R.E. Knowles is a character of the kind no longer to be found in the newspaper world. A former Presbyterian minister in Galt, Ontario, and a bestselling novelist in his day, he launched a new career in mid-life as a "special writer" for The Toronto Star. I was first led to work on Knowles when Bill Toye asked me to write the entry on his novels for the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature., It soon became apparent that here was a rare birdat once self-promoter, joker and earnest seeker after truthwho was in danger of being forgotten.
He loved famous people and celebrities, and he considered himself to be the equal of many of the men and women he interviewed for articles that appeared on the front page of the Star between 1920 to 1940. His self-indulgent copy was often the talk of the town. Newspaper readers enjoyed reading Knowles's high opinions of himself as much as they did the opinions and views of his interviewees.
The results of my researches into his life and ideas are set out in the
introduction to this volume; the remainder consists of 35 interviews, a description
of his seven novels, and a list of some 1500 of his interviews, which may
be useful to other researchers. Knowles' interviews are a treasury of information
on interwar culture and social history, besides being fun to read for anyone
who enjoys exploring the byways of Torontos and Canadas past.