John Bentley Mays

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John Bentley Mays
BornJune 22, 1941
DiedSeptember 16, 2016(2016-09-16) (aged 75)
Toronto, Ontario
Occupationnovelist, memoir, art critic
Notable worksIn the Jaws of the Black Dogs, Power in the Blood
SpouseMargaret Cannon

John Bentley Mays (June 22, 1941 – September 16, 2016) was a Canadian journalist and writer.[1] Best known as an art and architecture columnist for The Globe and Mail, he also published a novel and several non-fiction books.

Mays was born in rural Louisiana in 1941.[2] Both his parents died when he was a child, his father in a car accident and his mother of cancer, and he was raised thereafter by relatives in Shreveport.[2] He studied medieval literature and literary criticism at the University of Rochester, and moved to Toronto in 1969 to accept a teaching job at York University.[3] He married Margaret Cannon in 1971,[3] and published his first novel, The Spiral Stair, in 1978.[4] He joined The Globe and Mail in 1980.[3]

In 1994 he published Emerald City: Toronto Visited, a collection of essays about Toronto architecture and history.[5] The following year he published In the Jaws of the Black Dogs, a memoir of his lifelong struggle with clinical depression.[6] In the book, he also came out as bisexual by orientation,[7] although he noted that for personal and religious reasons he had chosen to remain monogamously married to his wife rather than exploring his attractions to men.[7]

In 1997 he published Power in the Blood, a memoir about exploring his family history after the death of his aunt Vandalia in 1990.[2] The book was shortlisted for that year's Viacom Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.[8] The following year he left The Globe and Mail to become a general arts and culture journalist for the National Post, remaining with that paper until 2001.[3]

In 2002 he published Arrivals: Stories from the History of Ontario, a book about Ontario history.[9] The book won the Joseph Brant Award from the Ontario Historical Society. He was a freelance writer for a variety of publications in this era, until rejoining The Globe and Mail in 2008 as an architecture columnist.[3] Over the course of his career in journalism, he won awards from both the National Newspaper Awards and the National Magazine Awards.[3] He also taught courses and gave guest lectures on architecture at OCAD University and the University of Toronto.[3]

Mays died of a heart attack on September 16, 2016 in Toronto, just two weeks after having completed writing his second novel.[3]


  • The Spiral Stair (1978)
  • Emerald City: Toronto Visited (1994)
  • In the Jaws of the Black Dogs: A Memoir of Depression (1995)
  • Power in the Blood: Land, Memory and a Southern Family (1997)
  • Arrivals: Stories from the History of Ontario (2002)


  1. ^ "Art critic, writer John Bentley Mays dies". Guelph Mercury, September 22, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "South rises again in family meditation". The Globe and Mail, October 4, 1997.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Longtime critic became a cultural force". Edmonton Journal, September 24, 2016.
  4. ^ "In the background Cohen, Symons, Borges and talent. In the foreground St. Genet". The Globe and Mail, February 25, 1978.
  5. ^ "Bentley Mays follows the yellow brick road". Toronto Star, October 15, 1994.
  6. ^ "A descent into hell; Writer shares his long struggle with depression". Montreal Gazette, October 5, 1995.
  7. ^ a b "Darkness Visible". Books in Canada, September 1995.
  8. ^ "Canadian authors honored by prizes". Calgary Herald, January 20, 1998.
  9. ^ "A place to stand, a place to grow ...: Writer sets out to prove Ontario's history is not boring". Edmonton Journal, September 1, 2002.

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