15 August 2016

Ricochet and the Charles Ross Graham Mystery

The tenth Ricochet Books title is back from the printers and is now on its way to better bookstores. Given the series' raison d'être, it is appropriate that Gambling with Fire by David Montrose was chosen to be that title. After all, Ricochet began with the author's 1950 debut, The Crime on Cote des Neiges; Montrose's Murder Over Dorval and The Body on Mount Royal were books two and three.

Gambling with Fire is the author's laggardly fourth novel. Published in 1969, seventeen years after the last, it holds distinction as his only hardcover. There was no paperback edition... until now.

Gambling with Fire stands apart from the rest in other ways. For example, it is the only Montrose novel not to feature private detective Russell Teed.

And then there's the little thing about the author's death.

Montrose – real name: Charles Ross Graham – died when Gambling with Fire was at press. He never held a copy.

In the Introduction to the Ricochet reissue, John McFetridge presents a compelling case that Gambling with Fire isn't Montrose's fourth novel, rather that it was written before the others. Will we ever know, I wonder.

At the risk of being a big head, I find it astonishing that no one who knew Charles Ross Graham has been in contact. In the seven years since The Dusty Bookcase began, I've heard from Diane Bataille's nephew, Horace Brown's daughter, Lillian Vaux MacKinnon's granddaughter, Ronald J. Cooke's grandson, Danny Halperin's son, and the daughters-in-law of Leo Orenstein and Harold S. Wood. It was through an email from Nancy Vichert, daughter of James Benson Nablo, that we were able to republish his lone novel, The Long Novemberas a Ricochet title.

Charles Ross Graham spent nearly his entire adult life in Montreal, and yet not a single writer I know who was working in the city at the time remembers the man. And so, both pleased and proud as I am in having returned Gambling with Fire to print, I must cast a line:

Anyone out there?


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