Anchor turned author

By Alan Hustak on May 6, 2009

Former Pulse News anchorman Bill Haugland, who retired three years ago as one of Montreal’s most familiar and trusted  faces on television  will undoubtedly add to his considerable fan base with his first novel, Mobile 9.

Billhaughland.jpgEven before the official book launch on May 19  it’s already on the local best-seller list.  Haugland draws on his time as a CFCF television reporter working for Pulse News in the 1960s to tell the intriguing  tale of a television news cameraman, Greg Peterson, who is framed for an assault he did not commit.  Like the author, the book is direct, uncomplicated and refreshing.   It’s a slender 215 page read designed to capture what it was like to work in television in Montreal during the tumultuous years after Expo 67, when it seemed, everything in the city was coming apart. Quebec  terrorists  were setting bombs, separatism was on the rise, and the mafia was under investigation.  

Anyone who worked at CFCF at the time  -  and, In the interest of full disclosure,  I was there as a line-up editor and CTV correspondent  – will recognize some of the larger-than-life characters Haugland has created, especially Bert Cannings, who appears as the cigar-chomping always politically incorrect  news director, Clyde Bertram..  The story is based  in a real-life  incident in which a CFCF employee was actually assaulted in  one of the station’s mobile units.  But Haugland denies Mobile 9 is a roman a clef.  “In order to come up with one- three dimensional character,”  he says “I’d draw upon five different people I met.  The people in the book are based on a composite of a whole variety of people.”  

Mobile-9-Bill-Haugland-book.jpgAlthough Mobile 9 sometimes reads as if it’s being  scripted for  a teleprompter with lines that sound better intoned  than read,  such as  ‘”The city of Westmount nestles against  Mount Royal,  the  once volcanic heart of the Island of Montreal”  or ”Snow came down like a theatre curtain,”  Haugland’s  tells his tale  in cinematic fashion and  avoids  the pitfall of over plotting that usually infects first-time novels.  His description of the 1969 Grey Cup in Montreal is perhaps a little too over-enthusiastic  and slows the pace of the read.  But overall, it’s a  commendable first  book  and effectively captures the linguistic, political and professional tensions that were at work at the time. One hopes that the book’s main character, the intrepid reporter Ty Davis, who might easily be a Haugland stand-in, will be back in a second novel.   Haugland, who lives in Vermont, will be at Paragraphe Books, 2220 McGill College Ave.  7:00 P.M. Tues. May. 19 for the book launch.


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