Richardson, William James
William James Richardson, author, humorist, radio host (b at Winnipeg 11 Aug 1955). Bill Richardson was raised in Winnipeg and graduated from Silver Heights Collegiate. He attended the University of Winnipeg and received a Bachelor of Arts in French Studies in 1976. After earning a Master of Library Sciences from the University of British Columbia in 1980, he worked as a children's librarian before becoming a researcher for The Vicki Gabereau Show on CBC Radio in 1988. By 1992 he was a regular contributor and occasional guest host and his name and voice had become familiar to listeners across Canada.
In 1997 he became host of As You Like It, a CBC Radio request show for classical music listeners, who appreciated both his considerable knowledge of dramatic musical composition and his warm, supportive radio persona. He created and hosted the successful afternoon show Richardson's Roundup, featuring listener stories and letters. Other radio programs he hosted for CBC have included Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, Sunday Afternoon in Concert, Crosswords and the pop culture smorgasbord Bunny Watson. He developed a loyal following as host of the CBC television show Booked on Saturday Night, a series featuring interviews with writers.
As an author, Bill Richardson was first published in 1988 with Canada Customs, a collection of short stories originally produced for radio. In 1993 he had his first mainstream success when Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast was published. The story, about middle-aged fraternal twins who write in alternating chapters about the eccentric guests at their island lodge, was first introduced to Canadians while Richardson was a contributor on Vicki Gabereau's CBC radio show; the novel won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 1994 and led to 2 more books about the brothers and their establishment.
Among Richardson's books are Scorned and Beloved: Dead of Winter Meetings with Canadian Eccentrics (1997), a delightful account of some of this country's fascinating unknown characters, both living and dead. Oddball@Large (1998) is a collection of essays displaying Richardson's clever, quirky and humorous way of seeing the world. In 2000, Richardson reworked Robert Browning's The Pied Piper into a brief children's novel called After Hamelin. The classic fairytale as retold by the 101-year-old Penelope, town matriarch and sole survivor of the piper's famous visit 90 years earlier, introduced Richardson to a new generation of readers; he won the Silver Birch Award in Fiction Writing in 2001. A number of books for children followed, including But If They Do (2003) and The Aunts Come Marching (2008).
Richardson's fluid imagination is in evidence in his fictional romp through Paris's Père Lachaise Cemetery in Waiting for Gertrude: A Graveyard Gothic (2001). Its cast of historical characters are the cemetery's resident stray cats - the reincarnations of such well-known figures as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Isadora Duncan, Maria Callas and, among others, the book's narrator Alice B. Toklas as she waits for her beloved partner Gertrude Stein to be reborn - as a cat. Old Father William's Well-Ordered Universe, published in 2008, is a comedic "bathroom reader." Richardson renders the peculiarity of human interests with his customary wit and tolerant affection.
Bill Richardson was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Winnipeg in 1998. He has received numerous awards for his short fiction and radio work, including the gold medal in fiction from the National Magazine Awards for a short piece he wrote for The Georgia Straight in 1999 called "It's In the Cards," and the 2004 Mayor's Award for Media and Recording Arts in Vancouver. He has written for The Vancouver Sun, The Province and The Globe and Mail, and became a regular columnist for Reader's Digest in 2005.