“I would never throw my mama from a boat,” says PJ Reece, referring to the title of his just-published book of short stories, Throw Mama from the Boat and Other Ferry Tales.
Reece felt moved to defend the title in a blog entry in which he also published a photo of his mother laughing uproariously after being told what he had named his book. “Wonder no more about where I came by my sense of humour,” he added.
Dark humour is a feature of some of the 13 fictional stories in the 168-page book. So are light humour, absurdity and touching insight. Reece ran his manuscript by Canadian humourist Arthur Black before Black died last winter. He said the book “ranges from Kafkaesque to Coco-the-Clownish with a touch of Yann Martel thrown in.” That pretty much nails it.
Reece has written screenplays, documentary scripts, TV shows, novels and two non-fiction books explaining his philosophical approach to story structure. But this new form is a departure.
“I had never written short stories before this book,” Reece told Coast Reporter. “Two years ago, I sat down with the idea of the ferries in mind, to write a dozen short stories. So, each day for the next 14 days, I wrote a story. One a day. For the next year, I just fleshed them out.”
Reece is a writer happy in his work, it would be fair to assume, given the delightful energy between the lines of even his darkest tales. His varied experience as a storyteller also is evident in the breadth of attitudes and situations in these stories, though all include the travel element so familiar to Coast residents.
“We all go, and we come, spend an hour each way on the ferry, sitting quietly by ourselves. It’s like a buffer between paradise and the mad world,” Reece said. “Isn’t that an amazing venue or stage for stories to unfold? A place where nothing seems to happen.”
Much happens aboard Reece’s unrestrained imaginary world between ferry terminals, including the doomed marriage of two chihuahuas, a frozen Howe Sound, and a character who plans to take his own life by jumping off a ferry but is thwarted in a most ironic way.
“You get a story going and you get to ‘and then what happens.’ There’s always going to be another and-then-what-happens,” Reece said. “It can get kind of crazy.” And it does.
There could be more to come. “I’d interested in bringing some of these characters back into a novel, a mystery on the Coast,” he mused.
Reece said Throw Mama from the Boat is available at no fewer than seven shops on the Sunshine Coast and will also soon be available as an e-book on Amazon.