Kevin Major - Author, Historian

Kevin Major

Author, Historian

Kevin was conceived a Newfoundlander, but born a Canadian in the year that Newfoundland joined Confederation; he’s been trying to deal with that paradox ever since.

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Kevin is an author from Newfoundland. After graduating from Memorial University in 1972, he worked as a teacher before turning to writing full-time in 1989. While he now writes for an adult readership, he is also known as an author of children’s literature, work for which he has been widely awarded and praised. He received the Vicky Metcalf Award for an outstanding body of work in 1992.

Major employs a variety of narrative styles and is noted for his use of Newfoundland local colour. In Hold Fast (1978, winner of the Governor General’s Award, the Canadian Library Association Award, and adapted for film) and Far from Shore (1980, winner of the Canadian Young Adult Book Award), Major traces the destructive changes to traditional outport family life and values brought on by unemployment and modern materialism. Blood Red Ochre (1989) combines the adolescent problem novel, historical fiction and time-shift fantasy to examine the extinction of Newfoundland's Beothuk people.

Major produced a comic fantasy in Eating Between the Lines (1991, winner of the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award). In it, a teenager literally enters the world of classic books to prevent the dissolution of his parents' marriage and to solve his own romantic problems. The award-winning The House of Wooden Santas (1997) and Aunt Olga's Christmas Postcards (2005) are illustrated children's books for the Christmas season. Ann and Seamus (2003), with artwork by David Blackwood, received eleven award nominations and was made into a folk opera. It is a novel in verse based on the true story of young Ann Harvey, who in 1828 helped to rescue Irish immigrants whose ship was wrecked on the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

Major's writing for adults ranges across genres. No Man's Land (1995) tells of a bloody WWI battle fought by the Royal Newfoundland Regiment; it has been adapted for the stage and performed frequently. A second wartime novel, Land Beyond the Sea (2019), is set during the sinking of the Cabot Strait ferry S.S. Caribou by a German submarine during WWII. It is the third book in Major’s NewFoundLand trilogy of historical novels, the first being New Under the Sun (2011) and the second Found Far and Wide (2016). Major's history of Newfoundland, As Near To Heaven By Sea (2002), was a Canadian bestseller and was nominated for the Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize.

Major has recently ventured into crime fiction, with the offbeat private detective and tour guide Sebastian Synard at its centre. The first book, One For the Rock (2018), is set in St. John’s. It was followed by Two For the Tablelands (2020) and Three For Trinity (2021). Both were nominated for the Howard Engel Award for the best crime novel set in Canada. The latest in the series, Four For Fogo Island, is due out this fall, and the author has just started work of the fifth, Five For . . . .

Kevin Major lives and writes in St. John's, Newfoundland.