Thursday, May 28, 2015

Brian Busby's Bookshelf

Brian Busby’s Shelves

What books are currently on your nightstand?

I count fourteen, among them books by Margaret Millar, Ross Macdonald, Howard Engel, Arthur Stringer, Roderick Haig-Brown and Douglas Sanderson. Right now I’m reading The Unreasoning Heart, for which Constance Beresford-Howe received the 1945 Intercollegiate Literary Fellowship Prize.

(I know. I’d never heard of it either.)

Who is your favorite novelist of all time?

Brian Moore.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

You’ll find seventeen books by Richard Rohmer, but only because I agreed to join two old friends in reading every one of his thirty-one books. Rohmer’s name doesn’t mean much today, but forty years ago he was Canada’s bestselling thriller writer. Some people still remember his first, Ultimatum (1973), in which an energy-starved United States invades Canada for its oil. Interestingly, his first flop was something called How to Write a Be$t $eller.

I’ve also been building a decent collection of nineteenth-century anti-Catholic propaganda – research material for a book I’m writing about the Maria Monk hoax. (

Who is your favorite fictional hero?

I don’t have one, though I do come across characters I admire from time to time. As a sad young man, I suppose I would have said Jay Gatsby.

What book do you return to?

Memoirs of Montparnasse, John Glassco’s remarkable, unreliable account of his adventures in the Paris of the ‘twenties. It left such an impression on me that I spent eight years writing a biography of the man, A Gentleman of Pleasure (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2011).


Born, raised and educated in Montreal, after university I gravitated toward jobs that had to do with the written word: library wholesaler, soap opera writer, radio dramatist (really) and textbook editor. My last salaried employment was as a national buyer for the country’s dominant bookstore chain. It was inevitable, I suppose, that I would end up struggling to make a living by writing books. Most have been published under pseudonym, written to pay the bills; those that have appeared under my own name were done for love at a loss. My next, The Dusty Bookcase, is drawn from my magazine column and blog (, both of which explore the suppressed, ignored and forgotten in Canadian literature.
 Still very much a Montrealer, I live with my wife and daughter in St Marys, Ontario, the most beautiful town between Stratford and London.


Margot Kinberg said...

Really interesting collection of books! Thanks for sharing.

Stephen Morrissey said...

Really enjoyed this insight into Brian's bookish life...

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Great room!

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

It was a lot easier (well, at least easier) to become a 1970s/80s Canadian radio dramatist and make some money at it than to do so in even Britain (where the tradition continues to some extent on BBC Radio 4) or in the US (even given the odd efflorescence of new radio drama here in the 1970s--CBC was actually commissioning drama, and it was useful for them to do so to reach particularly remote audiences for whom tv and tv drama were harder to receive. And CBC couldn't be paying less than CBS was for the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER or NPR was for EARPLAY scripts.

My father was an assiduous reader of near-sf/near-future "thrillers" so we had a copy of Rohrer's ULTIMATUM around the house.

Deb said...

Brian--I assume you're familiar with The Little Professor. One of her key subjects is anti- (and pro-) Catholic literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. Just in case, here's a link to her blog:

Charles Gramlich said...

Eclectic reader. I always admire that

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I'm with Jeff about the room and the book shelves too.

Kent Morgan said...

Brian's blog has become a favourite of mine as he writes about long-forgotten Canadian books as well as many that most Canadians probably didn't know existed. I laugh when he writes about a book I know that I have - somewhere in a box. It bothers me when it's a book I know I donated to a charity sale. He mentions that Brian Moore is his favourite author. Just this week I pulled a Brian Moore hardcover out of a box ready to be donated because he said he liked it. A couple of weeks ago he wrote about Roger Lemelin's French-Canadian novel, The Plouffe Family, and said that despite the book's initial popularity, copies were hard to find. He did mention a signed copy that was available for $10 from a Winnipeg booksller. Yes, you know it, I had just sold that copy a couple of weeks earlier as I thought my dealer friend might want the book because it was signed. Now I wish I had kept it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Brian Moore did some interesting crime fiction under another name, which escapes me now. Brian's house and town are the stuff dreams are made of.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Patti, Moore wrote several mysteries as Bernard Mara, apparently. I've never read one.

Jeff M.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Patti, Moore wrote several mysteries as Bernard Mara, apparently. I've never read one.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That's the name. I think I gave one of them as a gift once. Can't remember who though.

neer said...

Hi Patti

Here's my entry for FFB:

Death Takes the Living by Miles Burton


TracyK said...

Nice to get to know more about Brian. I have learned a lot about Canadian books from The Dusty Bookcase, and hope to continue to broaden my knowledge in that area.

Brian Busby said...

My thanks to all for the very kind words. I'm right now on the road in northern Quebec so haven't had much opportunity to read your comments until now.

Todd, my not terribly noteworthy stint as a radio dramatist took place in the early 'nineties. I'd become a fan at eleven, a time when As It Happens would run old episodes of The Shadow, The Whistler and other distant Depression-era American programs in its final half-hour summer shows. Now, sadly, CBC Radio drama itself is long gone.

Deb, I'd never heard of The Little Professor! My thanks to you and Roger Allen (who left a comment on my blog) for pointing it out. Wonderful stuff!

Kent, the head swells. It's always nice to hear from a reader.

Jeffrey and Patti, keep your eyes out for books by Michael Bryan, Moore's second nom de plume. Not even IMDb is aware of this one, crediting the film Intent to Kill as an adaptation of a Michael Bryan novel.

Again, my thanks to all.

Cheers from Chibougamau!