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The remarkable true story of the rise and fall of one of North America’s most influential media moguls.
When George McCullagh bought The Globe and The Mail and Empire and merged them into the Globe and Mail, the charismatic 31-year-old high school dropout had already made millions on the stock market. It was just the beginning of the meteoric rise of a man widely expected to one day be prime minister of Canada. But the charismatic McCullagh had a dark side. Dogged by the bipolar disorder that destroyed his political ambitions and eventually killed him, he was all but written out of history. It was a loss so significant that journalist Robert Fulford has called McCullagh’s biography “one of the great unwritten books in Canadian history”—until now.
In Big Men Fear Me, award-winning historian Mark Bourrie tells the remarkable story of McCullagh’s inspirational rise and devastating fall, and with it sheds new light on the resurgence of populist politics, challenges to collective action, and attacks on the free press that characterize our own tumultuous era.
Praise for Big Men Fear Me
“Bourrie’s book positively sings … [it] is thoroughly researched and the prose is clean and engaging … McCullagh deserves to be known … He made The Globe the dominant voice in English Canadian journalism. Bourrie’s biography does him full justice.”—Globe and Mail
“There are many threads to untangle here and Bourrie—journalist, academic, and lawyer—unpicks them all. Spanning the first half of 20th-century Ontario, [George] McCullagh’s life and times become an engrossing tale of ambition, politics and bipolar illness—it’s like little else we’re likely to read this year … It was a tumultuous life, and Bourrie tells it with wit and humour.”—Nancy Wigston, Toronto Star
“This is a joy of a biography … Bourrie, a historian whose last book brought explorer Pierre Radisson to life, has done right by McCullagh, and not just with the marvellous title. Canada doesn’t like tall poppies. It didn’t end well. But what a ride it was.”—Heather Mallick, Toronto Star
“Mark Bourrie’s remarkable—and long overdue—biography of one of the most consequential and least remembered Canadians of the past century … Bourrie toiled for years to resurrect [George McCullagh], but, I’m glad to say, he did not wipe away the carbuncles, boils, and blisters. His portrait of a man who once was among Canada’s most powerful figures is, to choose two apt terms, both melancholy and masterly.”—Literary Review of Canada
“Big Men Fear Me is a masterwork of scholarship, years of careful research, and documentation and seems to have a natural feel for the times.”—The Miramichi Reader
“Not only does he give us a portrait of a man who was central to a critical period in Canadian history, he illuminates the complexities of those years as well, in the process pulling back the rosy curtain of forgetfulness and nostalgia that has slowly descended over us in the years since to remind us of how fraught our politics and society were then. A truly great accomplishment!”—Ottawa Review of Books
“Bourrie’s research is meticulous, and his writing has great pace and bounce.”—Winnipeg Free Press
“If you love Mad Men and Netflix biopics about ruthless tie-wearing maniacs, if you’re wanting the fourth wall to come crashing down on a discussion about class and poverty … you’ll probably need to pick up [Big Men Fear Me].”—Miramichi Reader
“Mark Bourrie revives the life of George McCullagh—a charismatic high-school dropout, a self-made millionaire, the creator and owner of the Globe and Mail, and a man with great political potential—whose fall in the mid-20th century would be as steep as his rise to prominence.”—Quill & Quire
“Nineteen years in the making, Big Men Fear Me shows us what we come from: a Canada run by drunks, mystics, dreamers, gold miners and gold diggers, the horse crazy and the power mad. It’s a great story, well told.”—Elaine Dewar, author of The Handover: How Bigwigs and Bureaucrats Transferred Canada’s Best Publisher and the Best Part of Our Literary Heritage to a Foreign Multinational
“What a character! Bourrie’s deeply-researched biography of George McCullagh is both a gripping encounter with a powerful yet unstable press baron and also a fascinating account of early twentieth century Ontario. Written with wit and passion, Big Men Fear Me brings back to life a man who tried to upend Canadian democracy, yet has been almost erased from our history.”—Charlotte Gray, author of Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise
Praise for Bush Runner
“Mark Bourrie beautifully describes Radisson as the ‘Forrest Gump of his time’ … well-written … compelling.”
“A dark adventure story that sweeps the reader through a world filled with surprises. The book is compelling, authoritative, not a little disturbing—and a significant contribution to the history of 17th-century North America.”
—Ken McGoogan, Globe and Mail
“A remarkable biography of an even more remarkable 17th-century individual … Beautifully written and endlessly thought-provoking.”
“Highly entertaining reading … fascinating … an engaging achievement.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“Bourrie’s writing is grounded in a strong sense of place, partly because of his own extensive knowledge of the land and partly because of Radisson’s descriptive storytelling abilities … a valuable and rare glimpse into 17th-century North America.”