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WRITER

Warren Perley

Clinging in the dead of night to frozen emergency stairs near the top of a three-storey airport hangar while a mid-winter nor’easter lashed my exposed face was probably not the best time to make a career decision. I did, anyway. No more daily deadline journalism!

It was about 1 a.m. on the morning of December 13, 1985 as I clung to the side of the hangar in Gander, Newfoundland and peered through a frosted window at the bodies of U.S. servicemen who had died in an air crash the previous day being laid out on the concrete floor of the temporary morgue.

I’m sensitive, I’m scared of heights and I didn’t want to be there. What drove me? Fear of failure. As the Montreal Bureau Chief for United Press International at that time, I had been sent in haste by my boss in Washington, D.C. to cover the crash of Arrow Air Flight 1285 carrying 248 U.S. servicemen from the Kentucky-based 101st Airborne Division. All 248 plus eight crew members had died when the plane crashed in woods about half a mile from the airport runway. 

Gander was mobbed by media, all of us looking for fresh angles.  A source told me the bodies were being collected and brought to an unidentified hangar. Together with my UPI photographer, we secretly breeched the RCMP cordon around the hangar.  His photos and my story made the pages of newspapers around the world the next day.  By then I had made up my mind that I wanted out of the 24-hour news cycle.

Writing is my passion

Three years later, after a 16-year career working for The Canadian Press, The Montreal Star, The Gazette, United Press Canada and UPI, I and a fellow journalist started a weekly newspaper  called The Hampstead Herald (The Weekly Herald) in west-end Montreal.

It lasted until February 1991 when we ran out of money. For the next 20 years, I kept my hand in freelance writing while helping to run a graphic design and marketing company called Ponctuation Grafix.

But I never gave up on my dream of returning to full-time feature writing and editing from my base in Montreal. New Internet technology is allowing me to follow that dream through BestStory.ca; I am beginning to write some of the many stories I have in mind while collaborating with other motivated and talented freelance writers whose copy I edit.  

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks and have a ball doing it?

You may not have heard of a low-key company called Forensic Technology, but if you’ve ever watched a CSI show on the CBS television network, you’re aware of the kind of crime-solving techniques the company has pioneered in relation to ballistics. Behind the scenes, their technology was used to match guns and bullets in high-profile murder cases involving former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, who died of an apparent suicide in his prison cell on April 19, 2017. And it helped solve the brutal underworld execution of internationally-acclaimed Argentinian singer and songwriter Facundo Cabral in Guatemala City in the early-morning hours of July 9, 2011.

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With his re-election to a second term in the White House, Barack Obama continues to defy pundits who may now be questioning whether he is more a pragmatist than the raving socialist his opponents have made him out to be. It’s the same kind of conundrum Pierre Elliott Trudeau presented for critics who attempted to typecast the former Canadian prime minister as a communist. An analysis of issues ranging from health care, abortion and birth control to gay rights, cannabis and foreign policy proves that Obama and Trudeau, born two generations apart in neighbouring countries, have more in common than you might think.

[Yousuf Karsh photographed Trudeau and other giants: See April 18, 2012 Notes From The Editor.]
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Jonathan Truchon, 22, is intimate with the sterile cut of surgical steel. The young man from Châteauguay, Quebec, has left more than his fair share of body parts in the cold, kidney-shaped surgeon’s basin, including 85 percent of his cancerous liver. But when you’ve beaten cancer repeatedly, starting at 18 months of age, you don’t think of yourself as a victim. “Warrior” might be a more apt description, winning every medical battle, one at a time.

[Cancer warrior emphasized living, not dying: See January 4, 2016 Notes From The Editor.]
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Dr. Thomas Borody of Australia enjoys the highest remission rate of any doctor in the world when it comes to treating Crohn’s patients. Now he and U.S.-based Dr. William Chamberlin, who like Dr. Borody treats Crohn’s as an infectious disease, talk about the antibiotic formulas they use, their success rates, and their views on the future direction of Crohn’s treatments. Microbiologist Dr. Saleh Naser of the University of Central Florida explains why the connection between MAP bacterium and Crohn’s continues to confound most microbiologists and gastroenterologists.

[More options than ever for Crohn’s patients: See June 8, 2015 Notes From The Editor.]
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Linda Shohet was having a great Christmas vacation with family in Atlanta before she returned home to discover a frozen pipe had burst and her insurer was refusing to pay for costly damages because her home policy required daily visits during a winter absence. Unlike most consumers who feel abused, Shohet fought back, hired a lawyer, went to court and won her lawsuit against Aviva Insurance. The ruling could help millions of other Canadians with similarly restrictive home insurance policies.

[See Feb. 4, 2014 Notes From The Editor for background.]
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It’s no fun losing your testicles in a shootout with Canada’s toughest cop. But then again, Det.-Sgt. Albert Lisacek was never known as a guy with a sense of humour during his 25 years with the Sûreté du Québec. Now the outspoken Lisacek tells the real story of cops’n’robbers in the ’60s and ’70s, including what happened just before infamous killer Richard Blass was shot dead by police, the last moments of Machine Gun Molly and his near-death experience with Jacques Mesrine, Public Enemy No. 1 in France.

[Dogged researchers bring new facts to light: See July 4, 2012 Notes From The Editor.] [A great man's passing marks end of era: See Nov. 21, 2012 Notes From The Editor.]
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It’s a sports phenomenon sweeping the world: a punk subculture of fishnets, tank tops, spandex and short-shorts stirred in a frenetic cocktail of full-body contact skating. Women's flat track roller derby attracts athletes ranging from the ordinary to the stars, such as Smack Daddy (inset) of Montreal Roller Derby, voted tournament MVP at the first-ever Roller Derby World Cup, and Suzy Hotrod of New York City’s Gotham Girls Roller Derby. It's more than a sport; it’s a lifestyle. Join us at the rink and at the bar to find out why these gals love to play and party hard!

[Roller Derby chicks are photog magnets: See Sept. 11, 2012 Notes From The Editor.]
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The bureaucrats say they have proof of my guilt. If I go before a judge, I’m sure to lose and my parking fine will increase. They make me feel like the “punk” in a Dirty Harry movie. But I want my day in court. What crosses my mind is the Chinese proverb which says, “Be careful what you wish for.”

SIDEBAR

Best Canadian city to get a parking ticket?

By WARREN PERLEY

Writing from Montreal

Which city among Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver affords its motorists the most favourable treatment of parking tickets? Officials in one of those three cities have started thinking like entrepreneurs. We’ll tell you who gives the best deal.

SIDEBAR

Parking Ticket Geek is Chicago’s Robin Hood

By WARREN PERLEY

Writing from Montreal

If you want to beat a parking ticket in the Windy City, he’s your go-to guy. “Rip the cash out of the city’s dirty, greedy hands,” is his mantra. With an 85 percent success rate, the Parking Ticket Geek is a hero to thousands of Chicago motorists. He’s considering expansion to other cities, perhaps even Toronto. The Geek took time out from his busy schedule to share ticket-busting secrets with beststory.ca.

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Duddy Alt, who passed away at age 90 on June 18, 2013, talked openly for the first time about the horror of a little known massacre of Jews at Balf, Hungary just weeks before the end of the Second World War in the spring of 1945. Alt took four Nazi bullets to the body and one through the head. A few hours later, advancing Soviet troops found the young weightlifter barely conscious in the slimy ditch where he had fallen face first. This is the account of one survivor's odyssey to hell, and what we can learn from the Nazi horrors to prevent modern-day genocides.

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American men, growing up secure in their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, have the requisite nerve to deal with the “big box” shopping experience. But Canadian men are shovellers of snow and mowers of grass. We’ve been habituated by our mothers, girlfriends and wives to do as we’re told. So how do you expect me to deal with predatory, bargain-hunting females elbowing their way through the Walmart aisles? This is one weak man’s tale of horror and survival!

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