By Phil McLachlan
Local writer and teacher, Keith Liggett has added another book to his collection, titled, One Hand Clapping, a political thriller, which he wrote after travelling the world.
Liggett grew up in South Bay, San Francisco. His father was a researcher at SRI, later teaching at the Stanford University graduate school.
In addition to his father teaching in San Francisco, both of Liggett’s parents were heavily involved in international education. During his childhood, Liggett lived in Malaysia for an extensive period of time. Coming back to San Francisco after two and a half years out of the country, Liggett spoke five languages and had been to 28 countries.
“Most of the guests in our house were non-native non-English speakers… it was a great way to grow up,” said Liggett, who went on to highlight Sri Lanka as one of the most memorable destinations he visited.
Liggett has been intertwined in the world of freelance writing since the 70s, and has a few books under his belt. This latest novel is a political thriller that focuses around a group of renegade people who revitalize a Vietnam-era heroin transport and processing system, in modern day times.
He was motivated to write this after a man spoke in a seminar at his college, highlighting a period in his life when he was a heroin junkie. The speaker recalled an event where he was upset at his supplier, and spends three years trying to bust them with the sheriff’s department.
This group of shady dealers was running a heroin operation out of the Rocky Flats Machine Shop, a processing plant that worked on nuclear equipment. Finally these men were taken into custody, but soon after were picked up at the sheriff’s department by men in black SUV’s and never seen again. This sparked Liggett’s interest to write about the underground heroin trafficking business, and it’s presence around the world.
“There was a lot of covert stuff going on when I was over in Southeast Asia that we found out about after we had left,” said Liggett. “I don’t think you have to be a conspiracist to understand a lot of underhanded stuff going on.”
After attending college in the Midwest, Liggett travelled on to Colorado in search of a life of skiing. He did not readdress this idea for a book until later in his life.
An adventurous lifestyle kept Liggett jumping around to areas of the states such as Vale and Aspen, Colorado as well as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Liggett spent 12 summers in Jackson as a climbing guide, and then traveled to Colorado to establish a climbing school. After 20 years in Breckenridge and a few in Hood River, Liggett came to Fernie ten years ago where he has stayed ever since.
Writing on the side, Liggett designed houses when the freelance world flat lined.
“I just sort of kept shuffling around,” said Liggett.
Liggett’s passions changed as time went on. After focusing mostly on skiing and climbing, Liggett started to focus more on writing once he got to Fernie. He has written two books of poetry, two cookbooks and a guidebook. This new piece of work on heroin trafficking will be his first novel.
His poetry tends to have an overall theme, dictated by current events.
“What I do depends on what’s happening in my life,” said Liggett.
Over his years of writing, Liggett has learned and grown as an author. One of the biggest lessons he has learned is, “Write every day. Even if you just write notes to yourself and put them on the refrigerator; write every day.
“Set aside a time and a place. It’s really important to have a place you can sit down and write, that you’re comfortable in. Take a certain amount of time every day and just do it.”
If Liggett runs into a roadblock in his writing, he’ll leave to go skiing to take time away from his work. He finds that this helps him gain another perspective on his work and refocuses his thoughts.
In addition to writing for himself, Liggett has been teaching this art form in Fernie for many years. His first classroom was in the College of the Rockies, which moved to The Arts Station, and now to his home where he teaches six to seven individuals at a time.
“We sit around, drink wine and talk about writing,” said Liggett with a smile.
Most have a long term project that they work on, which will be critiqued by the class during their eight-week session.
Liggett handwrites all of his stories, and goes through periods of dedicated writing, which completely halts when he finishes a segment.
“By the time I finish a piece, it might have 60-70 edits on it. It gets really polished, but the voice stays the same,” he said.
Fernie has treated Liggett well, throughout his many art projects.
“This is a really supportive arts community,” he said. “It’s been really neat watching the writing take off here, as it’s being embraced by people.”
Liggett’s novel, One Hand Clapping will be released in segments online via his website, www.keithliggett.ca.