Local resident Peter Robin’s newly published book is a playful romp through a colourful depiction of Fort St. James’ past.
The self-published book called Tales from the Grub ‘n’ Rub takes the reader on some raucous journeys through a somewhat sensationalized version of the Fort of times gone by in a series of short stories the writer said is only partially based on some of his own past.
“I’ve tried to camouflage events as much as possible to protect the guilty,” joked Robin.
The stories are often set within the backdrop of a fictional restaurant (The Grub ‘n’ Rub), which is based on a composite of many restaurants Robin had frequented in different northern towns, including Fort’s old Fran’s Cafe and the Mackenzie Hotel in Inuvik.
“It’s a venue for telling the stories,” explained Robin.
One story in particular he said has a more generous dollop of truth in it, <Wide-eyed and Fort-ified>, beginning as his family makes their way to their new home in Fort St. James, all nine children, two parents and a dog “shoe-horned into a rattle-trap station wagon” – that part was all true.
The story then centres around his educational experience in a rural Catholic school, a.k.a. St. Maria Gonna-Beat-Ya Catholic Mission School.
“It was a really haywire time – enjoyable, but holy cow,” said Robin.
The stories run the gamut, with the majority being light and humorous, eliciting laughter from the reader in doses, and the touching tale of a young man’s dog in the <I>Significance of Jink<I> likely eliciting a couple of tears from anyone who’s known the value of a good dog.
Written in the tone of a ‘good old boy’ from the ‘good old days,’ the book has some bawdy language and would not be what people would consider ‘politically correct’ when it comes to female to male relationships.
But it is probably fairly accurate for a small northern frontier town, where those kinds of things were not so much on the radar, let alone worried about.
And while hopefully some thing have changed for the better, it is fun to read about how things used to be, at least through the haze of nostalgia and the veneer of a good storytelling voice.
Peter Robin himself still has a home in Fort St. James, but also has a home in Kelowna where his youngest son is attending a hockey academy to pursue his passion for the game.
He was one of the founders of NMI, and by selling the company, now has the luxury of pursuing his “first love -telling amusing stories.”
It was after he began spending the winters in Kelowna he decided to take a creative writing course through the Okanagan College, where he received a lot of encouragement from his instructors.
The budding author then took another course and decided to keep on with it and came up with the small book.
“I just started writing and let it flow,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The book was edited by Laurie Carter of Little White Publishing, who helped him with touch-ups but did not want to change his voice.
“It’s very much written in the way that I talk,” said Robin. “I didn’t want it to be too polished.”
Well, I can say with certainty, on this the author has succeeded, and while it may not be polished, it is hard to finish many of the stories without laughing, which is also exactly what Robin was looking for.
“That’s what I was aiming for, that everyone came away with a smile,” he said.
So far, the book has been well-received, with an interview on CBC by Betsy Trumpeter, and a review in the Penticton Western News, after only two weeks of being on the shelf.
Locally, Robin said he has been getting a “good reception” from local businesses willing to stock the book, from the hardware store to the information booth to area resorts, with the list growing all the time and even a large Prince George book store stocking it. Vanderhoof also has the book at a local grocery store, showing while “Hooterville” may not be as celebrated in the book, residents there may also enjoy a good tale of the old times.
It is Robin’s second book, the first one being an autobiography he wrote with his family in mind, but the local author seems enthusiastic enough about his newfound vocation there will likely be more tales from the old “Grub ‘n’ Rub” or something like it, in the future.
Or so we hope.