Saturday, November 13, 2010

Au Revior Mon Papa

My father, Don LaGuire, died on Wednesday morning. While all of my family is very supportive of my writing, I can say without a doubt he was always my biggest and most enthusiastic fan. He was also the biggest factor in my becoming a writer, and in the kind of writer I became.

At story time, when we were very young, he'd offer to read aloud to us, but my sister would always ask him to "tell a story out of your own mouth." And he would tell us these wonderful stories from pieces of stories he loved as a kid - pulpy kid's books and comic books, and radio shows like Terry and the Pirates, and movies like the Bowery Boys. They'd be full of motorboat chases, and diamond smuggling, and hair-raising escapes.

The stories were also influenced by something else my father loved: French literature - from Dumas and Hugo and Emile Nelligan to Camus and Simenon and Druon. He was a scholar with a masters degree and a diplĂ´me from Laval University, but he loved literature with the same gusto he had for those children's stories. He talked about Victor Hugo in the same way he talked about Dave Dawson In The RAF - always rapt with each vivid detail of the story.

And so I find I can't help but see pulp fiction as literature and literature as pulp fiction. I learned that great bit of writing wisdom from him long before I heard it from writing gurus: It's all about the story.

Nobody could ask for a better fan, or cheerleader. He didn't connect with every thing I wrote. (He wasn't fond of science fiction or fantasy, for instance.) But when he loved something, he did so with every fiber of his being.

I remember when I gave him a first draft of one book. He was so excited, he called me up at ten o'clock at night and asked if he could come over and talk about it. He sat there and gushed for hours about every detail of the story. He did the same thing just the other day after reading the first third of the work-in-progress, and I will always be glad of having had the chance for that conversation.

His favorite of my books was The Wife of Freedom. Oddly, we didn't have that gushing conversation on that one. Instead, he carried the manuscript around with him and forced anyone he could to read it. I couldn't stop him. I was secretly glad that he wasn't computer literate, so he couldn't go out and spam the universe. I tried to explain to him that it wasn't a commercially viable book - it's an historical novel without an historical period, a fantasy without magic, a trashy novel that's not trashy in the least, a romance about a break up of a marriage. But to him it was great literature. And he loved it, perhaps, because I did as I learned from him, and made it about the story, and not about the genre or conventions.

One of the reasons I set aside some extra time lately to work on the layout for a paper copy of my books was so I could give him a real bound copy of that book for Christmas. He never even saw the cover art. I feel so bad about that. But in the end, I know it was the story that mattered.

Au revior, mon papa. Je t'aime, et merci pour tout les histoires.


pastelfish said...

What a beautiful memoir and tribute to a man of passion. Thank you for sharing the stories.


L.C. Evans said...

Beautiful post, Camille. I'm so sorry for your loss.

L.C. Evans said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne Tyrpak said...

This made me cry. Thank you.

K.C. May said...

Lovely post. I'm so sorry for your loss.

D.B. Henson said...

I'm so sorry your father has passed. You and your family are in my prayers.

Claire Farrell said...

I'm sorry for your loss and glad you have so many beautiful memories. Truly moving post, Camille.

Anonymous said...

My deepest sympathies for your loss. I am very happy for you that you had the years you did with your father, and I wish you peace and healing.

Unknown said...

Camille, I'm very sorry about your father - please accept my condolences.

Your piece was very moving - I love the idea of your sales slowing being like the lights dimming on Broadway, in honour of your father.


Shayne Parkinson said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Kathydid47 said...

I'm one of the ones your dad share your stories with....sadly, I didn't get to read all of them. He did show me the ones he had that were published in Highlights and Cricket. He told me some of the stories though...the most recent being the one about the horse.

Don had a way of just lighting a fire under me to read and read more. He indeed did have a wonderful way of telling stories. Actually, for me it wasn't stories as much as history. When we'd part after a couple hours together, I'd felt like I'd just been listening to the most fascinating history lecture ever! Russian Revolution, French Revolution, WWII, just anything! He was also helping me recall the french that I took way back in high school and let fall by the wayside.

My daughter is a 6th grade teacher and he was going to help her set up a chess club and french club....sadly again, a dream never realized. She did get to spend a bit of time with him one day discussing some Greek mythology. That night after we left, he couldn't sleep so got up to condense it all into key points she should include. Again...another dream never realized. So many plans! Geez life is so short!

Your dad's death just broke my heart. One of the kindest men I've ever known. He was soooo proud of you and Lennie. Last time I spoke with him, he said your mom was an absolute saint and you!....baking him chocolate chip cookies that he was enjoying!!! I'm so glad he had those final weeks with his family!!! Just the way it should be!!

Kathy Dittmer

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks again for posting, Kathy. We were so glad to have time with him.