January 9, 2013

Looking back, writing talent is rediscovered

Posted by WARREN PERLEY – Editor, BestStory.ca
Writing from Montreal

People often ask me how I find writers for BestStory.ca. The answer is that they usually find me, as evidenced by fishing guide and author Ari Vineberg, who sent an email in the fall of 2012, 26 years after we first met when I was Montreal Bureau Chief for United Press International.

Ari wanted to know whether I’d be interested in a first-hand, riveting account of world famous fisherman Franck Hiribarne’s attempt to land a musky, the only large predator fish which had consistently eluded him. Due to arrive from his native France in November 2012, Hiribarne had already hired Ari to be his guide – the fifth time he had come to Canada in his quest to land the big one.

Win or lose, I told Ari I thought the drama behind the scenes of such a chase would be a winner for a long-form journalism site such as ours. It was at that point that Ari and I began to reminisce about our first meeting in 1986 when he walked into my UPI office in Old Montreal with its picturesque view overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

At the time, Ari was a young writer, born and raised in Sherbrooke, Quebec, who was attending political science classes at McGill University. He was also fresh off two summer internships at the Sherbrooke Record under venerable Editor Charlie Bury, whom he described to me as follows:

Charlie allowed his charges a lot of leeway and liberty. He was like water: soft yet hard, but always very fair and open, never treating us as anything else but equals, which we weren’t. We all adored him, and when the last weekly edition was put out on Thursday night, we would hang around and have a party – it was the best job I ever had and he was the best boss.

When I met Ari in 1986 after his tutorship under Charlie, he was a young man brimming with chutzpah, telling me he was looking to “go international.” So why not start at UPI, whose motto was and is: One Up On The World.

We met the year after the June 23, 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 31,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 329 people aboard including 268 Canadians, 27 British citizens and 24 citizens of India. The Boeing 747 jumbo jet was en route from Montreal to London to New Delhi.

Evidence pointed at a Sikh militant group known as Babbar Khalsa based in Canada. A handful of members were arrested and tried, but due to investigative bungling and various legal errors, only one was convicted of manslaughter: mechanic Inderjit Singh Reyat, who at the time lived in Duncan, B.C.

In 1986, the first charges in the case were laid in Quebec Superior Court in Montreal, which was where the doomed flight had originated. Being tied up with another story at the time, I hired the supremely confident Ari as a freelancer to sit in the courthouse and cover a preliminary hearing.

Almost a quarter century later, Ari remembers one of the defence lawyers was named Michael Code, a strapping man of about 6 foot, 4 inches, who went on to become a law professor at University of Toronto and who co-authored for the Ontario government in 2008 a series of recommendations to streamline legal procedures in complex criminal trials.

Aside from the name of one of the defence lawyers in the Air India bombing, what else does our intrepid reporter remember from his UPI freelance experience of a quarter century ago?

Well, Ari told me, he recalled that I as UPI Bureau Chief seemed to be a “real hard-core journalist” who was “overworked” but had not yet spiraled into alcoholism. (I took his words as a compliment, but not seeing the expression on his face when he said them, I’m not 100 percent certain.)

Ari also recalled that it took UPI close to six months to pay him for his freelance work and that I kept bugging head office, insisting that he get paid. Finally the meager cheque arrived. “You stuck with it and fought for me,” Ari said recently. “I thought that was very cool!”

After getting his political science degree at McGill, Ari ended up going into the family business to help his dad, who had fallen ill due to the infamous tainted blood scandal which affected the Canadian Red Cross in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His dad passed away due to a tainted blood transfusion, and Ari had to put his dreams of a journalism career on hold.

After 20 years working in the business world, as both a retailer and distributor of soft goods, a flash flood wiped out his business in the Eastern Townships, persuading Ari it was time to concentrate on the more important things in life: writing and fishing on a full-time basis.

Now I think that’s “very cool”; the fact that a man’s journalistic career can be rekindled after so many years and that readers of a new long-form journalism site, such as BestStory.ca, have an opportunity to recognize the literary talent of one such as Ari who has been hidden among us for far too long.

Published: JANUARY 2013
World renowned angler tormented by predator fish which got away

Writing from Montreal

Globe-trotting, adrenaline junkie Franck Hiribarne, a fishing celebrity on network television in France, has never met a dangerous critter he didn't want to caress: razor teeth, big fangs and sharp claws turn him on. He returned to Canada recently for a fifth attempt to catch a musky, the largest member of the pike family which had always eluded his previous efforts. Witness the drama when two legends – obsessed expert angler and alpha piscatory predator – collide in dark icy waters.

5,344 Words | 20 Photos

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