New Star Blogs

Erin Moure a finalist for the QWF’s Mavis Gallant award


Sit­ting Shi­va on Minto Avenue, by Toots, poet / trans­la­tor Erin Moure’s first work of cre­ative non-fic­tion, is a final­ist for this year’s Mavis Gal­lant Prize offered by the Que­bec Writ­ers Fed­er­a­tion.

Moure’s book com­mem­o­rates an old friend and for­mer lover, the news of whose death inspires this work of mourn­ing and mem­o­ry.  Mid-cen­tu­ry Mon­tre­al and ear­ly 1980s Van­cou­ver are both pow­er­ful­ly evoked in Sit­ting Shi­va on Minto Avenue, by Toots.

The Mavis Gal­lant Prize for Non-Fic­tion is named after the Mon­tre­al-born, Paris-based short fic­tion writer who died in 2014.  Oth­er final­ists are Robyn May­nard for Polic­ing Black Lives and Judi Rev­er for In Praise of Blood.

The QWF’s announce­ment can be found here.  Win­ners are announced at the QWF’s annu­al gala on Novem­ber 20.  Tick­ets are avail­able here.

Mudflat Dreaming Launches in Vancouver (and Vancouver Island)


In the dog days of sum­mer, the crew at New Star Books began to put togeth­er the first of what we hope are many events in regard to the cel­e­bra­tion of Mud­flat Dream­ing: Water­front Bat­tles and the Squat­ters Who Fought Them in 1970s Van­cou­ver, a book, in many ways, decades in the mak­ing, which tells the sto­ry of two com­mu­ni­ties on Vancouver’s water­front fringes in the 1970s. So, now, as we enter into the busy month of Octo­ber, we are pleased to announce with great excite­ment our part­ner­ship with two fan­tas­tic orga­ni­za­tions who are help­ing launch Jean Walton’s excit­ing new book. The Wild Bird Trust of BC will present Jean Wal­ton in con­ver­sa­tion on Sat­ur­day, Octo­ber 13th, from 1–3pm. The event is free and takes place at Cor­ri­g­an Nature House, Maple­wood Flats 2649 Dol­lar­ton High­way, North Van­cou­ver on the Unced­ed Tsleil-Wau­tuth Ter­ri­to­ry.

The event will guar­an­tee a live­ly in dis­cus­sion and gen­er­al vibe, with refresh­ments to enjoy (com­pli­men­ta­ry) and books avail­able for pur­chase. Don’t for­get to get yours signed by the author. The event will begin with remarks by Irwin Ostindie, Pres­i­dent, Wild Bird Trust of BC which oper­ates Maple­wood Flats. An option­al walk to view the Flats and Coast Sal­ish Art­work by Ocean Hyland will also take place fol­low­ing the talk.

For those on Van­cou­ver Island, ear­li­er in the week on Thurs­day, Octo­ber 11th, Courte­nay and Dis­trict Muse­um will be host­ing a lec­ture by Jean Wal­ton on her expe­ri­ence grow­ing up near these com­mu­ni­ties and what went into com­plet­ing her book. The event is $5 for His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety mem­bers, $6 for non-mem­bers (plus GST). The muse­um rec­om­mends pur­chas­ing your tick­ets in advance. Books will be on sale at the muse­um gift shop.


As a teenag­er, Jean Wal­ton lived just up the hill from Bridgeview, but it was only much lat­er that the author learned about the strug­gle embroil­ing her near neigh­bours, as well as its con­nec­tion to the Maple­wood Mud­flat squat­ter com­mu­ni­ty ––– not to men­tion Mal­colm Lowry and Habi­tat 76.   “Orig­i­nal­ly, I just want­ed to write some­thing set in the time and place where I came of age, in the sev­en­ties in the vicin­i­ty of Van­cou­ver- part­ly because I loved the idea of com­bin­ing fam­i­ly vis­its with research for a cre­ative project.”

Jean Wal­ton found her way, cre­ative­ly into these sto­ries is through a few doc­u­men­tary films made at the time about Bridgeview and Maple­wood, as well as Robert Altman’s break­through fea­ture film, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, shot just a few miles up the moun­tain­side from the Maple­wood Mud­flats.

Alexan­der Vasude­van, author of The Autonomous City, calls Mud­flat Dream­ing “a won­der­ful­ly evoca­tive account of the var­ied ways in which an alter­na­tive Van­cou­ver was imag­ined, con­struct­ed and lived by its res­i­dents in the 1970s.”

Mud­flat Dream­ing is the per­fect Christ­mas gift. And no it’s not too late to be think­ing about hol­i­day shop­ping! For more infor­ma­tion on these events, please vis­it us on Face­book and fol­low us on Twit­ter.


author Jean Wal­ton

ReUPDATED: October 12 at the People’s Co-op :: David Bromige if wants to be the same as is Vancouver launch


Hav­ing wend­ed its way through Sebastopol and San Fran­cis­co last month, and Philadel­phia, New York, and Warsh­ing­ton, DC this week, the David Bromige Always-already 2018 Posthu­mous World Tour bus returns to the west coast for its sec­ond leg, and final stop, Fri­day, Octo­ber 12 at the People’s Co-op Book­store in Van­cou­ver.

Bob Perel­man, part of the edi­to­ri­at (with Jack Krick and Ron Sil­li­man) that assem­bled if wants to be the same as is:  Essen­tial Poems of David Bromige, will be at the Van­cou­ver launch.  This will be the first Van­cou­ver vis­it in a looooong time (33 years?) for Perel­man, poet, teacher and crit­ic and known asso­ciate of the noto­ri­ous LCW gang.  He also has an extend­ed cameo in if wants to be the same as is as a Fig­ure addressed off stage.

George Bow­er­ing, who sup­plies an intro­duc­tion to his late (2009) poet­ry pal Bromige’s col­lec­tion, Fred Wah, who pub­lished Bromiges’ first book, Christo­pher Bromige, Peter Quar­ter­main, and Clint Burn­ham are among the con­firmed read­ers &c.

We can now reveal a few more read­ers: Mered­ith Quar­ter­main, Macken­zie Ground, Anakana Schofield, and up from Seat­tle, Paul DeBar­ros.

The launch, which is a free event, gets under­way at 7 PM.


Michael Turner launches 9 x 11 on 9/11 at Massy Books


It’s that time of year when books begin to launch like there’s no tomor­row. So, with that in mind, why not join us at Massy Books on Tues­day, Sep­tem­ber 11th at 7pm for the launch of Michael Turner’s new poet­ry col­lec­tion, 9×11 : and oth­er poems like Bird, Nine, x, and Eleven

Dodie Bel­lamy has this to say about Michael’s first poet­ry book in two decades: “Read­ing Michael Turner’s extra­or­di­nary 9x11 I was remind­ed of Christa Wolf’s Acci­dent, how glob­al cri­sis inten­si­fies the dai­ly — except that in Turner’s/our cur­rent state dis­rup­tion has become the new norm. Dis­rup­tion both ter­ri­fies and excites the poet — the stacked monot­o­ny of sky­scrap­ers is bro­ken both by the hor­ror of peo­ple leap­ing out of build­ings and by Mallarme’s thrilling aban­don­ment of ver­ti­cal struc­ture in “Un coup de des jamais n’abolira le hasard” (1897). All the reflec­tions and con­tem­pla­tive rhymes add up to a holo­graph­ic text that begs repeat­ed read­ing. “9 x 11” is a date, a dis­as­ter, and the mea­sure­ments of the poet’s room. For Turn­er archi­tec­ture is a form of poet­ic div­ina­tion, and poet­ry is a form of archi­tec­ture. Liv­ing in a city, com­mu­ni­ty is inevitable — cof­fee house / apart­ment build­ing / poet­ry peers — and despite his cau­tion, Turner’s tense heart proves very big.”

Come on out for some deli­cious snacks, live­ly guests and a great evening of poet­ry and oth­er enjoy­able sur­pris­es. Massy Books is locat­ed at 229 E Geor­gia Street (604–721-4405). Books will be on sale and why not get your signed by the author? Michael Turn­er is the author of books such as Com­pa­ny Town (1991), Hard Core Logo (1993), Kingsway (1995), Amer­i­can Whisky Bar (1997) The Pornographer’s Poem (1999) and 8x10 (2009).

Read this great inter­view Read Local BC did with Michael Turn­er in which the author dis­cuss­es his rela­tion­ship with his work and poet­ry. “I have come to trust poet­ry, but for so long I had a disin­gen­u­ous rela­tion­ship with it.”

Making Mudflat Dreaming a Reality



It’s not unusu­al for a book to start out as one thing when the author sits down and begins writ­ing, and end up tak­ing the writer some­where they nev­er planned on. Jean Walton’s Mud­flat Dream­ing is one of those books.
“Orig­i­nal­ly, I just want­ed to write some­thing set in the time and place where I came of age, in the sev­en­ties in the vicin­i­ty of Vancouver—partly because I loved the idea of com­bin­ing fam­i­ly vis­its with research for a cre­ative project,” Jean Wal­ton explains. Though the book went through var­i­ous incar­na­tions over the last decade, includ­ing a nov­el, the author was con­ti­nous­ly draw­ing from her own life expe­ri­ence. “ I had drawn from my own teen diaries,” Wal­ton explains.  Even­tu­al­ly the project became a hybrid of mem­oiris­tic mate­r­i­al from the author’s own life in Sur­rey, plus the sto­ries of the north shore squat­ters and the Bridgeview com­mu­ni­ty. Enter New Star Books pub­lished Rolf Mau­r­er. “He was very excit­ed about the his­to­ry of the Mud­flats on the North Shore,” Wal­ton explains.

After some con­ver­sa­tion with Mau­r­er, Wal­ton reshaped the mate­r­i­al to focus on the dual his­to­ry of those squat­ters and the work­ing class com­mu­ni­ty in Bridgeview,  and the oth­er side of the sto­ry of fringe com­mu­ni­ties on Vancouver’s water­front locales. “As I went about research­ing the Van­cou­ver project, I want­ed to bring to it the same skills I had devel­oped as a read­er of films, but also as a lover of archival research—I want­ed the project to be deeply and accu­rate­ly researched, and yet to have a light touch where the writ­ing itself was con­cerned. I couldn’t be mak­ing the very com­pli­cat­ed the­o­ret­i­cal argu­ments I was used to mount­ing in my aca­d­e­m­ic work—and yet, I didn’t want to “dumb down” the issues I was treat­ing either, since I think any audi­ence can under­stand the com­plex­i­ty of any issue if it is nar­rat­ed with some hon­esty and cre­ativ­i­ty.”

One notion that tru­ly piqued Walton’s inter­est was the ques­tion of water. “How it trav­els in a rainy, moun­tain­ous locale with a seri­ous riv­er delta that has been diked and dammed over decades; how waste-water is dis­posed and how it comes back to haunt you under the wrong con­di­tions; how tidal water can work as a metaphor for how a per­son might want to live in “sus­pen­sion” above var­i­ous kinds of social and polit­i­cal con­straints; how whole pop­u­la­tions, pri­or to col­o­niza­tion, lived in con­cert with ris­ing and falling of water lev­els; how resource extrac­tion uses water to float the province’s rich­es out for sale to the high­est bid­der.”

As Dan Fran­cis puts it, Jean Wal­ton has “res­cued two of these com­munties from obscu­ri­ty in her vivid and thought­ful account.” Mud­flat Dream­ing will be launch­ing in Octo­ber in Van­cou­ver. Stay close to these pages for fur­ther updates on launch­es, sign­ings and spe­cial events.

Look for #Mud­flat­Dream­ing hash­tag on social media for best results.


Always-already :: The David Bromige Posthumous World Tour 2018


Nine years after David Bromige offi­cial­ly left the firm in 2009, his long-await­ed col­lec­tion if wants to be the same as is: essen­tial poems of David Bromige, is avail­able, includ­ing with­in its folds an entire­ly new work, Amer­i­can Tes­ta­ment, com­posed but then nev­er pub­lished a third of a cen­tu­ry ago.

Events cel­e­brat­ing the appear­ance of if wants to be the same as is are tak­ing place in Sebastopol, San Fran­cis­co, Philadel­phia, New York, Wash­ing­ton, and Van­cou­ver, and will fea­ture read­ings of Bromige’s work by a spec­tac­u­lar array of poets, many who knew him.

David’s if wants to be tour starts with a cel­e­bra­tion / read­ing in his long-time home­town of Sebastopol, where he was Sono­ma County’s sec­ond Poet Lau­re­ate, on Fri­day, August 17, at the Sebastopol Cen­ter for the Arts.

The event is host­ed by Bill Vart­naw and fea­tures the book’s edi­tors, Ron Sil­li­man, Bob Perel­man and Jack Krick, and rec­ol­lec­tions, and read­ings from the book, by Gillian Cono­ley, Pat Nolan, Cole Swensen and Jon­ah Raskin.

The evening also fea­tures the world pre­miere of Incre­men­tal Win­dows, a doc­u­men­tary by film­mak­er, pho­tog­ra­ph­er and poet James Gar­ra­han (whose pho­to of David graces the book’s cov­er), who filmed a series of con­ver­sa­tions with Bromige made in the lat­ter years pre­ced­ing the poet’s death in 2009 that cov­er his poet­ics, his fam­i­ly and his life.

The Sebastopol Cen­ter for the Arts is at 282 High Street, Sebastopol.  Doors open at 5:30, pro­ceed­ings get under­way at 6 p.m.  An entrance dona­tion of $10, with no one turned away for lack of funds, is request­ed.  Pro­ceeds will be used to  place a bronze poem of Bromige’s on the grounds of the Arts Cen­ter, a project of Bill Vart­naw, also a Sono­ma Coun­ty Poet Lau­re­ate.

The next night, Sat­ur­day, August 18, a launch / read­ing at Alley Cat Books in San Fran­cis­co fea­tures Nor­ma Cole, Lyn Hejin­ian, Max­ine Cher­noff, Paul DeBar­ros, Jean Day, Nor­man Fis­ch­er, Kath­leen Fras­er, Susan Gevirtz, Bar­ry Gif­ford, Opal Nations, Michael Palmer, Stephen Rat­cliffe, and Kit Robin­son. Holy cow!

Alley Cat Books is at 3036 24th Street, San Fran­cis­co, in the Mis­sion Dis­trict. Lot­sa read­ers, so things start at 6 o’clock.

Then, sud­den­ly, it’s Tues­day, Sep­tem­ber 25, and you’re at the Kel­ly Writ­ers House for the Philadel­phia, PA if wants to be the same as is tour event.  Rachel Blau DuP­lessis, Steve Dolph, Ryan Eck­es, George Economou, Rochelle Owens, Eli Gold­blatt, David Han­cock, Tom Man­del, Chris McCreary, Ariel Reznikoff, Frank Sher­lock, and Orchid Tier­ney are on the bill.

Kel­ly Writ­ers House is at 3805 Locust Walk. The launch gets under­way at 6 o’clock.

Before you know it it’s Wednes­day Sep­tem­ber 26, and it’s New York for the next stop on the tour, at the Poet­ry Project at St. Mark’s. How does Bruce Andrews, Steve Ben­son, Charles Bern­stein, Lee Ann Brown, Nada Gor­don, Aldon Nielsen, Nick Piom­bi­no, James Sher­ry, and who knows, and maybe Abi­gail Child and Robert Gre­nier too, sound?

Every­body knows where the Poet­ry Project is: 131 E. 10th Street. This is the only 8 p.m. start­ing time on the tour, because New York nev­er sleeps.

Then it’s on Bridge Street Books in Wash­ing­ton, DC, on Sun­day, Sep­tem­ber 30, for read­ings by Lor­raine Gra­ham, Buck Downs and Rod Smith for sure, and prob­a­bly one or two oth­ers.

Bridge Street Books finds itself at 2814 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue NW; things get going at 6 o’clock.

Stay tooned for details about a Van­cou­ver event on Fri­day, Octo­ber 12, and maybe even Seat­tle on Octo­ber 14.

There’s an entry on Ron Silliman’s blog that gets to the crux of the bis­cuit more direct­ly (but then he’s a poet).

Worth the weight :: The Big Note launches August 24 at Lana Lou’s


Fabled Lana Lou’s at 362 Pow­ell Street in down­town Van­cou­ver is the place to be Fri­day, August 24, for the eager­ly antic­i­pat­ed and slight­ly delayed launch for The Big Note, Charles Ulrich’s even more anx­ious­ly antic­i­pat­ed but less slight­ly delayed mag­num opus on the work of the Ital­ian-Amer­i­can com­pos­er Frank Zap­pa (1940–1993).

If you’re one of the almost 2,000 peo­ple already clutch­ing your copy of The Big Note, you might be just a lit­tle sur­prised (but also delight­ed) to learn that you haven’t even missed the book’s offi­cial launch yet.  So, what’s tak­en so long?

Good ques­tion.  Back when New Star and Charles Ulrich start­ed talk­ing about what became The Big Note, The Two Tow­ers was still a feel-good fable dreamed up by some old Oxford Pro­fes­sor Cather­wood-type.  Charles’s book would be ready 2004, maybe 2005, and might run about 250 pages, because there was going to be A LOT to talk about.

How­ev­er, the author cau­tioned, he’s a pop­u­lar / rock­u­lar music kind of a guy, and when he got to FZ’s clas­si­cal and elec­tron­ic work­outs, he wasn’t going to have so much to say.  You are, he warned, going to get some two- or three-page chap­ters.  (The chap­ters he was talk­ing about end­ed up run­ning sev­en­teen, eleven, and eight pages.)

The FZ estate didn’t help, once they’d cleared away some of lawyers who had come out onto the field of play, by cre­at­ing what we called Zappa’s para­dox, releas­ing a steady stream of new and sur­pris­ing­ly fresh mate­r­i­al from “The Vault”.  Every posthu­mous release, even if it hadn’t demand­ed a fresh chap­ter of its own, shed enough light on what had come before to require con­stant revi­sion to “fin­ished” chap­ters.

Great, what­ev­er,” I hear you say.  “But that doesn’t explain why you wait­ed three months since you released the book on Moth­ers’ Day to ‘launch’ it now on August 24.  Did you just for­get?”

Not exact­ly.  It did take a while for everybody’s avail­abil­i­ty, the venue, and the band to align.  “We’d love to,” Tony Bar­dach of secret Van­cou­ver musi­cal leg­end Slow­poke and the Smoke said when we asked them to play at Charles’s launch.  “But we’ll need a lit­tle time to rehearse.”

The oth­er thing that got in the way of launch­ing The Big Note soon­er was The Big Note’s very big­ness.  Dur­ing six­teen years that Charles spent work­ing on it he con­tact­ed hun­dreds of musi­cians, tech­ni­cians, music schol­ars, fans, tape traders, &c., chas­ing down leads, while par­tic­i­pat­ing in on-line forums read by tens of thou­sands of the kind of per­son that turned out to  be inter­est­ed in a book about all this.  Along the way, the Inter­net start­ed treat­ing Charles like some kind of expert on the sub­ject.

So when word got around that Charles’s long-await­ed and eager­ly-antic­i­pat­ed muf­fin was final­ly avail­able in actu­al mol­e­cule for­mat, there was a lot of pent-up con­sumer demand ready to hit the “buy” but­ton.  The inter­net has gone gaga about The Big Note, as you can see here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.  The first print­ing melt­ed away like a fresh pal­let of Facelle Royale at the Cost­co, and we were just too busy try­ing to keep up with orders to do much, you know, pub­lic­i­ty and stuff like that.

We were even wor­ried for a while there that we might run out of the first print­ing before we could hold the launch, and before the sec­ond print­ing got here, so we socked some away.  So a lim­it­ed num­ber of May 2018 first print­ings of The Big Note will be avail­able at the launch along­side the essen­tial­ly iden­ti­cal August 2018 sec­ond print­ing.  Com­pletists will want both, of course, and Charles Ulrich will be on hand to sign copies.

This is one hot August night you won’t want to miss. Lana Lou’s opens their doors at 8.  There shall be no cov­er.

Michael Turner’s 9x11 by the Numbers


The last time Michael Turn­er pub­lished a book of poet­ry, Bill Clin­ton was Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States and San­dra Bul­lock starred in a cyber mys­tery called The Net. The last time the author pub­lished a book was 2008’s 8x10. Turn­er sug­gests 9x11 is also “based on a con­ceit” which is  9/11, which the author points out gets its title not after a par­tic­u­lar space (the WTC, Ground Zero) but by time (Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001). Ever the inno­va­tor of gen­res and for­mu­las for sto­ry­telling, Turner’s excite­ment about his new poet­ry book is all about time and space. “What inter­ests me is how time is spa­tial­ized — turn­ing time (9/11) into space (9x11), as Wag­n­er attempt­ed to do in his opera Par­si­fal (1882).”

Num­bers don’t lie and look­ing back­wards, one can eas­i­ly detect a sequence in regard to his last two books. “8x10 is a visu­al exper­i­ment. Anoth­er exper­i­ment in the book is based on what has been described as its sub­trac­tions: what is not vis­i­ble because it is not pre­sent­ed lit­er­al­ly in the writ­ten text — name­ly, names (iden­ti­ty), places (space) and times (day, month, year).”

Read­ers famil­iar with 8x10, will recall that each “sto­ry” is titled by a dark­ened box in an 8x10 grid. “The box­es that are not dark­ened,” Turn­er explains, “that are skipped, add up to a mul­ti­pli­er (x) that links the num­bers 8 and 10. This mul­ti­pli­er — this “unknown val­ue to find,” as described in 9x11 (“x”) — is the under­ly­ing fig­ure that uni­fies the sto­ries in the way chap­ters are said to uni­fy a nov­el. But there are oth­er (poten­tial) uni­fiers in 8x10 — recur­rent ref­er­ences to those “sev­en tree-lined ridges,” etc. — but they are nowhere as pow­er­ful as the mul­ti­pli­er.”

Why did the author do this? “Because I want­ed to con­vey what I saw at the time as an emer­gent dis­place­ment (evic­tion, migra­tion) brought on by the unseen flow of cap­i­tal, the “unseen hand” of the mar­ket — a dis­place­ment that would invari­ably result in incar­cer­a­tion, deten­tion, like what we are see­ing today, par­tic­u­lar­ly in North Amer­i­ca and Europe.”

Michael Turn­er is the author of sev­er­al acclaimed books includ­ing Com­pa­ny Town, Hard Core Logo, Kingsway, Amer­i­can Whiskey Bar, and The Pornographer’s Poem which was award­ed the Ethel Wil­son Fic­tion Prize 2000. Bruce McDon­ald direct­ed a film based on Hard Core Logo; he also direct­ed a live tele­cast dra­ma­tiz­ing Turner’s nov­el Amer­i­can Whiskey Bar in 1998, which aired on CityTV. 


9x11 will be released on Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2018 at Massey Books at 7 pm. All are wel­come. 

Andrew Struthers at Shadow Mountain in Victoria, April 7


Andrew Struthers, author of The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed, will be read­ing from and sign­ing copies of his smokin’ flip-book at Shad­ow Moun­tain Dis­pen­sary on April 7.

The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed, which was announced as a final­ist for the BC Book Prize ear­li­er this month, is a hilar­i­ous look at a hum­ble plant that has enter­tained, inspired, and occa­sion­al­ly ter­ri­fied so many for so long.  As Leanne Allen from Vul­ture Cul­ture TV puts it, “Read­ing Struthers’ writ­ing is like … swim­ming in jel­lo. And read­ing his new book The Sacred Herb/The Devil’s Weed is half like that, and half like … float­ing in mer­cury.”

Join Struthers for read­ings and book sign­ing at Shad­ow Moun­tain Dis­pen­sary, 543 Her­ald Street, Vic­to­ria.  Doors open at (when else?) 4:20 p.m.

The Excelsior Hotel Incident

This week's news, that The Sacred Herb / The Devil's Weed by Andrew Struthers has been nominated for the Hubert Evans Award in the BC Book Prizes, reminded us of the author's earlier brush with this country's literary prize machinery.  That was in the late 1990s, when Struthers was nominated for a National Magazine Award for The Green Shadow in its original form, serialized in the Georgia Straight.  He tells that story in Chapter 1 of The Last Voyage of the Loch Ryan (2004), from which this excerpt is taken.

After uni­ver­si­ty I tried liv­ing “on the Grid”, with a day job and a cred­it his­to­ry and a notice of dis­con­nec­tion and a stress-relat­ed skin dis­ease, but it just wasn’t me. So I moved into the for­est in Clay­oquot Sound and built a pyra­mid out of cedar and glass, perched on a hun­dred-foot cliff, look­ing out through a canopy of giant trees over a sparkling limb of the Pacif­ic.

On the hori­zon lay an island where the ancient vil­lage of Echachist once stood, until it was destroyed in bat­tle two cen­turies back. For years there was no sign of human activ­i­ty down there. Then one evening the set­ting sun caught on two gold­en cedar beams. Some­one was rais­ing a house frame.

I asked around at the Com­mon Loaf Bak­ery. The builder was Joe Mar­tin, whose fore­bear had been the chief at Echachist. I watched Joe’s house go up, and just before he fin­ished the roof the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment slapped a demo­li­tion order on my door. My house wasn’t up to code. I moved into town for the win­ter, and by spring the fuss had died down, so I car­ried my stuff back up the hill and con­tin­ued my con­tra­band lifestyle.

To pay the bills I worked on fish boats in sum­mer and at the fish plant in win­ter. My one attempt at a career was writ­ing, but it didn’t work out. I loved the writ­ing but hat­ed the career. These days you can’t sim­ply write, you also have to be a celebri­ty, which I find unset­tling, because the only celebri­ty I resem­ble is Shrek.

But I gave it my best shot, and right away things got out of hand. I wrote one sto­ry — The Green Shad­ow — and next thing I knew I was nom­i­nat­ed for a nation­al humour award, up against Morde­cai Rich­ler. The awards ban­quet was at the Excel­sior Hotel in Toron­to. The entrée was pork — not my favourite at the best of times, and with Morde­cai on one side and Paul Quar­ring­ton on the oth­er, vying for quips, I was so ner­vous I couldn’t eat a bite. Morde­cai was just the oppo­site. The guy had an intense love of pork, I guess. He ate his meal, and then he ate mine. Then he wan­dered around the ban­quet hall scor­ing pork rinds from the plates of strangers, all the while puff­ing on a ran­cid Gauloise and swig­ging haugh­ti­ly from a giant bot­tle of Cher­ry Jack.

When the MC announced the win­ner, Morde­cai didn’t even lis­ten. He ran, snuf­fling and wheez­ing and wip­ing the grease from his stub­by sausage fin­gers on the frills of his cheap rental tuxe­do, to the stage, where he grabbed the award, shoul­dered the MC aside and began grunt­ing plat­i­tudes into the micro­phone.

Okay, that nev­er hap­pened. I didn’t even go to the awards ban­quet. My account is what we fish­er­men call a yarn. It starts with the truth and casts off from there. What makes Clay­oquot Sound’s yarns unique is that the truth is often stranger than fish­ing. Here’s what real­ly hap­pened that night.

The awards were the same day as the fun fair at Pasheabel’s school. She had just turned six, and what she want­ed more than any­thing in the world was to win a cake in the
cake­walk. We bought a tick­et and tried and lost. Bought anoth­er tick­et, lost again. Third time I said, “This is all the mon­ey I have left. If we go in the cake­walk again, we can’t afford to go in the haunt­ed house.”

But Pashe­abel knew what she want­ed. Cake. Not so much to have cake as to win cake. So round we went again, and when the music stopped we were stand­ing on the sweet spot. Sal­ly Mole came run­ning up to us. “You won!”

It seemed like a good omen, and it was. I thought about Morde­cai and the awards ban­quet. They must be announc­ing the win­ner right about now. Sud­den­ly I knew I had won that too. It was one of those moments when it seemed the mys­te­ri­ous thread that sews togeth­er the lives in a small town runs deep­er than any­one imag­ines, con­nect­ing every human life, even mine and Mordecai’s.

Sal­ly hand­ed us an evil-look­ing choco­late bunt baked by Ian Bruce’s kid, who was bare­ly old­er than Pashe­abel — but to us it was a mag­ic cake. We took it down to Bar­ry Grumbach’s house. Bar­ry was a crab fish­er­man who lived on the inlet. The night was full of stars, the inlet was flat as glass, and on the grass behind the house the usu­al sus­pects were roast­ing a giant ling cod and play­ing tunes. Halfway through the evening, Charles Camp­bell called from the Geor­gia Straight. “You won!”

The par­ty went bal­lis­tic, every­one chant­i­ng, “Nice try, Morde­cai!” I for­get what hap­pened next. At dawn Pashe­abel and I woke up on the couch to find our mag­ic cake had
been eat­en by drunks. There was noth­ing left except a swirly pat­tern on the plate where some­one had licked it clean.

It seemed like a bad omen, and it was. After that night my writ­ing career took a sin­is­ter turn. When the book ver­sion of The Green Shad­ow came out, my pub­lish­er, Rolf Mau­r­er, a Ger­man intel­lec­tu­al with a huge fore­head and a soul patch, sent me on a tour to flog it. The inter­view­ers asked the same ques­tions over and over and over until I start­ed mak­ing the answers up out of sheer bore­dom, and then they nailed me on the facts. It was like spend­ing a week down­town in a miniskirt that didn’t quite cov­er my ass. The low point came on CBC’s Almanac, with Cecil­ia Wal­ters. The stu­dio was cav­ernous and emp­ty. It seemed too grand for radio. It was more like a TV stu­dio that had gone blind. I sat in the green room lis­ten­ing with hor­ror as the guest before me told a har­row­ing tale of sur­viv­ing breast can­cer. When I got to the hot seat, Glo­ria was sob­bing like a school­girl. This was going to be a tough act to fol­low.

I read a chap­ter, and Glo­ria chuck­led with glee and asked if I still lived in my pyra­mid in the woods. Dead air. The Feds still had that demo­li­tion order on my house. If I told the truth, town coun­cil would be oblig­ed to evict me all over again. “No,” I said, “I live in a dou­ble-wide trail­er on Chester­mans Beach.”

Back in Tough City I climbed the trail to my pyra­mid and found three Com­mer­cial Dri­ve hip­pie chicks and an Aus­tralian shaman camped out on my floor. They had braved the pass, bush­whacked through the rain­for­est to my place, unrolled their bed mats, lit my oil lamps, and used my only saucer as an ash­tray. They com­prised what Rolf called my “fan base”. I said, “You peo­ple have to go.” But the Aussie had oth­er ideas. He want­ed to unblock my root chakra by lay­ing his did­jeri­doo across my ass and blow­ing. I said, “Mis­ter, I don’t even know you.”

By now you’re think­ing, This has got to be anoth­er yarn. Sad­ly, that’s exact­ly what hap­pened. Out here, yarn and truth get tan­gled. A lot of Clay­oquot tales are true at one end and tall at the oth­er. But I swear on the grave of Jesus, every tale I’m about to tell you is true at one end.