John Robert Colombo

Author, Anthologist, Communications Consultant


  • Born in Kitchener, Ont., Canada, 24 March 1936
  • Lives in Toronto with his wife Ruth; they have three adult children
  • Bears no resemblance to Peter Falk of the NBC-TV series “Columbo”
  • Boasts four ethnically different grandparents: Greek, German, Italian, French-Canadian
  • Editor-at-large since 1963
  • Author, compiler, or translator since 1957 of over 200 bylined books


  • Known nationally as a “Master Gatherer,” John “Bartlett” Colombo, “Superfan,” and “Canada’s Mr. Mystery”
  • One-time adviser to the Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council, and North York Arts Council, City of Toronto Book Awards Committee
  • First co-ordinator of literary readings at the Bohemian Embassy (1960) and Toronto’s Harbourfront (1974) / Editor (1960-2000) of over 125 books for Canadian publishing houses
  • First writer-in-residence at a community college, Mohawk College, Hamilton, Ont., 1979-80
  • Host, “Colombo Quotes” (CBC-TV, five programs), Fall 1979
  • Host, “Unexplained Canada” (Space Channel, 6 programs), Jan. 2007
  • Participant at events in Moscow, Sofia, Bucharest, Budapest, Washington, New York, Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, etc.
  • Keynote speaker, Institute of U.S. and Canada, conference, Moscow, Russia, 1993
  • Keynote speaker, Waku Waku Conference, Ibusuki City, Japan, 1994
  • Weekly guest, “Don Harron’s Morningside,” CBC Radio, 1980-81
  • Irregular columnist/reviewer, “The Globe and Mail,” “Toronto Star,” etc.
  • Consultant, Petro-Canada’s “Canada First Quiz,” Spring 1984
  • Consultant and chief writer, U.S. tourism supplements, Camp Associates/Axmith McIntyre Wicht, 1985, 1993
  • Licensee, Peter Urs Bender’s “Secrets of Power Presentations,” 1992; co-course leader with Bender and George Torok

Recipient of numerous awards, including:

  • Ontario Library Association’s Certificate of Merit; Periodical Distributors of Canada’s Best Paperback of the Year 1976
  • Centennial Medal, 1967
  • Esteemed Knight of Mark Twain
  • Order of Cyril and Methodius (1st class)
  • Harbourfront’s International Festival of Authors Literary Award, 1985
  • D.Litt. (h.c.), York University, Toronto, June 1998
  • Member, Order of Canada, 2004
  • Biographer-biographee: The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, The Canadian Who’s Who, Contemporary Poets, etc.
  • Course leader, Canadian Management Centre of the American Management Association
  • Participant, ideaCity, June 2002
  • Coat of Arms, granted May 2007, with motto “Alert” in three languages
  • Associate, Northrop Frye Centre, Victoria College, University of Toronto, 2007
  • Humanist of the year 2009, Humanist Association of Toronto

Popular Reference Books

“Check it in Colombo!” became a byword in the 1970s when JRC began to compile a series of popular Canadiana reference books including his bestselling “quote books.” There are now seven of these, the current one being “The Penguin Dictionary of Popular Canadian Quotations” (Penguin, 2006). He is also the author of such titles as “Colombo’s Canadian References” (Oxford, 1974), “Canadian Literary Landmarks” (Hounslow, 1984), and “1000 Questions about Canada” (Hounslow / Dundurn Group, 2001).


Among JRC’s other popular compilations are “The Penguin Book of Canadian Jokes” (Penguin, 2001) and “The Penguin Book of More Canadian Jokes” (Penguin, 2003) as well as “The Penguin Book of Popular Canadian Poems and Songs” (Penguin, 2002)


JRC is also a poet of note. He published in three volumes with double-columned pages “All the Poems of JRC” (BSDB, 2005) as well as the one-volume edition of “All the Aphorisms of JRC” (BSDB, 2006). For the last dozen years every January he has issued a book of the previous year’s poetry. The current title in this ongoing series is “End of Greatness” (C&C, 2009).

Native Studies

“The Native Series,” published by C&C and BSDB in 2004, is a six-volume set of trade paperbacks devoted to the lore and literature of the Native Peoples: “Voices of Rama” (C&C, 1994), “The Mystery of the Shaking Tent” (Hounslow, 1993), “Songs of the Great Land” (Oberon, 1989, 1997), “Songs of the Indians” (Oberon, two volumes, 1983, 1998), “Windigo: An Anthology” (Western Producer, 1982), “Poems of the Inuit” (Oberon, 1981, 1997)

Fantastic Literature

JRC compiled the first anthology of Canadian fantastic literature: “Other Canadas” (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1979). With Michael Richardson he compiled the first anthology of Canadian horror fiction: “Not to be Taken at Night (Lester & Orpen, 1981). With Brett Alexander Savory, he edited the anthology titled “Tesseracts 14.” These are but a few of his contribution to this field, an early love.


JRC has long been interested in psychical and parapsychological studies. For twenty years he has been collecting accounts of anomalous experiences; he has written or compiled close to three dozen books in this field, beginning with “Mysterious Canada” (Doubleday, 1988). Later titles include “Strange but True” (Dundurn Group, 2005), “The Monster Book of Canadian Monsters” (BSDB, 2004), “True Canadian UFO Stories” (Prospero, 2004), “The Big Book of Canadian Ghost Stories (Dundurn, Group, 2009), and “The Big Book of Canadian Hauntings (Dundurn Group, 2010).

Colombo & Company

JRC andhis wife Ruth are the founders of Colombo & Company, a personal imprint, retailer and wholesaler of new and reprinted titles by the founders and other authors. The current catalogue lists more than 100 new and reprinted titles.

John Robert Colombo
42 Dell Park Avenue, Toronto M6B 2T6, Canada
Phone 1 (416) 782 6853 / Fax 1 (416) 782 0285
Email John Robert Colombo
Poetry site
SIN xxx-xxx-xxx / GST No. R122421217 / BN 12242 1217 RT /Writer’s Guild XG20-2533 / ACTRA T04-17112 / November 2010

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