25th Trillium Award

Five Explorer Questions with Howard Akler

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Howard Akler?s debut novel, The City Man (Coach House Books), takes readers to an arcane bit of Toronto's criminal history during the 1930s.

A fictional tale of love and pickpockets and a forgotten era ? a perfect addition to Open Book Explorer. We're happy he took the time to answer our Five Explorer Questions.

Open Book:

What was the impetus for the book; did you always have this particular era and setting in mind?

Howard Akler:

There wasn't a single impetus for the book. It came out of several large and small curiosities: the burgeoning modern city; a tiny residential alley called Glen Ballie Place; a book on the argot of pickpockets.


Have you ever been pickpocketed, or observed someone being pickpocketed?


Never been pickpocketed, never witnessed it. I have watched Bresson's Pickpocket many times, which is odd, since I'm not a fan.


Was the research extensive for The City Man? Where did you begin, and did your findings yield any surprises?


Most of the research came from a book called Whiz Mob, by the late linguistics professor David Maurer. I stumbled across it at the library many years back and was caught up in the slang; such an aggressive argot for such a delicate act. Other than that, my research was minimal; mostly small details, such as the price of a newspaper.


Also relating to your research, is the particular dialogue of the era, with the idioms and vernacular. Was it difficult to stay consistent; did you find yourself constantly checking for anachronisms?


See above.


As a resident of Toronto, what draws you to the city? What do you love about its history?


I've lived in Toronto my whole life so I've naturally got a soft spot for the place. My history is tangled up with it in ways that come out on the page.

Howard Akler was born in Toronto in 1969. He is the co-author (with Sarah B. Hood) of Toronto: The Unknown City, and the author of The City Man.

For more information about The City Man please visit the Coach House Books.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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