Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Ulysses Induced – a Short Story That Took 17 Years to Publish

July 6, 2017

First edition of James Joyce's Ulysses

First edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses

Continuing in my diversions from my main thrust on this blog of writing about my open mic and other musical adventures, today I am adding another story to the section on the blog comprising some of my fiction. This is my short story “Ulysses Induced,” which was the only printable material that emerged from a 300-page novel, and also took 17 years to find a publisher for…. That was a real lesson in perseverance, as I say in my little introduction to the story on my fiction page: Today I have decided to add a new section to the blog, comprising some works of my fiction, either published or unpublished. Today I am starting with my short story, “Murder in the Abbey,” which was published in 1996 and nominated for a crime writing prize in Canada in 1997. So here is Ulysses Induced,” an obsessional tale of antiquarian books and writerly inspiration – to say nothing of greed….

A View From the Stage in Fat Albert’s Open Mic in Toronto c. 1982-1983

January 16, 2016

Fat Albert's

Fat Albert’s

Fat Albert’s is one of the longest running open mics in the world. It was founded it 1967 in a church basement on Bloor St. in Toronto, the Bloor Street United Church, where it continued until 2003, run from 1967 to 1996 by the same guys, Ray Peak and his helper, Ed Matthews. It is still running today, but in a different location. I used to attend in the 1970s and the early 1980s, and last night as I was going through some old bits of fiction writing in my hard disks, I discovered this scene I set at Fat Albert’s from a novel that I wrote in 1983, and which was set in late 1982 and early 1983. The novel is about the break up of a relationship for a University of Toronto student, and his girlfriend. It is called, “The Prince.” I thought I would put this little section of – desolate and nasty – writing up on the blog, since it paints this scene from a legendary open mic in Toronto (which is still going now but in a different location), from the point of view of one of the occasional musicians, and open mics have by chance become not just a big thing in my life, but the main subject of this blog. The attitude of this character, of course, is in no way MY attitude today. But it has its historical-sociological interest, perhaps. Also, in researching background just now on Fat Albert’s, I learned the Ray Peak died just four months ago, in his 80s, so it seems right to put this up on the blog, since the “old guy” is depicted herein. What I found amusing in re-reading it after all these years, 32, 33 years later, is that the scene could have depicted attendance at an open mic today. No change! Check out my chapter in Fat Albert’s in the fiction section of this blog.

A Bit More Crime Writing… Ancient Interview With Jean-Bernard Pouy

July 16, 2013

Jean-Bernard Pouy

Jean-Bernard Pouy

PARIS – If I performed an interview in 1996 that I have just re-read and found fabulous and fascinating and super-cool, then I cannot be blamed for being boastful if I say that it is fabulous and fascinating and super-cool. After all, I wrote it in 1996 – which is to say, 17 years ago – and therefore, any such reaction and announcement CANNOT be considered boasting. Before I turn full-circle again on such a pronouncement, I think I just want to say that the interview in question was the one I did with Jean-Bernard Pouy, a French crime writer, as I researched my story for The Armchair Detective on French crime writing.

So as part of my blog articles as opposed to posts section, I have decided that the next installment is the Ancient Interview with Jean-Bernard Pouy, following the Ancient Interview With Maurice G. Dantec. In fact, Pouy is not just a crime writer – today he is still around, at 67 – but he was also a key element of the new wave of French crime writers in the early to mid-1990s as he helped spawn the careers of both Dantec, and another of the major writers, Tonino Benacquista, both of whom were former high school students of Pouy’s in a Paris suburb….

If you want to make any sense of that, read the old ancient interview with Pouy….

Five Dials, a Much Nominated Book and an Optimist – at the Abbey

July 12, 2013

marie deschampsPARIS – I had the Abbey Bookshop in mind yesterday when I posted that short story of mine on my new fiction area of my blog. I was readying myself to attend an event at the Abbey for the launch of the latest edition of an online literary magazine called Five Dials, which I have written about in the past, as well as of a book that is published in – at least – English and French and has been nominated for several of the top French literary prizes. But what I least expected to make the whole evening worthwhile for me was the meeting of an optimist.

The Five Dials, to recap on an earlier blog item, is edited by a Canadian named Craig Taylor, who lives in London, and who has done a book about Londoners. Five Dials has been running since 2008, and it is one of the top online only literary reviews. To quote directly from the Five Dials entry in Wikipedia, the review’s “notable contributors include famous authors living and deceased such as Raymond Chandler, Noam Chomsky, Alain De Botton, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, Hari Kunzru, J. M. G. Le Clézio and Susan Sontag.” It is published by the respected publisher Hamish Hamilton.

As to the book that was being presented by its author, Eric Reinhardt, it was “The Victoria System,” which the Nouvel Observateur called: “Dark, twisted and devastating. A big novel of amorous adventures in the era of the blackberry. Eric Reinhardt is the new Alexandre Dumas.”

But it was my unexpected meeting with a curious optimist that actually made the evening for me. This was the flower child-looking Marie Deschamps with flowers in her hair whom Brian Spence, the bookshop owner introduced me to. It was not long in our conversation before we realized that we had a point in common. The point was our basic belief in an optimistic approach to life – even when it’s trying to sink you. In fact, Marie told me that she had started a kind of association called “the curious optimists” and they get together once a month in Paris to meet and eat and talk and celebrate about how great life is. She said her Facebook page for the Curious Optimists had just exploded, so much did people want to be optimistic….

Philosopher of Optimism

Philosopher of Optimism

She also said she was about to leave Paris on a world tour that she will film, trying to meet other optimists and to spread the word. Marie told me her road to this philosophy really came after she did her degrees at Science Po in Paris and the London School of Economics, and she came back to Paris and found a little too much of the opposite of optimism…. I told her that her world tour was a little bit like my world tour and the film I’m working on about it in the world of the open mics and open jams. And, I also told her that she ought to read my interview book called: Colin Wilson: Philosopher of Optimism, as everything she was saying was part of the philosophy of that book.

Could I have asked for a better or more curious or optimistic evening than that at the Abbey Bookshop????


Murder in the Abbey – a Short Story

July 11, 2013

Abbey Bookshop Paris

Abbey Bookshop Paris

Continuing in my diversions from my predominant thrust on this blog of writing about my open mic and other musical adventures, today I have finally come up with the profoundly obscure and amazingly original idea of putting up a section on the blog comprising some of my fictional writing. I have decided today to start with my short story, “Murder in the Abbey,” which was published in a magazine called Murderous Intent, in 1996, and which was then nominated the following year for an Arthur Ellis Award of the Crime Writers of Canada association for the best short story of the year.

It did not win the prize, and I did not read any of the other entries, so I don’t know what it was up against. I can say that while I really like this short story, it is about as old-fashioned a mystery short story as you can get – but that makes it kind of fun. It is a real mystery puzzle, almost a locked-room style story, and could have been written at the same time as Edgar Allen Poe’s or Conan Doyle’s pieces, as it introduces nothing new to the genre. But so what? Simple good fun is fine by me. Hope you read it and like it.

So here again, is a link to my story, “Murder in the Abbey,” – oh, yes, and by the way, I DID draw on the title by the famous play by T.S. Eliot called, “Murder in the Cathedral.” But also, I should add, the story takes place in an actual bookstore in Paris called the Abbey Bookshop, which still exists today….

Bilipo: The French Crime Writing Library in Paris

July 10, 2013



Today I have decided to put up on the site another in my ongoing series of “articles as opposed to posts,” this time a story I wrote in the 1990s about the Bibliothèque des Littératures Policères, a unique and extraordinary public library funded by the city of Paris that is dedicated to the crime novel.

A Bit of Crime Writing….

May 19, 2013



PARIS – Wait, it’s Sunday night and I have not been to an open mic in Paris or elsewhere since the final open mic of the P’tit Bonheur la Chance – mentioned below -? Either that one really took the wind out of me, or something else happened. Up to you to decide. Well, in any case, this blog MUST live on, even if my open mic-ing takes a break. And I realized yesterday – but had not time to attend to it – that there was an area of the blog that had been neglected for some time. I’m talking about the Blog articles as opposed to posts section, where I planned to put a number of my already-published articles, and write some new ones. Last night, I suddenly realized that there was a complete entire aspect of my life and writing that had been neglected on this blog: My crime writing.

At the same time as I was beginning my career as a writer about car racing, Formula One being the main emphasis, I was also establishing a career as a writer about the French crime novel. Because I myself had written several published crime stories and several unpublished, but agented, crime novels, I grew tired of this not-well-paid area of meta-writing that, while it was vastly interesting, was also vastly frustrating. I was a published crime fiction writer, and I had begun to establish myself as crime fiction writing journalist…but who was not considered by the writers themselves as a writer.

The auto racing writing was more attractive in that I could never, ever claim to be a car racer, but I had a subject to write about that involved amazing human endeavor, and therefore, made for interesting material. So it was that I stopped writing about crime fiction. But by the time I stopped, I had amassed a fair sized trove of journalism, especially about the French crime novel.

This story that I am posting today in Blog Articles as Opposed to Posts, was the highest point of the whole period, probably, and covered a massive swathe of French crime writing of final quarter of the 20th Century. Many of the people are still around or still read. The story, one of the best surveys of the French crime novel written in English, appeared in print in The Armchair Detective, in 1997. Check it out.

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