Richard Rohmer turns 90 today. The major-general (ret.) is Canada's most decorated inhabitant, which makes him sound like some sort of Christmas tree, but he isn't. He's a novelist, historian and the former chancellor of the University of Windsor. He flew fighter planes in World War II and Korea, and wrote the best-selling novel in Canada in 1973, followed by twenty more. Maybe thirty. Here are some of his honors:
Distinguished Flying Cross
Officer of the Order of Canada
Commander of the Order of Military Merit
Order of Ontario
Knight of the Order of St. John
Officer of the Order of Leopold (Belgium)
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (France)
Honorary Deputy Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police
Honorary Chief of Toronto Emergency Medical Services
Patron of the Toronto St. John Ambulance
Honorary Detective of the Toronto Police Service
Honorary Fire Chief of Collingwood
Here are some of his novels:
He's also a lawyer and a politician, but you mustn't judge him by that.
Richard Rohmer ruled the Canadian best seller lists in the 70s and 80s, but now he's almost entirely out of print. His books were potboilers about terrorists and separatists and natural gas. Really, quite a lot about natural gas. They had a lot of short choppy chapters with first lines like, "The atmosphere in the Oval Office of the White House was tense."
And when the novels came out, they weren't just beach reading. Adults were obliged to debate their politics. He was Jeffrey Archer and Sinclair Lewis. Tom Clancy and Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
And natural gas.
Last month, two friends and I set out to read every book Rohmer ever wrote. You can follow our progress at:
There's a German word for when the hero of your story has the same problems your country has, and some of the virtues. Siegfried for the Germans, Aeneas for the Romans, Gatsby for Americans... who for Australia? Dame Edna?
Is Richard Rohmer Canada's most Canadian Canadian?