Guy Vanderhaeghe moved away from our hometown the year before I was born. Unfortunately for me, I did not discover Guy's writing until my early 30's. Over four decades later, I met him in person last night.
The first novel that I read of Guy's was, The Last Crossing. This work is a trademark of what he does so well: weaving the history of the Canadian west into compelling and engaging fiction. It had been a long time since a book had energized my imagination, and Guy's writing reminded me of the fantastic story-telling that I had been missing for so long.
I soon picked up, The Englishman's Boy, and I was delighted several years later when the Creative Writing class I was enrolled in would study the novel as part of Red River College's Creative Communications program. The Englishman's Boy was equally as enjoyable as my first introduction to Guy's work, but I wanted more works from this eminent author.
That time has arrived.
Guy visited Winnipeg as part of THIN AIR, the Winnipeg International Writers Festival. If the reading he gave from A Good Man last night is any indication, Guy's new novel is another brilliant example of character development and excellent visual storytelling.
I bought A Good Man during last night's THIN AIR festivities and walked across the stage to ask Guy to sign my copy. I shook his hand and introduced myself.
"We share the distinction of coming from the same hometown," I said.
"Oh, really? What's your last name?" Guy answered.
"Berg," I replied, "B-E-R-G." I sometimes do this as my surname comes out sounding like, "bird."
"Hmm, I don't know that one," Guy replied, "But I left town in 1968. It's changed since then."
I was nervous as hell to talk to this man whose writing I admired so much. I was tongue-tied a couple of times, but we talked for a minute or so before I realized the line of people behind me patiently waiting to talk to Guy as well. I was caught off-guard when he asked how I would like my copy of his book dedicated. I hadn't thought that far ahead. He wrote, "To Greg. Best wishes, Guy Vanderhaeghe."
I told Guy that his writing had re-sparked my interest in reading many years ago – an interest I thought I had lost. Guy, in polite form, thanked me for the compliment. I said that I was very excited to read his latest work, and I shook his hand again and returned to my seat. I opened his book and began to read. A Good Man immediately sucked me in and I read several passages until the intermission ended.
As I write this, Guy is on a plane to Toronto in support of, A Good Man. Guy, it was an honour to meet you. Best of luck on your tour and I'm positive your latest novel is headed for great success.
Posted by Greg Berg, Guest Blogger