Roger Bushman
Created by Byron Rempel

"Meanwhile, I, Roger Bushman, recently escaped from Prairie purgatory, defined only by name, goodteeth and the clothes on my back, submerged myself in this new city. There were so many intrigues to discover, joys to roll in, pains to ignore, lives to devour, that time just kept ebbing and flowing like a forever tide, and I plunged in over my head, unthinking, uncaring, unfettered. So when the timely package arrived in the mail from Mystery Private Investigation Academy, promising nothing less than my current lifestyle with monetary rewards, nobody was more beguiled than I. Especially when they offered to send my own personal badge."

And so ROGER BUSHMAN, a horny prairie boy who finds himself a long way from home, down but not quite out, footloose and fancy free among the neo-bohemians and oh-so-trendies of Montreal's hip Le Plateau district, becomes a detective. He's soon stumbling along the trail of a stolen painting, mixing it up with an activist group whose initial's are CAACA (don't ask), a megalomaniac artist and a mysterious, sultry art dealer, Mathilde, in Byron Rempel's 1997 novel, True Detective. Unfortunately, most clues seem to lead to Roger having sex, or thinking about the sex he didn't get.

I really wanted to like this book, but I spent a lot of the time wishing someone would give Roger a swift kick. Picture Letters to Penthouse Forum via an adolescent Raymond Chandler, or Holden Caufield trying to be Mike Hammer.

Rempel captures a lot of the charm of Montreal, and some of his characters are a real hoot, particularly his buddy, the cryptic and always-skeptical Reefer Jones, but in the end, this is less a detective novel than a sort of belated coming-of-age novel, about a detective wannabe who should have grown up long ago. True Detective? Faux Detective might have been more appropriate.

Reviews were mixed. "A succession of juvenile wanker fantasies" is how Lyle Stewart of Hour, a Montreal alternative, put it. "There is a great novel waiting to be set in this weird neighbourhood-cum-counter-culture. Unfortunately, True Detective rings true only if life here is a cartoon of wet dreams."

And Quill and Quire, aiming considerably higher, considered the novel a cross between Henry Miller and Douglas Coupland. "Rempel handles the cultural baggage (of Gen X) with aplomb, making pointed reference to the travails of a generation that longs for the heady excitement and idealism of the past but understands it no better than a Humphrey Bogart drawl."

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Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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