The Sunday Magazine

The late Howard Engel remained a prolific writer, even when he could no longer read

Former CBC colleague and the author of the Benny Cooperman series of crime novels died this week. In 2005, Howard Engel spoke with Michael about how he wrote another book after a stroke left him able to write, but unable to read. 
Howard Engel was an award-winning Canadian crime writer and author of the Benny Cooperman detective series. (Submitted by Writers' Trust of Canada)

One morning, Howard Engel picked up his morning paper and thought someone had played a prank. The words looked like gibberish. It took a while to realize he'd had a stroke. He later learned he was dealing with a rare condition called alexia sine agraphia – meaning he could still write, although he could not read.

Engel died on July 15th in Toronto at the age of 88.

Author Howard Engel learns to read again

Digital Archives

16 years ago
Mystery writer Howard Engel recounts the story of the sudden loss of his ability to read 5:19

He was best known as the author of the acclaimed series of novels about detective Benny Cooperman. And he was a long-time producer at the CBC, for programs such as AssignmentSunday SupplementThe Arts in Review, Booktime and Anthology.

In 2010, the late neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote an article about Engel that was published in The New Yorker. The two remained friends.

The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright interviewed Engel in 2005, about how he managed to write another book even though he had lost the ability to read. 

Click "Listen" above to hear that conversation.


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