The Jewish Tribune, November 2012
Added May 17, 2013
Toronto crime writer and his Jewish private eye
By Suri Epstein
In the world of fictional private investigators you’ll get your Philip Marlowe’s and Sherlock Holmes’s but you don’t find too many Jewish practitioners. After all, how many Jewish mothers dream of their sons becoming a private eye?
That’s not how Toronto author Howard Shrier dreamed it though when he created his Jonah Geller crime novels. “My voice as a writer is a kind of urban Jewish outlook,” Shrier said. “I wanted to marry that to detective stories. I felt that was what I had to offer as opposed to the same old ex-cop, heavy-drinking, bottle of bourbon in the office drawer.”
Shrier’s gift for the genre was quickly recognized when it won the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The first book in the series, Buffalo Jump was published in 2008 and details the beginning of Jonah’s odyssey, where he’s driven by the death of his girlfriend in a rocket attack in Israel.
“He joins the Israeli army in a misguided search for revenge,” Shrier said. “He starts studying Krav Maga (Israeli-style martial arts) and karate. Things happen in Israel that change him.”
As the series continues Jonah leaves Toronto to solve crimes in Chicago and Boston. The fourth instalment of this unique series, set to be released in May, will take Jonah to the streets Montreal.
“He’s a martial artist, an ex-soldier, the underachieving second son,” Shrier said of his protagonist Jonah. “Part of it is based on me and part is not. And then in each book he gets a little bit darker because things happen.”
Born and raised in Montreal, Shrier spent more than three decades working in various media before turning to novel-writing, including newspapers, magazines, radio and corporate and government communications.
After graduating with a degree in journalism and creative writing from Concordia University he spent time as a crime reporter for the Montreal Star. “It gave me a window into the world of crime,” he said.
The series has received rave reviews and is now poised to make the leap to the small screen. It’s been optioned by Media Headquarters, a Toronto-based production company, and is in development with CTV.
“The writer of the pilot, Avrum Jacobson, coincidentally was a year ahead of me in Herzliah,” Shier said, referring to the Jewish high school from which he graduated in Montreal. “Apparently the script is fantastic.”
When Shrier isn’t writing his novels, he’s at the University Of Toronto School Of Continuing Studies. “I teach both mystery and corporate writing, from my many years in the corporate communications sector,” he said.
He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons and is working on a new novel set in Montreal in the early 1950s.