A crusty old oyster farmer once told Grant Lawrence that misfits have the best stories.
He took that lesson to heart.
From Sasquatch hunters to cougar wranglers to race car drivers, the CBC Radio host and author has honed his storytelling skills through a vibrant cast of characters — and he will tell some of those stories during a show at The Effie Arts Collective on Friday, June 17.
The Effie is at 422 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops.
Grant Lawrence and Friends will include a collection of the host’s stories and music from friends Dustin Bentall and the Blue Wranglers, along with Kamloops’ own Madison Olds.
Bentall is an old friend of Lawrence’s who has formed a bluegrass band featuring players from the Cariboo, while the connection to Olds came after her 2019 Top 10 success in CBC’s Searchlight music contest.
And Olds won’t be the only Kamloops connection at Friday’s show.
Among the tales collected by Lawrence for two of his books — Adventures in Solitude and his latest, Return to Solitude — is the story of a man named Russell Letawsky.
“He’s a fascinating figure who came into my life when I was a nerdy, scared little kid,” Lawrence told KTW.
Many of Lawrence’s stories revolve around a real life cast of characters he has met in Desolation Sound, a remote area he described as “The Beachcombers meets The Shining.”
He also calls it his second home.
Letawsky, once a suit-clad Toronto businessman entrenched in the rat race in the 1960s, “snapped” one day and began heading west, eventually arriving in the region to pan for gold in the hills around Kamloops, Lawrence explained.
Years later, Letawsky would make the city his home base in his quest to find the mythical Sasquatch before eventually being led away to Desolation Sound, where Lawrence met him.
Letawsky’s story is full of twists and eccentricities, much like most of those Lawrence has written about over the years.
“There’s all these different people who were kind of like square pegs in round holes,” he said, explaining how so many characters ended up in such a remote region of the province.
Lawrence’s books, and the stories he will tell at The Effie, are filled with characters about people who carry nicknames like the Cougar Lady, or titles like the second-fastest man in Canada, who lined his wilderness cabin’s shelves with racing trophies from his glory days.
“I tend to lean toward the funnier ones because we’ve been through so much crap over the last couple of years,” he said.
“I feel people just need a release.”
Lawrence is the first author in the history of the BC Book Prizes to win the Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice twice. He is also the host of the CBC Music Top 20, the lead singer of The Smugglers, a Canadian Screen Award winner, a newspaper columnist and a goalie for the Vancouver Flying Vees beer league hockey team.
Lawrence is married to musician Jill Barber and they live in Vancouver with their two children.
Lawrence’s latest book, Return to Solitude, is his long-awaited sequel to Adventures in Solitude, and was released on April 30.
Tickets for Lawrence’s appearance this Friday at the Effie are $25 in advance, available at The Book Place, 248 Third Ave. downtown, or online at effieartscollective.com. Remaining tickets will also be available for $30 at the door.