In Memory of Dundurn Press Founder, Kirk Howard - Dundurn
Jul 06, 2023

In Memory of Dundurn Press Founder, Kirk Howard

John Kirk Howard, C.M., December 3, 1942–June 30, 2023

The team at Dundurn Press is saddened to learn of the passing of Publisher Emeritus John Kirk Howard on June 30th, 2023. Howard founded and led the press for forty-seven years, making a profound impact on Canada’s publishing industry and helping to build the careers of hundreds of Canadian authors. Just about everyone knew him as Kirk.

Kirk established Dundurn Press in 1972 as a publisher of books on Canadian history. The press expanded over the ensuing decades, particularly during the 1990s and 2000s, when Dundurn acquired other Canadian publishers including Natural Heritage Books, XYZ Publishing, and Thomas Allen Publishers. These acquisitions expanded Dundurn’s list to encompass business, politics, local interest, memoirs, and travel, along with literary fiction, mysteries, and fiction for young adults.

Thousands of books were published under Kirk’s tenure and many were nominated for awards such as the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Speaker’s Book Award, and the City of Ottawa, Victoria, and Toronto book awards. Publishing successes were many and included Barbara Fradkin’s Amanda Doucette mysteries and Inspector Green series, the many editions of Phil Edmonston’s Lemon-Aid New and Used Cars and Trucks, artist biographies such as James King’s Inward Journey: The Life of Lawren Harris, Steve Paikin’s biography of Bill Davis and his book Paikin and the Premiers, Ron Brown’s popular books on Canada’s train lines, Robin Esrock’s Great Canadian Bucket List travel books, and Lucille Campey’s genealogy references covering immigration to Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries.

During his long career, Kirk played a significant part in the development of the Canadian industry and held posts as the President of the Association of Canadian Publishers, the President of the Ontario Book Publishers Organization, Treasurer of Livres Canada Books, and Board Member of Access Copyright.

Kirk was recognized numerous times for his dedication to Canadian publishing, receiving the President’s Award from the Ontario Historical Society in 1989 and in 2012, and the Janice E. Handford Award from the Ontario Book Publishers Organization in 2015. In 2012, he was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and, in 2019, he was invested into the Order of Canada.

Kirk sold Dundurn Press in early 2019. The current team is led by Kwame Scott Fraser, Chris Houston, Kathryn Lane, Graham Matthews, and Meghan Macdonald and aims to continue Kirk Howard’s legacy by bringing Canadian publishing excellence to the world with books such as Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia’s Giller-shortlisted The Son of the House and Nate Hendley’s Beatle Bandit, winner of the Brass Knuckles Award for Best Nonfiction Crime Book. We honour Kirk’s hard work and leadership, which underpins the publishing program that we are proud to produce today. And while our thoughts are with Kirk’s close friends and families, we are heartened to know that Kirk was able to see Dundurn Press celebrate fifty years before he passed away.