26 January 2011


There's no question that Al Palmer's Montreal Confidential (1949) was inspired by New York: Confidential! (1947), but who would've expected the ugly accusation of plagiarism? And yet, here it is, as reported by gossip columnist Fitz (Gerald FitzGerald) in the 14 October 1950 edition of The Gazette:

Combing through both books, I find the charge to be entirely unfounded. I add that no two chapters share the same title, though I did come across this:

Someone get on the phone to Gads Hill Place.

Palmer had no need of Lait and Mortimer; he was much more the wordsmith than either New Yorker. William Weintraub recognizes as much in his forward to the recent Véhicule Press edition: "Al is not content to simply talk about attractive women walking down the Street; for him they are 'local lovelies ankling along.'" Beer is "stupor suds", loose women are "trampettes" – and just look at these Montreal Confidential chapter titles:
The Scrambled-Eared Gentry
The Broken Leg Brigade
Caprice Chinois
Characters, Characters – Never Any Normal People
The Younger Degeneration
Any words lifted from Lait and Mortimer's books come from the cover of their follow-up, Chicago Confidential, which appeared at newsstands just a few months before Montreal Confidential. "The low-down on the big town!" says one; "The Low Down on the Big Town!" says the other. Did the pair even write this cover copy? Did Palmer write his? Never mind – no one bothered to trademark the phrase.

I expect that what upset the New Yorkers was the idea of someone honing in on what they believed to be a borderless franchise – one that exhausted itself well before the 1954 death of Jack Lait.

Palmer wrote no follow-up to Montreal Confidential. Given his ill-feelings about Hogtown and its inhabitants, Toronto Confidential was out of the question.

And Ottawa Confidential? Well, that just sounds silly. Even today.

Your morning smile: This small piece on an A.J. Cronin impersonator – I kid you not – from the very same column:

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