Hal Sisson died early in 2010 of severe Aortic Stenosis after 18 days in hospital waiting for a heart valve replacement. [See his self-written obituary notice below.]

Ethel Wilson published her first novel Hetty Dorval with Macmillan when she was 59. She'd have a tough time doing that today. In our highly visual age an author ideally should be, to use a Jack McClelland term, 'mediable'. Younger new writers are easier to promote than older first-timers. Besides, if someone is really serious about their writing, wouldn't they have entered the game long before age 60? For these reasons, image is as important as content. A lifetime of wisdom and experience is increasingly less valuable than a pretty face. Besides, why should a trade publisher make a long-term investment in someone who might bite the bullet? It's better to take risks on the young.

Small wonder Hal Sisson has resorted to self-publishing. Sisson, a native of Moose Jaw, ran a law practice for 30 years in Alberta's Peace River country and wrote for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. He also wrote, produced and starred in a burlesque review called Sorry 'Bout That. Since gravitating to Victoria, he co-wrote a humourous collection called Coots, Codgers and Curmudgeons and co-released a second collection, Garage Sale of the Mind (Salal 2002 $19.95) in which politicians are skewered, authorities are paranoid and nostalgia is indulged. The tales are touted as being 'as bawdy as Greek comedy and as sweet as a stroll down memory lane.'

The plot in Sisson's first novel, Caverns of the Cross (Arsenal 1997 $14.95)concerns Pokecheck, a natural contraceptive distilled from South American flora. Shady activities by legal drug dealers and Catholic church cults unfold against the backdrops of Brazilian jungles and Roman streets. The 'burlesque novel' Big Bamboozle (Salal 1999 $9.99) presents an environmental King Kong for the Nineties. Its personified hero, Bamboo, is an East African mountain gorilla who is snatched from his jungle home to boost a Toronto zoo's breeding program. Gorillas speak and they see humans as 'remarkably ugly'. "If Bamboo roamed very far afield, he came to places populated by great numbers of baboon-like creatures who bore only a slight resemblance to gorillas. They were of different colours and most of them had very little hair on their faces and bodies. All wore a covering over their loins, while others wore things that not only covered their gender but their whole body. For the most part, they seemed an odious, vicious and rascally species, best to avoid altogether."; Despite his natural and understandable aversion to killer humanoids, Bamboo teams up with an aging eccentric to fight greed and government in a campaign to save the apes. Bamboo makes a burlesque-style zoo escape, entertains at a nightclub and takes a hostage on his way to New York. Instead of King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, Bamboo initiates a motion at the United Nations assembly to save gorillas from extinction.

His subsequent novels are A Fat Lot of Good, Maquiladora Mayhem and You Should Live So Long. In these humourous novels two 'codgers' solve crimes. In A Fat Lot of Good, Philip Figgwiggin, who's on the far side of 70, teams up with his octogenarian pal to catch the murderer who bumped off Phil's doctor. It's a mystery set in Victoria with a plot "as twisted as a box full of slinkies."; In the sequel entitled Maquiladora Mayhem (Salal 2003 $10.99), the two 'old farts' Phil Figgwiggin and Mike Fowler solve a murder and throw a monkey wrench into so-called Free Trade zones. They team up with a beautiful investment expert to do so. In the third novel You Should Live So Long (Salal $10.99) Figgwiggin and Fowler take on politicians and trigger-happy commandos to save mother earth. "Writing this novel was my way of doing something about recent world events that cheesed me off,"; says Sisson.

As a prequel to his comedic Figgwiggin and Fowler trilogy, Hal Sisson has offered his seventh novel, Potshots (Manor House Publishing / White Knight $24.95), another humourous romp about the misadventures of Phil Figgwiggin, QC, who defends a call girl and a marijuana grow-operator after his stay at an idyllic Gulf Islands guest farm.


Caverns of the Cross, novel (Arsenal, 1997)
Coots, Codgers and Curmudgeons, stories (Salal, 1999). With Dwayne Rowe.
The Big Bamboozle, novel (Salal, 1999)
Garage Sale of the Mind, stories (Salal, 2002). With Dwayne Rowe.
A Fat Lot of Good, (Salal, 2002)
Maquiladora Mayhem (Salal, 2003)
You Should Live So Long (Salal, 2004)
Potshots (Manor House Publishing / White Knight, 2008) 978-0-9809356-0-8

[BCBW 2010] "Humour" "Fiction"