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Photo by Mike Pearson

Photo by Mike Pearson

Novelist John Nixon, right, signs a copy of Redcoat 1812 for Mary Hill, centre and her father, Don at the Oct. 18 book launch.

Novelist blends fact and fiction in Redcoat 1812

By Mike Pearson, News staff

Avid history buffs will recognize the story of Major General Isaac Brock and his devoted adjutant James FitzGibbon.

While history is filled with facts and figures, Hamilton novelist John Nixon wanted to explore the personal experience of the young Irishman who came to Upper Canada and became a key figure in the War of 1812.

How did FitzGibbons’ family react to his decision to leave Ireland and join the ranks of the 49th Division? How did FitzGibbon deal with Brock’s death at Queenston Heights? What sparked his relationship with Mary Haley, an inn-keepers daughter, and how did they fall in love?

Those are some of the elements Nixon explores in Redcoat 1812, a newly released historical novel. FitzGibbon was a real-life figure of the war.

At an official book launch on Oct. 18 at the Ancaster Old Town Hall, Nixon discussed how he weaved fact and fiction together to create a compelling tale of the war that is both entertaining and historically accurate.

“I want you to come away with an authentic view of the War of 1812,” Nixon told his audience. “But it’s the story that brings it to life.”

Burlington resident Mary Hill was an unexpected guest at last week’s book signing. Hill, a direct descendant of James FitzGibbon, was looking forward to reading the novel and comparing Nixon’s account with her own understanding of her ancestor.

“He was a soldier, he was stoic, he was true and he was very passionate about keeping our country,” said Hill.

Hill was one of several readers who picked up a signed copy of Redcoat 1812.

“I know the history, so it’s kind of nice to look at it from a more personal point of view,” she said.

Nixon, a Hamilton Mountain resident, grew up in Stoney Creek, minutes away from one of the best known battlegrounds of the War of 1812. Redcoat 1812 follows FitzGibbon across all of the major fronts of the War of 1812, from Fort George to Queenston Heights, the Battle of Stoney Creek, Beaver Dams, Crysler’s Farm Lundy’s Lane and Fort Erie.

Nixon is a retired secondary school teacher who currently serves on the Hamilton Historical Board as Chair of the Communication and Education Sub-Committee.

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