Sunday, 19 August 2007

This Day in LWOT History...

August 19th, 2000

LWOT Magazine is evicted from their Moncton, New Brunswick offices by a suspicious fire and subsequent explosion. The building, housed in the Albion Block of downtown Moncton, is completely destroyed by the blast, taking with it a century of Canadian literary history.

The cause of the fire was immediately viewed as suspicious by the RCMP, who conducted a six-month long investigation into the incident. Among those questioned were former Managing Editor Gradey Alexander, who eight years earlier, in an editorial published in Winnipeg's Free Press, vowed to "burn the place to the ground" using "cheap Acadian labour." Alexander's name was cleared, however, when it was confirmed that the author was on a speaking tour in New Zealand at the time of the explosion, and that a Canadian writer could not likely afford even the cheapest of labour, Acadian or otherwise.

No staff members were injured in the fire, though Michael Millbury, Managing Editor at the time, left the building less than an hour before the blast. The original manuscript for his children's book Doug Flutie Mystery Squad was destroyed in the fire, along with most of the submissions being considered for that year's October issue.

Perhaps most devastating, however, was the loss of the LWOT archives, which contained every single print issue dating back to 1908. While one or two peripheral items were recovered from the debris - among them, George Ross's death certificate, and the infamouos letter from the PEN/Faulkner Award committee erroneously awarding it to Gradey Alexander for The Barnum Kid - that fateful day saw much of LWOT Magazine's rich history erased.

With the help of a mysterious donor known only as Conrad B, LWOT moved its offices down the street to the "Glass House," taking over one of the offices left vacant by the recent departure of CN's real estate division. In 2007, the new editorial staff began to rebuild the magazine's collection of literary memorabilia, which has recently swelled to include the bloody shirt worn by Craig Davidson in his fight with Michael Knox, an advance reader copy of Stephen King's Lisey's Story, the "B" from Sue Grafton's typewriter, and Pierre Berton's third-favourite bow tie.

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