Montreal, 1926. Mick is down on his luck until an old pal offers him a loaded revolver and a job: riding shotgun in a truck running booze across the border. Stateside Prohibition has opened up a market for certain amusements, vicious or otherwise. Mick takes the joband his problems begin.
Through his old friend Jack, Mick falls deeper into the life of the small-time tough. From whorehouse to gentlemen’s club, through back alleys and deluxe hotels, jazz joints, opium dens, baseball diamonds, cheap diners and anywhere trouble is to be found, Mick burns his way through the City of Two Solitudes. Other people are in town for their own reasons. Babe Ruth’s here; Harry Houdini, too.
The Man Who Killed is a tale of political corruption and crime, of sexual jealousy and heartbreak, a portrait of a city after last call, of smoke-filled saloons and gunfire in the night. Shot through with dark humour and strange pathos, this is a novel of two friends who do bad things mostly for money, sometimes for fun, and the women they love.
|Publisher:||Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
From the Prologue:
The assertion is made that since Noah came out of the Ark, never have so many new and mysterious things been presented in a single evening’s performance as Houdini, the world famous magician and mystifyer will offer when he appears at the Princess Theatre for his engagement of one week beginning Monday evening. There will not be a dull moment in the whole entertainment, it is promised, and the mysteries will not only astonish and bewilder but they will enthuse as well, for the charm of newness applies to the entire programme.
Houdini’s production for his evening’s entertainment is something so new, so big, so compelling that one cannot possibly conceive in advance. It can truthfully be said that it is the most novel and wonderful entertainment ever presented within the realm of the theatre. It will sweep you off your feet and transport you to a land you never knew existed.
Montreal Herald, October 15, 1926
From Chapter One
Friday October 15, 1926
Jack was late. The silver hunter my father had given me was gone, pawned for fifty dollars a fortnight past, but the clock by the river read half past six. I fished into an inside coat pocket for my cigaret case, the next to go for the needful. Inside were three Forest and Streams. With a sparked vesta I lit one, smoked, waited, cursed Jack and his ways. A rat slouched along the stone walls by the pier. Porters sweated by. Stevedores pulled barrels down from loading cranes and trundled them about. River gulls circled and screamed over the septic stink. Ranked grain elevators nearly hid the tower clock; five more minutes passed. Five more after that’d be forty minutes I’d waited. Goddammit. With an invisible .22 I drew a bead on the rat’s head. Vermin were loaded with bacilli. No clean things around the harbour. My fingers dropped the smouldering fag end, adding it to the general filth. To my left a long freight train ground by, vomiting black coalsmoke from a bent funnel, the engine’s whistle howling agony. Automobiles in low gear whined and sounded their horns at slow horses straining at harness, dragging wagonloads uphill over cobblestones. Second-to-last cigaret. Let the matchwood burn to the quick and crush the charcoal under my boot. This is who I am. The sole still figure in the moil.
Jack had somehow found me at my digs. He’d left a telephone message with my bitch of a landlady. Whilst forking it over she’d given me the fish eye. I’d been skipping her revolting meals and walking the streets all hours, boring myself to death in the reading room of the Mechanics’ library, sneaking in after curfew only to slip back out before dawn. I was two weeks late on rent. Grudgingly she’d handed me Jack’s imperative only after I parted with my last ten dollars. She smelled money in his command, and the old baggage was probably correct. Jack always had the stuff or the wherewithal to get more. I counted on him.
Eastwards and directly towards me a steamer bore down, passing between the high cement uprights of the harbour bridge being built there by ants. Looked like an Empress, first link in the All-Red Route, SouthamptonMontreal. Filled, no doubt, with brainless debutantes returning from the season in London and presentation at court. Lucky girls were rogered by dukes in leafy bowers on spreading estates, the unfortunate given pitying notices in the society pages of the Star and wed off to dull bankers with patent-leather hair parted down the middle. The whole class was in thrall to our ostensible betters, the English. British garrisons had marched nearby on the Champ-de-Mars under the banner of St. George in golden days of yore. Even now the Union Jack did wave above us. Jack, damnation. Where the hell could he be? A Red Ensign flew at the ship’s stern as she loomed closer. The Empress of Scotland, r ed c hequerboard fl ag o f t he C anadian Pacific at her bridge. She drew alongside an enormous cold storage warehouse, a building filled with thousands of frozen carcasses of good Canadian meat ready to be shipped south and butchered in New York City, say, chewed over at Delmonico’s or some lousy speakeasy, mixed with rotgut and shat out through pipes into the Hudson, or the East. I toed a coil of ship’s rope and set flies buzzing. The sun was near gone now. Soon I’d turn around and return to the heart of the city I’d grown to hate worse than poison. As a rat slid into the river I picked it off between dead eyes. Had never shot a Siwash or a Hun. Draw the bolt and eject the spent cartridge. Smell burnt gunpowder.
And there: Jack. He was talking to a monkey in a gold-frogged velvet uniform down the end of the quay. Jack looked spruce as hell and wore a grey topcoat over a pearl-grey suit, hat pushed to the back of his head, hands in pockets, and an odd white stick in the crook of his arm. He said something and the monkey laughed. The pair looked up as the massive Empress drew by. Final rays of the setting sun shone off her spanking brasswork. Happy sailors waved to lubbers ashore. It seemed as though a horla looked at me from the crowd as the ship’s whistle sang out. I spied Jack handing the monkey something as they parted ways. He turned to see me standing in the corner underneath a rusted green plaque. Jack sauntered over, smiling. Inwise I seethed. He raised his chin and spoke.
“Nei hao ma, Mick.”
“You done look tore up now, lad.”
“I give a damn.”
“Faith be, son.”
There was that look in his eye I’d seen so often. A sort of secret amusement. I did as I always do: played mute and waited. All the something in the world.
“I owe you a drink,” he said.
“If you say.”
“And a square meal. Care for a stroll?”
“On the level?”
“Patience,” Jack said.