The fact that Rick Blechta (pronounced Blek' ta) has been a musician all his life is clearly apparent in all his writing. He brings a musician's viewpoint to the thriller genre in much the same way Dick Francis used his experiences in the world of horse racing. The results are "most entertaining" (Regina Leader Post). All of his novels have been critically praised for the "insider's knowledge of the music world" (Canadian Book Review Annual) which he injects into his plots. But Blechta has been equally praised for his "engaging characters" (Globe and Mail) that are "always convincing, never phony or stiff" (Regina Leader Post).
Born in New Rochelle, NY (home of Rob and Laura Petrie) and raised in the dark heart of Westchester County, north of New York City, Rick began his professional music career at the ripe old age of 14 in a local Rhythm & Blues band, but even at that early stage his tastes were eclectic. Classical, jazz, rock & roll, if a musical style caught his imagination, he listened to it and mastered how to play it. Rick is accomplished on several instruments, including most forms of keyboard, French horn and trumpet, but he also sings, plays electric bass, percussion, all other forms of brass instruments and will even admit to playing guitar and sax if pushed. (You wouldn't want to hear him play violin and under no circumstances ask him to do so.) His teachers have included Harry Berv and William Karstens (French horn) and Thomas Lishman and Leslie Kinton (piano), as well as the legendary Weldon Irvine for jazz organ. Rick's an especially outstanding player of that most arcane of the 1960s musical instruments, the mellotron, and he's the proud owner of one of the very rare MkII FX Consoles. Currently, he's playing trumpet in a Toronto big band, The Advocats (many of the members are lawyers) and they play the first Monday of every month at the People’ Chicken on Mount Pleasant. Drop by if you're in the area!
He emigrated to Canada in 1971 to complete a Bachelor of Music degree at McGill University in Montreal. While there, he got one of the worst reviews ever penned when his first serious composition (a cantata for rock band and vocalists) was referred to by the McGill Student newspaper as "anal scribblings". Undeterred, in 1973 he composed, scored and directed the music for the university’s famous Red and White Review which was critically acclaimed in Montreal's Star and Gazette newspapers ("Only the music saves the show." Montreal Star).
Immediately after graduation, Blechta formed one of Canada’s finest Progressive Rock bands, Devotion, which went on to achieve legendary status in bars, high schools and concert halls all over the country, but which, sadly, never released any recordings -- although they did make a very fine demo of six of their original songs. Rick played multifarious (a Terry Hatty word) keyboards & brass as well as sang. Other members of the band included many very respected musicians: Terry Hatty (lead vocals & guitar), Simon Stone (woodwinds, vocals & keyboards), Steve Lang (bass & vocals), Lorne Nehring (drums), replaced later by Mike Sloski (pictured at left), then by Paul Delong, Peter Follett (guitar & vocals, also pictured at left) who was replaced later by Rick Edgett. The search for better gigs led the band to Toronto where Blechta has lived ever since. When Devotion folded (sadly) in 1975, a job in the kitchen of a Toronto private club, studio work on radio and TV jingles, and a hilarious stint at cab driving filled the financial cracks while he tried unsuccessfully to get a recording contract with his new band, Eyes. (Click HERE to see a couple of promo shots of Rick as a real Rock Star. And he even has hair, too! Lots of it. Wow!)
Not needing to be hit on the head too many times to see the light, a burgeoning family and disillusionment with the music business started him into the education field in 1977. He taught instrumental music for the Etobicoke and then the Toronto District School Board for 23 years, and for 16 years was a member of the faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music where he taught French horn and conducted the conservatory's Wind Ensembles. He's now free-lancing musically again, Devotion got together after 26 years for a gig in September of 2001 (with the hopes of a second before another 26 years passes).
When he retired from teaching in 2001, Rick's part-time job working as a graphic designer for Brampton firm, Eye-to-Eye Design, became his full-time job. Eye-to-Eye closed its doors in 2009 and Rick suddenly was faced with running his own business, Castlefield Media, which took over many of his former clients’ accounts.
On the book front, in the spring of 2002, McClelland & Stewart released Blechta's third novel, Shooting Straight in the Dark. He switched publishers to RendezVous Crime for his fourth novel, Cemetery of the Nameless. It’s set in Vienna and brings back from his second novel violinist Victoria Morgan and her long-suffering husband Rocky for another round of murder and mayhem on and off the concert stage. This book was released in spring of 2005 and went on to be a finalist for the Best Novel Arthur Ellis Award. RendezVous also published Rick's fifth novel, When Hell Freezes Over, in fall of 2006. In spring 2008 his sixth novel, A Case of You, was published. Then Rick’s working life got the better of him, and writing had to take a back seat to running his design studio.
In fall of 2011, he returned with his first novel for the Orca Books’ Rapid Reads series, Orchestrated Murder. 2012 will see the release of a new full-length novel from Dundurn Press (who purchased Napoleon & Company, the parent company of RendezVous Crime, in 2011). This novel, The Fallen One, is set in the opera world, and rumour has it that Rick is hard at work on its sequel.
For the past 20 years, Rick has been very active in Crime Writers of Canada holding every executive position. His last position was as the organization's president for two terms. He also twice edited the CWC's directory of members' works, In Cold Blood, handled all production duties for the CWC's infamous cookbook, Dishes to Die For, did a stint as co-editor of the CWC newsletter, Fingerprints, supervising a complete re-design of the publication. June 2004 saw the release of a second cookbook Blechta has worked on for the CWC, Dishes to Die For...Again. In 2000, the CWC presented him with the Derrick Murdoch Award in recognition of his contributions to the organization.
Outside of his literary and musical pursuits, Rick is an excellent cook who has worked in restaurants. (He's a musician. What else did you expect? Well...he could have also waited tables.) His wedding present to his sister was a 5-course meal for 60 guests something so ambitious he won't be rash enough to offer again. That meal took three days to cook! Many years later, though, it led to a blog about food, Rick’s amanforallseasonings.blogspot.com.
An avid gardener, he also enjoys hiking, camping, astronomy and keeping tropical fish. For sports, he plays golf (something he is really not good at, but enjoys nonetheless). He played on a fast-pitch softball team for 7 years and still follows the fortunes of the Toronto Blue Jays, and writes for a baseball blog: lateinnings.blogspot.com. He's also developed a weakness for fountain pens, something pretty brave for a southpaw who writes overhand.
So far, his two biggest claims to fame (besides having eight novels published) are caddying for Ed Sullivan when he was 15 disappointingly, Topo Gigio did not make an appearance from Eddie's rather copious golf bag and appearing on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post when he was 10 years old. Rick is the rather forlorn-looking cub on the far right. (Click on the image to see a larger version and then click on the expanded image to close it.) He's surprisingly modest about these two accomplishments.
Rick is married to prominent flutist and teacher, Vicki Blechta, and they have produced two male offspring, Karel and Jan, neither of whom are musicians or writers, but are terrific people, nonetheless.
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