Inside CANAV: “Aviation in Canada” project update

Here’s a wee update about what’s doing with CANAV’s Aviation in Canada project, and how we are faring these days.

Launched in November 2008, Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades is off to a solid start. If this title is news to you, it’s the first book dedicated solely to the beginnings of flight in Canada. You can see some of the reviews and book specs at

First on the Pioneer Decades bandwagon last fall were CANAV’s stalwart regulars. These are the loyal fans standing by for whichever new CANAV title. Mainly 1920s-60s-vintage aviation people, they go back with me to, as the great Wilf White used to say, the Year Dot. Sad to say, though, they’ve been fast fading from the radar screen in recent years. Time does that, eh.

The heart of sales at CANAV remains its mail order biz. Fans get my paper mailouts, then reply with a paper cheque. These keen readers get the books they love and CANAV gets to stay alive a bit longer. Besides mailings, CANAV also has its much enjoyed website, and this new blog. The website is the brainchild of my son Matthew, a computer programmer; the blog’s been created by daughter Kate, one of those dreaded PhD candidate types.

Other than the mail order side of things, if you’re lucky, you’ll find CANAV’s titles on sale in the odd retail bookstore or museum gift shop. You don’t find them in many independent bookstores (which in most cases are the folks whom I describe as pretending to buy books, then pretending to pay for them). Neither do you find CANAV anywhere in the book-selling chains — Canada’s chains simply explain how “We don’t deal with small publishers”, then list my books on their computer as “Out of Print”. As to museums, they sure are a varied bunch. Some operate in business-like fashion. Others, well…

Lately grandson Owen and I had a terrific outing to the Royal Ontario Museum. On the way home we picked up a few books in the ROM’s top-drawer gift shop. Wow, I thought, for Canada’s Centennial of Flight here’s just the spot for Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades. Knowing the business as I do, this book would easily sell here by the case, fitting in beautifully with the many popular titles that the ROM features.

The manager on duty T’d me up regarding whom to contact to maybe make a deal. Well guess what? I find out that the folks who run the ROM gift shop are “event network”. Hold on to your hat — they’re an American outfit in San Diego, California!

Getting curious, I fired off the good info to event network’s Helen Holmes, “Director of Inventory Management and Purchasing Operations” down there far away in the USA. Who would be surprised, though — I never heard back. God forbid, eh! “San Diego and the ROM Connection” … good grief!

There are tons of these stories in the CANAV archives. These will be the subject of a future best-seller: CANAV — It’s Been a Laugh a Minute. Included will be such great quotes as the Canadian aviation museum gift shop manager who tells me “We don’t think aviation books will sell”, or another bright light who ceased stocking CANAV titles, complaining that they were so popular that shoppers were over-looking the rest of his merchandise! I am not making up this stuff, really!

So what’s with Volume 2 of Aviation in Canada: The Bush Flying Era? This week Chapters 6 and 7 are in layout. The overall subject is the birth of civil aviation in Canada from 1919 through the interwar years. This one will really knock out anyone seriously keen on general  Canadiana, especially transportation. It’ll be a huge tribute to our great post-WWI nation builders, risk-takers, and the aviators who led the way when the whole prospect of commercial flying seemed unlikely to get much beyond first base.

Research-wise, as usual I’ve uncovered a goldmine of new material for Vol.2. This great stuff will all be interwoven with the well-loved stories (highlighted with new details). You’ll get an enriched perspective on how, immediately after WWI, aviation opened the Canadian North in forestry, mining, mapping, etc. The photos alone will bowl you over. Many are gems that you’ve enjoyed over the decades in the original Aviation in Canada (McGraw Hill-Ryerson 1979). I’m re-introducing them simply because they’re so fabulous. A few others are drawn from previous CANAV titles such as Air Transport in Canada. True believers will revel at seeing them again in their new context. Added to this fabulous visual foundation will be loads of photos never seen in any popular Canadian aviation history book.

I like that term “popular” —  I do these books for my general, popular readership (known to the Illuminati of Canadian aviation history as the peasantry — you and I). Unfortunately, our PhD and wanna-be PhD history types (who scoff at anything CANAV publishes) have another interpretation for the word. They use it as a put-down, as in “Milberry publishes popular history”, which is to say crapola that they wouldn’t touch for fear of catching the plague.

So long as our iffy economic times don’t worsen too much, watch for The Bush Flying Era ( or whatever the final title is) by mid-June. This will be CANAV’s 30th title in 28 years. Not too bad, eh, for a publisher who has yet to apply for his first government handout?

Have fun!

Larry Milberry

2 responses to “Inside CANAV: “Aviation in Canada” project update

  1. Larry,

    “CANAV — It’s Been a Laugh a Minute” might just be your best seller yet! I love your honestly; you have a great tell-it-like-it-is style that is rarely seen.

    When I was a kid I went to the airshows only because my parents *made* me go. I’m afraid I was never much of an aviation fan; that is of course until I married into an aviation family and had three boys crazy about aviation! Nonetheless, a person like me can pick up a CANAV book and enjoy it. It’s too bad more people can’t appreciate your books; they don’t know what they are missing!

    I’d say 30 titles in 28 years is pretty good. Not bad for a one-man operation! Looking forward, as alwaysm, to CANAV’s next title.


    • Just great Amanda. You sure don’t miss a beat!

      Thanks for the Pay Pal info and I’ll keep on thinking about it, of course.

      See y’all soon and have a good week. What a relief getting ’em back to school, eh!


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