The day after my time swanning around the Chateau Laurier as one of the Honoured Guests at Politics and the Pen, I was picked up at the hotel and whisked an hour west to Arnprior. The whiskers were my old friends David Lewis Stein and his wife, Alison. Dave is famous as the author (whom I’m proud to have published) and Toronto Star columnist who dressed like a Damon Runyon character, a fedora always perched on his head. He was also famous as the man who really knew Toronto city politics, inside out, and was the ultimate streetwise, big-city guy. And now he has retired to Arnprior, a little town of about 8,000 in the Ottawa Valley, where Alison’s family has ancient links.
How are they doing? Very well indeed, to judge from my happy stay with them at the big Victorian house that sits about 100 yards away from the distinctive Arnprior Museum, where Alison puts in volunteer time. About fifty yards down the main street is Gwen Storie’s bookstore.That evening the amazing Gwen and her staff rearranged the store to accommodate 40 paying customers ($15.00, including a delicious snack in the bakery next door) and I gave my show.
And we sold 26 copies! If you walk down the street in Arnprior, the odds that the first person you meet has a copy of my book at home are pretty good!
The more serious message is that a good local bookstore can act as an important community centre, and I’m glad to do all I can to help the Gwen Stories of this world.