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Please note: the MALCOLM page will remain active till the 13th of September, 2007, to mark another year of remembering Malcolm, until his 56th birthday.
from an ABcp press release:
“’You can't be responsible for everything,’ was advice Malcolm Somerville sadly would not heed. He was intent upon doing everything correctly, and doing everything himself. This insistence led to an early death, and terminated many unfulfilled dreams. Malcolm was a multi-facetted man, with many interests and numerous enterprises. He had a major role in the production and distribution of Atlantic Canadian books, which was often connected to his fascination with the history of the region. He encouraged writers, and helped them sell their books, most often with little financial consideration for himself. He believed so much in the importance of what he did, that he failed to pay enough attention to the monetary aspect of his business. Sadly, it was a business miscalculation which led to the troubled final years of his life. Malcolm Somerville's efforts were not without successes however, and the book A Quiet, Bashful Man: remembering Malcolm is a celebration by those who are part of the artistic community Malcolm loved. He is also being remembered by the ‘Malcolm MacDonald Somerville Memorial Prize of New Brunswick History,’ offered by the UNB Department of History for thesis work. This would please Malcolm greatly.”
A version of the tribute below appeared in the Summer 2005 issue of Atlantic Books Today
"A Quiet, Bashful Man—remembering Malcolm (Mac) Somerville 1951 to 2005”—Astrid Brunner, with Rob Roy, Inez Caldwell, and Ross Mavis
“Then there was a Mr Curle who had come down to discuss books with Sir Ambros —you know, rare books—queer old things in Latin, all musty parchment.”
[Agatha Christie, The Herb of Death]
Malcolm's knowledge of books wasn't all dusty parchment by any means, but it was that, too.
Inez Caldwell and Rob Roy offer this vignette of Malcolm:
"Mac Somerville’s desire for intellectual conversation," say Roy and Inez, "regarding affairs from local history, to the literary world, manifested itself after he received his MA in History and his MBA...
"For several years, Mac was tied to literature through his distribution companies, M.Somerville Distributors, and ImPresses, distributing for companies such as Nimbus, Arcadia, Goose Lane, New Ireland Press, Bay Ferries, Telegraph Journal and Here Magazine...
"Mac’s interest in Maritime history and literature led to his promotion of Maritime musicians through his website (MAD) Maritime Artists Distribution.
"His keen interest in the written word carried over to the editing of manuscripts for publication. Mac’s ability in this area was highly praised by Ken Spink of Inspiration Graphics, who said: 'He was the best and most thorough editor who ever worked for me'...
"Hand-rolled cigarettes, black coffee or a beer were the conduits to an in-depth conversation on a diverse range of topics. This small, unobtrusive man shared his humour and optimism with everybody he encountered, and now his void will have to be filled by those who knew him and appreciated him."
In his last communication to me, on February 24, 2005, exactly a fortnight before his untimely death, Malcolm wrote: "Life is full of stressors, some more interesting than others."
This came after a lengthy and varied update of the ills that had kept befalling him since about the end of 2002. Oh, he wasn't complaining! Not Malcolm Somerville. He just felt he ought to give a true account of things, so I could make my choices. I did not need to make choices, Malcolm and I were in this rocky business of small publishing for life, kiddo.
And some magical times we had of it. Magical but, more often than not, impecunious, if not, toward the end, downright penurious. Like that time of the reading in Malcolm's warehouse on Prince in Saint John, a warehouse, cold and damp [though the books were safe enough], where people stood around huddled in their winter coats, with plastic glasses of wine in cold hands, and tiny, precarious electric heaters susurring away along walls ineffectually. But, hey, we had the glamour, everyone did that evening, the glamour of the performance, the glamour of the words, and the passion for the words. We didn't even take pictures, none of us thought of that, but I'm sure lots of us remember that night.
Or the night of the storm when I ended up in the middle of pitchdark and nowhere, with rain coming down like ropes, in an impossible corner of Saint John, and Malcolm rescued me... Lots of stories. Malcolm, by the very being he was, was a story maker, a veritable Christian Andersen of life. It was fun. And it was hard work. And it was, most of all, real. In the sense of genuine, the real article. Heartblood in all this diffident man, with the hidden sense of the other, the absurd, the good, the generous, did. But what heartblood.
Says Ross Mavis:
"Malcolm was a very solitary person, I believe. Whenever I ran into him in the city, usually at the City Market, he was always alone. A quiet, bashful, man who seemed genuinely interested in publishing and promoting the sale of local writers' books. I remember you coming to Inn on the Cove one very dark and stormy night. Malcolm was with you. He truly was beaming with pride in having the distinct pleasure of escorting so elegant a lady to our front door. He had had tea here or more than one occasion while delivering our cookbooks for sale. His smiling face will be sorely missed."
He is one of the bravest, gentlest, gentlemanliest men I have ever met. When the hard times hit, in part by association with a fraudulent business partner, in part by victimisation of the small by the big, Malcolm wasted no time looking for alternatives, even if it should kill him. That now it has done so, just when he saw a bit of light at the horizon, is our loss and our grief.
I met Malcolm in 1999, when he was a prosperous and much sought after distributor for small to smallish publishers of music and literature in Atlantic Canada, an inspiration to artists and publishers alike, a man of exceptional discerning, and quiet inspiration. It was only after three years of rock bottom times, and barely half a year before his death, that Malcolm finally admitted temporary defeat.
But even in the depths of abandonment, Malcolm was able to say: "I liked the trade, and I met some wonderful people....” He almost always sounded a note of hope: "I still have contracts in the industry, and I believe that the shakedown has been essentially completed with Chapters/Coles, the federal government's non-competition stance, and other small distributors....” If that is so, then Malcolm sees his bright future, not as a scholar and a gentleman, to which he would have been most admirably suited, but more modestly: "I no longer have to scramble at just any job and contract to keep my head above water." And, as if shaking that water off, he says: "I shudder thinking of the several-month period two years ago when I worked seven days a week."
When I saw Malcolm in the midst of the bad and worst times, not having had any previous clues, I was shocked and alarmed. Never a heavy man, he now was skinny and looked ill. But he continued. Too proud to be helped. I am so glad that my last image of Malcolm is of a crisp winter, looking across the Saint John harbour from the dining room of Ross and Willa Mavis's Inn on the Cove. A few snowflakes were dancing against the evening sky outside the window, it was cold and beautiful outside, warm and cosy behind the large window panes. I had to go to town that night, and I left Malcolm lingering over the last of the champagne, a smile of pure inward bliss on his face.
If he had just had the leisure to live to the full, the gentle and languidly erudite gentleman he, at heart, truly was.
Copyright © 2006 © 2007 © 2011 AB collector publishing. All rights reserved.
MALCOLM [MAC] SOMERVILLE WAS CELEBRATED WITH THE LAUNCH OF A QUIET, BASHFUL MAN: REMEMBERING MALCOLM
ON: September 13, 2006, 4-6 PM
AT: INN ON THE COVE, SAINT JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK
BY: AB collector publishing
—readings, words, rememberings by friends, family, participating authors & artists
—complimentary wine & refreshments, cash bar after 6 PM
[to re-live this event, go to the archives of Saint John CBC Information Morning, at www.cbc.ca/informationmorningsaintjohn
—for more on the participating artists & authors in this almost 200 page / $19.95 book, browse the EVENTS, TITLES, & AUTHORS pages of this site—
The Book's Contributors:
Reg [R.E.] Ralch
Anne (Somerville) Cronshaw
Kim (Mackinnon) Hughes
Stephen E. Scott
Mary Ellen Sullivan
E. Diane Wile
L to R [foreground]: