Billy and Yvonne

We met Billy Proctor and his co-writer, Yvonne Maximchuk, at the Campbell River Museum yesterday.  It was their latest book launch, Tide Rips and Back Eddies – Billy Proctor’s Tales of Blackfish Sound.

Yvonne is close to our age.  Billy is in the dwindling generation ahead.  He’s in his early to mid eighties.  Still fishing.  Still hunting. Still doing what Billy has always done – living in the great outdoors, off the grid and with the sea.  Billy is the real deal — west coast to the bone. Grew up and lived his entire life catching salmon, hunting deer, growing veggies and picking berries.  His mind is sharp, his body is strong and he has a great sense of humour just tickling at the surface of everything he says.

We should all be so healthy.

Yvonne is NOT his wife.  It’s Yvonne and Albert who are married (read the book).  Yvonne WAS his wife who passed away a few years back.  Two different Yvonnes.  YM is Billy’s friend and past-time deckhand when he fished more regularly.  It was YM who prompted Billy to start writing with their first book, Full Moon and Flood Tides, and that was not easy at the time — Billy could read but he could not write, neither literally nor figuratively. His signature is still chicken scratch.  But he persevered and he is now a full-on author as well as a west coast icon, museum curator, and growing legend.

I like Billy Proctor.

And I like Yvonne Maximchuk.

The reasons that spring to mind are that they are ‘authentic’ and ‘real’.  Then, maybe, amusing and honest with shades of kindness and a clear and strong passion for life.  You could do worse than have those two in your immediate community, methinks.

But what a deal!  OMG!  They came down for the book launch from the Broughton Archipelago.  Long boat ride.  Long car ride.  Long book launch (four hours what with the preparation, presentation and the obligatory book signing).  Then, when it was done, they packed up the old dog-and-pony bookstore and headed off to Sidney to do a repeat performance.  It was a lesson in book promotion that did not appeal to either Sal nor I.

(Which, I guess, is obvious since we haven’t done any except rely on word of mouth.)

“GAWD!!!  Small room, dozens of people (fifty plus) and an hour or so of reading excerpts from one’s book?  I can’t do that, Sally.  I wouldn’t last thirty minutes.”

“Neither would I and not in the least because I can’t stand listening to your stories for the hundredth time unless there are weeks of breaks between them.  Even then, it is tough. Thirty straight minutes or more and I’d have fifty witnesses testifying against me on homicide charges!  Actually, there’s a good chance they’d all be charged as accessories, too.”

“Is that how book launches work?  And, if so, why do ’em?  Can’t be for the book sales. Even if all fifty of us bought books that still does not add up as a financial incentive when you consider that the expenses for the launch had to be more than what the sale proceeds were.”

“Maybe they do it for the fun?” 

“Well, the first few times would be fun but what about the fifth time in three days?  Wouldn’t that feel a bit stale if not, at least, exhausting?”

“Well, I’m glad they did it.  It was great meeting Yvonne and Billy remembered our book club’s visit this summer.  I feel as if I have a connection.  Plus Billy liked your book.  Said it was funny and you had the right take on bureaucrats, to his way of thinking.”

“The best part for me was getting his opinion on the environment.  A guy who has lived, breathed and literally been fully immersed in the west coast for over eighty years has a truth and a perspective that has to be more accurate than the mumbo- jumbo and gibberish of politically slanted Department of Fisheries reports.  He didn’t have much time for the DFO, that’s for sure.”

“No.  But the main message seemed to be that the west coast is always changing and he has seen it all.  Billy has expectations of cycles but an equal expectation of cycles interrupted.  ‘You never know’, seemed to be the lesson.”

“Well, that is sure true for us too, sweetie.  We don’t know squat.  And likely never will.  Life is a crap shoot and it seems to be that way for everyone — even Billy and Yvonne.  And, if it isn’t a crap shoot, it would be boring. So, I guess the Chinese have it right: “May you live in interesting times”.


10 thoughts on “Billy and Yvonne

  1. I’ve read several of Yvonne’s books including Full Moon Flood Tide. I have the newest one, but have to wait for hubby to finish before I get my turn. I would have loved to see them in person, but we rarely get authors here in Powell River except locals. We used to do book launches, but you are right, they don’t really lead to many book sales. Our best was hosting a hot dog BBQ out in the bush for the ATV Club and others for “Up the Main” about quadding in the backcountry. It was pouring rain but no one minded, Powell Riverites are a tough bunch. – Margy


    • Nice folks. There were 4 of them actually. Albert was there and so was Ken, a friend. It was well organized but could have been improved upon…mind you, the ‘style’ was part of the charm. Of the 50 or so people present I was likely the tenth youngest at 67. The majority were as old if not older than Billy. I would enjoy doing a dog-and-pony but how many times? Twice? After that, it becomes work. And, as we know, the author’s percentage is about $4.00 and the expenses of just going to say, Powell River, would require selling 200 books to break even. It’s a weird business but clearly one at least half-motivated by the love of books and reading rather than getting rich.


  2. Sounds as if he had a wonderful life, well lived.
    Don’t you give up; he’s got a 15 – 20 year head start on you, but you’ve got that time to catch up! Lookin’ fwd to your next epistle.


    • Oh, I am not giving up so much as pondering what to write next? OTGll? A mystery set off the grid? A comedy set off the grid? A take-off from 20+ years of mediation? Travels with Sally? How to Stay Married for 45 years (without pretending to be deaf). Sex and Septuagenarians?

      I dunno………….


  3. British Columbia has a population of about four and one half million. Over the years periodicals like the Raincoast Chronicals have told the stories of the Coast and beyond but have hardly touch the surface. Stories remain untold and mostly unknown. In the early 1970s a number of books were written about the early days of BC but some forty years later only a few books on BC are being published. There a desire for the right sort of book for the post baby boomers. It is heartening to hear about folks interested in telling the stories. RG


  4. My wife and I met Billy in 2008 when we took our little yacht Jezebel up the coast from Squamish to Port Hardy, back throught the Broughtons then down the west side of the passage to Saltspring, Gambier, Vancouver hence back to Squamish in about 30 days in 2008.


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