A review of my novel Swap that was first published in the London Free Press (that's London, Ontario) has been picked up by the Sun newspapers in Canada and ran in the Toronto Sun a couple of days ago.

The book will be published in the USA by St. Marins Press in February with the title, Let It Ride. My editor, the terrific John Schoenfelder, has left St. Martins to start up the new crime imprint at Little Brown, so I don't really know what will happen in the new year. Though this is nothing new for me. A couple months before my last book, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, was published in the USA in 2008 by Harcourt they merged with Houghton Miflin and my editor, the terrific Stacia Decker, was let go (I have fantastic luck with editors, not so great with publishers).

Anyway, here's the review:

Now and then literary critics — and even some writers — lament that Canada, and specifically Toronto, lacks great fictional explorations of big-city life.

Evidently they’re not looking at crime fiction when they’re working up their complaints — and they’re certainly not taking John McFetridge into account.

In just three novels — his first two were Dirty Sweet and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere -- McFetridge has demonstrated gifts that put him in Elmore Leonard territory as a writer, and make Toronto as gritty and fascinating as Leonard’s Detroit.

Possibly what the critics think they’re missing are novels about hopeful artists living in above-store apartments who spend their evenings cruising the social hotspots of Queen Street West culture.

They, however, happen to be among those sideswiped in McFetridge’s new Swap — quietly poked fun at, along with executives who buy leather jackets and Harleys and masquerade as tough guys on weekends.

The Toronto that stars in Swap is a genuinely tough place, where old mobsters try to either fight off or acquiesce to the takeovers of their criminal pursuits by biker gangs, and cops wearily and doggedly, with and without the aid of cynicism, hope and booze, pursue the murders and drug deals that ensue.

The first victims in Swap are among the few more-or-less innocents in the novel — a Mississauga couple headed home from a night downtown, both shot in their car on an expressway on-ramp, providing an initial puzzle for homicide cops Andre Price and Maureen McKeon.

Headed into town from Detroit, meanwhile, is former U.S. armed forces Sgt. Vernard McGetty — known as Get — who signed up for duty in Afghanistan in order to cultivate a prime drug supply for his mother and uncle who run the family drug trade back home.

He’s looking to trade drugs for guns in Toronto, hooking up when he hits town with members of the Saints of Hell. The motorcycle gang has recently made a co-existence deal with the head of the local Mafia family, and unified biker activities across the country under its own colours.

There are still a few holdouts on both sides of the mobster-biker agreement, and death is bound to follow — including the out-of-town slaughter of eight recalcitrant bikers whose bodies get stuffed into car trunks and towtrucks, an event that may ring readers’ bells.

McFetridge keeps a tight and sprightly grip on a big cast of people, weaving a whole lot of operations around, under and above each other through the streets of Toronto. His excellent underbelly includes a trio of women robbers, a sex trade worker or two up to more than the usual tricks, and some major examples of criminal uses of capitalist techniques.

Every character and conversation he creates is vivid, lively and often highly amusing, but for all their jauntiness of style, his most alert people are aware that one way or another, they could be gone in a minute.

McFetridge, by contrast, should be around for a long time. He’s a class act, and he’s creating fictional classics — maybe even that great urban literature of Toronto the critics now and then long for.

From The Toronto Sun.

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Comment by I. J. Parker on January 1, 2010 at 4:52am
Excellent! And how lucky that papers pick up other reviews. Such a thing has never happened to me.
Comment by Grant McKenzie on January 1, 2010 at 3:55am
Great stuff, John. You certainly deserve the praise.
Comment by Dana King on January 1, 2010 at 3:51am
Hard to get a better review than that. I'm looking forward to the release here in Baja Canada.
Comment by Jon Loomis on January 1, 2010 at 2:36am
Very nice, John. Congratulations.
Comment by J. F. Juzwik on January 1, 2010 at 1:42am
What a fantastic review, and wonderful way to see out the old and ring in the new! Congratulations, John, and have a very Happy and successful New Year!

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