Author finds time to revisit past

It won’t surprise the readers of Advocate columnist Harley Hay that he got up to a lot of youthful hijinks while growing up in Red Deer.

It won’t surprise the readers of Advocate columnist Harley Hay that he got up to a lot of youthful hijinks while growing up in Red Deer.

Now he’s wrapped those nostalgic adventures into his first novel, Finding Time, about a middle-aged man who returns to his hometown to reconnect with childhood pals.

Hay calls his first-person novel “autobiographical fiction,” saying “the names have been changed to protect the guilty.”

Chip and Marty, the two friends in the self-published book, are actually an amalgam of about four people Hay grew up with.

Each of the book’s 25 chapters deals with Hay’s fictional counterpart, Smitty, and his various reunions and reminiscences.

For instance, there’s the time when the teenage Smitty was riding on the back of a friend’s motorcycle and the two crashed at the bottom of a hill after showing off for some girls. “It’s the only time in my life I fainted,” recalled Hay of the real-life incident, which happened near the site of the present Parkland Mall and gave him serious road-rash.

“We still went to the dance that night, but we didn’t look so good,” he recalled, with a laugh.

The book also fictionalizes the time Hay was strapped in Grade 5 after being accused of hiding under a bridge to look up girls’ skirts — “I didn’t see anything,” he maintains, saying a friend dragged him under the bridge.

And it includes a rewritten version of Hay’s story Class Picture, which was read by Stuart McLean on CBC Radio’s Vinyl Cafe. The story is about the loyalty schoolmates show a friend by protecting his dog from the dogcatcher.

Hay believes his novel will provide a good dose of nostalgia for Central Alberta readers, “who will no doubt recognize the places and the people. . . .”

But even those who didn’t grow up in these parts will be able to relate to the experiences, “because they’re the same, no matter where people grew up,” said the author.

Hay will launch Finding Time at 7 p.m. on June 3 at East Side Mario’s restaurant — which is where a lot of the book was written.

The launch will include musical performances by his friends and videotaped readings by Larry Reese, Blaine Newton, John Treleaven and Richard Meen. The book costs $15 and will also be available from www.amazon.com or from www.harleyhay.com

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com