Decker is coerced into hunting down terrorists for the U.S. National Security Agency after a bomb wipes out the majority of America’s scientific elite.
Spies with special sensory gifts suggest a preference for Hollywood blockbusters over classic stage drama.
His characters and their exceptional talents are drawn from experience, Rotenberg said.
"When I teach acting, periodically I come across people who really do have special gifts. There are people you can see are working their butts off, but you’re never sure they’re going to make more than the grade . . . and there are others who just walk into a room and everyone goes, ‘Hello!’
"They are generally people who are instinctively in touch with deeper spiritual currents. I remember being in North Carolina, which is surprisingly a deeply religious culture, and felt the normal, knee-jerk Northern secular response to their beliefs."
In a very short time Rotenberg learned how wrong he was.
"These people found solace, support, meaning in rituals and behaviour that meant nothing to me," he said.
"I learned to follow along and pay attention. I drove out into the country one night with Tommy Thompson, the banjo player who inherited Earl Scruggs’ instrument, and sat with him in a circle of old black men, all playing homemade banjos and drinking till dawn. I came away believing that despite my education, my reading, my profession, my lifestyle, these men had something that was so much more real, more sustaining, more nourishing in their devotion to this music — such a small thing by comparison."
Rotenberg’s two worlds rarely collide, but the novelist — brother of Toronto crime novelist Richard Rotenberg, whose
Stranglehold was launched two weeks ago — is bringing together some of his theatrical protégés for the release of A Murder of Crows at Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay St., Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Several of Rotenberg’s students — James McGowan and Jonas Chernick (TV’s
The Border), Demore Barnes (the upcoming series Hannibal), Carrie-Lynn Neales (the TV comedy
Seed) and Ennis Esmer (The L.A. Complex and The Listener) — will be on hand to read, enact and discuss key scenes in his Junction Chronicles novels. The event, titled
Authors and Actors on the Art of Believability, is open to the public.
The actors are particularly keen to lend a hand, Neales said.
"I’ve known David for about six years and he has been my teacher for the past three. I’d heard he was a prolific novelist, but I didn’t realize how good he is until I read
The Placebo Effect last year.
"He’s one of the most caring men I’ve ever met and so generous with his time. All of us feel that way. As a director and teacher, he won’t allow an actor to get away with anything. He insists on drawing out what’s real. And when he believes in you, he really gets behind you. David has launched quite a few careers."
Rotenberg takes some pride in describing himself as "a very disciplined theatre director."
"But when it comes to writing, I’m a mess. I listen to authors on the radio talking about doing an hour of push-ups at 5 a.m. and eating a macrobiotic breakfast before locking themselves away for seven or eight hours of perfect solitude, and I ask myself, ‘My God, who does that?’
"If I get an idea in the middle of the night I get up and start writing. My wife finds me sound asleep on the couch the next morning. I don’t do outlines of my novels . . . I don’t know how writers can work out an entire plot before the creative part kicks in. But once I know what my story is, I do write extremely quickly.
My compulsion is to finish things," Rotenberg said. "I have a deadline coming up for the third novel in The Junction Chronicles and it bothers me that I’m a little behind. But when the time comes, I know everything will be in place. It always is."