Forest Gump famously said, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”
The man knew what he was talking about.
That little aphorism pretty accurately describes how I felt when I opened up a new manuscript for a little book called Davy the Punk. I rarely know much about any of the authors whose books come my way, so there’s always an element of surprise that goes along with cracking open a new file and getting down to business.
When Davy the Punk arrived in my inbox as part of the Spring 2014 line up, it was with that Gump-ian saying in mind that I started to research the author.
Bob Bossin was a name I’d never heard before, but I had heard rumblings that he was kind of a big deal. I gamely typed his name into Google … and got pages and pages of results. Home pages, YouTube videos, reviews—you name it, all for Bob Bossin and a folk band with a funny name….
A picture of Bossin soon emerged. An acclaimed musician and author, he is perhaps best known for his contribution to Canadian literature with the folk group, Stringband. Of course, that meant little to me, being of a younger generation and, to my constant consternation, geographically predisposed to U.S. entertainment over Toronto-based CanCon. But Bossin had been accorded a page on The Canadian Encyclopedia website, so I was suitably impressed.
I knew then that the rumours were true: Bob Bossin is kind of a big deal.
By then, I’d found my way into the manuscript. I quickly became immersed in the story as a young boy at a ball game listened in on the slightly shady conversation of his father’s associates. Bossin is a born storyteller, I realized right away, and the way he set the scene and narrated events at times made me forget that I was reading a historically grounded memoir rather than a novel. I read about Davy ‘the Punk’ Bossin’s childhood, his family life, his life of crime and his crafty ways of evading the law. I read about organized crime reaching its fingers into ‘Toronto the Good’, and about the push to prosecute Davy for his less-than-kosher activities.
It was clear that Bossin is a born storyteller—I wouldn’t have gobbled up the manuscript the way that I had otherwise—but it wasn’t until I was sitting the Randolph Theatre at last week’s launch that I truly realized what star power meant when it came time to throw a book launch. Orchestra seating was packed chock full of friends, family, fans, and an impressive contingent of former classmates. There were a lot of white heads in the audience, but also a number of young people like myself, and a few professionals filling the seats. But everyone there, young and old, was spellbound when Bob Bossin—wearing, he pointed out, his father’s tie—started to perform.
After a short introduction by the mastermind behind the Pages Festival + Conference, Marc Glassman, Bossin dove right into the show. Guitar in hand, he performed several musical numbers from his show, “The Songs and Stories of Davy the Punk”, which was based upon the book. He sang about gambling and about vitriolic, pistol-wielding parsons, and he read a short excerpt from the book explaining how he came to learn about his father’s less-than-legal enterprises. After that, he was joined on stage by former MP Bob Rae, and old school chum of Bossin’s and quite a effective—and at times droll—interviewer.
The evening was capped off by a crowd-pleasing musical performance. Joined by his former Stringband band mates, Bossin delighted the crowd with a selection of folk songs, from the haunting “Mic Mac Song”, to the ribald “Show Us the Length” to their most popular song, “Dief Will Be the Chief Again”. Not to be left out of the action, Bob Rae, too, displayed his musical chops with some piano accompaniment and a solo performance.
After the concert, fans lined up in impressive numbers to get their copies of the book signed. I haven’t seen a line so long at a book signing in … well, ever. I imagine Bossin’s hand was mighty tired by the end of the night, but you wouldn’t know it to look at him—he seemed as friendly and engaging as ever after hours of performing and signing and engaging with his many fans.
I think I saw a little bit of authorial star power.
So yeah. Bob Bossin. Kind of a big deal.
[Note: The terrible photography is, regrettably, my own. Stay tuned for much better photos not taken by a sub-par cell phone camera.]