Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Morley Torgov

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Ten Questions with Morley Torgov

Morley Torgov, author of such Canadian classics as The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick and St. Farb's Day, and a recipient of the Order of Mariposa by the Leacock Society for lifetime achievement, has begun a new series of historical mysteries, based on the lives of famous composers of the mid 19th century. The launch for the first book in the series, Murder in A-Major, is on May 29th at 7:00 p.m. at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Visit our events page for details.

OB:

Tell us about your latest book, Murder in A-Major.

MT:

The book is about musical skullduggery in 19th century Germany. Take one of the crowning musical geniuses of mid-nineteenth Century Europe; surround him with enemies, some of whom are fiercely jealous of his talent, others in love with his beautiful wife; add several scoundrels including one who ends up murdered under mysterious circumstances… and there you have the world of Robert and Clara Schumann in the Germany of the 1850s. Inspector Hermann Preiss, Düsseldorf’s top detective, leads us into the world of mid-nineteenth century music where classical composers were stars and their egos were just as monstrous as the rock stars of today. A mysterious off-key A on the Schumanns’ piano leads to murder and to one of the more interesting cases that Inspector Preiss has every tackled.

OB:

How did you research your book?

MT:

Thoroughly! I relied on ten source books (all of which are expressly acknowledged in my novel) dealing with music history, composers’ biographies, technical topics (e.g. piano construction).

OB:

Describe your protagonist, Inspector Preiss.

MT:

Inspector Hermann Preiss is Düsseldorf’s top detective. From humble beginnings, he has become a sophisticated, urbane, witty, and sharp cop (also a bit of a cultural snob… not that there’s anything wrong with that!). An unabashed pragmatist, he’s not above bending “The Rules” to do what he thinks is right or expedient. Over the course of the novel he learns that inspection and introspection are necessary partners if one is to be a good sleuth.

OB:

What was your first publication?

MT:

A Good Place To Come From, a memoir about growing up Jewish in the Sault Ste. Marie of the 1930s and 1940s, published in 1974 by Lester & Orpen. (Received Leacock Medal 1975.)

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

MT:

O Canada, O Quebecby Mordecai Richler, any book of short stories by Alice Munro (e.g. Who Do You Think You Are?) and The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick by M. Torgov (received Leacock Medal 1983).

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MT:

My home office, and our cottage in Haliburton are ideal. I use a manual Olivetti “Lettera 22” typewriter purchased in 1957 for $90.00. (Hate computers!) Require proximity to refrigerator, microwave oven, and comfortable sofa for moments of writer’s block.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

MT:

Currently reading latest novels of two of my favorite novelists, Philip Roth and Elmore Leonard.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

MT:

A reader of my first book (the aforementioned memoir) was shocked and appalled. “How could you possibly bring yourself to write such things?” she demanded of me. That’s when I knew I’d written successfully.

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

MT:

First piece of advice: Elmore Leonard, asked to what he attributed the success of his prose, replied, “I leave out the parts people don’t read.” Second piece of advice (not followed): “Marry money!”

OB:

What is your next project?

MT:

I am currently into Chapter 15 of the next novel in the Inspector Hermann Preiss series. This one is titled The Mastersinger From Minsk and the composer around whom the plot revolves is Richard Wagner who is on the eve of premièring his new opera, "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg."

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