Bruce Hunter is the author of six books, including the novel In the Bear’s House (Oolichan Books, 2009), winner of the Canadian Rockies Prize at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, chosen from over 100 entries from 10 countries, and Two O’clock Creek – Poems New and Selected (Oolichan Books, 2010), winner of the Acorn/Plantos Peoples’ Poetry Prize. His poetry, essays, reviews and fiction have appeared in over seventy publications In Canada, the United States, China, Scotland, and Italy.
In 2017, he was the Calgary Public Library’s 30th anniversary Author-in-Residence. Born and raised in Calgary, he worked as a labourer, equipment operator and landscaper before winning a scholarship to the Banff School of Fine Arts. He then attended York University and graduated with a BFA (Honours) in film and the humanities. After stints teaching at York, Humber College and Banff, he taught in the School of English and Liberal Arts at Seneca College in Toronto for 25 years.
I was Bruce Hunter’s sales rep for his novel, In the Bear’s House, published by Oolichan Books in 2009, and we met when he returned to Calgary, his hometown, to do some promotion. I continued to promote Bruce and his books after I left repping to set up my own business. Our friendship continued over the years and we are now able to visit each other in person since I moved my residency to Ontario. Bruce was interested in reissuing his collection of linked stories, Country Music Country, which had been previously published by Thistledown Press, but was now out of print. Parts of this book were to be included in an new anthology, edited by Shaun Hunter (no relation to this author!), titled Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers. Bruce felt there was enough interest to re-release the book, even just as an eBook, and he asked if I might be able to help him with that through IslandCatEditions. At the same time, I was experimenting with a new print-on-demand service Amazon was offering through KDP, so Bruce decided to publish this new edition as a print book at the same time.
These powerful linked stories that read like a novel begin in a prairie Eden amongst the last vestiges of wild grass, cottonwood, and an ancient buffalo jump, bounded by an oil refinery, explosives plant and rail yards. Hunter describes in vivid detail, and often with dark humour, the lives of his four characters. First as adolescents and then as adults, they work dirty jobs. Some move away to Southern Ontario and return home again in the moving title story.
Spiritedly working class, these stories capture people and places seldom portrayed in literature, but as CBC’s The Arts Tonight says, “There’s a subtlety to this writing … A subtle touch that reminded me of New Yorker Stories—these endings that have slight illuminations—like the unexpected charity of a mother. And in addition to the subtlety, there is a hint of wistfulness about this book, a loss of childhood, neighbourhoods have disappeared over the decades.”
Reading Bruce Hunter’s stories, we come to know this place, too. The way Ogden can shape the fibre of a person, and make him yearn to be someone else. The way it can push a person away and pull her home. The way its landscape is constantly changing, and somehow stays the same. The way Ogden can make a writer sing its sweetness and its shadows as if this place and these lives were country music.
… from the Introduction by Shaun Hunter
For more information about the new edition of Country Music Country, click here.
For more information about Bruce Hunter and his other books and writing, please see his website.
Bruce Hunter was previously promoted on my blog, Reading Recommendations.
On May 13, 2019, Country Music Country – the Reboot was launched at the newly opened main branch of the Calgary Public Library! Bruce was joined by the exquisite literary duo of Barb Howard and Lee Kvern, two Calgary-area novelists. Because Bruce Hunter has been profoundly deaf since birth, he arranged to have both ASL (signing) and CART (captioning) services provided for those in the audience with hearing loss. This proved to be a very valuable addition to an event – an author reading – that would have normally excluded anyone who was not otherwise able to hear those authors reading. Bravo, Bruce! I hope this becomes standard practice for future readings.
And from Bruce Hunter about the evening: Thank you, Calgary! The “Reboot” was a special and celebratory night. Dymphny May Dronyk, you are a witty, masterful and artful MC. Christine Thomson-Hunter, your grace and generosity bring warmth to every occasion. Lee Kvern and Barb Howard, your stories and readings show why you are among the top notch practitioners of the short story in this country. Susan Toy, you are a mensch. And thanks to my fellow writers, family, friends and readers for your kind support and warm welcome.
Photo below l-r: Barb Howard, Bruce Hunter, Lee Kvern, Dymphny Dronyk