Robert Rotenberg knows a thing or two about spinning story out of place. He is the author of four best-selling novels, legal thrillers set in and around Toronto. He introduces audiences around the world to his version of the city: his books have been sold in more than 30 countries and translated into nine languages. At the heart of his storytelling are the 23 years he has spent as a criminal lawyer, working in many of the city landmarks that his characters frequent in his novels. All that, and he's a Page Turner too! Read his argument, here.
Here’s a quick quiz about an underrated Toronto landmark:
1. What is the only building in downtown Toronto that’s elevated from the street, so one has to walk up a series of stairs to enter?
2. What building in Toronto was the largest of its kind in North America, when it was completed? Hint: In 1898.
3. In which Toronto building did the architect hide his name on the outside, only to have his secret discovered many years later? Don’t peek, but you might want to look below at my P.S.
4. Where in Toronto was the courtroom scene in the movie “Chicago” filmed?
Okay, that last one probably gave it away. Toronto’s Old City Hall is an under-appreciated architectural marvel, currently slumming as the major downtown criminal court. Which, …ahem, made it the perfect setting for my first novel, which....ahem…happens to be titled Old City Hall. What a coincidence.
Sadly, few people realize that “The Hall” as we criminal lawyers like to call it, is open to the public. So if you are nearby, just walk in and take a look around. My hope is that one day “The Hall” is turned into a museum of the history of Toronto, something the city sorely lacks, and that the magnificent courtyard morphs into a concert venue instead of a parking lot.
I hope no matter what happens to the place where I’ve tried so many cases, that they keep Courtroom 121 in tact. It’s the original Council Chamber, the place where “Chicago” was filmed and, well what can I say, it’s where the climax of Old City Hall takes place.
I’m excited about the work of Project Bookmark Canada and most honoured to be chosen to participate. My books are all about place. Real Canadian locations and not just Toronto but Haliburton, Pelee Island, Cobalt, and in the book I’m working on now, Niagara Falls, just to name a few.
Project Bookmark Canada is an ingenious charity. They put plaques in locations across Canada - call them real and permanent bookmarks – that feature passages from books and poems where literary scenes take place. That’s why I’ve become a Page Turner and have donated $20.00. The money will help build a national network of sites and stories so we can all “literally” read our way across Canada.
Now here’s the sales pitch. Plop down $20.00 and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of my most recent novel, Stranglehold, signed by yours truly. Above is the current cover, and here's the new one that will be out in May.
I think the real reason why authors take on this ridiculous task of writing books and poems is the hope that they can somehow conjure up the magic to create lasting images in their readers’ minds. Project Bookmark Canada helps make the imagined real.
P.S. A final fun fact. If you are passing by Old City Hall, you can see how the architect, Edward James Lennox, who was in a fight with City Counselors about his payment (some things at city hall never change) left his own permanent mark. Look up, way up. Etched in stone you’ll find his initials wrapping around the building and spelling out “E. J. Lennox, Architect, 1989.” And he had little caricature sculpted heads done of all the politicians he disliked and one of himself in the middle, looking calm and serene. Here’s a picture below. Talk about leaving a lasting bookmark.