Book Review: THEN by Bob Morley, with poems by Dianne Louise. By Graham Hayman
Here’s a racy adventure with a rollicking child of the 60’s. For nom de plume Morley uses his given names, but islanders will know him as Morley Crosby. I met him at a Denman senior’s lunch. Inside two minutes he was telling me stories like we’d known each other years. He’s a natural raconteur, and maybe that inventive gift explains how he got out of some of the tight places he describes in this account of his first 25 years.
In a poetic, allusive style, Morley packs in more adventure than most writers could describe in 143 pages, or most people could pack into 25 years. As Hitchcock said, “Drama is life with the boring bits left out,” and Morley doesn’t bother with the background – the book was written for his family. Like me, you won’t need the boring bits to enjoy the escapades, the cars, the binges, and the girls.
The book ends in Vancouver, where he meets his wife-to-be, Dianne Louise, whose ethereal poems head each of the 40 very short chapters.
In conventional biographies, the risky situations and near-fatal incidents, the dead-beat hotels, bars, and sexy girls (“Janice was her name, and her figure was to blame”) of his roustabout life would be interesting, but lines like this prompt readers to paint the full-colour pictures themselves: “November end came like a wind tunnel through the Rex (hotel), wringing moans from flesh eating walls as vibrating pipes wrung out their last gasps.”
Allusions to song lyrics and events firmly locate the stories in the 50s and 60s, but if you’re not a boomer you’ll love the attitude anyway. He includes some down-home rear-view mirror thoughts, plus a few “Dear Reader” observations and a few quotes by big names (e.g., Dylan & co). But there’s no pretence or fashionable literary style in this book. What you get is Morley, straight up. Wish I’d known him back then too, but we grew up on different continents.
His family and friends persuaded him to self-publish this book, and he has printed 300 copies. You won’t find it marketed on social media, and you can’t buy online, but they’re selling fast (Abraxas has a few copies as does Laughing Oyster in Courtenay and The Blue Heron in Comox). I was his first customer; Morley delivered it himself. He says he has written the first two words of the next part of his life story. I’ll bet it’s a title: “And Now.” Or maybe “After That.” Whatever, I’m ordering my copy now.