Bill Gaston came to teach at the University of Victoria Writing Department in 1998 following a dozen years in the Maritimes, mostly at the University of New Brunswick, where he was initially writer-in-residence. In New Brunswick he taught courses in undergraduate and graduate fiction, drama, screenwriting, and multimedia, became Director of the Creative Writing Programme, and, for a time, was editor of Canada's oldest literary journal, The Fiddlehead. He subsequently also became chair of the University of Victoria's Writing Department.

Gaston was born in 1953 and grew up in Winnipeg, Toronto and North Vancouver. Before teaching at various universities, he worked as a logger, salmon fishing guide and group home worker. He briefly played professional hockey in the south of France and is now tired of having that tidbit appear in his biographical material. Hockey nonetheless is an aspect of The Good Body, a novel about an former professional hockey 'enforcer' who returns to his hometown with M.S. and a determination to revive a relationship with a son he abandoned 20 years earlier.

More significantly, hockey is the focus for Midnight Hockey (Doubleday, 2006), Gaston's memoir that recalls his serious playing days as well as his subsequent shenanigans ("hilarious and lewd") in so-called beer-league hockey, described as Canada's fastest-growing athletic phenomenon (as long as you choose to overlook women's soccer).

In 2003 Bill Gaston received the inaugural Timothy Findley Award for a Canadian male writer in mid-career. At the time he had published four novels -- Tall Lives, The Cameraman, Bella Combe Journal, The Good Body -- plus four collections of short fiction -- Deep Cove Stories, North of Jesus' Beans, Sex Is Red, and Mount Appetite (nominated for the 2002 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and the Giller Prize) -- and a collection of poetry -- Inviting Blindness. His plays included Yardsale, Ethnic Cleansing, and I Am Danielle Steel.

Gaston's fifth novel, Sointula (Raincoast 2004), does not concern the Finnish idealists who founded the utopian colony of Sointula on the northern end of Vancouver Island. It concerns a middle-aged mother who exchanges her comfortable city life for a kayak in order to search for her estranged son who has gravitated to Sointula. The protagonist Evelyn has left Oakville, Ontario to witness the death of her old lover, Claude, who is the father of her decade-lost son Tom. She decides she must take some of Claude's ashes, stashed in a cigar tube, to her son, and she takes an unorthodox approach to reaching him--paddling with a former teacher named Peter Gore who is something of a know-it-all about Vancouver Island. The name of Sointula means harmony in Finnish. The novel was reissued in 2012.

Gaston's Rabelaisian collection of stories, Gargoyles (Anansi 2006), employs gargoyles as signposts to represent various extremes of human emotions. "The stories all share something I would call 'gargoylishness'," he says. "My protagonists tend to be larger-than-life, gentle grotesques." In most of these stories, Gaston has described people trying to transcend their own psychological ugliness, fears or weaknesses.

The Order of Good Cheer (Anansi, 2008) contains two parallel stories of men separated by 400 years and the span of the North American continent. Each is hoping to save the diminishing morale of his group of companions in a remote and unfriendly corner of Canada by forming an Order of Good Cheer - "where nobles and men can enjoy good local food, excellent wine, and camaraderie." The Order of Good Cheer was a name bestowed by Samuel de Champlain on a series of feast nights he hosted during the winter of 1607.

In Bill Gaston's The World (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin 2012), a recently divorced, early retiree accidentally burns down his house on the day he pays off the mortgage, only to discover that for the first time in his life he's forgotten to pay a bill: his insurance premium. An old friend of his, a middle-aged musician, prepares for her suicide to end the pain of esophageal cancer. Her father, who left his family to study Buddhism in Nepal, ends his days in a Toronto facility for Alzheimer's patients. The three are tied together by a book called The World, written by the old man in his youth. The book, possibly biographical, tells the story of a historian who unearths a cache of letters, written in Chinese, in an abandoned leper colony off the coast of Victoria. He and his young Chinese translator fall in love, only to betray each other. The World (Penguin 2012) won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize awarded to the best work of fiction by a B.C. author. It was followed by a collection of short stories, Juliet Was a Surprise (Hamish Hamilton 2014).



Deep Cove Stories (Oolichan, 1989)
North of Jesus' Beans (Cormorant, 1993)
Sex Is Red (Cormorant, 1998)
Mount Appetite (Raincoast, 2002)
Gargoyles (Anansi 2006). $29.95 0-88784-749-8
Juliet Was a Surprise (Hamish Hamilton 2014) $22 978-0-670-06584-4
A Mariner's Guide to Self Sabotage (D&M 2017) $22.95 contains funny, poignant and absurd stories of characters who are lonely, alienated, holders of secrets, screw-ups, joyriders and runaways.


Tall Lives (Macmillan, 1990)
The Cameraman (Cormorant, 1994)
The Bella Combe Journal (Cormorant, 1996)
The Good Body (Cormorant/Stoddart, 2000)
Sointula (Raincoast 2004; Hamish Hamilton 2012).
The Order of Good Cheer (Anansi, 2008), $29.95 978-0-88784-200-9
The World (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Canada) 2012 $32 978-0670065837


Midnight Hockey (Doubleday, 2006).


Inviting Blindness (Oolichan, 1995).

[BCBW 2017] "Fiction" "Sports"