Mills still grinding
May 19th, 2015
John Mills is back and he never went away.
Having moved to Saltspring Island with is wife Elaina in 2000, he has now self-published Still No Word From Nancy (Friesen Press 2015) that includes four personal essays including his account of walking the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela.
Born in London in 1930, John Mills came to Canada in 1953. He came to Vancouver in 1965 to teach at Simon Fraser University in the English department in the year that SFU opened. Other charter faculty members of the department included Ralph Maud, Jerry Zaslove, Fred Candelaria, Stanley Cooperman, Geoff Molyneux and Dale Sullivan. The head of the English Department in 1965 was Ron Baker who later became the first president of PEI University. Mills retired from SFU as professor emeritus in 1995.
Mills’ unconventional autobiography, Thank Your Mother for the Rabbits (1993), is a funny and moving account of his escape from post-war Britain in the form of personal essays. Mills writes that he has been “a malingerer in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, a radar technician on the DEW-line, a gandy dancer for the CPR, a maths crammer in an eccentric private school, friend and confidante of Irving Layton and Milton Acorn, owner of a steam laundry in Montreal, professor of Chaucerian studies at Simon Fraser, and, after decades of atheism, a convert to Christianity.”
Mills’ previous collection of autobiographical pieces, Lizard in the Grass in 1980, was preceded by three satirical novels. The Land of Is (1968) is a comic subversion of The Tempest. “In a sleazy Vancouver hotel called the Scrod, a man is being held prisoner. He is Anthrax Teitlebaum, who has just come from England to track down his twin brother Prospero…”
The October Men is set during the 1970 FLQ crisis. Skevington’s Daughter draws upon his experiences as a professor of English at SFU. His novel Runner in the Dark (1992) is the profile of a man who loses his wife and his job in the 1990s. This clever spinoff of a thriller was printed with the accidental exclusion of the final chapter.
The Land of Is (1968)
The October Men
Lizard in the Grass (1980)
Runner in the Dark (Oberon 1992)
Thank You for the Rabbits
Still No Word From Nancy (Friesen Press 2015) 18.95, 978-1-4602-5653-4