Complicated is too anodyne a word to describe the Peter Gzowski who emerges from Flemings pages. But on radio he was magic. The medium freed him from all the dark corners of his private self -- and made him free as the birds he imagined the Galt skaters of his boyhood to have been -- and through it he connected with the emotions and imaginations of Canadians to an extend few others have.
Having greatly enjoyed my friendship with him for four decades, I still sometimes brood over his contradictions. He was like an absorbing character in fiction whom the author never quite explains. Fleming is a long-time admirer of Gzowski the broadcaster but doesn't let that suppress what he's learned about Gzowski the man. I can't say more for Fleming than that he's made me think freshly about a subject I believed I knew well. He's given us an absorbing, provocative book about a man who was even more complicated than most of us imagined.
The National Post
Through the book Fleming returns often to what he sees as Gzowski's habit of adjusting facts to suit the story he's telling. A charitable view is that he was exploring the creative non-fiction "New Journalism" of Tom Wolfe and George Plimpton. More cynically, Fleming sees Gzowski shoring up his insecurity by regularly fabricating and altering details of his life: from where he skated as a kid, to his mother's education, to his parents relationship, to where he went to summer camp.
The Winnipeg Free Press
The enduring value of Flemings book is the saga of a very imperfect man who told stories, and a reminder of just how magical radio can be when its creators are willing to slave in the service of work that serves and unites its community by entertaining it.
The Globe and Mail
One of the books strengths is its portrayal of the group of largely Toronto-based writers and broadcasters in whose circles Gzowski traveled and who helped shape Canadian pop culture.
Quill & Quire
My memory of Peter Gzowski remains so evocative and so poignant that while reading R.B. Flemings magnificent Peter Gzowski: A Biography I realized it is not just the story of a life but the saga of a generation The value of this book is the portrait it paints of its protagonist away from his microphone. Gzowski emerges not nearly as likable as he wanted us to believe, but the revelations of his dark side serve mainly to make him more human.
Literary Review of Canada
Last years triumphant biographies of two great Canadians R.B. Flemings Peter Gzowski: A Biography, and Charles Forans Mordecai: The Life and Timesrestored our faith in a form often too degraded into the literary equivalent of Jersey Shore.
Fleming's biography of Gzowski is nuanced and remarkably well-assembled. It gathers the disparate strands of the broadcaster's chequered life into a coherent and fascinating view of a clever, complex personality who, despite emotional problems, kept a country intrigued for almost twenty years.
London Free Press
As one of my editors at Maclean’s, he was often as vain, prickly, sneering and verbally sadistic as Fleming goes to such extraordinary lengths to prove he could be, but he was also funny, joyful, supremely well read and bursting with opinions and gossip about hot magazines and their writers.
Peter Gzowski was human, sometimes difficult and not always the nicest of people. Sounds like all of us, eh?
Fleming had to fall back on his historical training to find ways to verify stories, Fleming knows, however, that with a public figure, gossip helps historians see how issues were presented or understood. It may be that readers will be selective in what they decide to believe about Gzowski, but this book will have a long shelf life because it tries to understand all aspects of Gzowski’s life, both public and private.