The Globe and Mail published a story on Saturday by Kate Hammer concerning the about-to-be-published mystery novel by Toronto lawyer (now Robert) Rotenberg.
But, as the story noted, he once founded T.O. magazine, which is sometimes fondly remembered for having been a feisty (if, ultimately, unsuccessful) attempt to give Toronto a different kind of city magazine. He managed to keep it going for seven years (1984 -91).
At the age of 37, after spending most of his adult life trying to avoid becoming a lawyer, he finally began practising criminal law. But he made time for writing. That meant waking up at 5 a.m. for an hour of writing. Or, as his children grew older, stealing a couple of hours to write while they attended a birthday party, or an hour during hockey practice.Rotenberg, went on to have an unusual criminal law career in Toronto, defending what the writer called "some of the city's most unusual clients".
Now, Rotenberg is publishing Old City Hall (Simon and Schuster), which is being launched in hardcover on Tuesday. It takes Toronto as its canvas and takes advantage of Rotenberg's legal experiences with murder and mayhem of various sorts.
"I wasn't trying to write about Toronto as the world's most multicultural city or the greatest city. Just Toronto, warts and all," Mr. Rotenberg said. "And the warts are much more interesting than the other stuff."Rotenberg told the British website CrimeTime that when he started out (after T.O. folded), writing was a way of paying his bills:
Back in 1991, I was thirty-seven years old, my wife was pregnant with our first child and I was broke. I'd been called to the bar ten years earlier and spent a decade doing everything I could to escape the work-a-day fate of practicing law.
Magazine editor, radio show producer, film executive. I lived in London, Paris and New York. But now here I was, walking into Scarborough Provincial Court in suburban Toronto, briefcase and Criminal Code of Canada in hand.
Nothing like a mortgage to concentrate the mind. I built my law practice and secretly started writing. I finished my first book in 2001. It was a thriller and I made damn sure it had no lawyers, no courtroom scenes. Then I got an agent in New York.
The day she told me she there were no buyers, I started Old City Hall, named after the central criminal court in downtown Toronto. Stuck a dead body in chapter one. It had taken me a decade to own up to the cliché "write what you know." Perhaps, a la T. S. Eliot, I'd arrived at the place I started and knew it for the first time.