Red Hill Creek

Since our cookbook review takes place in Hamilton and is authored by the former Hamilton mayor, I thought it was fitting to review a fictional novel that takes place in Hamilton.  It’s fun to read a book about a place you know so well – I grew up in the region and lived in Stoney Creek for a while – so the local references were familiar.  

I first ran into author Mark Lisac on Goodreads – check him out at  Mark lives in Edmonton, but he grew up in Hamilton and brings his readers to that place and time of his youth.  Mark taps into his journalistic writing experience and plies this craft in his fictional work.  The first book, Where the Bodies Lie, was shortlisted for the First Novel Award by Crime Writers of Canada. Mark also has some non-fiction work about Alberta politics to brag about.  

Mark will tell you that he loves making wine and pizza as well as watching CFL football – how Canadian of Mark!  He asked his wife, Ellen Nygaard, to provide us with a recipe and digging into Mark’s Croatian heritage, passed on from his mother and grandmother, she supplied us with a Potato Salad in our Recipe section that is the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

Red Hill Creek takes us on a young man’s journey in the mid-1950’s of self-discovery, making sense of the war’s imbedded biases and violence too close to home…and how young Jack responds to all that impacts his maturing life.  Lisac doesn’t coddle the reader with platitudes but brings out the real-life grittiness that coming of age brings.  

Throughout the novel, descriptions of time and place are so well mapped out for the reader, you can envision life in downtown Hamilton in the post-war era.  The creek itself is well-known to people in Hamilton and many can relate to Mark’s description in his book:

We crossed the creek on a line of stones. It was never more than about knee deep in any one spot but getting a soaker would have made for unpleasant walking. Then the trees began. We walked between branches and small bushes, heading into shade and the smell of dirt and leaves. It was quiet here except for the ruckle of the creek. The city felt much farther away than a fifteen-minute walk and it kept getting farther. We worked to keep twigs out of our faces and off our arms. But we kept watch also for wildlife more exotic than squirrels, knowing there must be chipmunks and garter snakes down in this silent valley. The trees lined the creek and grew all the way up the steep hillside on our left. They managed to stay straight up even on ground that fell off at a steep pitch. A few large rocks jutted out of the dirt here and there.”

To order a copy of this book go to or enter to win an autographed copy in our Giveaway section.  Content and images used with permission by author Mark Lisac.