Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

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Actor Dennis Farina died yesterday. He was a favourite of mine. You might remember him from crime movies such as Snatch, Thief (his first acting role; he was 37 at the time), Midnight Run, and two Elmore Leonard film adaptations: Out of Sight and Get Shorty. Leonard’s writing seemed perfectly suited for Farina. Farina also played a detective for a couple of seasons in television’s Law & Order. That seemed suited for him as well. He could be smooth, dead funny and a hard-ass all in one take. He must have been one of those actors that writers think of when they’re creating a character. I have to admit, when I’m developing a character, I often have a particular actor or personality in mind. It can help. Apparently Hoagy Carmichael served as Ian Fleming's model for James Bond.

After a stint in the army, Farina served 18 years in Chicago's police department. He was tough and street-smart. He had the patter down. A man’s man, he was also a hit with the ladies. My wife couldn’t wait to meet him on set when he came to Toronto to film That Old Feeling alongside Bette Midler. Laurie said Farina was every bit as charming and handsome as she had hoped he would be. A prince of a man as they say.

Indeed, some of us might stumble around a bit before eventually falling into our role (hole?) in life, while others are born into one. Yesterday also marked the birth of the third in line to the British throne, William and Kate’s son, the as-yet-unnamed Prince of Cambridge.

'Born with a silver spoon in his mouth.' You’ve heard that one before. Can you imagine the delivery experience for the mother? I mean, is it a big spoon? Or a baby spoon? I don’t remember if I was born with it, but I do remember in the late ’60s those baby spoons with the rubberized bowl. Do they still make them? It was probably toxic. Born with a rubberized, toxic baby spoon in my mouth, I was.

Born into it: Royal status. Poverty. Genetic predispositions. War. None of us asked to be here, but we were all born into something - circumstances, a geography, a role, and have to live it out. And then one has to hear from the self-made man. Talk about self-aggrandizing. Self-made, but out of what? As if they alone were responsible for fashioning themselves out of clay. Do women talk that way? Many of us were hoping for a baby girl.

The As-Yet-Unnamed Prince may have been born into it, but what if he makes for an absolutely wretched monarch? It's possible. We could have another Edward VIII on our hands. Or a Richard III. And what if he has a face like the Thames at low tide? That simply won’t do. Cushy as it might sound, that's a role that's hard to live up to and even more difficult to walk away from. It's something like a sentence. One has to be made of something, or be a terrific actor, or both. The inside-out of being typecast.

I think they should name him Dennis, Prince Dennis.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Michael Januska

Michael Januska is an award-winning crime fiction writer whose works include numerous short stories as well as the recent novel Riverside Drive, part of the Border City Blues series set in Windsor. His first book was Grey Cup Century. He lives in Toronto.

Go to Michael Januska’s Author Page