Sailor’s first novel seeks to thrill

PO1 Steve Pring poses with a copy of his self-published novel Of Forgiving Hearts. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

PO1 Steve Pring poses with a copy of his self-published novel Of Forgiving Hearts. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) sailor has been recognized for his first novel, a psychological-thriller set in Southwestern Ontario.

Petty Officer First Class (PO1) Steve Pring was one of 80 writers from Southern Vancouver Island featured in the Greater Victoria Public Libraries Emerging Local Authors Collection.

The 54-year-old published his first book, Of Forgiving Hearts in December 2017.

“It’s a great honour to be on this list and a great way to the get word out there about my book,” said PO1 Pring. “An emerging and independent author does not normally get as much exposure as a best-selling author like Dan Brown [The Da Vinci Code] or Dean Koontz [Odd Thomas], its gets me some facetime and hopefully my book into people’s hands.”

Three strong women are at the centre of the book, characters based on two former wives and his older sister. The characters are tied, in one way or another, to a haunted farmhouse in the tiny community of Wyoming, Ontario, where PO1 Pring once lived during his childhood.

All three of the women lived together in the house until a murder and a fire gutted it. As the story unfolds, both the real-life murderer and the evil entity that presides over the house relentlessly taunt them.

Tales of ghosts and spirits were always associated with the real-life property says PO1 Pring. His grandmother was rescued from the house by a cable installer after she became trapped during a fierce snowstorm in 1977. It was during the incident he learned from the rescuer that local legend had it the old farm house and the property were haunted.

“The ghost stories she told me about the house gave me the creeps,” said PO1 Pring. “She said that at one time the house had been used as an abattoir, a home for wayward boys, an orphanage, and a church. The barns on the property were creepy with rats living in them, and the swimming pool that was operated by the church was filled with dead rats when we first arrived.”

The Pring family had escaped their own real-life horror. They abruptly picked up their belongings and moved from Quebec to Ontario during the height of the FLQ [Front de libération du Québec] crisis of 1970. His family was living in Laval and his late father, Lieutenant Commander Raymond Pring of the Canadian Navy, was guarding a shipment of weapons at their house because of the crisis. Shortly after Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, he said an FLQ ­faction attacked their home one night in search of weapons.

“Dad fired a gun through the door to stop them. We left the next day carrying suit cases and moved to Ontario.”

His father died at age 42 and, as PO1 Pring bluntly put it, left behind a wife, five kids and a headstone. The loss of the family patriarch was a crippling blow to the family who struggled to make ends meet without him.

During his high school years, PO1 Pring said he turned to writing as an outlet and to develop his creative expression. He wrote short stories and later published opinion pieces in a local Sarnia newspaper. Pring joined the RCN in 1993 and wrote a series of columns for the Lookout newspaper called A Day in the Life of A Sailor.

He recalled his column as a good-natured humorous effort to poke fun at navy life and provide levity for sailors and the military community. It was written throughout his deployment during the second Persian Gulf War in the late 1990s and it was eventually picked up by major newspapers across Canada.

PO1 Pring said the act of writing is an escape that takes him away from problems in his life.

“For me, writing is also an emotional strip tease and as soon as someone reads your stuff you are baring your soul to them. When I am writing it takes me out of my own head and puts me in another place. My hope is that I can do that for the reader and take them out of their own head for a moment.”

Sales of his book started off slow but have now surpassed 700 copies as word of his storytelling abilities spread. Of Forgiving Hearts can be purchased in digital or hard copy with information through his website:

One dollar from each copy sold is donated to CKNW Kids Fund and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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