When his beloved wife Doreen died in 2018, retired Vernon secondary school English teacher Barry Millar wondered what he would do next without his life and sailing partner.
Would it be 10 to 15 more years of reading books? Doing crossword puzzles? Would that really be that interesting, Millar wondered?
A friend of Millar’s in the writers’ group he belongs to heard he had written a story. The friend read it and told Millar it was good. Quite good, actually. He should do something with it.
So he did.
Millar published his first work of fiction, Dead Money, which is available through him or online.
“Writing has become more of a passion,” said Millar, who turned 79 on March 12. “I spend a couple of hours every day writing at the (Okanagan Regional) library.”
Dead Money is about a woman named Elizabeth Jane Missouri Bennett, business analyst by day, professional poker player by night. Bennett’s dad was a pro poker player, her mom an English teacher, fond of the novel Pride and Prejudice.
Bennett – whose poker handle is Missouri Jane – lives in Seattle where several players of her calibre have turned up dead. Murdered.
The book opens with Bennett on her way to Vancouver to play in a poker tournament. She also wants to get away from people who are being murdered.
She travels by Amtrak, a lover of trains thanks to her father who frequently traveled and gambled on the rails with his daughter in tow. As Bennett enters the train station, she gets caught in the door, and a good-looking guy named Brandon Fall helps her out.
Bennett is so distracted by Fall, she has her cell phone in one hand inside the station and a bacon-and-egger sandwich in the other. Hoping to warm up the sandwich, Bennett inadvertently puts the phone in a microwave oven. Fall points this out. She pulls out the phone and drops it on the floor, which triggers something in the phone to the point the mobile device starts talking to her.
Even with everything going on, things between Bennett and Fall heat up quite nicely, until she discovers their meeting was no accident.
Someone told her Vancouver was boring, but for Bennett, it is a non-stop gamble even before she gets off the train.
“The idea (for Dead Money) came into my head and I started writing it,” said Millar. “Authors talk about a story running away with them. They start with one thing in mind, but the story takes them in a different action. I’d heard of it but frankly couldn’t see how that would go until I started this story. The story just went. I didn’t chart it out, had no storyboard. I sat down, had the idea and started writing.”
The Millars arrived in Vernon in 1974 from Winnipeg, where Millar began his teaching career. During a bitter Prairie winter, at 40 below, Millar was bringing his car battery into their home to keep it warm. When he cranked the wrench to loosen the battery, its pole came right through the casing, it was so frigid. That’s when Millar told Doreen they were out of there.
“We went west as soon as I got the opportunity and never left,” said Millar, whose writing background prior to Dead Money included freelance articles for Pacific Yachting magazine about sailing life in the Okanagan.
He also wrote a romance novel.
“Even as a kid I was interested in writing but the thought to write a book started in the 1980s,” said Millar. “I wrote a romance novel but just abandoned it. A member in my writers’ group encouraged me to fix it up and I said, ‘why not?’”
Millar is also currently working on a sequel to Dead Money. He has six chapters written.
Dead Money is available for purchase through Millar at email@example.com or from amazon.ca.