It’s here! View from the Tower, Tin Pushers and Pilots on BC’s West Coast
In response to the demand, Grant has re-written and revised his best-selling book about his experiences as an air traffic controller. It comes with a new title that reflects its broader range: View from the Tower, Tin Pushers and Pilots on BC’s West Coast. This revised edition has more stories of laughter and disaster and more photographs, in short it is a better book.
Maybe ‘best-selling’ is a slight exaggeration, in Canada I believe you have to sell 5000 books to be a best seller, but Grant had sold the original print run, the book stores were calling for more and it was either re-print or revise-and-print and as Grant had more stories he wanted to tell, it became revise.
And what a revise, from top to bottom, cut and paste and re-imagine. As well as more stories surfacing, he had things that needed fixing. Part of the catalyst for change were the letters he received from fans. One person berated him for misspelling Port McNeill, an unforgivable oversight, another for misspelling (the author) Nevil Shute. In the first offence he was lacking an ‘l’ and in the latter he had one too many ‘ls’ plus an ‘e’. Sloppy editing at this end, and quickly corrected.
However, all fan letters are gratefully received; they are a wow-someone-read-my-book moment and the best, was the letter from Sharon McGillawee Smith of Port Hardy. It went like this: “Hi Grant, my Name is Sharon, and I am Jim McGillawee’s daughter. I purchased your book for him for his 97th birthday, and he has asked me to get in touch with you.”
And get in touch with her we did. We met Sharon and Jim (who was the former airport carpenter at Port Hardy when Grant was there), and the rest of the family over laughter-filled lunches. We heard that Sharon hadn’t told her dad that he was mentioned in View from the Tower when she gave him the first book, and he had a great chuckle when he came across stories of his own adventures and was eager to reminisce with Grant about the ‘good old days.’
Sharon sent Grant old airport photos, including one of her brother Sheldon standing on the wing of a downed C-46 that had gone off the runway the day before Grant arrived in Port Hardy in 1960.
Can you imagine Grant, aged twenty-one, and his equally young wife and baby daughter arriving at this remote area having lived in Vancouver with its cosmopolitan way of life, and their first view of their new home is a downed airplane? This didn’t deter Grant one bit, in fact what makes Grant’s stories so appealing is that they are told by this young pup, a speed junkie with a yen for adventure, who is eager to take on anything that comes his way, always with bravado and a wicked sense of humour. We also see his introspective side which may have been fueled by long hours alone in the tower. And as an air traffic controller we never doubt that we are in good hands: Grant shows an equally competent control over his writing.
That these were different days is blatantly obvious as you read his stories. On his time off he could be asked to look after the inmates of the drunk tank, or pitch in to drive the school bus, or pack whale meat; there weren’t the rules and regulations as there are now and Grant was eager to work. In fact, he worked as hard as he played. Fishing was so good that his dog ate as much seafood as the family. When he worked in Abbotsford tower, he and his buddies frequently drove into the U.S. to the nearest beer parlour for their after-work drinks. The border control just waved them through.
Grant’s lifelong fascination with flight is evident in his writing, from his initial flying years, to his eventual choice of air traffic control as a career. (Early on he realized that flying could be hour and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror and he chose ATC because he would always be in the centre of the action.) It shows with his love of airplanes and his carefully crafted sketches that illustrate this book and through his admiration of, and friendship with, the many pilots he’s encountered.
View from the Tower is a rollicking good read right up to the finish when Grant takes early retirement from being an ATC instructor in 1984. It leaves you wanting more.