William Deverell — Novelist

The official website of William Deverell, Winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North American Crime Writing

The Wild Hippie Lawyer

Guest Blog by Bill’s Best Bud / April 4, 2015

Yeah, I clipped that item from the National Post. I had no idea. The deep end? You may have tiptoed near the edge. But divorce? Shacking up with hippies?

Flashback to this summery scene: I was sitting on a bench in Stanley Park. A bench I hoped to sleep on if it didn’t rain. The Screenwriters Guild had just denied my appeal to get my membership reinstated. I was homeless, hungover, as taut as a stretched condom, exhausted from ranting on the public pathways.

The final blow had just been delivered that morning: Sue announced I was domestically redundant, and gave me my walking papers. (You won’t know Sue, she was after your time. She’s a lawyer. Also, expensively, an afficionada of fine chopped flake.)

Aimlessly, I reached over to a trash bin from whose gaping mouth protruded the front section of the National Post. Yes, I’m guilty. I occasionally look at the National Post. I am not one of your leftie poseurs who boast of never reading it, as if that’s a mark of intellectual and spiritual attainment.

And there’s this front-page memoir about a son’s attempt to rediscover his dad, a peripatetic counterculture libertarian, who “crossed paths with the noteworthy, including Bill Deverell, his wild hippie lawyer in Vancouver, later to become a best-selling crime novelist.”

wild hippie lawyer

And several pages in I discover that casual, almost throwaway, quote about how you finally cracked up. You went off to live with hippies? Is that where you went last Wednesday, to “commune,” as you put it? Where does one find a hippie nowadays? Let alone an entire colony? Haven’t they evolved into something else? New Agers? Scientologists? Hedge fund traders?

I thought at first Vermeulen might have been joking, but there’s nothing in the article to qualify those bald statements of fact. If Ben Vermeulen is the guy I’m thinking of, he’s a stand-up businessman, and obviously a close friend of yours. The Post is a responsible national daily. They fact-check these things. So I’m worried about you.

Maybe it was the pressure of pumping out all those novels. Or maybe the isolation got to you, too many years on a backward little island. No Starbucks, no Tim Horton’s, no Wal-marts, no big deal. But no movie houses, no concert halls, no clip joints, no bawdy shops, no buskers, no action. I thought your marriage was rocklike, Bill—she was dynamic. I say that even though she thought I was creepy and full of crap.

I’ve kept that Post article all this time, plagued by a horoscopish kind of feeling that our lives were bound to reconnect. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer, and I phoned your number on your island. Your answering machine was more plugged than Pablo’s nose after an all-nighter.

I have tried to conjure up a picture of you in your phoneless state of bliss: a grizzled rake explaining to a nubile Libra how their stars are about to be aligned. The picture didn’t take. Can’t see you lasting half a day in a commune, Bill. I don’t see you abiding the olfactory horror of patchouli oil, or whatever they use to disguise the smells of the unwashed. I don’t remember you as one who spurns the bourgeois comforts.

More in the next few days, inshallah. Want you to understand that I’m pirating your blog only to spice it up.

Posted by Bry Pomerantz on April 4, 2015