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The mayor of Côte St. Paul by Ronald J…
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The mayor of Côte St. Paul

by Ronald J Cooke

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412,481,670 (1)7
Ronald J. Cooke's second novel, The Mayor of Côte St. Paul , is the tale of a struggling writer living in Depression-era Montreal. Winnipegger Dave Manley, arrived in the city thinking that its rich atmosphere will inspire his fiction, but was met by a stream rejection slips. His luck turns, for good and bad, when he meets Cherie, a looker from Lunenberg who does dirty work for a crime boss known as The Mayor. It isn't long before Dave is running booze between Montreal and Windsor, learning all there is to know about the slot machine and liquor rackets. Dave wants out, Cherie wants out - but there is no easy escape from The Mayor, a man who lives in luxury - through vice and murder - surrounded by the squalor of Côte St. Paul. Published in 1950, The Mayor of Côte St. Paul enjoyed the month of June on newsstands, never to be seen again. This edition is the first in 64 years.… (more)

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Like many big cities during the Depression, Montréal has an attraction for people struggling to get by. Dave is a writer from Winnipeg whose savings won't keep him in town for more than a month; the writing scene is tough and the rejection slips are piling up. Perhaps his writing doesn't contain enough realism, because he doesn't have a lot of real-world experience. Fortunately, he meets a girl named Cherie who previously worked for a gang boss whose stock in trade is slots and booze. She wants out and to open her own shop with the money she's earned, but the "Mayor" who was her boss is suspicious that she might jump ship to a competitor. The Mayor offers Dave a job -- will his need to survive outweigh his principles?

I very much liked the sound of this story. Old-time Montréal is catnip for me in stories, and I've had previous success with books published by Ricochet (an imprint of Véhicule Presse). However, I got only a few chapters in and could see why this book had no more than a month in the limelight.

The story is great, but the writing is lacklustre. The dialogue feels stilted and like the characters are telling each other (or themselves) things that should be shown to the reader instead. And as a 21st-century reader I was cringing non-stop at how patronizing Dave sounded to Cherie, calling her pet names such as "kitten" WHEN THEY HAD ONLY JUST MET. How presumptuous. And Cherie's dialogue was not great either; she spent much more time than seemed necessary assuring Dave that he wasn't to worry, that he'd be a big strong handsome successful writer someday!!! BARF.

I DNF'd this book and won't be trying again. Might see if The House on Craig Street, Cooke's first novel, is any better, but I won't be in a hurry to do so. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jun 30, 2019 |
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