Dale Estey was born in Newcastle Creek, New Brunswick on 19 September 1949. His mother, Alice Winifred, was from England and his father, Caleb Byron, came from United Empire Loyalist stock. He also has one brother. Estey went to Minto/Newcastle Consolidated School as a child and Minto Memorial High School from 1962 to 1966. As he grew up he began to realize he had a love for writing, a revelation that came to him in grade eleven. This revelation was inspired by a simple handle-cranked pencil sharpener (Interview with author). He has been writing ever since. He later attended the University of New Brunswick, graduating with a BA in 1971. He currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Estey admired P.G. Wodehouse, sending him a fan letter as a student. His other inspiration was Franz Kafka, whom he learned about while he was in university. Estey has read all of Kafka’s work and even wrote the missing pages to Kafka’s famous missing diaries. Estey remains fascinated by his work and hopes to find his lost diaries, perhaps somewhere in Berlin.
Estey has been nominated for a number of literary awards. He has received many Canada Council grants, and won the New Brunswick Bicentennial Medal in 1984.
He has written two novels, A Lost Tale (1980) and A Bonner Deception (1983). Along with these, he has also published a collection of short stories The Elephant Talks to God (2006).
A Lost Tale is an exciting novel about druids, the mythical unicorn, and Adolf Hitler. The book takes place during World War II when Hitler is seeking revenge on Britain. It is set on the Isle of Man where the druids possess the magical powers of an ancient Celtic civilization. Using their power, the druids try to stop Hitler from obtaining an atomic bomb that could lay waste to all of Britain.
The Bonner Deception, is an equally thrilling story about the adventures of General Alexander Bonner. Bonner gets pulled into a complex situation with a NATO military group. Terrorist groups are attacking NATO and Bonner must get to the bottom of the attacks with the aid of a few reliable friends. This work anticipates the 9/11 attack particularly in reference to hijacked planes as tools of destruction. It is also a story that pits its main character against his subordinates, whom he suspects of treachery.
Estey has always been touched by the spiritual and his collection of short stories, The Elephant Talks to God, is a good example. In the collection, he ruminates on the meaning of life from the perspective of an elephant. The elephant learns new facts about life and why things are the way they are. The elephant travels the land eventually asking the fundamental question: What is the meaning of life? Though Estey’s elephant never finds an answer to his question, Estey instead offers a piece of advice: “[k]nowledge without understanding would be like a diet of sugar cane. Filling but not nourishing” (Elephant 119). For reviewer Marcus Waddington, “descriptions of the elephant as he moves through the jungle, looks for a mate and finds friendship with butterflies are original, fresh and unsentimental” (8).
Estey is unique in being one of the only fantasy novelists of the 20th-century to come from New Brunswick. His work, like that of most fantasy writers, is driven by and relies upon philosophical beliefs. He has been well-received by critics. About his first novel, one critic said: “Estey’s sentimental style and knowledge of Celtic lore make it easy to believe in all the Druidic trappings” (Brown 78). Similarly, New Brunswick critic Michael O. Nowlan wrote that “The Elephant Talks to God is an entertaining and delightful read” (C3).
Matt Darkis, Spring 2010
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Estey, Dale. The Bonner Deception. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983.
---. The Elephant Talks to God. 1989. Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2006.
---. “For the Sole Reason That a Comment Occurs in Canada’s National Newspaper, it Must Be Redressed. Not to Do so Implies Deference.” Letter to the Editor. The Globe & Mail [Toronto] 3 Mar. 1990: D7.
---. A Lost Tale. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980.
---. Personal interview. 9 Mar. 2010.
---. Red Room: Where the Writers Are. 11 Apr. 2010. 8 Mar. 2010.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
Brown, Ron. Rev. of A Lost Tale, by Dale Estey. School Library Journal 27 (1980): 78.
Brunner, Astrid. Rev. of The Elephant Talks to God, by Dale Estey. Arts Atlantic 10 (1990): 64.
Fetscher, Virginia L. Rev. of A Lost Tale, by Dale Estey. Library Journal 105 (1980): 1000-1001.
Gallagher, Lori. “Goose Lane Editions Launches its Fall Lineup.” The Daily Gleaner [Fredericton] 2 Nov. 2006: C1.
Nowlan, Michael O. “God and an Elephant Discuss Life, Love and Philosophy.” Rev. of The Elephant Talks to God, by Dale Estey. The Daily Gleaner [Fredericton] 2 Dec. 2006: C3.