28 November 2014

Judging Covers

Any magazine that looks like that has got to be great. The new Canadian Notes & Queries – number 91 – is just that. Between Seth's wrap-around cover you'll find contributions by Kamal Al-Solaylee, Donald A. Bailey, Emily Donaldson, Stephen Fowler, Keath Fraser, Michael Harris, Finn Harvor, Jesse Jacobs, John Miller, Anakana Schofield, Derek Sharpton, Leanne Sharpton, Tom Smart, Meaghan Strimas, Bruce Whiteman and Nathan Whitlock.

This issue's collectable takes the form of an excerpt from David Constantine's forthcoming novel In Another Country. A limited edition, numbered chapbook, it's available to subscribers only. So, subscribe already.

My contribution looks at the career of Montreal's Ronald J. Cooke, a man remembered (not really) for the 1949 novel The House on Craig Street. Harlequin's seventh book, its sales prompted News Stand Library to produce an edition for the American market.

Both covers are by D. Rickard. Aren't they swell?

An industrious writer, Cooke was quick with a second novel, The Mayor of Côte St. Paul (1950), but it didn't do nearly as well. He spent the remainder of his career publishing industry magazines and booklets with titles like How to Clip Newspaper Articles for Big Profits. Each indistinct in their own way,  the literary historian finds relief in The House on Dorchester Street (1979), a late third novel that tries to capture something of past success.

It failed.

One can find fault with publisher Vesta's shoddy production values, but blame really belongs to Cooke himself. The House on Dorchester Street is both horrible and forgettable; in this way, it marks a significant departure for Cooke as a novelist. The House on Craig Street is a bad piece of writing, but lingers in one's memory. The Mayor of Côte St. Paul, though only slightly better, has elements so interesting and strange – rumrunning, stalking, drowning, death by darts and Lunenburg lingerie – that I've encouraged its reissue as part of the Ricochet Books series.

Look for it early in the New Year.

I think the cover is swell.

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