Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
All his life, Rosedale's Hal Ross has wanted to be a storyteller.
It's just that now, at 78, he has the time.
I visited with the author who sat on his lanai last week and talked about his passion for writing, which began way back in his teens. His fiction story, "The Fleur-de-Lys Affair" was published in 1975 by Doubleday. Consider he was 19 when he began writing his first book and he was 33 when someone finally purchased a copy.
What took so long?
As with many of us, life simply got in the way.
Although he sold about 12,000 copies of "The Fleur-de-Lys Affair," it certainly wasn't enough to consider fiction writing as a full-time job. Story-telling would have to wait.
That's OK, since Ross uses real life experiences and weaves them into his suspense novels. He simply was accumulating fodder. That could mean the cutthroat nature of the Canadian toy industry, where he ruled as a top executive for years, or the comic relief that finds most of us when we least expect it.
Ross wanted to go into detail about the toy industry, but I tried to steer him in another direction. He had mentioned that he and his second wife, Francine, had "eloped" from Toronto to New York City on Feb. 14, 1987. That's the story I wanted to hear.
Ross smiled and took off on a tale which seemed to be somewhat of a fairy tale, except that Francine was walking around the house behind him, and she obviously was willing to verify every word.
Hal and Francine headed for Hong Kong in 1987 because they thought it was an exotic spot to get married. They lived in Toronto and they knew Hong Kong was considered a British colony (until 1997), so that meant it was legal to get married there. They took in the sights and got ready for the big day.
Then on the day of their scheduled wedding, an official told them of a stipulation. They had to live there a month before he could marry them. They had enjoyed their "honeymoon" in cart-before-the-horse fashion, so time wasn't on their side. The wedding would have to wait.
Heading home, though, they took a detour to New York City. They figured the Big Apple on Valentine's Day would be a perfect spot, especially since New York hosted its annual toy fair at that time annually. It would be the ultimate business and pleasure trip. What could go wrong?
All the while Ross was reciting a story he probably had told a thousand times, he had a passion in his eyes that made me want to pick up one of his novels. He could spin a tale, and you could tell he was happy in this mode.
So anyway, back to New York where Hal and Francine were waiting for their scheduled limo at their hotel to take them to Long Island and a courthouse. The judge who scheduled them told them not to be late because it was, after all, Valentine's Day, and he had lots of weddings to perform. But the limo was late ... real late ... because of mechanical problems.
They finally hit the highway, trying to get through traffic, and the limo stalled. So as Hal, in a tuxedo, and Francine, in a black dress, stood on the side of the Long Island Expressway as cars zipped past at high speeds, their driver walked toward a service station. Eventually, the couple, and two of their friends along to attend the wedding, decided it was going to be losing proposition so they started to hitchhike.
Along came a police officer who figured this act would have been more appropriate on Halloween. He asked them if they were nuts, listened to their story, then loaded them into his car and headed toward Long Island. Fearing he didn't have time to get them there — he had to be at a funeral — he pulled over the first empty limo he found along the expressway. That driver told them to get lost. The next limi driver pulled over agreed to help them finish this adventure.
So off to Long Island and a last-second arrival, Mr. and Mrs. Ross kissed and began their married life together.
It's a life that has landed them in Rosedale a year ago after Hal Ross retired from the toy industry following an intense legal battle with a friend who basically sapped him of more than $1 million. He is finally a full-time writer.
His fourth book, Bonita Palms, has been published this year and is available on Amazon and in bookstores. It involves wealthy housewives being systematically murdered. His website is halross-books.com if you want to know more.
Whether he has had personal fodder for that story, I didn't have time to find out.
The best part of this story, though, is a 78-year-old man loving every day as he chases his dreams of a best-seller, the way he did as a teen.
May your dreams be as big.