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   September 02, 2014



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COMMENT





Some gifts are priceless
By GARY HOWARD - Pembroke Daily Observer


A different, though interesting, stage in my writing career has been unfolding in recent weeks as I make the rounds promoting my new book, 'The Rassler from Renfrew-Larry Kasaboski and Northland Wrestling Enterprises.'

One of the more pleasant tasks at these book signings has been talking to the many people who have not only shown an interest in my book but also in my writing and all books in general.

Sometimes my book gets lost in the shuffle as I meet people for the first time who are more interested in discussing the numerous harangues I have penned through this column.

Selling books is still big business despite occasional slumps in the industry. Marketing and promoting a book is also a very competitive endeavour as you struggle for recognition and market space against some very experienced and well-known authors. Writing a book can be an enjoyable task; the hard part begins when you try to sell it.

Sometimes you have to stand on tiptoe and peer out through the maze of books authored by open-line radio hosts, athletes and movie stars, as they tend to take up prime space in literature land. Cookbooks are among the most saleable books, ranking right up there with political memoirs and tell-all celebrity offerings. Books about "jocks" and pets aren't far behind in popularity and everyone enjoys inspirational stories.

The message I convey is that my book is not only about the wrestling game. It is as much about the culture and the history of the Ottawa Valley and Northern Ontario in an era long before the technological age. Attending wrestling matches and movies in small towns was something everyone did before we had television and computers. It was a way of life.

Not surprisingly, I am finding that the Kasaboski name is as recognizable as all the great hockey legends in the Ottawa Valley and Northern Ontario. Everyone I meet has a personal story about Larry and the wrestlers they encountered in their youth in the many small towns up and down the Highway 17 corridor.

But there is a certain reality to selling books. At a recent craft show, one lady leafed through the book, excitedly recognizing all the familiar faces that graced the wrestling rings of Northlands. She allowed that more books like this should be written, then promptly put the book down and marched off to another table, choosing not to purchase a copy.

Yet another elderly matron who I thought was expressing an interest in the book actually wanted to know if any of the handsome, muscular men adorning the cover were available to take home. A wink and a smile accompanied her enquiry.

And if many people I talk to can't remember all the names of the wrestlers they saw, at least one 11-year-old wrestling fan had a handle on the game's modern day stars and proceeded to rhyme off many of their names much to my delight.

An encounter with a supportive, well-known local author gave me the necessary assurance that I was on the right track in this book venture. Some of her experiences alerted me to the pitfalls of authorship.

Everyone who has ever written a book understands that riches don't automatically flow after publication, particularly among Canadian writers. You'd be more likely to strike it rich while drilling for oil at the Pembroke Quarry. If money was your sole motivator there is no way that compensation will equal the number of hours expended in producing a book.

The most gratifying part of writing this book has been the reaction of the wrestlers' family members and those who were close to the wrestling scene in that period. They are in agreement that the book portrays an accurate and honest account of the Kasaboski era of professional wrestling.

A former arena manager, now 85 and having some down days, told me that the book gave him a most welcome lift. One ex-wrestler assured me that a lot of "old muscle heads" would be smiling down on me.

Regrettably, journalist Bill Higginson never got to see the finished product. But fortunately, after our interview I was able to finally record some of his legendary tales of the grapplers. The Old Lamplighter was not only largely responsible for keeping memories of the golden age of local hockey alive, but also for rekindling the Kasaboski name in many of his columns through the years.

Today, everyone tends to be fixated on the scandals that plague professional wrestling and the buffoonery behind the scenes. Assuredly, not all of the cauliflower culprits of the Kasaboski regime were of sterling character or devoid of real-life villainous deeds. But what struck me while interviewing several was their modesty and genuine sincerity when talking about the profession they devoted their lives to and their respect for the fans that paid to watch them.

At this time of year, our thoughts turn to gifts. These wrestlers had a gift that many used wisely and some not so wisely. The fact that I am able to pursue my love for writing at this stage of my life is one of my most treasured gifts. To sign books in my hometown at a major bookstore such as Coles and to appear on CBC radio are privileges I value deeply.

While the emphasis on commercialism attempts to eliminate the religious aspect from the Christmas equation, not all gifts carry a dollar value. Only the true Bearer of gifts can present ones that are priceless.

I thank all regular readers of this column for your ongoing support and I am grateful to those who have supported me in this new venture.

Merry Christmas to one and all, and don't spend too much time looking for that perfect gift.

Chances are, it is already in your possession.