Victor Suthren (born March 2, 1942) is a Canadian writer and novelist with an interest in colonial and maritime history.
The unusual name Suthren is Old Norse in origin and comes from the word 'sudraenn' meaning of or from the south. Born at Montreal, Quebec from British immigrant and Loyalist origins (North Wales and Durham), he was educated at John Rennie High School, Pointe Claire, Quebec, where he was Valedictorian and President of the Student Council; Bishop's University (BA, Psychology/History,1965, where he was Senior Freshman, active in judo, cross-country skiing, service clubs and dramatics and received the Golden Mitre award for contributions to university life); McGill University (Qualifying Year, Anthropology, 1966); and Concordia University (MA, History,1970) universities. His student summers were spent in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets while in high school and later in the Navy's University Naval Training Division (UNTD) where he was selected as a Cadet Captain and commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant RCNR in 1964. He also spent summers with the civilian student 1860s historical display group, the Fort Henry Guard (1964-1967) of Kingston, Ontario.
After contract historical work for National Historic Sites following completion of graduate school he formally joined the Canadian Public Service in 1971, initially as an historian at the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. Though intent on a writing career and neither a formal military historian nor an administrator by training or inclination he served with moderate success as a Director General of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa from 1986 to 1997, having joined the museum in 1975. During his term he managed to expand the museum's non-digital and international outreach programs, redesign its exhibits, increase its visitor figures, and initiate in 1995 an ultimately successful fundraising campaign by the Friends of the Canadian War Museum, "Passing The Torch", aimed at improving the museum's quarters or pursuing a new museum building. His mounting in the interim of large-scale historical re-enactments and pageants in the National Capital Region and elsewhere to draw attention to the museum and Canada's early military history was also a focus for criticism of his tenure as the museum's head; critics claimed it was a diversion of resources from serious scholarship and more traditional museum practices, and impeded advancement of other assets such as the War Art collection. However, it drew large audiences and earned a special award for the museum from the Department of Canadian Heritage in 1995.
After objecting to politically-based pressure he was forced by his superiors in the museum corporation to leave the War Museum in 1997. The year he left the museum he was appointed to a lengthy term (1997-2014) as an Honorary Captain in the Royal Canadian Navy by the Minister of National Defence, tasked to promote public awareness of early Canadian naval heritage. Since 1997 he has otherwise returned to being a full-time writer and occasional historical adviser and on-screen presenter for film and television productions.
He is the author of thirteen books, including several works of historical non-fiction, and his seven sea adventure novels, the Paul Gallant Trilogy and the Edward Mainwaring series, now also are published as e-books. His most recent book was 'The Island of Canada', published in 2009, and he recently completed a new biography of the Atlantic pirate Bartholomew Roberts (1682-1722), due for publication in August 2018. He has begun a novel based on the career of French soldier/sailor and explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (1728-1811).
With the Royal Canadian Navy's University Naval Training Division (UNTD) he trained in RCN ships "Buckingham" and "New Waterford" in the Arctic and Atlantic, and at the naval training establishment CFB "Cornwallis", being named a Cadet Captain and receiving his commission in the RCNR in 1964. Subsequently he voyaged as a "tall ship" seaman (beginning in 1967 with the Canadian Grand Banks schooner "Bluenose II") in the Atlantic, Great Lakes, Caribbean Sea and across the Pacific to Hawaii, the last when he served as working voyage crew and lecturer in the Australian replica of James Cook's 1768 ship, HM Bark "Endeavour". He has made numerous challenging open-boat oar-and-sail crossings of the Great Lakes and crewed in replica longboats off Atlantic Canada and the coastal Hawaiian Islands. While at the museum and later formally for the Navy's Colonial Sailor education program (which was active until 2012) he organized and led historical naval pageants at Louisbourg, Halifax, Summerside, Charlottetown, Toronto, Kingston, Amherstburg/Put-in Bay(Ohio) and Niagara-on-the-lake, involving combinations of sailing vessels, replica longboats, and civilian naval and military "re-enactors". He currently (2018) continues sailing for recreation and occasionally is involved in planning adventure sailing and advising on naval re-enactment projects, for which he maintains a passionate interest.
During his appointment as an Honorary Captain in the RCN (1997-2014) he received the Canadian Forces Decoration (CD) and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. He also received a formal Bravo Zulu (Certificate of Appreciation) from the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy for his historical commemoration work. In 1995 he received an Eagle Feather granted by the Mi'kmaq First Nation of Mi'kma'kik/Prince Edward Island for actions that helped avert a fisheries strike.
He lives with his artist wife Lindsay Scott Suthren (married 12 July 1969) in an 1850s cottage in the historic Rideau Canal village of Merrickville, Ontario, where he serves as a town councillor, and is the father of three grown children (Amy Parsons, Caedi Zaine and Scott Suthren) and grandfather to six grandchildren. His other current* and past memberships include:
Board, Bytown Brigantine Incorporated;
Board, Friends of the Rideau Canal;
Canadian Nautical Research Society*;
Canadian Nordic Society*;
Captain Cook Society (UK)*;
Les Amis de Bougainville (Tahiti)*;
Polynesian Voyaging Society (Hawai'i);
Bluenose II Crew Association*;
Royal Canadian Legion;
Fellow, Company of Military Historians (1978)
Fellow, Royal Society of Arts (1980);
Northeast American Society for 18th Century Studies;
Naval Association of Canada;
The Liberal Party of Canada*; and
Savoy Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Ottawa.
His hobbies include sailing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and amateur theatrical performance.
Paul Gallant series
Set in mid-18th century
- The Black Cockade (1977) (ISBN 0-8125-8862-2)
- A King's Ransom (1980) (ISBN 0-8125-8866-5)
- In Perilous Seas (1983) (ISBN 0-8125-8868-1)
Edward Mainwaring series
Starts in 1739
- Royal Yankee (1987) (ISBN 0-586-20429-6)
- The Golden Galleon (1988) (ISBN 0-312-02216-6)
- Admiral of Fear (1991) (ISBN 0-340-63840-0)
- Captain Monsoon (1993) (ISBN 0-312-08728-4)
- "The War of 1812" (1999)(ISBN 0-7710-8317-3)
- "To Go Upon Discovery: James Cook And Canada" (2000) (ISBN 1-55002-327-6)
- "The Sea Has No End: The Life of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville" (2004) (ISBN 1-55002-519-8)
- "The Island Of Canada" (2009) (ISBN 0887624065)
Victor Suthren, "A Museum of Tolerance", Maclean's Magazine, March 17, 2003.