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Aug. 9, 2020 | Sunday
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Richard West releases book ‘Recollections of War’
Richard West self-published his book "Recollections of War." It is available now on Amazon. (Brittany Carter)

Do you remember the stories your parents told growing up, the impression they left and the impact they had on your life?

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Richard West recalls his parents’ wartime anecdotes and has weaved them into a collection of 21 short stories in his new, self-published book “Recollections of War.”

West wanted to capture a snapshot of life during the Second World War by revealing the way ordinary people dealt with such a substantial historical event.

“I think it paints a picture of how very ordinary people deal with a very big thing, something far bigger than them. And they don’t go running around screaming. They just get up in the morning and carry on with it.”

It was simply life and during the moments captured from 1939 to 1946 he demonstrates how different that life was.

Most of the stories take readers through his father’s experience as a corporal in the British army, he says.

But some centre around his mother and the reality of living through the blitzing of bombs back home in London.

West says he compiled his short stories into a collection instead of forming them into one story because he didn’t want each experience lost through too much character development and intricate plot lines.

Instead, he wanted to convey the feeling of each moment in time. But he says a sense who his parents were and their personalities, to the best of his memory, can be seen through conversations and interactions in each piece.

“I’m just trying to make their recollections into something bigger. And hopefully people get something from it.”

He says he hopes the stories will give people and, in particular, younger people, a sense of how different life was during the war – not just in the sense of technological advances and the transition from his memory of mostly horse and carts on the road to the rise of motor vehicles.

“It was much more than that. The world was very different. The way people dealt with it I think was different,” he says.

West, now 70, grew up in London in the ‘50s and some of his happiest memories are of playing in the “literal bomb sites” left over from his parents’ war. The stories his mother and father told made him feel as though he was a part of that time in history.

“It left me with a real feeling that I was close to this event that happened, even though it was before I was born. So, I’m left with a feeling about it.”

Although he wasn’t alive during the war and he couldn’t portray in detail how it actually felt to live through it – through his writing he says he tried to convey the emotion his parents passed on.

“I had these stories messing about in my head for, oh, 25 years, I suppose.”

West spent his career as an engineer and says he didn’t pick up a pen for creative writing until much later in life. While commuting one day, he says he realized how much he liked to read and wondered what it would take to write a book.

With his engineering background, he wasn’t particularly adept at writing, he says. “I was terrible at spelling and terrible with grammar.”

But with a desire to get his stories “out of his head,” he decided to start writing anyway. He picked up a notebook and pen and dove into writing whenever he had time.

“Over the next several years, from about 1993 to 2000, when I was on planes and things, I would write and write – and I actually wrote a book,” he says.

That was his first foray into writing, and though he says only three people have read that first book, he’s now since published three others through Amazon, has had several excerpts from “Recollections of War” printed in The Lake Report and submitted a couple short stories on Commuterlit.com.

He attributes joining of the NOTL Writers’ Circle with pushing him to pursue the craft more seriously. “You exchange your work and people go, ‘Oh this is good,’ or ‘This could use some work,’ etc. So, I started writing more and getting involved with the circle.”

He says his creative method might be different than many other writers – he simply writes what he likes and sort of “works it out as he goes.” But he’s found a passion for the craft and is working on two more books now.

Recollections of War” and his other works can be found through his personal website at www.richardwest.ca or on Amazon at www.amazon.com/author/westr.

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