We are very happy to introduce Diana Brebner as our new First Novels' Editor. Diana is an Ottawa resident and graduate of the University of Ottawa, where she studied philosophy. Her poetry has appeared in such magazines as The Malahat Review, Event, Grain, The New Quarterly, and Poetry Canada. She has published three volumes of verse, including the award-winning Radiant Life Forms (1990) and The Golden Lotus (1993). She has also written reviews, literary essays, and short fiction, and performed with the trio, "Fearful Symmetry". Currently, she is working on another book of poetry and several fiction manuscripts.
Vancouver writer Joseph Ferone has written a novel that is recognizable as such with his tough, realistic murder-mystery, Boomboom (Bitterroot Press, 317 pages, $14.95 paper). Ferone has set this, the first of a series, in the rough-and-tumble downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Ferone's working knowledge of Vancouver's port area gives the story a gritty authenticity, but it is his humour and knack for punchy dialogue that moves his story along.
Ferone's unlikely hero is the hard-working, hard-drinking Romeo "Boomboom" Geffrion, a longshoreman whose haphazard life becomes complicated and endangered as a series of his acquaintances are murdered. All the evidence points towards the good-natured "Boomboom" as an increasingly bizarre and violent serial killer. The harder he tries to prove his innocence, the worse his situation becomes.
In a world of hookers and drug dealers, strip joints and back alley drunks, Boomboom becomes known as the dreaded "Beast", a projection of our worst nightmares and the convenient patsy for the real killer.
But there is another side to Ferone's Boomboom, a bittersweet hopefulness that makes the obvious comparisons with Hammett or Chandler inadequate. Balzac's naturalistic approach does come to mind, but there is one scene in particular that moved me to see the book in a different light.
The source of hope for Boomboom is a coffee shop waitress named Tammy. Despite the violence and turmoil that beset him, Tammy is genuinely attracted to Boomboom, and he begins to fantasize about a life with her and her daughter. As he runs from the police, he haunts the waterfront and, while watching boommen hooking up a load, he thinks of a life with Tammy: "He'd grind, haunt the hall. Save up for a downpayment for a house, even. Some little eastend bungalow close to the waterfront. A handyman special. He'd fix it up at night. Him and Tammy. Paint it. Do the things that normal people did. A little cottage with a garden and an appletree. And a cat, they'd get a cat. A little eastend eden."
Living off the fat of the land. Get a little place with an orchard, and a windmill, and pigs and chickens, and what about the rabbits, George, remember the rabbits. But the important thing to remember about that Steinbeckian world is the dead mouse in Lenny's pocket. There's no avoiding it. Ferone knows this, and his story of the tough world of the Vancouver waterfront is the better for it.