The Book That Changed Your Life: Aaron Chapman

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      The Word Vancouver festival is gearing up for its 2017 edition with a huge and inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 19 to 24.

      We asked a group of these acclaimed writers to tell us about their most memorable reading experiences. Which books shaped their imaginations early on? Which ones taught them the power of the written word?

      Here’s what Vancouver writer and musician Aaron Chapman told us. Chapman’s widely admired histories of Vancouver have included Liquor, Lust, and the Law and, most recently, The Last Gang in Town. He’ll be reading from his work at 11:20 a.m. on September 24, in the Alma VanDusen Room of the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch.

      Lasseter’s Last Ride by Ion Llewellyn Idriess. It’s a true story about an Australian explorer in the early 1930s who claimed to have found a huge gold deposit in the Australian outback. But after being abandoned and lost on expedition, his remains along with a diary were discovered.

      My late father read the book in Nanaimo and, giving the book to a friend, surprisingly ran away from home, stowing away on a ship bound for Australia where he figured he would find the Lasseter gold. He ended up joining the Australian army when World War II broke out and fought in New Guinea, eventually returning to Canada. But I grew up in the long shadow of his exploits, even though by the time I was born, he was living the quiet life of a Kerrisdale lawyer.

      But the fact that he ran off to chase the story inculcated in me the very power of the ideas in a book—and equally gave me a passion for travel, and an interest in history and adventure at the same time.

      It’s a rollicking adventure story—there are other modern books I admire as a writer, but the thought that a story could inspire somebody to run to the ends of the earth inculcated in me the power books can have. It seems like a marvellous bar to set for oneself as a writer—to write a story so engaging it might stoke the imagination of the reader to go visit such places.

      There’s an epilogue to it all. Sixty-five years after my father handed the book to that young friend and then lost touch with him, the man tracked my father down. They’d last seen each other when they were boys, and they met again as old old men to find out where their lives had taken them, and, surprisingly, he returned the copy of Lasseter’s Last Ride to him.

      The book now sits on my bookshelf as not only a family heirloom, but also a sort of amulet about the power a good story can have.

      That Lasseter gold mine has still never been found. Maybe I should take a run at it myself one day—but I’m still busy finding buried treasure in Vancouver history.

      Rebecca Blissett