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

"I think Paul could probably have been a bigger artist than he was if he had done things differently," said Michael Burke, "if his characters had been a little slicker. If he had allowed himself to be manipulated by people. But he stuck with what he thought was right."

When he wasn't travelling with the band, Quarrington resided in a series of not terribly imposing downtown apartments and houses. For a time, he shared quarters with Burke, then involved in the computer business, and Bobby Irwin - taking the occasion of their house-warming party, Burke recalls, to get drunk and pass out on the back lawn.

Burke said he was constantly amazed by Quarrington's ability to seem uninterested in things and then be able to write deeply and passionately about them. Musically, Burke said, "Paul was a pretty good bass player, a pretty good guitarist, a pretty good singer and a pretty good songwriter, but he could take all of this stuff and turn it into a gem."

One day, Burke brought home a new-fangled contraption called a word processor. "Paul immediately sat down and started wiring a book on that."

In his novels, Burke added, Quarrington "took real characters and made them somehow larger than life, a kind of romanticized version of the people around him." And as good as the novels were, Burke said, "the saddest part is that I know his best work was still ahead of him."

"My humour is in my characters," Quarrington once explained. "I'm not what you'd call a comedy writer. I couldn't conceive of writing jokes, like Woody Allen does. But once I get into the way a particular character thinks, funny things can happen."

On another occasion he said, "All my writing has similarities. Most of my characters try to exclude themselves from life and then get drawn back in." Whale Music , he confessed, was written "to prevent myself from becoming a recluse like [the central character]Desmond. It's an appealing lifestyle. Like Howard Hughes in hotel rooms, watching movies all day? Sounds good to me."

He had already written a first draft of his new memoir about his life in music when he was given the grim medical diagnosis. "Well," he quipped, "I guess I should at least rewrite the ending."

Somehow, Quarrington always seemed able to identify and express the comic underbelly of any situation, no matter how awkward.

Once, in the mid-1970s, he and Dan Hill were performing at Grossman's Tavern in Toronto. "Paul had been drinking beer and at one point excused himself to go to the men's room. When he returned, he found his bandmate Hill huddling with club owner and promoter Bernie Fiedler and manager Bernie Finkelstein. That, in a sense, was the start of Hill's extraordinary career in the music business.

"Geez," Quarrington later remarked. "If it hadn't been for my bladder, I could have been a star."

But Hill said Quarrington's wit could at time be lacerating. Some years ago, Hill's brother Lawrence, a novelist ( The Book of Negroes ), produced a book called Some Great Thing .

Running into Lawrence, Paul gave him a sly look and said, "Gee, Larry, why didn't you just call it Three Vague Words?"

Dan Hill later chastised Quarrington for the remark, to which "Paul replied, "Oh, you Hills are too touchy."

When he wasn't writing, Quarrington spent time with his two daughters - Carson and Flannery, the product of his marriage to actress Dorothy Bennie, which ended in divorce. He also liked to lift weights, watch hockey and to fish (two of his non-fiction books are about fishing).

In 1997, he also produced The Boy On The Back Of The Turtle, based on his trip to the Galapagos Islands with his father and daughter Carson.

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