Books are piling up on the staircase like on a shelf at the local library. I read and read and as soon as finish one, there’s another waiting to be read. Now, if I only could learn to read while being on a treadmill. Never could, likely never will.
Terry Fallis has always created very readable and enjoyable books. His latest does not break the mould.
Terry Fallis is one of my favourite Canadian writers and definitely my favourite when it comes to humorous writing. He has won two Stephen Leacock awards and justifiably so.
His latest book, One Brother Shy, stays in the pattern, funny, glib, filled with quips and very current in topic and dialogue.
A couple of years ago, I wrote Terry Fallis asking if he would consider responding to emailed interview questions. He not only responded but motivated me to see him speak at the Toronto central library. Now that was an adventure.
When I arrived at the TCL, the room was filling up with Fallis fans. I searched for the author in hopes of taking a photo or two. Standing alone by a large picture window, I spotted a man who looked a lot like a Fallis jacket cover photo. As I approached him, I thought, hmm, looks like Fallis but can’t be as he has to be preparing for his stage appearance. But damn, this guy was a dead ringer, a doppelganger. I stepped up to the man, and out of the blue said,”You must be Terry’s twin brother?” To my surprise, he said, “Yes, I am Tim Fallis.” I nearly fell over at being so correct in my guess.
The short of it all, Tim is as personable as his brother. The Fallis boys certainly have a very personable presence about them. They both are affable, amenable, approachable and much more. When they talk, you hear intelligence, worldliness and experience. When I finally did meet Terry as he autographed books, I had a few minutes of exchange with him. It reinforced my liking the man. He is a terrific writer of humorous stories. He is a man who projects a humility and “down-to earthiness” which makes you like him from the outset.
I have read every book Fallis has written, the two ‘political’ ones which launched his writing career in Canada, his 70-year-old astronaut, and now his brother book. Though I am partial to the Scot politician character of his first two novels, I found his subsequent books very enjoyable.
However, as I read his latest, One Brother Shy, like Elvis, I was all shook up with his constant glibness, endless sarcastic quips and nonstop flippancy. Of course, Terry would justify the necessity for this style as the lead character in the book, Alex, was struggling with an experience from his high school days which would drive anyone into becoming defensive.
The new book is about a man tormented by an event from his youth while in secondary school theatre and the journey he finds himself on to heal and to learn who he is.
Few people know the real Alex MacAskill. Most of the world sees a painfully and chronically shy software engineer in his mid-20s, soft-spoken, a bit of a loner, and someone easy to escape notice wherever possible — and Alex likes it that way. Because no matter how many years have passed, the incident known only as “Gabriel” in the MacAskill family is something that still haunts him.
But when his mother, one of the only people in the world who Alex felt comfortable as himself around, dies after a long illness, he suddenly has no choice but to face the very thing that he’s been avoiding since that night in high school. In an instant, Alex finds himself trying to piece together the mystery of his identity, and begins a search for the family he never knew existed — a search that takes him from Ottawa to London to Moscow, encountering along the way the KGB, painful memories from his past, and even the 1972 Russian hockey team — a search that ultimately helps Alex discover himself.
Terry Fallis once explained how he writes a book. He sketches out chapters with sentence summaries and then fills in the sketches as he writes each chapter. I am sure there is more to it than that for he creates such really off the wall events and incidents in this book one is amazed by the author’s astounding imagination and creativity. The event with the school play is a perfect example of something which no one could dream up easily. The story line where Alex searches for his brother is truly engaging, even suspenseful as any reader will turn pages quickly anxiously to story’s outcome. Fallis grabs his readers again! With his trademark wit and captivating storytelling, Fallis has written a novel unlike any of his others. One Brother Shy is at once poignant and humorous, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and readers will not soon forget Alex MacAskill.
I have one idea I wish Fallis would consider and it comes from how he has written his latest opus. Fallis writes in a style which uses glibness, sarcasm and flippancy to move his story along and to engage the reader. The literary theatrics work well, readers cannot help but be drawn into the story. I respectfully suggest Fallis toy with the idea of a crime story creating a detective character who might capture readers who return repeatedly. “Lou ‘the lip’ Thez” would be a detective who seems flippant, glib and sarcastic but who has a mind that is as analytical and incisive as the best in the profession. Fallis could open a whole new door to his writing career. He expresses fears about having a limited number of books within himself. I think a man of his creativity has infinite books within. He simply has to give vent to his whimsical flights of inspiration. And no, Lou the dick should not be a variation of Columbo…been there, done that. This is a whole new guy working the streets of Toronto like Priestly and Sampson do in the TV detective series Private Eyes which is a take off of Moonlighting from years ago and also McMillian & Wife with Rock Hudson and Susan St. James. If those story lines work repeatedly, why wouldn’t Louie the lip? This could be a whole new career for Fallis, not that I am suggesting his current writing of humour should be put to rest. I am only seeing that this creative writer could open new doors to an entirely different line of stories but with a lovable character like Little Louie, that’s Louie with an E.
Terry, let the idea percolate. Linwood Barclay move over !!!