Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Rick Blechta

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The fact that Rick Blechta has been a musician all his life is clearly apparent in his writing. He brings a musician's viewpoint to the thriller genre in much the same way Dick Francis has used his experiences in the world of horse racing. All five of Blechta’s novels, Knock On Wood (Castlefield Press, 1992), The Lark Ascending (Castlefield Press, 1993), Shooting Straight in the Dark (McClelland & Stewart, 2002), Cemetery of the Nameless (Rendezvous Press, 2005), and When Hell Freezes Over (Rendezvous Press, 2006) have been critically praised for the insider's knowledge of the music world which he injects into his plots. Blechta has been equally praised for his engaging and memorable characters. His Cemetery of the Nameless was a finalist for the prestigious Best Crime Novel Arthur Ellis Award in 2006. A Case of You, his latest novel, will be published in the spring of 2008 with Rendezvous Press.

Rick began his professional music career at the age of fourteen and had eclectic tastes, even at that early age. His musical passion led him to emigrate to Canada from the U.S. in 1971 to complete a Bachelor of Music Education at McGill University in Montreal. Rick is accomplished on several instruments, and immediately after graduation, he formed one of Canada's finest progressive rock bands, Devotion, which went on to achieve legendary status across the country.

A burgeoning family and disillusionment with the music business led him back to the education field in 1977. He taught instrumental music for the Etobicoke and then the Toronto District School Board for twenty-three years, and for sixteen years was a member of the faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

For the past fifteen years Rick has been an active member of the Crime Writers of Canada, holding various positions including a double term as president, and was recognized with the Derrick Murdoch Award in 2000 for recognition of contributions to the organization.

Rick is married to prominent flutist and teacher, Vicki Blechta and they have two sons, Karel and Jan. His website is

Ten Questions with Rick Blechta


What was your first publication and where was it published?


Knock on Wood was released in 1992 and published in Canada and the US simultaneously.


Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.


I finally got off my duff in 2006 and got my Canadian citizenship. Being only a Permanent Resident left me still feeling like an outsider, even after 35 years. Now that I have completely embraced this wonderful country, it's subtly changed the way I write about the Canadian experience. My next novel, A Case of You (release in March 2008) certainly reflects this.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Bloody Words XII Conference


Friday, June 1, 2012 - 5:30pm


Hilton Toronto
145 Richmond Street West
Toronto, ON
M5H 2L2


Bloody Words presents "Thrillers: Run For Your Life!"

This three day conference has everything you need to know about thrillers, with workshops, panels, meet-and-greets and lots of other fun events.

Guest of Honour: Linwood Barclay
International Guest: Gayle Lynds
Master of Ceremonies: Rick Blechta

For program information and registration details, visit the Bloody Words website.


Hilton Toronto
145 Richmond Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 2L2 43° 39' 0.1476" N, 79° 23' 8.0844" W

The shape of things to come

Not the most original title, certainly, but it does hit the nail on the head for what I want to say for my last (and sadly) very tardy blog entry for my time as the February WIR here on Open Book Toronto. These words come out of my earlier entries where I kicked around the idea of electronic readers. So here goes. Blechta pontificating. This is only my two cents and you're welcome to agree or disagree as you see fit. I'm only stating what I think.

And as my time here draws to a close...

Nearly a month has gone by and I'm actually getting a bit nostalgic here about Open Book Toronto. It's either that or the slice of pizza I had for lunch.

It was pretty daunting starting out. I mean, in this case, what is a writer-in-residence supposed to do? Maybe I should have talked more about how I write, or my philosophy of writing, but that can get pretty boring, pretty quickly. Sometimes I doubt I know what I'm doing, so how can I pontificate about "how it's done?" That would be pretty bogus.

Maybe I should have talked about how I develop characters. Okay. It's not too late for that.

Finding Home

Most of us have known him only as a writer of police procedurals. As a matter of fact, Eric Wright is one of the grand old men of Canadian crime fiction. Lately, though, he's taken to producing novels that are definitely not cut from the cloth of police and criminals, but based on seemingly more mundane things. Finding Home, his 2007 book for Cormorant, does have a bit of mystery in its plot to be certain, but this is more of a sidebar to the structure of the book.

Shift Happens

A friend sent me this link a few days ago and I've looked at it several times and find myself still shaking my head. The numbers cited are for comparison in the States, and since Canada is roughly one tenth the population of our southern neighbour, the numbers become even more startling.

It's pretty clear the 21st Century will belong to a different group of people. I hope they do a better job.

The moment of truth

I'm sitting here with the latest addition to my novelular family, A Case of You sitting proudly on the desk next to me. This is the moment that I always look forward to with the greatest anticipation -- and also the most dread. Up until now, I'm aware that the book isn't final, nothing is completely written in stone. I can completely change the book if I want. That perfect phrase that just hit me can still be inserted. That badly phrased sentence can be fixed. (Actually, this isn't quite true. The creative process is over the moment the printer hits the "ON" switch.)

I'm one of those writers who will fiddle till the last. My wife once teased me that I'd be there with a chisel and hammer, changing the printing plates as the book is on press if given half a chance.

Brought up short

I had a very disagreeable encounter this afternoon, and while I suppose it's happened to many, many authors, this latest turn of events has made me quite miserable.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don't get a lot of pleasure out of being unpleasant to people. I also will often turn the other cheek rather than risk calling someone down. Embarrassing people to get something back at them is not a good way to promote books, either.

So, no matter what goes wrong at a book signing (books not ordered, store forgetting you're coming, nothing set up), I keep a cheerful face and tell them not to worry, we can make it all work somehow. I always have my happy face firmly in place.

Not today.

Second Hand Smoke

I've been casting about all day for what to write about. This steady blog thing for is quickly becoming habit-forming, subject matter being the only problem.

I just went out to the grocery store to pick up a few things and tonight it's cold outside (well, cold for Toronto) and a bit windy and I needed to get out of the house, smell the air.

Now back inside and warming up, I have CBC Radio 2 on, listening to Manteca in a live concert.

(Where the hell is he going with this?)

Toying with plots

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend. In talking about my soon-to-hit-the-bookshelves novel, I was telling him the various ways the story might have gone if I'd let it. One particular direction still holds some interest for me, but I decided against using it since the idea I did decide to go with gave, ultimately, a much stronger story line. His comment was, "Wouldn't it be cool to write the book again using your second idea for the plot?"

Another educational time-waster

I got this link a couple of weeks back and have shared it with a lot of people. What makes this little game way better than computer solitaire is that it's fun, educational, and as far as I have been able to find out, they really do donate rice to the UN World Food Program.

So try your hand and don't feel the least bit guilty -- even if you're at work. Tell your boss you're helping to support their corporate philanthropic programme.

What the Kindle IS good for!

Surprise, surprise! (said in a manner like Gomer Pyle) I'm going to close off my cogitations on electronic readers by saying something really positive about them.

I've thought long and hard on this, and being basically a positive person in outlook, I decided that, since there's a good for every bad out there, electronic readers cannot be an exception. Yin and yang is a universal concept. So here goes...

In praise of Dan Brown

My predecessor, Corey Redekop, took a run at this author in his last posting and it's rankled with me a bit ever since. This certainly won't be a flame, Corey, but I think it was a cheap shot on your part: say something controversial and then run for the door.

I don't think Dan Brown is a great author; I don't think he's a poor author, but he certainly isn't -- how did you put it? -- "a horrible, horrible author". What is that pronouncement based on? His prose is reasonably polished, sentence construction not bad, he makes his thoughts understood. A lot of published authors (and critically praised, too) don't do as well.

The Comfort Zone

With the Writers Guild strike about to come to an end, I'm wondering what new and fabulous scripts are soon going to be dropping like bricks off the end of the Hollywood Conveyor belt again.

I'm referring to those movie remakes of old TV shows that have been appearing regularly on celluloid. Who can forget "The Brady Bunch", "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Scooby-Doo"? All provided wonderful cinematic moments for the entire family to cherish...not. (This list could be much, much longer.)

Any angle you can get

With a book being released in three weeks, I've been reviving up the promotional machinery. Like most lower echelon writers, this means doing a lot of the work myself. Since I've been doing large numbers of signings for each of my past two releases, I've come to know a lot of booksellers, so it's probably easier for me to arrange signings than for someone else to do it.

Still, you have to think out of the box. Book signings alone won't do it, so every opportunity for promotion has to be sought out -- even ones that on the surface seem rather bizarre.

I'm also a firm believer in helping people -- especially friends.

Retro Chic

Since the first of my blog entries here dealt with new technology, I think it's only appropriate to give equal time to old technology.

I've already admitted to being a bit of techno-weenie, but I also have a secret side that loves older things, too. I enjoy having nice books, not the ones that are cranked out by the hundred thousand, but the tomes that an actual craftsman has worked over by hand.

Being a relatively unknown author, I don't have the big bucks to spend on these pieces of art, but I do have a few. They're what I turn to when I've had a really bad day and feel the need to baby myself a bit. They also call to me when I'm sick. Many have been ready countless times.

But my deep, dark, non techno-weenie secret is my love of fountain pens.

Here's an educational time waster

A friend sent me this, and if you're trying to avoid work like I am this morning, I can certainly recommend this as a way to spend the time usefully:

Try it and see how you do. I tried the version for Canada, but bombed out on Quebec.

Let us know how you did!

The other side of the coin

Yesterday was spent completely in that other sphere in my life: music. This doesn't happen often anymore, and my life is probably poorer for it. After all, I've been a musician far longer than I've been an author.

I taught in Toronto schools and at the Royal Conservatory of Music for 23 years. Now, maybe once or twice a year, I get asked to teach. Yesterday was one of those days.

Glad you stopped by.

Excuse me while I light the fire and get comfortable in my seat. Sorry the room is a little chilly this morning. At least we're not outside in this awful weather, right? I have a couple of great single malts if you'd like something to warm you up.

Being an "official" writer-in-residence is a somewhat intimidating thing to contemplate. Even after six published novels (with a seventh underway), numerous articles and essays, and well over a year on a crime writing blog I share with four other authors, I often feel like my writing skills themselves are still very much a work in progress. Now, I'm being set up as sort of an expert on the matter.

1 comment

I caught up with Rick and his wife Vicki at a birthday party in Proctor, Vermont on Saturday June 16, 2001.

Years ago Rick was shuffling around New York in a band playing a variety of venues, and this birthday party was the chance to celebrate (?) a band mate's and long time friend's turning 50 (and I guess at 50 it's a *very* long time friend).

And, of course, Rick and Vicki are turning 50 as well around now (Summer '01), but they really don't want that secret out and have gone on holiday in Europe to avoid the whole TURNING 50 thing. So I won't say anything if you don't.

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.

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