Stampede Season: The Ed Whalen Story & 306/613
Dalton Derkson (Hurtin’ Crüe Press), 22 pages & 14 pages
Stampede Season is a zine after my own heart, telling a lightly fictionalized first-person biography of beloved Stampede Wrestling (and later Calgary Flames) announcer “Wailin’ Ed Whalen.” Derkson employs Whalen’s career to illustrate the transition from the territorial era of pro wrestling (’50s – late ’70s) to the dawn of the contemporary WWF-dominated “sports entertainment” monoculture. I particularly liked how he uses the comparison between the lightweight highflyers employed by local indie promotions like Stampede and the steroid jacked behemoths of the national WWF to reflect the size disparity between the promotions.
If you couldn’t make heads or tails of the jargon above, there’s still a gritty, enjoyable story here of a fish-out-of-water working his way into and out of the bizarre business that is wrestling, though I’d recommend reading the link to Whalen’s bio above to catch on to some of the allusions Derkson weaves into the text:
“the night it all ended i remember shouting myself hoarse just trying to keep up with the action. stu‘s boy bret had worked himself into a real gusher of a match with bad news allen. allen, that demon, was runnin’ all through the pavilion brandishing a fork, carving triple lines in the talent’s foreheads like some kinda cult ritual. it was a wall to wall blood fest and i knew then that i’d had enough. sometimes things move too fast for us old boys. the business carried on and on.”
The wrestling history geek in me has a few factual quibbles, but it’s likely Derkson was taking advantage of dramatic license to wrangle his unruly subject matter into a narrative that could be contained in 22 quarter-size pages.
The other zine I grabbed by Derkson at the Zine Off was 306/613, a short mix of prose and poetry about his home in Saskatchewan and his adopted city of Ottawa. The highlight for me was the tight, rural snapshot “The Homestead,” a piece which recently placed in a Carleton University flash fiction contest. Derkson employs country dialect effectively (which can be very tricky), and the moral overtones of its conclusion don’t strain the naturalism of the tone he’s established.
I think Derkson’s prose is a bit ahead of his poetry at this point, but he has a refreshingly punk, street-level perspective that is welcome in the local poetry community. His best lines have a frank, observational quality (“here dead grass / is sprayed with green paint / and a substance to keep bugs / away”) that will only continue to sharpen if he keeps his eyes open.
Dalton Derkson is the main guy behind Hurtin’ Crüe Press, and he brought a variety of zines besides those I reviewed here. I’ve got wapimisow somewhere in my house but I don’t where exactly (there are a lot of zines in my house right now), and unfortunately I missed out on the new ish of Gutter Review. Fortunately, Derkson is a committed zinester with old school DIY production values, so get in touch with him (AND LIKE HIS FACEBOOK PAGE) to find out how you can get your hands on his work.
JM’s JaM: Jim Johnston – Hart Attack