The City Man


Author: Howard Akler

Published: 2005

About The City Man: In 1934, a reporter ventures into the world of Toronto's pickpockets.

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Review of The City Man

It's 1934, the Great Depression, and Toronto is crawling with pickpockets. Mona Kantor is one of them and she and her partner work Union Station daily.

Each minute this morning hangs perilously, like long cigarette ash. She flicks her wrist. Grey flakes fall onto the grey marble floor. All around her is the click-click of shoes and dollied steamer trunks that rumble in the rotunda of the Great Hall. Her eyes are steady. Watching intently the line of suckers at the ticket window and the bills that emerge one by one from their pockets. The first is a fiver, the next two are singles. She smiles. Sees clearly now the corner of a ten-dollar bill and leans forward, budging the moment when they will begin to head her way. She takes another drag. Tendrils of smoke curl around her hand.

Here they come.

...from page 9

When plans are announced for the city's 100th birthday, Mona and her partner see an opportunity. Their activities do not go unnoticed, however, and a reporter, Eli Morenz, is told to get the story.

Akler's descriptions of the techniques used by pickpockets made them seem more like a form of art, a dance, than a crime. Along with those techniques, he introduced all sorts of unfamiliar terms. Common enough words such as whiz, stall, cannon, and office, but they were used in an unusual context and without a lot of explanation. Fortunately, there was a rhythm to the story and to the dialogue and I didn't have to work to find it. It was just there and everything made sense.

The main characters, Mona and Eli, were complicated and interesting, and the setting was clear. What impressed me most about all of these things was that Akler conveyed them with a minimum of words. No pages and pages of description here.

This was a really fast read. Short with lots of dialogue but, more importantly, it was fascinating. I had a hard time putting it down and if I had started it earlier in the day instead of right before bed, I probably would have read it all the way through in one sitting.

As an aside, I love the paper Coach House uses in their books. The weight and the texture make the book feel more substantial to me and I really like that.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 11 August 2010.

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More Reviews

Electric Pages, 8 May 2007
"though the author can research and turn the odd phrase, there isn't any storytelling going on, the characters don't even have the substance of cardboard cut-outs."
Domenic Beneventi, Canadian Literature, Summer 2009
"But that is not to suggest that Akler is not deft, and even graceful, in his ability to move the narrative along through precise and artful turns of phrase"
Deanna McFadden, My Tragic Right Hip, 26 January 2011
"I mean, sure, the atmosphere is effective, the story sharp, but he writes clean, clean, clean prose – and I admire that among all else."


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Added 12 August 2010.
Updated 24 August 2013.