There are many reasons that Marty Gervais is author to over 20 published books of plays, fiction, non-fiction and poetry, but perhaps the most important is that he is a storyteller.
Ghost Road and Other Forgotten Stories of Windsor is yet another publication that adds to the important tales that Gervais tells of this community.
Gervais has all the important necessities that make for a prolific writer. He road-tripped across the country. He decided to write his first novel at 17 and moved to Toronto, writing poetry while working as a copy editor for The Globe and Mail. When Gervais said that this job launched his journalism career, he said so half-jokingly. Arguably, it did. Gervais has been in the journalism industry in some form or another ever since. He learned on the fly, eventually deciding to go to university at 22.
“I didn’t realize just how much of a storyteller I was. It wasn’t until Canadian poet Al Purdy said to me, ‘That’s what you do,’ and I hadn’t really defined myself,” said Gervais. “I never said, ‘Oh I’m really good at this.’ I kind of paused and thought, ‘Gee I hadn’t really thought of that, but that’s what I do.’”
Gervais has been journalling the lives of Windsorites for quite some time. He wrote a column for the Windsor Star, called “My Town;” each edition centring around an ordinary Windsorite with an extraordinary life. The column was later turned into a book, The Rumrunners: A Prohibition Scrapbook, published by Biblioasis published in 2009. It gives an illustrated history of bootlegging across Windsor and the Great Lakes.
“Books like The Rumrunners, and this new book, Ghost Road, are kind of a combination of oral history, anecdotal history and storytelling. It’s really storytelling, it’s not filled with a lot of footnotes,” said Gervais.
The stories in his new book are truly fascinating. Stories including Abraham Lincoln’s walk down Sandwich Street. Lincoln invented a device to prevent ships from running aground during this walk, and effectively became the only president to apply for a patent. There is the story of a boy who was seventh son of a seventh son, making him a healer. He set up shop on Gladstone Avenue, and his house still stands.
The title story of the book is about a road that starts and ends in the middle of nowhere. Many people don’t know that this road used to be a place to watch cars drag race and would often see 4,000 people on a Saturday afternoon.
“It was exciting doing the book because the stories always raise a few eyebrows; people don’t know these things. There’s so much more I could have done, too,” said Gervais, listing off a man who invented the first windshield wiper and the first Blackberry. “Those stories aren’t included in the book. I wanted really unusual stories. It was fun writing them.”
Ghost Road and Other Forgotten Stories of Windsor launches at Biblioasis on Oct. 23. For more information about the book, visit biblioasis.com.