Beneath an 'aw shucks' literary veneer, Bob Collins is a wry and sly observer of human nature in the tradition of Stephen Leacock and Mark Twain. The funniest self-published book you're probably not going to hear about is Collins' Out Standing in Their Field (Stone Pillow $18.95), the first of his two books to be shortlisted for the Leacock Medal for Humour. Booksellers and librarians sometimes assume the title is Outstanding in Their Field and therefore can't easily call it up on their computers. Oddly packaged with black & white photos of children, these sophisticated stories about a farming couple are far subtler than their packaging might lead one to assume.

Collins' wistful, junior version of television's Wonder Years, a first novel called Summer of Wonder: The Misguided Romance of Hap Fitzpatrick (Stone Pillow Press, $18.95), didn't give Alice Munro a run for her Giller, but this nostalgic recollection of first love was also shortlisted for the Leacock Medal. Whereas Collins' two preceding collections of short stories and barnyard philosophy were downright funny, this gentle and wistful tale of eight-year-old named Hap "wallowing blissfully in the glorious confusion of childhood"; penetrates the veneer of even most hardened sophisticate with all the relief of Vicks Vaporub.

The joke is that Bob Collins writes from a cluttered desk on the family farm in the Alberni Valley and knows how to operate heavy machinery. He knows people. He knows animals. He knows people are animals. He loves them anyway. Self-described as 'a carpenter by trade, a dairy farmer by vocation, a cottage resort owner by circumstance and a writer by accident,' Collins is also a construction contractor who first published his stories in an agricultural monthly, Country Life in B.C. (founded by Ma Murray in 1915). A lifelong B.C. resident, Collins has has lived in New Westminster, Dog Creek, Vancouver, Surrey, Springhouse, Errington, Nanoose Bay, Kelowna, Coombs, Delta, Sandspit, Mackenzie, Nanaimo, Burnaby, North Bend, Boston Bar, Donald Station, Golden, Powell River, Youbou, Duncan, Campbell River and -- since 1980 -- Port Alberni. He attended nine schools and called it quits after 11 years. He married Ann Milne in 1973. He lists his ancestral background as half men, half women.

CITY/TOWN: Port Alberni B.C.

DATE OF BIRTH: November 9, 1948

PLACE OF BIRTH: New Westminster B.C.

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Carpenter, dairy farmer, campground/cottage operator

AWARDS: Shortlisted, Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, 2001; 2005

BOOKS:

Out Standing In Their Field, The Rural Adventures of Hap and Edna (Stone Pillow Press 2000). Short stories.
Dance With the One That Brung Ya, More Rural Adventures With Hap and Edna (Stone Pillow Press 2002). Short stories.
Summer of Wonder: The Misguided Romance of Hap Fitzpatrick (Stone Pillow Press, 2004). Novel.
Making Hay While the Sun Shines: Hap and Edna Ride Again (Stone Pillow Press, 2009).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2009] "Humour" "Fiction"