GEORGE SZANTO’s first novel, Not Working (1982) is the story of a big city cop turned rural househusband. Two collections of short stories, Sixteen Ways to Skin a Cat (1978), and Duets (1989), try to bring some anarchy to an overly-structured universe. Friends & Marriages (1995), follows several interconnected characters over two decades. The Underside of Stones (1990; reprint 2004), part one of the trilogy The Conquests of Mexico, is the story of a Canadian who lives a year in Mexico and finds his life and beliefs progressively subverted and reconstituted; part two, Second Sight (2004), exposes the realms of Mexican wealth and politics; part three, The Condesa of M. (2001; reprint 2005), explores Mexico’s darker religious underworld.
The Canadian edition of Not Working was cited by Books in Canada as one of the five best first novels of 1982. One segment of The Underside of Stones, “How Ali Cran Got His Name,” won a National Magazine Award in 1988. Friends & Marriages won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction for 1995. A French translation of Stones appeared in 1997 as La face cachée des pierres and in 1999 in Italian as La faccia nascosta delle pietre. A French translation of The Condesa of M. was published in 2004 as La Condesa Marìa Victoria, and Second Sight appeared in 2005 as Double vue.
Szanto’s books of essays and criticism include Inside the Statues of Saints (1996) which explores Mexican life through profiles of contemporary Mexican writers. Narrative Consciousness (1971), Theater and Propaganda (1978), and Narrative Taste: The Matter of Quality (1987), examine writers past and present who subvert commonplace perceptions of everyday life. His plays, which include The New Black Crook (1971), The Great Chinchilla War (1973), The Next Move (1981), and Before It Gets Better (1985), also attempt to overturn the familiar.
With Sandy Frances Duncan, Szanto created the Islands Investigations International mystery series, including Never Sleep with a Suspect (on Gabriola Island) in 2009, Always Kiss the Corpse (on Whidbey Island) in 2010, and, in 2011, Never Hug a Mugger (on Quadra Island). In Spring 2011, Brindle and Glass published The Tartarus House on Crab.
Szanto was born in 1940 in Derry, Northern Ireland, the son of Viennese refugees who, the year before, had fled Hitler and anti-Semitism. He grew up in Ireland, England, and later New Hampshire in the United States. He attended Dartmouth College, Goethe Universität in Frankfurt/Main, Université d’Aix-en-Provence, and Harvard University. He received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1967. He has taught at Harvard, at the University of California San Diego, and for twenty-six years at McGill University where, in 2000, he was named professor emeritus. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1988.