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Spaniard’s Bay author humbled by first book’s reception

Fred Humber, originally from Botwood, reminisces over old photos of the Harbourview Café, the building in which the events of his book take place.
Fred Humber, originally from Botwood, reminisces over old photos of the Harbourview Café, the building in which the events of his book take place. - Chris Lewis

Story provides answers to 60-year-old Botwood mystery

SPANIARD’S BAY, NL — A Spaniard’s Bay resident is making waves with the first book he’s ever written.

Fred Humber is currently preparing for the third set of printing for his book “Death at the Harbourview Café,” the first book he’s ever written. With an initial release in October of 2017, BookNet shows that the book has spent upwards of two months as the #1 bestselling Canadian true crime book in the country.

Humber’s book tells the story of a mysterious tragedy that took place in Botwood, Humber’s hometown, on Nov. 6, 1958, at the Harbourview Café that lead to three deaths, including the first RCMP officer to die in Newfoundland – Constable Terry Hoey.

The goings on at the Harbourview Café that night had been an ongoing mystery, clouded with rumours, gossip and confusion, for the last 60 years. Humber himself was only 13 years old at the time, and says it’s something he’s lived with his entire life.

“This night was something that shook the entire community for years,” Humber said. “Nobody knew what happened, and no one was able to figure it out. The bodies were all gone, for autopsies, or to be buried elsewhere, and the café was all but gone.
“What else was there to go by, other than rumours? Nobody understood, and there was no way for them to understand.”

However, Humber’s curiosity about the event all but diminished over the years. His passion for his hometown, as well as a personal connection to the goings on at the café, led him to do some investigative work, which ultimately led to him getting his hands on some important documentation, working as the first bit of information he needed to find some answers.

Death at the Harbourview Cafe

Humber always knew he wanted to turn the story into a book but hadn’t yet found the motivation to do so, having never taken a jab at writing before. His mindset quickly changed, however, during one of his many trips back to Botwood.

“When I was there, I just had this thought and spoke out loud, I said, ‘wow, can you believe the history behind where we’re standing right now?’ and someone looked at me like they had no idea what I was talking about. They were much younger than me, and when I explained to them what had happened (at the café), they were amazed,” Humber explained. “It was then that I realized, these memories aren’t going to last forever. I need to write this book before the history is lost forever.”

From there, Humber spent several years in the research phase. He scoured Newfoundland’s historical archives, tracked down family members of those involved in the events at the café, and eventually settled down with what information he had gathered. He attempted to take that information and turn it into a story he hoped would answer questions that had been circulating around Botwood for over half a century.

With the help of an editor, Humber’s writings were compressed into a solid story and released via Flanker Press in late 2017.
Now, in January 2018, “Death at the Harbourview Café” has seen more success than Humber had ever anticipated, stating he had greatly underestimated the significance and impact of the story he was writing about.

The success of Humber’s book is something he takes great pride in, though, during an interview with the Compass, he noted it was not the same kind of pride one may normally associate with selling thousands of books.

“When I first wrote this, I never expected it to reach as far as it did. People from all across the country, and even over in Peterborough, where (Terry) Hoey was buried, have reached out to me,” said Humber.
“It’s not the numbers that impress me. People often tell me that it must be a nice ego boost to see it become so successful, but that’s not the case at all. It’s the impact it’s had on people around the world, especially back in Botwood. It’s the fact that I’ve now played a major role in answering questions that have gone unanswered for so many people, for so many years.”

Humber noted a particular instance from a few weeks after the book’s initial release, where the RCMP officer who had replaced Const. Hoey in Botwood following the events showed up, unexpectedly, on Humber’s doorstep.
His sole intention was to share a hug and thank him for providing answers to a story he had spent so many years of his life pondering.

“If I do nothing else in this life, I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to do this,” said Humber as he flipped through a photo album full of historical images of Botwood, and the Harbourview Café.

“Death at the Harbourview Café” is currently getting ready to run its third set of prints, and can be purchased at most bookstores across Newfoundland, or online through Flanker Press.

chris.lewis@cbncompass.ca

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