A well-woven tale has the ability to make us smile and laugh, to expand our horizons and even escape our worries, at least for awhile.
For Oak Bay’s Frank Wilson, it can do a whole lot more.
Wilson recently released his newest book, Nowt To Do With My Wife, published by England’s Peak Publish.
Wilson’s second volume of short stories follows the well-received Nowt To Do With Me, published three years ago. Available in Oak Bay at Bungalow and Casey’s Market, as well as from online bookseller Amazon and also from Wilson directly, all of the author’s proceeds go to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, inspired by a friend in England who has lived with MS for 25 years.
Dubbed “social history with a smile,” by BBC local radio, the stories are part fact, part fiction, Wilson says.
“I just felt that there was a lot of stories because there were a lot of characters,” he reflects. “It’s not a memoir, partially because memoirs are supposed to be true and this is only half-true.”
Born in the Loxley valley, west of Sheffield in South Yorkshire in the middle of the Second World War, Wilson was the son of a dairy farmer, and his early years were filled with farm and rural activities in a community that was only slowly beginning to change from its traditional patterns.
Nowt to Do with Me was his first collection of short stories, but followed a self-published 2008 volume of poetry, Blackberries, that raised a substantial sum for MS research in the UK. Chasing Crows, published in Canada in 2013, followed.
After a career as an agricultural economist, Wilson shifted his attention from academic and consultancy report writing to poetry and short stories, winning awards both in the UK and Canada.
Nowt To Do With My Wife draws further on South Yorkshire life.
The 12 chapters can stand alone but are linked together by geography and to a lesser extent by a cast of recurring colourful characters, “from a one-of-a-kind uncle and his ukulele-strumming pal to a philandering furniture maker and Laura the kindly witch,” Wilson says.
While those hailing from the UK will likely see friends and neighbours reflected in the stories and characters, Wilson expects anyone from a rural upbringing will relate.
“I can’t help telling people about things, because I was a teacher, but it’s meant to be funny,” he says. “I like the whole business of having an idea and developing it.”
While the first collection focused largely on Wilson’s early years, this latest title follows him to his teens and earlier years at school.
In his particular corner of the world, nothing really changed until the late 1950s – in part why his story “Rave On,” about when American rock ‘n’ roller Buddy Holly came to Sheffield, strikes such a chord with the author.
The year was 1958, and Holly would be killed in a plane crash in February 1959.
While Wilson says he’s likely finished with the “Nowt” series, another idea is percolating. “We spent so much time overseas, in Asia, Africa and the South Pacific. It was always service work but there was always funny stuff.”