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Pictured: Bob Bossin

Can you imagine finding out your father had a secret life of crime before settling down?

That’s exactly what happened to Bob Bossin, whose father’s story is told in his latest award-winning book, Davy the Punk. Bob came all the way from British Columbia to present this book at Trent’s Writer’s Reading series on October 21. He is described as an “esteemed musician, author, and raconteur singer.” He even made sure to leave some writing advice to Trent students before he returned to British Columbia.

As Lewis MacLeod explained Bob’s father, Davy Bossin, as an “elite-class criminal … all about high-level ‘fixing’; order is plucked from chaos; constellations emerge from the darkness.” Davy fixed horse races to gain profit and bailed out gamblers by ‘lending’ them money. Davy has been described to be “the bookies’ bookie” and was once known to be “Toronto’s top layoff man.” Lewis Macleod remarked, “that kind of world-imprinting power impresses me” after speaking about Bob’s father.

However, don’t let Davy’s past of crime confuse you. Bob describes his father as “funny” and “quite a loving father.” One thing that stood out in Bob’s memory is how his father would say: “Even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if it kept its mouth shut.” Bob believes he [Davy] learned this life lesson during his life of organized crime.

Early on in the presentation at Traill College, Bob played a folk song on his guitar and sang lyrics about betting on horses. One of the lyrics was “all horseplayers die broke.” This song is about Bob’s dad and his secret life. Bob toured a “live one-man musical” with songs all written about his father. This tour was done shortly after the book, Davy the Punk, was released.

Bob even insisted that the audience participate in his presentation and sing some parts of the song. Then he read a passage from his book, which is a winner of the Heritage award. While reading the passage, Bob’s voice changed to make certain accents and tones as he read the dialogue of the different characters. This proves that having the author read you their story out loud can give away more of their original intentions for the story.

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Bossin signing a copy of his book

As described on the back of his book, “Bob Bossin is the founder of the legendary Canadian folk group Stringband” and “has recorded a dozen albums”. It also says, Davy the Punk “tells the story of his father’s life in the gambling underworld of the 1930’s and ‘40s. This poignant memoir of father and son is packed with street-wise stories and troubling revelations about Canada as it was in the first half of the twentieth century.” This book has been recognized to show an “anti-Semitic Canada that is typically left out of history books.”

Before the event ended, Bob made sure to leave behind some advice. In fact, he was very eager to give writing advice to Trent students. This advice is particularly useful for students who hope to continue writing after school. First, he said to be a genuine author, then he left a serious of questions that Trent University students could ask themselves before writing.

“Who am I talking to? What do I want from them? What’s in the way? How do I overcome it?” Bob emphasized the need for writers to know their target audience and make sure they write for that audience. “For example, say I’m writing for middle-aged feminists. I should use lingo and metaphors that relate to that target audience; so, know your audience well!”

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I am a photographer at Arthur newspaper and a student a Trent university taking a joint major between English and Media Studies. My plan is to continue in the field of journalism after I graduate Trent.