British Columbia

B.C. novelist Jack Whyte dies of cancer at 80

Scottish Canadian novelist Jack Whyte is the author of several historical novels, including the Arthurian-rooted Dream of Eagles series and the Templars Trilogy.

'He was just full of energy, and what a storyteller,' says owner of bookstore Whyte frequented

Jack Whyte, a B.C.-based author of historical fiction, died of cancer at 80 on Monday. (Viking Press)

Jack Whyte —  a Scottish Canadian novelist who lived in Kelowna, B.C., for 25 years — died of cancer Monday at 80.

Born in 1940, Whyte is the author of several historical novels, including the Arthurian-rooted Dream of Eagles series and the Templars Trilogy, which have been translated into more than 20 languages and read by millions of people around the globe.

After immigrating to Canada in 1967, Whyte taught English at a local high school for a year before becoming a professional writer as well as a musician and actor. 

Michele and Michael Neill, who co-own Mosaic Books in downtown Kelowna, first met Whyte when the couple moved to the central Okanagan city in 1995 and purchased the bookstore.

They remember Whyte as a fun-loving man dedicated to excellence in creative writing.

Whyte was a frequent visitor to the store for his book launches.

"We'd go upstairs to the office and have a bottle of wine sitting there … we'd have a smoke [cigarettes] up there and have a few words," Michael Neill said Wednesday to Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South of the launch of Whyte's book Uther in 2000. 

"He was just full of energy and what a storyteller," Neill said of his friend who also loved to sing. "You could hear a pin drop in the room (of more than 200 people) while he read from his book." 

In September 2018, Whyte told fellow novelists that research on historical details played a substantial role in his crafting process.

"By and large the plot development of each of my books was dictated by the research I conducted and the ancillary details that grew out of it," he said to fantasy fiction writer Sarah Raughley.

"Research, for me, takes on a life of its own, and I do all of it to serve a single purpose, which is to allow me to write intelligibly about something that, up to that point, I might have known little or nothing about," he told Haisla and Heiltsuk writer Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach and Son of a Trickster.

Michele Neill says Whyte collected an incredible amount of historical details and went to great lengths to embellish them in his stories, not hesitating to toss his imperfect drafts.

"He once wrote 600 pages of a book and then realized it was all wrong and threw it out and started again," she said.

Michele Neill, right, co-owner of Kelowna's Mosaic Books store where Jack Whyte, left, hosted several book launches, remembers the writer for his exhaustive research on his novels. (Michael Neill)

Whyte is survived by his wife Beverley.

"He loved his wife really well. They loved one another so much, so I feel sad for Beverley," Neill said.

Tap the link below to hear Michele and Michael Neill's interview on Daybreak South:


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