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Historian Levine to write Mackenzie King bio

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A prominent Winnipeg author has signed with a Toronto publisher to write a popular biography of one of Canada's greatest prime ministers.

Allan Levine hopes to finish his one-volume book about William Lyon Mackenzie King in time for fall 2012 publication by Douglas & McIntyre.

D&M issued a news release on the signing Wednesday.

"It's really the history of Canada in the first half of the 20th century," said Levine, 53, who has previously published several non-fiction and fiction titles.

"If someone like David McCullough can write books about John Adams and Harry Truman, why can't Canadians write in the same colourful way about their prime ministers?"

Born in 1874, Mackenzie King served six terms and over 22 years as a Liberal Party prime minister. He died in 1950.

Levine says he has received a "good five-figure" advance to research and write the book. While there is a major academic three-volume history of Mackenzie King's life, Levine says, no accessible popular biography exists.

"When people think of Mackenzie King, they think of a man who talked to his dog and attended seances," Levine said.

"But he was not crazy. His spiritualism was a product of his age. He was very complicated and very religious. He was ambitious, driven and dedicated to the idea of public service."

Levine, who has a PhD in history from the University of Toronto, teaches at St. John's Ravenscourt School. His most recent book is a history of Winnipeg's Jewish Community, Coming of Age.

He contributed writing and research to Peter C. Newman's 2008 biography of Winnipeg media mogul Izzy Asper.

He has also penned the non-fiction titles The Devil in Babylon (2005), Scattered Among the Peoples (2002), and Fugitives of the Forest (1999) and the the Sam Klein mystery series.

morley.walker@freepress.mb.ca

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