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Paul Quarrington
Born July 22, 1953(1953-07-22)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died January 21, 2010 (aged 56)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada[1]
Occupation novelist, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, musician, educator
Nationality Canadian
Genres Humour
Notable work(s) Whale Music, King Leary, The Ravine
Notable award(s) 1989 Governor General's Award for Fiction for Whale Music and winner of the 1988 Stephen Leacock Award for King Leary
Official website

Paul Lewis Quarrington (July 22, 1953 – January 21, 2010)[2] was a Canadian novelist, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, musician and educator.



Born in Toronto, he was raised in the suburb of Don Mills and studied at the University of Toronto. He wrote his early novels while working as the bass player for the group Joe Hall and the Continental Drift. One of his successful novels, Whale Music, was called "the greatest rock'n'roll novel ever written" by Penthouse magazine. His non-fiction books and journalism was just as highly regarded - he earned or co-earned more than 20 gold awards for his magazine articles alone. [3]

His brother Tony is a noted Canadian jazz and rock musician and record producer; his brother Joel Quarrington is a world-renown classical musician. His sister Christine Quarrington is a high regarded scientist currently working with Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. He has two daughters with actor Dorothy Bennie, Carson Lara and Flannery Quarrington.

Quarrington's most consistent musical colleague was Martin Worthy; their friendship began in high school. He was also a high school friend of songwriter Dan Hill, with whom he re-united in recent years to collaborated on musical projects.[4] Quarrington in fact collaborated on projects with many artists and in many different disciplines (a defining element of his overall body of work), who have achieved recognition in their respective fields. These include Nino Ricci, Joseph Kertes, Dave Bidini, Jake MacDonald, John Krizanc, Christina Jennings, Judith Keenan, Michael Burke, Peter Lynch, Ron Mann, Robert Lantos and many others.


Quarrington's novels are characterized by their humour (King Leary received the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 1988) although they address serious subjects. His protagonists are largely emotionally crippled antiheroes who have withdrawn from society; typically, in Quarrington's work, an agent of some sort (a young woman in Whale Music, ghosts in King Leary) challenges the protagonist's carefully ordered life and draws them back into the fold of humanity.

His novel The Ravine was published in March 2008. At the time of his death, Quarrington had completed a short film adaptation of the work (Pavane, 2008) and was collaborating on a television series adaptation of that novel, which he claimed to be "semi-autobiographical." "It's about a writer who squanders his talents in television, drinks too much, screws around and ruins his marriage," Quarrington has said. "The reason it's 'semi-autobiographical' is the guy's name is 'Phil.'"



During his time, Quarrington has been a very influential figure in Canadian literature, not only as an author, but also through his participation in teaching (Humber College and University of Toronto), publishing circles, organizations and events. A large number of his literary influences were comprised of some of Canada's top writers, many of whom he eventually befriended. Amongst these were Timothy Findley. Quarrington and Findley held a mutual admiration for each other, with Findley once quoting that Quarrington was "an extraordinary writer with a rare gift". As a youngster, Quarrington came from a very musical background, and this showed consistently in his writing. While writing a review blurb for Leonard Cohen's book, The Favourite Game, he admired Cohen's "poetic craftsmanship". Another time, in typical whimsical Quarrington fashion, he declared, "I seem to like authors named John -- John Fowles, John Gardner, John Irving. John Gardner is my favourite -- he's sadly not so well known these days."[5]

Cinema and television

Quarrington's adaptation, with director Richard J. Lewis, of Whale Music was nominated for numerous Genie Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, in 1994. Actor Maury Chaykin won best actor for his portrayal of the drug-addled Desmond Howl.

He won the Genie Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1991 for Perfectly Normal, a comedy that combined ice hockey and grand opera.[6]

Quarrington has also worked in the television industry, acting as writer and/or producer on such shows as Due South, Power Play and Moose TV the latter winning Best Comedy from the CFTPA Indie Awards 2008.


Quarrington's work for the stage includes Dying is Easy, The Invention of Poetry and Three Ways from Sunday. He was a long-time board member of the Toronto Fringe Festival.


Quarrington collaborated with the band Rheostatics on the Whale Music film soundtrack, including a songwriting credit on the band's most successful hit single, "Claire". Quarrington also wrote the song "Heartstring", which was recorded by Willie P. Bennett as the title track to his 1999 album Heartstrings.

Quarrington was also the lead singer/guitarist for the blues/roots/country ensemble Porkbelly Futures. Their first CD, Way Past Midnight was released in late 2005 by Wildflower Records (owned by singer Judy Collins) and spent six months on the "Americana" charts. Their second CD, Porkbelly Futures, was released by Cordova Bay Entertainment Group in April of 2008. It contains many of Quarrington's original compositions. His solo CD called "The Songs" will be released in May 2010 also by Cordova Bay.

He participated in the collaborative "Canadian Songbook" tour in 2008 with Murray McLauchlan, Stephen Fearing and Catherine MacLellan.

In their teens, Quarrington and Hill also occasionally performed together as a folk music duo, billed as Quarrington/Hill.[4]. Paul and Martin Worthy achieved number one hit statis with their tune "baby and the Blues" in 1980.

Final Chapter

Even after being diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2009, Quarrington continued his plans to embark on various concert tours with Porkbelly Futures, while continuing to produce his own solo CD and the Porkbellys third release; complete his non-fiction memoir "Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Life and Music (Greystone Books, May 2010), deliver multiple screenplays for episodes of a television series for Shaftsbury Films (Notes on Euphoria, Dir. John L'Ecuyer) as well as give generously on camera as the featured subject of a documentary film initiated by he and colleague Judith Keenan; the film is an adaptation tied to his written memoir (Paul Quarrington: Life in Music, CTV Bravo, May 2010).[7] Rheostatics, who had broken up in 2007, reunited for a live tribute show to Quarrington produced by Humber College for Toronto's International Festival of Authors.[8] Also appearing to celebrate Paul's body of work in multiple genres were: Christina Jennings, John Krizanc, Michael Burns, Wayson Choy, Nino Ricci, Paul Gross, Alistair McLeod, Joe Hall, Porkbelly Futures with David Gray, and talented family members Christine Quarrington, Tony Quarrington and Joel Quarrington. Michael Burke announced the launch of Quarrington Arts Society / Societe des Arts Quarrington, to provide support for working and emerging artists committed to multi-disciplinary practices.

Quarrington's final collaboration with Hill, a song about his journey with cancer called "Are You Ready", was completed just ten days before Quarrington's death. The song was conceived by Quarrington and film producer Keenan as the focal point for their feature documentary. Many other songs were also conceived and produced by Paul during this fertile creative time, including "All the Stars" (created just days after the diagnosis) and "Wherever You Go," all of which will be included on the posthumously released CD.

Quarrington died of lung cancer in Toronto on January 21, 2010, aged 56.[1]


King Leary won the Stephen Leacock Award in 1988, and Whale Music won the 1989 Governor General's Award for Fiction.

Galveston, published in the United States as Storm Chasers, was nominated for the prestigious Giller Prize. He lost to Alice Munro — which, Quarrington stated afterward, "was hard to feel upset about. It's like losing to Chekhov."

In February 2008, King Leary was put forward by Dave Bidini as one of the five books considered on CBC Radio's Canada Reads. Bidini ultimately prevailed, and King Leary was named the book that everyone in the nation should read.

2008 and 2009 saw much evidence of his further renown - His short film "Pavane" adapted from his novel The Ravine garnered a Remi Platinum Award Houston's WorldFest, was juried in several other US festivals, and was broadcast in Canada on Bravo!FACT Presents and CBC Reflections. He and the creative team for ShowCase earned the CFPTA Indie Award for Comedy for the series Moose TV.

In 2009, the Writers' Trust of Canada awarded Quarrington its Matt Cohen Prize for a distinguished lifetime contribution to Canadian literature.[9]



  • The Service (1978)
  • Home Game (1983)
  • The Life of Hope (1985)
  • King Leary (1987)
  • Whale Music (1989)
  • Logan in Overtime (1990)
  • Civilization (1994)
  • The Spirit Cabinet (1999)
  • Galveston (2004)
  • The Ravine (2008)


  • Hometown Heroes: On the Road with Canada's National Hockey Team (1988)
  • Fishing with my Old Guy (1995)
  • Original Six: True Stories From Hockey?s Classic Era (1996)
  • The Boy on the Back of the Turtle (1997)
  • Fishing for Brookies, Browns and Bows: The Old Guy's Complete Guide to Catching Trout (2001)
  • From the Far Side of the River - (2003)
  • Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life (2010)


  • The Invention of Poetry (1990)
  • Checkout Time (1996)
  • Dying is Easy (1997)
  • Heart in a Bottle (2001)
  • Three Ways from Sunday (2007)

Selected Filmography

Short Films by Quarrington

  • Seventh Seal Inspired by Paul Quarrington (2010)
  • Pavane, Screenwriter & Director; Fizzy Dreams, Crush Inc., BookShorts Inc / BravoFACT / CBC Reflections (2008)
  • Angel Takes All: No Limit Texas Hold 'Em (2006)
  • A Man's Life Writer/Director Short; Moondog Films
  • Mann Over Moon Writer/Director Short; Fizzy Dreams Inc. Producer (2000)
  • Mump and Smoot in the Princess Who Wouldn't Smile Director Short, Canadian Film Centre

Feature Films

  • Vulnerable (2010) Screenwriter; Producer Greg Dummett, CineAmerique
  • Camilla (1994) Writer Feature; directed by Deepa Mehta and starring Jessica Tandy. Majestic Films / Shaftesbury / British Screen
  • Whale Music (1994)Co-Writer Feature, Alliance / Cape Scott; Genie Award Best Song
  • Giant Steps (1992)Co-Writer Feature; OB & D Films
  • Perfectly Normal (1990)Co-Writer Feature; BSB / Bialystock & Bloom / Skyhost; Genie Award Best Screenplay

Series and One-Offs

  • Keep Your Head Up: Story Editor and Barna Alper Productions / CBC
  • The Don Cherry Story consultant / CBC
  • Men With Brooms Co-Creator and 1/2 hr comedy series in development with Writer Serendipity / CBC
  • Moose TV Writer and 1 hour comedy series Exec. Story Editor Rezolution Films / Showcase
  • Puck Hogs Story Editor Feature in development with Protocol Ent.
  • Call Forward Story Consultant Feature; Protocol Entertainment
  • Whiskey Echo Story Editor Miniseries; Barna Alper Productions /CBC
  • 1-800 Missing Writer and Hour long drama series; NDG Creative Producer Productions / Lion?s Gate
  • Cradle Will Fall Writer MOW; Barna Alper Productions
  • Chilly Beach Writer and ? hour animated comedy series. Story Consultant March Entertainment / CBC
  • Tom Stone Writer Hour long drama series; Alberta Film Works / CBC
  • Men With Brooms Story Consultant Feature starring Paul Gross / Whizbang/Serendipity Point Films
  • Power Play Writer and Exec. Story Editor Serendipity Point Films / NDG Productions / Alliance Atlantis / CTV WGC Award
  • John Woo's Once a Thief Writer Alliance / NDG Productions / CTV
  • Due South Writer, Program Drama Series; Alliance-Atlantis / Consultant CTV / CBS; Gemini Nomination Best Writing


External links


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