After It Rains by Bill Haugland (Vehicule Press, $18)
By Stuart Nulman
For years, Bill Haugland honed his skills as a writer and storyteller, mainly as a reporter for CFCF’s suppertime newscast “Pulse”, and later as its anchorman. However, while he became a master news storyteller, Haugland was also trying to develop his skills as a storyteller of a different nature, mainly fictional stories.
When he retired from telling new stories several years ago, Haugland decided that instead of going the traditional route of writing a trenchcoat memoir of his life as a TV newsman, he used his TV news background as a premise for a novel. In fact, he turned it into two novels about the goings on of a mythical TV news operation in Montreal during the late 60s and early 70s, Mobile 9 and The Bidding.
For his third foray into fiction writing, Haugland decided to dig through a dusty old box that was stored in his Vermont home that was filled with story ideas and short stories that were started but remained unfinished. So with a lot of discipline and his knack for telling a story, Haugland went back to many of those stories and completed them. The end result is his first short story collection After it Rains.
The book is a collection of 14 short stories of varying themes and narratives that don’t solely rely on his past experiences in TV news. In fact, it deals with several examples of the human experience, whether it be realistic, fantastic or humoristic. Haugland’s purpose in telling these stories is to show the reader what these experiences are like from the point of view of the people who are taking part in it or being affected by it.
For example, there is the experience of a quirky family planning a carrying out a bank robbery (“Family Finances”); confessing to a murder while on death row (“A Confession”); how a simple object can release a tale of survival during the Holocaust (“The Photograph”); the wild, hustle and bustle world of the TV news stringer during the late 60s (“Stringer”, in which the mythical station CKCF from Haugland’s previous two books figures prominently in this story); and how an inherited 1943 U.S. penny turns into something more for the lonely grandson whom it’s handed down to (“The Wishing Jar”).
Haugland shows that he does have the knack for crafting and developing a quite readable fictional short story. In fact, he even knows how to develop a good plot twist that will throw quite a curve to the reader. Case in point, “41 Ward B”, a story of two elderly patients who reside in the Alzheimer’s ward of a rehab center. Although their rantings and states of mind could be attributed to their deteriorating mental condition, the ending is quite surprising (for the better) and leaves the reader with a “wow!” reaction.
After it Rains is an enjoyable collection of diverse short stories from someone who spent his career telling the public true stories on a daily basis for over 40 years. And after so many years of telling the news, it’s refreshing to see that Bill Haugland can effectively craft a series of 15-20 page works of fiction. Basically, he just cemented his new career as a writer of good fiction. Hopefully, the trenchcoat memoir won’t be so far behind, too.
Stuart Nulman’s “Book Banter” segment is a twice-a-month feature on “The Stuph File Program” with Peter Anthony Holder, which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at www.peteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes. Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com, www.KDXradio.com, True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.