When I asked mom where babies come from she said Regina. I believe. So I spent my childhood thinking every birth occurred in the capital of Saskatchewan. This, combined with the expression people are Saskatchewan’s primary export, and it was years before I knew any better. So when author Ron Stansfield said he’s from Regina, part of me thought, well, who isn’t? [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#fb3e45″ class=”” size=”26″]”In Twenty-One Ways to Die in Saskatchewan Stansfield presents an excellent suite of writing.”[/perfectpullquote] You might know this already. I’m a sucker for mixed media. Give me a story with pictures, something ekphrastic or musically scored, and I guarantee you’re on your way to winning me over. It doesn’t even have to be that good. Just blend a couple of arts forms and I’ll appreciate the effort that’s gone into the pursuit of heightened engagement. But I can say with certainty author R.E. Stansfield was unaware of my soft spot for multimedia when he wrote Twenty-One Ways to Die in Saskatchewan. Not as though he placed a shiny apple on my reviewer’s desk prior to my receiving this, his first book.
In Twenty-One Ways to Die in Saskatchewan Stansfield presents an excellent suite of writing – fiction, nonfiction and poetry, presented with impactful artwork – sketches in black and white that coax the reader into the storytelling, deepening the impact of each vignette.
Following every child’s first foray into telecom – string-linked tin cans – we have Chapter 6, Alienation, and this, from the poem Conversations:
Do you remember when we were kids, / And believed everything we heard, / That you could make a telephone / With two tin cans and a bit of string? … I wish sometimes we still had that very first phone of ours, / I would like to use it to call the past / And talk to a brother across the cedar hedge / To ask, “Where have you been?”
Phone companies (or their ad agencies) have always known how to pluck a heartstring, but the fact is, those sentiments were already there – things unsaid, isolation and connection.
From Chapter 7, Separation, comes this, from the story Auntie Pearl’s Chocolates:
As a child, Saskatoon was, for me, practically the other end of the world. Maybe it was, given the infrequency of their visits to us, or ours to them. It was “up north.” Way up there. My visceral world was the flat prairie stretching to the horizon across the street from our house in west-end Regina. Anything beyond that horizon was meaningless, beyond my comprehension.
Utterly relatable for anyone who recalls being a kid – beyond the yard, school, hometown, the rest of the world unfathomable, where ancient maps had dragons and Earth simply vanished. But like all good mixed media, here we remain on terra firma, in this instance with a musical foray. From Chapter 18, Isolation, this, from the poem, The Guitarist:
I can’t stop now / There’s nowhere else to go / But onward / Onto the stage / To sing for my next meal / Joining the guitar’s own voice / Full-bodied and pure / My bliss for a time
Like many first books – the good ones, anyway – this work holds nothing back. R.E. (Ron) Stansfield fires with both barrels, or in this case the multiple barrels of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and graphic art. I feel hit by a lifetime of this author’s experience, imagination and writerly creativity. A life fully experienced, and well relayed, by a talented storyteller.
About the Author: Ron Stansfield is a transplanted prairie person now living “upshore” in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia. Born and bred in Regina, Saskatchewan, Ron enjoyed a distinguished three decade-long career in the international affairs field before retiring to the Maritimes. Gleefully freed finally from the constraints of government bureaucratese, he takes his inspiration now from the open ocean which he swears looks just like the waving wheat fields back home in “Sasky.” He writes in all genres and is currently dividing his time among a number of new literary adventures. Twenty-one Ways to Die in Saskatchewan is his first book.
Twenty-One Ways to Die in Saskatchewan by R.E. Stansfield
*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2TMPuPv Thanks!
Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of the Gone Viking travel memoirs (Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, Gone Viking III: The Holy Grail) and A Season on Vancouver Island. He’s won numerous book awards and received a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.