February 22nd, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 8
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Former Pass Brat debuts first novel
The Boy Who Couldn’t Die: a story written in the Pass by a former resident of the Pass that is set in the Pass
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald contributor photo
Rick Gillis on the steps in front of the Gushul Studio and Writer's Cottage in Blairmore, where he wrote the chunk of his debut novel, "The Boy Who Couldn't Die."
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
A mystery is brewing in the Crowsnest Pass, a mystery written by former Pass local Rick Gillis in his debut, just-released novel, “The Boy Who Couldn’t Die.”

It’s a harmonious fusion of emotions, from humor, love, sadness and a good plot twist that chronicles the childhood of Kathryn Callaghan and her younger brother, Ricky.

“The litany of misdeeds is told through Ricky's older sister, Kathryn,” explains Gillis. “But, there's something not quite right about the telling, a strange and disquieting other-worldliness that permeates these anecdotes, surfacing from time to time as a reminder that this story is something more than a sisterly reminiscence.”

The novel is loosely based on Gillis’ life growing up in the Pass in the 1950s and ‘60s, but Gillis says that while it’s reminiscent of his childhood, it’s not an autobiography by any stretch of the imagination.
“Certainly, a lot of the things that are in the book in terms of my interactions with my friends growing up, most of those things actually happened and are possibly embellished somewhat,” he says.
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Gillis spent one month of strict writing at the Gushul Studio and Writer’s Cottage in Blairmore in March 2016. Gillis says being in the area where the story is set certainly helped the creative juices flow, allowing him to finish the novel two days before his month residency was up.

“To say that my decision to return home to write this novel was inspirational would be an understatement,” he says. “Though sequestered for long periods of time at the writers’ cottage, my frequent walks through my old neighborhood brought back long buried memories, and with them a host of emotions and deeply felt sentiments.”

Gillis now lives in Lethbridge, but he considers himself a Pass Brat through and through, his family having moved to Blairmore when he was four years old.

“It’s my hometown. It’s where I grew up and it’s where all my childhood and teen memories are,” he says.
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He returned to the Pass a few years after graduating from college in journalism, worked at the mine, opened the now defunct Pass Promoter newspaper, and ultimately stayed another 10 or 11 years in the Pass.

“So I have an adult connection to the Pass as well as a childhood connection to it,” he says.

The Boy Who Couldn’t Die is available for purchase at the Crowsnest Museum in Coleman, at the Crowsnest Pass Art Gallery in Frank and online at Amazon. Several book signings are scheduled for the spring and summer in the Pass, with the first one taking place at the art gallery on Saturday, March 25 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
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February 22nd, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 8
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