Call it Toronto’s own Fifty Shades of Grey. In Gabriel’s Inferno, the pseudonymous Sylvain Reynard (whom many speculate is an established Canadian author) lays bare, in torturous prose, the affair between a stern but ravishingly handsome Dante scholar, Gabriel Emerson, and virginal grad student Julianne Mitchell, who blushes so often it’s a wonder she doesn’t melt.
The book – as much a guide to Toronto’s landmarks as to Miss Mitchell’s heavenly body – began as a piece of Twilight fan fiction before morphing into a wildly popular e-book.
Berkley Books (part of Penguin) soon paid seven figures to buy the rights, and in September, it released a million copies of Inferno and the sequel, Gabriel’s Rapture. Both are now sitting on the New York Times paperback trade fiction list, at Nos. 12 and 17, respectively, and the mysterious Mr. (or Ms.) Reynard has signed on for a third instalment.
Gabriel groupies have been blogging for months about Inferno-inspired tours of the city. Here’s how to follow in their footsteps.
Harbour Sixty, 60 Harbour St.
Harbour Sixty Steakhouse was a landmark in Toronto, a famous and very expensive restaurant popular with CEOs, politicians and various other impressive personages. Professor Emerson ate there because their steak was superior to any other he had tried, and he was impatient with mediocrity. So it never occurred to him to take Miss Mitchell anywhere else. – Page 35
“We really love the first paragraph about Harbour Sixty. We love the fact that somebody thinks our steak is superior to everybody else’s, because they’re right. I’m glad they didn’t actually have sex in the restaurant… but we’re happy to have been mentioned.” – Virginia Adams, manager
Segovia, 5 Saint Nicholas St.
Segovia’s interior featured sunny yellow walls on which there were painted images from Picasso’s drawings of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. A classical guitarist sat in a corner playing an arrangement by Maestro Segovia. – Page 329
“Never heard of it. What, with our food, we give nightmares? And who wrote the book? And when? Should I buy the book?”
– Ino Gonzalez, owner
Bar Volo, 587 Yonge St.
Gabriel liked it because they sold the particular kind of Trappist Ale that he preferred, Chimay Première, and it pleased him to have pizza in the Neopolitan style to pair with that beer. (As ever, he was impatient with mediocrity.) Since Gabriel was a frequent patron of Caffe Volo and more than somewhat persnickety, he was offered the best seating, which was a quiet table for two, tucked into the corner near the large picture window that looked out on the madness that was Yonge Street at night. – Page 154
“I know there’s a book that mentions us. We had someone come here, and they sat at the same table they described in the book. … It was someone who was related to the guy who wrote it, or it was her favourite book and she wanted to recreate that scene. I’m not sure.” – Julian Morana, co-owner
Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queens Park
“It’s going to take all my self-control not to spirit you away to the Victorian furniture exhibit so I can make love to you on one of the four-poster beds.” – Page 385
“Oh, I guess I don’t know what you’re talking about. You kinda caught me off guard with that one.” – Shelagh O’Donnell, head of communications