Why some individuals function well within society for the better part of their lives only to morph into a polar opposite without forewarning may forever remain a mystery.
Arthur James Williams has been viewed as such a man. His path in life was predictable over four decades only to transform into one of Canada’s most notorious drug lords.
Highly regarded for his actions during the Second World War, he later handcrafted the Williams’ Long Bow, a work of art sought after by the leaders in competitive archery; but something tweaked his psyche during this time causing his view of bureaucracy and its administrators to take a combative shift.
Art Williams navigated for years beneath the judicial radar while hand selecting a crew that formed a criminal empire to take full advantage of synthetic drugs unrecognized within current legislation. The thirst for a chemical high along the North American west coast only wetted his appetite to meet the need. The thought of incarceration never daunted his aggressive approach as he considered himself superior to the best legal minds.
This is the first time the story has been told in full with no supposition or literary liberty as each player from both sides of the law contributed their personal experience to expose a real-life game of chess.
The media is fond of using the phrase, “A usually quiet neighbourhood” when describing tragic events that often occur in what are truly peaceful communities. Indeed, most Canadian neighbourhoods enjoy a serenity that makes them enjoyable places to safely raise families or live out the golden years without fear or anxiety.
However, some communities mask a more sinister underbelly, one that remains mostly unseen but exists, nevertheless. And it is wicked. And dangerous; a place law-abiding citizens dare not venture into.
Journalist and author Daryl Ashby is a master researcher, with an impressive ability to extract details of outrageous criminal behaviour, injustice and intrigue from the characters who have participated in or been witness to activities that the average citizen is blissfully unaware.
Folks in the central part of Vancouver Island – including Ladysmith, Chemainus and Nanaimo – may have heard rumours of drug manufacturing, outlaw bikers, unexplained disappearances, and unsolved murders, but until recently the stories were tantalizing yarns with little substantive evidence that any of them were authentic.
In his popular 2018 book, 85 Grams, Daryl Ashby began to peel back the layers of mystery surrounding the life of Second World War hero, brilliant inventor and drug manufacturer and dealer Art Williams. It was illuminating for neighbours and the larger community who may have grown up with some knowledge of the legend of Williams but dismissed much of the banter as fantasies that grew in importance as they made the rounds in the pubs and coffee shops.
Ashby shone a brilliant light on a dark world that only Williams’ family, colleagues and the police knew existed. His research probed into a justice system that often failed, frequently outwitted by Williams and his criminal conspirators.
Now, Daryl Ashby has upped the ante.
Art Williams was a genius. Dangerous and enigmatic. Ralph Harris was no Art Williams in intellect, but what he lacked in book smarts or technical ability, he more than made up for in brute strength, street smarts and charisma. An entrepreneur – albeit a dodgy one – Harris was dangerous. He survived and thrived in the most dangerous of realms, capable of protecting his interests with deadly force.
It has been said that every man’s life contains sufficient material for a book. Some stories are more compelling than others and few can match the outrageous tales provided by the central character in Nobody’s Boy, the notorious Ralph Harris.
For some, the lead character’s moral code may be hard to swallow, but that doesn’t alter the fact that his life produced sufficient material to justify being recorded within these pages.
This is a story about a man who defied the law, not so much for greed as was the case for many of his money-hungry associates, but for the steady infusion of adrenaline that raced through his veins.
Rather than align himself with an established criminal organization, he chose to navigate his own course.
No one thought to abuse Ralph’s loyalty or threaten those he held dear. To do so would be at their own peril. He was a man respected by his peers and in some cases, feared. For those who were slow to accept his ways, they would eventually realize, nothing would stand between him and his intended goal.
With a treasure trove of material gleaned from court and police documents and, most vital to the story, personal interviews with Harris shortly before his death, family members and scores of police officers, bikers, drug runners and others who shared Ralph’s flamboyant life, Daryl Ashby had penned a book that exposes an underworld hereto undiscovered on Vancouver Island.