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Paul Quarrington was a man of many talents Add to ...

He made quick work of his writing for film and television. "That's always been one of the writer's well-kept secrets," he once said. "It doesn't take as long to do an actual screenplay as one might think. But I know I'll be in trouble with other writers if I divulge the exact amount of time."

He loved both genres equally, saying, "I don't think my loyalty is to one medium or the other. I just love stories. But a movie can't hold as much as a novel. And that leads to a major problem when you're writing a screenplay. Producers want you to hand in 120 pages, but logic tells you that's too long. You know you are going to wind up cutting and it will be brutal."

In music, perhaps his earliest love, Quarrington showed proficiency with half a dozen instruments - guitar, clarinet, squeeze box, bass, harp, and piano - and wrote songs, including Baby and the Blues , which was a No. 1 adult contemporary single in Canada in 1980.

Before he started writing novels, he toured for almost a decade as a guitarist and vocalist with Joe Hall and The Continental Drift.

For a brief time in the early 1990s he also fronted another band, The Mudwrestlers - so-called in honour of then Vancouver MP Chuck Cook's statement that more Canadians watch mud wrestling than read domestically produced books.

Raised in the Toronto middle-class suburb of Don Mills, Quarrington was the middle of three sons born to a professional parents, who also had one daughter. His father was a professor of psychology at York University; his mother had a practice in child psychology.

He demonstrated his gifts early on. His friend, music publisher Burke, vividly recalls the first time he encountered Quarrington at their Don Mills junior high school. "Paul had been asked to read the narrative of something called Little Bop Riding Hood , accompanied by the school band. He told me later he was petrified and had been coerced into doing it, but he walked in there and sat at the front and did it like a professional and I thought, 'the kid has balls.' And that remained. He came off as a little bumbling, but there was something intangible that he had, that thing, charisma, a star power. He had it in spades and I think it's the thing I will remember the most."

Indeed, it was while he was touring with Hall, staying in hotel rooms that, he later recalled, "cost about a quarter a night" that Quarrington started writing seriously, on an old second-hand portable typewriter. His second novel, Home Game , about baseball, published in 1983, was written on that machine.

"Musicians work from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.," Quarrington once explained, "so there are all those hours off during the days. Writing is a good way to kill time in those hotel rooms."

But writing had been part of his ambition for a long time. He'd spent two years studying English literature at the University of Toronto, and worked at The Book Cellar, a fabled Toronto bookstore of the period. In his early 20s, he wrote theatre scripts and short stories and analyzed different writing genres, trying to understand their differences.

He once recalled being struck by the power writers could bestow by a wordless scene in the William Wyler film, The Best Years of Our Lives , in which a soldier comes home from the war a double amputee. "It's evening and the soldier looks at his father, who nods. Then the father carries the soldier up to bed. No words - but it occurred to me then that a writer was responsible for that scene."

As for role models, he had many, but he once said that "if there had never been a Mordecai Richler, I probably would never have attempted to make a go of things as a writer of books. He was really the first world-class Canadian, or at least the first I became aware of. He truly inspired me." He once wrote Richler a letter, telling him, 'If it weren't for you, Mordecai, I'd probably be a filthy-rich television writer or something."

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