

Exploration and Conquest is appropriate for all mature readers.  The book  (172 pages) uses pictures to help tell the story of European exploration.  The discussion covers the impact of colonialism on indigenous peoples from four continents and from islands that spread across the wide seas.


cover brit for site