Meet Carl Dow, author

Confessions of an accidental publisher
 
By Geoffrey Dow
Publisher, the BumblePuppy Press

The following is adapted from the introduction I gave at the official launch party for Carl Dow's The Old Man's Last Sauna, which took place on a frigid 24 November 2013 at Daniel O'Connell Irish Pub in Ottawa. It was a crowded, boisterous and happy affair, with live, traditional Irish music provided by Kevin Dooley and Friends.

The photos were all taken that night. If they suffer from the dark room and the crowded space, I hope they nevertheless get across something of the evening's celebratory feel. GD

Cover, The Old Man's Last Sauna

Image: Geoffrey Dow at The Old Man's Last Sauna book launch
 
Geoffrey Dow introduces Carl Dow.  

Good evening, and thank you for coming out — I could have sworn we scheduled this do for October 24, but I seem to have been off by a month. So ... Merry Christmas — and you might as well all go home.

No, I'm kidding.

My name is Geoffrey Dow, and I am the proprietor of BumblePuppy Press, the publisher behind the book we are here to celebrate. And yes, if you can't tell by looking, you can guess by the last name: Carl Dow and I are related. In point of fact, he's my dad.

He's also a hell of a writer, a fact I didn't always appreciate. At least not when it came to fiction.

Quite a lot of years ago now my dad showed me a draft of a radio play he'd written, since it ran a bit towards science fiction and (I suspect) because I was the only science fiction reader he knew. Anyway, he asked me to read it.

I was a better critic than most 15 or 16 year olds, but I wasn't any more tactful. I didn't think the play was very good, and I said so at length and in great detail.

Weirdly enough, he didn't show me another piece of his fiction for a quarter of a century ...

Photo: Carl Dow talks Old Man's Last Sauna after taking his turn on the stage at O'Connel's Irish Pub, November 24, 2013.  
Carl Dow talks Old Man's Last Sauna after taking his turn on the stage at O'Connel's Irish Pub, November 24, 2013.  

But that quarter century passed and one night during a telephone conversation when I was living in Toronto a few years ago, he asked me if I'd be interested in reading a novel he'd written: Black Grass. An historical novel, set on the Canadian prairies before they became provinces of Canada.

I said yes, but when the envelope came, I was pretty damned nervous about reading it; I really didn't want to be the one to tell him that, well, it sucked.

But I'd said I would, so I settled in my favourite chair and started to read. And I was still in that chair when I turned over the last page and realized the sun had long since come up.

You know the phrase, "I laughed and I cried." Well hell, I really had laughed and I really had cried. Black Grass was actually a really good novel, but he hadn't been able to find a publisher.

Too Canadian, they said. Too French, too sexy, not sexy enough; if only you'd sent it to us last year ...

  Image: Carl Dow discusses The Old Man's Last Sauna.
  Carl Dow discusses The Old Man's Last Sauna.

He'd gotten nibbles, he'd had discussions and informal offers, but no contracts had been signed, and meanwhile the publishing industry — along with so much else lately — had been canabilizing itself and, in the name of the Great God Efficiency, had been getting rid of writers at a record pace.

But this is not the space to talk about early 21st century capitalism in general, or about the publishing industry in particular, nor even about how print-on-demand and ebooks have changed that industry profoundly, making it possible for writers to reach readers again, without worrying about fashions in publishing or what the book buyer at Chapters thinks might sell in the next 6 weeks.

This is the space to talk about Carl Dow who, among many other things, has been a daily newspaper journalist, been declared one of the top-10 magazine writers in the country by the then-editor of the late Canadian Magazine (circulation two million) and a newspaper publisher in his own right. And of course, for the past few years he has been editor and publisher of this online news and new analysis magazine, True North Perspective and True North Humanist Perspective.

 

But the fiction bug never left him completely, and the knowledge that some really good stories were moldering in filing-cabinet drawers gnawed at me. That my father had more stories to tell, if only he thought that anybody would read them, gnawed at me even more.

And so it was that, last year, idle talk and vague intentions became a reality. I determined to throw my hat into the publishing ring, taking a proverbial leap of faith — in the possibilities of new technologies, like ebooks and print-on-demand, and in readers' desire to read good stories.

The Old Man's Last Sauna isn't the novel that inspired the decision — look for that (and it's sequel! And more after that!) this spring. No, The Old Man's Last Sauna is a truly eclectic collection of short stories that displays the work of a writer in full creative flower, one willing to experiment with theme and form, but who never forgets that a story-teller's first job is to entertain.

It is not as a proud son that I became a publisher, but as an enthusiastic reader. I am proud to introduce to you a Carl Dow most of you have never known, a gift to Canadian letters that has been far too long in transit.

Photo: Kevin Dooley and Friends at The Old Man's Last Sauna book launch.
A good time really was had by all. Kevin Dooley and Friends opened the evening and saw it to a close.

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