A picture of author John Carswell smiling with a handfull of his books.
Photo Credit: John Carswell / Comox Valley Record

Kayaking Your Way Through The Big One

John Carswell's new book is like a love letter to VanIsle

Imagine kayaking through an earthquake?

John Carswell grew up in the Comox Valley, and he’s spent a lot of his life on the ocean. He worked as a deckhand on a troller and has kayaked or boated around most of VanIsle. And you can tell when you read his book.

His story, The Big One, is like being caught between a dream and a hard place. And it’s inspired by the mystery and danger of living on the West Coast. 

In the book, the main characters are kayaking way out past Flores Island when the big one hits Vancouver Island. That’s how they survive, but when they make it back to land, everything is different.

Carswell’s father also features in the book. He started writing it in 2008 in his father’s final days.

“My father was dying of pancreatic cancer…, so in the times he was out of it, I just started writing,” Carswell told the Comox Valley Record.

“I had a repeated dream that he and I did one last adventure together, and decided to kayak around Vancouver Island. So that’s sort of the premise of the book. My father is in the book a lot, and along the trip we encounter all kinds of adventures.” 

But you might ask why he’d have an earthquake in the middle of all these fun adventures with his dad.

“I’ve sort of always been, I guess, morbidly interested in what would happen if the 1700 giant earthquake happened again on the West Coast here, so these guys survive it because they are way out there,” said Carswell. “Then they come back and… everything is wiped out. So that’s why it is called The Big One.”

Carswell thinks VanIslanders will like the book because it feels like home. He said he’s already gotten emails and phone calls from folks who grew up here who can tell that Carswell really knows the place.

The cover art was done by former Comox Valley resident Dana Statham.

“One worry I had was that the cover might be better than what’s inside,” said Carswell. “But the review I got yesterday was, ‘Oh no. What’s inside is more than worthy.’ That made me feel better.”

The book is available online at friesenpress.com and barnesandnoble.com

And what’s up next for Carswell?

He already has an idea for a sequel. 

“I had an editor from Friesen Press do an evaluation of it from before we decided to go ahead with the whole process… and they compared the beginnings of it to Tuesdays With Morrie. They really encouraged me, ‘You need to publish this,'” he said.

“So who knows?”