The Way Lies North and Jean Rae Baxter now a part of the IB curriculum

Jean recently gave permission for an excerpt from her novel The Way Lies North (Ronsdale Press, 2007) to be included in a workbook to be used by International Baccalaureate (IB) students, ages 11 - 12. The excerpt is two pages long. It will be used to develop the students’ critical and research skills. As well as being delighted to have Jean's writing selected for this purpose, we are thrilled to know that the excerpt will be read by students worldwide. Hopefully, some of them will wish to read the whole book. The workbook will be published in May 2014. Thirty thousand copies will be printed.

Launch of Hazut Mehugenet

Hamilton Wentworth Heritage Association Awards

On Saturday, February 23, Baxter will receive a Hamilton Wentworth Heritage Association Award. The Hamilton Wentworth Heritage Association is an umbrella group for heritage groups in the Hamilton area, including Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook and Stoney Creek as well as Hamilton. The presentation will take place at Hamilton City Hall Council Chambers at 12:30 p.m. February 21 is Heritage Day. The presentation will take place at 12:30 p.m. The public is welcome.

Broken Trail - Novel Receives Moonbeam Awards’ Gold Medal
“Loyalist Trails” UELAC Newsletter
November 20, 2011

Congratulations to Jean Rae Baxter. On Saturday evening, November 12 in Traverse City, Michigan, the novel Broken Trail received the Moonbeam Awards' Gold Medal for young adult historical fiction.

This was a great honour for Jean, since entries for the Moonbeam Awards came from 33 U. S. States, six Provinces, and three countries overseas. Jean notes: "It was especially thrilling to me to have a book telling about the Revolutionary War from a Canadian point of view receive such acclaim."

In her acceptance speech, Jean noted: "More than 200 years of history both connect and separate my country and yours. Canadian children and American children both study the Revolutionary War in their classrooms, but they study it from very different books. It is only within the past 20 years or so that either side has shown a genuine desire to understand that war from the other's point of view."

John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Awards
August 30, 2010

“Devotion” and “After Annabelle,” two stories by Jean Rae Baxter, have been shortlisted for the 2010 John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Awards. These stories will appear in Jean’s new collection, Scattered Light.

The Awards ceremony will take place at the West Elgin Dramatic Arts Centre in Dutton, Ontario, which is John Kenneth Galbraith’s home town. His son, James Galbraith, author of the best-selling Predatory State will be the guest speaker.

Lost Play Kicks Off Mystery Tour
September 18, 2009

Of all William Shakespeare’s great works, the one that got away is what intrigues Jean Rae Baxter the most.

Cardenio, a romantic tale of a Spanish nobleman and his love interest Lucinda, was performed at the wedding of King James’ daughter Elizabeth and was probably in manuscript form, with contributions from Globe theatre successor John Fletcher, said the author and retired high school English teacher.

The play, with the same themes as Shakespeare’s more recent works like The Tempest, burned along with the Globe theatre in 1613, Baxter believes. But when the Sanders portrait surfaced about 10 years ago, an authentic 1600s-era painting that very could well be of the world’s greatest playwright, Baxter’s creative juices began to flow.

“I began to think if this portrait shows up, why not have a manuscript show up,” Baxter said.

Baxter will be at the Pelham library on next Tuesday to read from her latest book, Looking for Cardenio, a mystery novel that follows Dr. Deidre Gunn, an English lecturer at Melrose University in eastern Ontario.

Gunn is driven by her failed career. Almost at the point of reaching tenure, she has an affair with a male student, and is dismissed becoming simply another unemployed academic.

“For all her brilliance, when it comes to men, she parks her brains, and her career is marked by this,” Baxter said.

In need of money, Gunn is approached by a man she first met when he was an undergraduate, who has since been expelled for plagiarism. He claims to have a copy of the Cardenio manuscript, an item which would kick-start Gunn’s career.

But the man is soon found dead, and Gunn becomes the prime suspect, giving the novel both the mystery of the lost play, and the murder-mystery aspect, said Baxter.

“It’s a double mystery,” she said.

Baxter first learned of Cardenio when taking a postgraduate course on Shakespeare’s last plays at the University of Toronto. She was always drawn to Cardenio, simply for its lack of existence.

“There was Cardenio, a blank,” she said. “It didn’t exist anymore. I was intrigued by it.”

The Hamilton-based author is visiting Pelham as part of a program between the library and Scene of the Crime books called “Crime Time,” showcasing Canadian and international mystery authors.

Baxter is the first in the series, coming to the library located at 43 Pelham Town Square at 7 p.m.

Following the reading, she will be signing books.

Looking for Cardenio is Baxter’s third book since she began writing for publication about 10 years ago. Other works include The Way Lies North, an award-nominated historic fiction tale on the American Revolution, and A Twist of Malice, a collection of short stories.

Her fourth book is finished and is awaiting a contract. It is titled Broken Trail and is a sequel to The Way Lies North. For more information on Baxter, visit her website,

Author: Michael Speck

The Jekyll and Hyde Author
May 10, 2008

A quiet living-room in a home a few blocks from Gage Park houses chestnut mouldings, comfortable Victorian furnishings, a friendly dog and an elegant, whitehaired grandmother who has earned the nickname of "The Jekyll and Hyde author."

We're talking about the Hamilton writer's work and I ask Jean Rae Baxter if she enjoys writing respected, entertaining stories for young adults alongside gruesome, noir tales full of bleak revenge and bitter darkness.

Baxter smiled and answered over a cup of tea: "Whatever I'm writing is what I love most."

It's a twisted and elegant answer.

The writing began after Baxter retired from a career as an English teacher, with a quest to right a historical wrong she found in Mel Gibson's film The Patriot. In it, British soldiers surround and burn a church full of worshippers.

"I researched ... and it simply didn't happen," she said.

A short story, “Farewell the Mohawk Valley,” marked the beginning of Baxter's Dr. Jekyll literary persona. The story was published in the anthology, Beginnings: Stories of Canada's Past. The volume was shortlisted for a Golden Oak Award.

The Mr. Hyde side of her literary personality, the knack for the noir, began with a short story titled “The Quilt”, which won first prize in the Canadian Writer's Journal's 2000 competition.

Baxter's story, “Loss”, was published in 2003 in Hard Boiled Love, an anthology of noir affection. “Loss” graphically tells the story of a divorced, terminally ill woman planning and seeking revenge upon the man she still considers her husband and his young new wife. The revenge involves sending hair and body parts in the mail, acts that left the bile churning in my stomach as I reread the story before meeting Baxter.

The gentle image of the author is at odds with the images stirred by that story. “Loss” was not an isolated venture into the dark side. “A Wanton Disregard,” which appeared in Revenge, a noir anthology about getting even, has a particularly cunning and nasty bent to it.

Baxter's writing began to attract recognition. She received Arts Hamilton awards in 2003 and 2004 and was twice shortlisted for the Canadian Authors' Association Conference Contest.

In 2005 came her critically acclaimed collection of short stories, A Twist of Malice, which I reviewed in the Canadian Mysteries column on this page.

The path to Baxter's writing career began with the fulfilment of childhood ambition, a struggle with what to write about, the author's lot of rejection slips, and finally the growth of a short story into a young adult novel, The Way Lies North--a telling piece of historical fiction that captures the terror and hardships suffered by the Loyalists as they fled Rebel troops during the American Revolution.

Published in 2007, The Way Lies North met with critical acclaim. The book brings what is often described as dull Canadian history alive. It is vibrant with the courage and toil of the young as they make a new life for themselves despite all they have suffered and lost.

"I imagine myself into these stories. You can't understand the story fully without it."

The Hamilton launch of her new novel, Looking for Cardenio, (reviewed in The Spectator on April 26) takes place on May 15, at 7 p.m. at Bryan Prince Bookseller in Westdale. Cardenio is a story of a disgraced academic who risks her career and life as she chases the truth behind the legitimacy of Cardenio, thought to be Shakespeare's last play.

In 2009, Baxter's Jekyll bent will surface in Broken Trail, a sequel to The Way Lies North. Her Hyde side? Another collection of noir short stories, titled Scattered Light.

Jean Rae Baxter's writing has taken her to Hamilton's Festival of Friends and Grit Lit Festival, across the province, and to Canadian expatriate gatherings in China and Romania.

Deep inside Looking for Cardenio is a glimmer of another story -- an idea Baxter will imagine herself into.

Interviewer: Don Graves