My Mini-Autobiography

Spurgeon's Mini-Autobiography

I won't go into the bit about the 300 years of ancestors leading to my birth in Toronto, Canada, in 1957. I'll just pick it up when as a boy of nine I started practicing ventriloquism. The ventriloquism became important later when as a teenager I extended that interest to the other circus arts of juggling and unicycling. I only mention that because of its importance when I left home at eighteen to join Puck's Canadian Travelling Circus. And I only mention that because it is when I quickly realized that what interested me most in the circus arts was the art of practicing them.

"The professional practicer," is what they called me at the circus, because all I ever wanted to do was to practice. Practicing was a way of controlling and putting to use the terrible energy that I had bursting from me and otherwise did not know what to do with. When the circus life--and subsequent TV commercial and TV bit-part actor life--did not turn out to be the thing for me, I went to England to become a professional actor in the theater, thinking it would provide a larger canvas for self-expression. But I got no work as an actor, and ended up playing my guitar in the streets for a summer and then working as a bartender at Britain's National Theatre. There I did a stint in the Green Room, served many famous actors and actresses, and learned that the actor's life was not glamorous. More importantly, it was the time when I discovered books and writing.

It was 1977, and I realized writing was the art and form of expression I had been looking for: the practice was the end in itself. (In addition to finding a place to get the work published.)

I was at loose ends in mid-1978, but I knew an Englishman who was about to become headmaster of a children's boarding school in Iran, and he hired me as a teacher/performer/administrative assistant. So off I went to Iran. But not for long. The country soon fell under martial law. The Revolution began while I was there and I got out fast. It was valuable experience, though, because it taught me that an entire nation could be as sick, or sicker, than an individual.

I returned to Canada and started a university preparatory course, having left high school too soon to qualify for higher education. But that didn't last long either before I had the opportunity to go to Kenya and study A-Levels. Which I did. (Romantic literature and Ancient Greek and Roman history.) In addition to reading and writing all day long, I also went on frequent safaris.

I returned to Canada after living a year under the N'Gong Hills outside Nairobi and studying under a private tutor. I spent three years reading literature at the University of Toronto, and got a Bachelor's degree with a Major in Literary Studies, a Major in English, and a Minor in Dramatic Literature.

All the while I worked in the library of The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, with one of the world's best newspaper libraries.

That was also the period I wrote my first full-length novel, and when my first short story was published. The novel was a complete failure. A typical first effort. You have to get that one out.

During that period I continued to work occasionally in bit parts in show business to pay the university bills. I became something of a resident unicyclist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Whenever they needed a unicyclist they called on me. My ACTRA membership and my talent on one wheel surely made me an easy sell.

It was in 1983, B.A. in hand, that I came to Paris to study French at the Sorbonne to become a better Canadian--that is, a bilingual one. Having once tasted Paris, however, I never could bring myself to leave it. Thus becoming a very bad Canadian.

Within two months of arriving here I landed a job as a newspaper librarian at the International Herald Tribune. I have been working at the IHT ever since, developing my career as a journalist and fiction writer.

Also met my French wife Nathalie, and we added the two kids, Paul and Emily in the early '90s.

From the wild circus life beginnings, I learned to live wildly through my writing, while leading a sedentary life in an office. But since I began covering the Formula One series and traveling to race tracks around the world every two weeks to do so, things seem to have come full circle...or should I say, full circus?

Check out the photos of me at the crime writers' festival in Spain called Semana Negra.

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