Twenty-Six finds second life on Nova Scotia book tour

Dave Mathieson
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Leo McKay Jr. read from his national best selling novel, ‘Twenty-Six,' Monday night at the Four Fathers Public Library in Amherst. 

AMHERST - Twenty-six miners were killed May 9, 1992, at the Westray Mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia.

In 2003 Stellarton's Leo McKay released his first novel, 'Twenty-Six, based on the explosion, and nine years later he was in Amherst to read from the novel as part of the One Book Nova Scotia book tour.

"One Book Nova Scotia picked the book and it's kind of given it a second life," said McKay Monday night at the Four Fathers Public Library before giving a reading to about 20 people. "It's a province-wide literary event for adults. It's to promote a culture of reading for adults."

McKay began writing the novel not long after the Westray Mine explosion.

"It's a novel but it deals with this actual event," said McKay. "I had a lot of political-related anger about how that explosion could take place in Nova Scotia in the 1990s. It's something you associate with the 1890s, so that was the anger."

Since it's publication in 2003, McKay says he looks at the novel with less anger.

"The book is also about relationship between members of a family, and the relationships are very strained by the events, but I think the end it's about people trying to heal their relationships."

Writing the novel acted as a kind of catharsis for him.

"I remember when the book was complete and ready to come out nine years ago, somebody said to me, ‘man, oh-man, you must be upset over that (the explosion),' and I said, ‘no, no, the book took me a decade to write, so I'm pretty well over (the anger).'"

McKay hopes to release his second novel around Christmastime.

It's called ‘Roll Up the Rim.'

"It's a totally different book. It's a comedy," he said. "It's independently published. I funded it through crowd-source funding last spring, so it's been a more hands-on process."

He funded the Roll Up the Rim through

"You set up an online station where you explain to people what your project is and they can contribute to it financially. I raised well over $10,000 from the site," he said.

Asked how to describe the new novel, Mckay said, "My official line on it is that it's a book about obsession, redemption, divine intervention and donuts."

"It's about a guy who works at Tim Horton's and is obsessed with the Roll Up the Rim contest," he said with a laugh.

For more information about the author, his first novel, Twenty-Six, and his latest novel, go to


Organizations: Westray Mine, Tim Horton's

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, AMHERST, Plymouth

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