Nancy Eaton did this interview with Arnold Holtzman on March 19, 2008.


The Wrestler from Montreal by Arnold Holtzman is shown on the left. Click on the cover to order.

Where did you come up with the idea of writing “The Wrestler from Montreal”?

A number of issues came together in my life that had me question the relationship between will and fate. They had me question the widely held premise that will was a major determinant of one's fate. I found that almost every man's life had its singular patterns that somehow seemed fixed and which tended to be repeated (what we might think of as fate). My grasp of the willfulness of a man was as an attribute, in the manner of an instinct that is often subject to the most extreme adjustments. If willfulness may deliver expectations, the ultimate realities that a person may realize may be light years removed from those expectations. This confrontation between fate and will is expressed in the novel by the strange prophecy delivered by the mother to her two children hours before her tragic demise, and how the wills of even the most powerful of men in the end served only to effect the prophecy. Neither the expanse of oceans nor the run of time… not the questionable interests and determined wills of many men throughout those years could modify an iota of the original prophecy. This novel would have these singular patterns which govern a person's life be grasped as the secrets every human being is heir to. Uncovering these secrets and understanding them can lend a dimension of insight and knowledge richer than anything any university textbook may deliver.

Why did you want to tell this specific story?

The protagonist in the novel reaches North America as a very young man. He is an immigrant, entirely alone in the world, not a little frightened, unfamiliar with the language and without significant skills. This, in fact, is the story of the millions who left the old world, often destitute and helpless, to make America their home. This was a generation whose industry and achievements in every area of life brought true greatness to this land. However, this same generation, once so vocal, is now ghostly silent.

“The Wrestler from Montreal” is a very engrossing read. How long did it take you to write this book?

I can say a lifetime and I can say 3 years. Both answers would be correct.

Are the characters in “The Wrestler from Montreal” based on anyone you know?

My parents had a children's wear factory. This permitted me to describe with some measure of familiarity the environment of the Sweet Mode Dress factory.

Do you have a favorite character in “The Wrestler from Montreal”?

I can't think in terms of a favorite character. The story could not come together the way it does if even a single character would be missing. I needed them all and can even feel a measure of gratitude to each one individually for being there.

Are you trying to give the readers a specific message as they read “The Wrestler from Montreal”?

Not by conscious intention. But I would have the reader give thought to all the people in the course of their adult lives who had entered their lives, somehow added to their lives or in some way changed its direction, and then exited their lives never to be seen or heard from again. It would seem that every person has some deciding role to play in some other person's life… and if we are to understand the patterns I spoke of earlier then we would also understand that nothing that becomes introduced to our lives is accidental.

What was the most difficult part of writing “The Wrestler from Montreal”?

It wasn't at all difficult. It wrote itself. On the other hand the editing was a virtual bloodletting.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Not the biggest influence, but the one I'm indebted to the most is Henry Fosdick Hall, long deceased. He was the dean and later the principal of Sir George Williams College. In a very real way he gave me the life I have today.

Do you have anything specific you want to say to the readers?

Only that I am glad that they are there.