What I’m Writing
Oct 11, 2011
My next book is a departure from the Jonah Geller series. It’s a crime novel set in Montreal, 1950, when it was the vice capital of Canada. Girls, gambling, great entertainment: Montreal had it all. You could play barbotte, a dice game invented and played only in Quebec, catch a racy act by strippers like Lili St. Cyr, the biggest star in a city replete with them, or see the young Sammy Davis Jr. dancing with his father and uncle in the Will Mastin Trio.
I grew up on stories about Montreal in this era, when my parents were coming of age in the poor east end. So it’s no surprise I’d be drawn to it as a setting for a book. It feels, in fact, like it’s been gestating for years.
The hero and narrator is Max Handler, a police detective modelled to a certain extent on Ben Greenberg, who was the first Jew ever to become an Inspector on the force, and for many years the only Jewish cop period. He was tough, streetwise, a legend written about by Al Palmer, William Weintraub, Mordecai Richler and others. I met him once after he retired and my mother grew up with his daughter--I even went to school with his grandson--so creating a character with some of those characteristics feels natural.
The story revolves around the strangling death of the daughter of one of Montreal’s richest men, at a time when a handful of families controlled most of Canada’s wealth. Was she the victim of a killer who has been murdering prostitutes in the gritty east end? Or killed by someone trying to make it look that way? Working the case, Max and his partner plumb the depths of Montreal’s seamy side, while stepping gingerly through the homes of the barons who rule the town.
I’m well into the first draft—more than 40,000 words by mid-March—and hope to complete the draft later this summer.
A different time and place, a brand-new hero, a change in voice: God, I’m enjoying it.
Wish me luck!