Thursday, August 8, 2013

Touring Toronto via story

The new book, Old Flames, Burned Hands, is the first novel set in my own hometown. I was reluctant to do this at first because I’m often conflicted about Toronto. I love and despise it with equal measure. Most days, it’s just a tedious bore with its never-ending condo construction, clogged streets and pathological need to pat itself on the back for being a ‘world class city’. And let’s not even mention our crack-smoking, drama-hungry mayor.

However, taking another look at this place through storytelling reminded me of all the weird, cool and interesting things I love about it. Working those elements into the story turned out to be a fun way to take a second look at uptight old Hogtown. So here's a weird tour of town by way of the story.

The main character, Tilda Parish is a musician and the story opens here at the El Mocambo. 

The story travels to other clubs too, like the Cameron House

Look closer and you can see the distinctive ants crawling up the building. 

And of course The Horseshoe:

I had meant for the 'Shoe to play a bigger part of the story because my wife worked here and we spent a lot of time seeing bands play. It's not the place where we first met but it's one of the places where I fell hard for her. Alas, it plays a bit part.

Cherry Street plays a significant part in Tilda's story. This is the bascule bridge over the ship channel where the car accident happens.

Cherry Street ends at Cherry Beach, a great spot to get away from the drone of the city. It's also infamous for something called the 'Cherry Beach Express'. According to local lore, this is where the cops take perps to meet out a little rough justice off the books. This is the spot where Tilda burns her guitar.

Trinity Bellwoods and Dufferin Grove are two huge parks where we take the kids. Bellwoods used to be kinda slummy but is now party-central for the 20-something hipster crowd.

Bellwoods is also the starting point for the zombie walk. The kids and I attended this amazing zombie wedding there in 2011.

Kensington Market is another key locale that Tilda frequents.

The market is adjacent to Chinatown. The alleys behind Chinatown is where Tilda's old flame calls home.

the Detour bar
inside The Boat
The Porthole is a fictional bar where Tilda plays her last show but it's a mash-up of the Detour on Baldwin and The Boat on Augusta Ave.

The University of Toronto (which is right downtown and kitty-corner to the market) figures into the climax. Sort of my alma. Sort of because I never graduated, just kinda goofed off then drifted away. It's a beautiful campus though... it has a network of old steam tunnels beneath it...

...and during the course of the story, Knox College goes up in flames.

Then there's this, the building in the roundabout at 1 Spadina Crescent. Worlds clash for our heroes on the rooftop of this gorgeous, soot-stained building.

Not only is this Gothic beauty part of the university but it also houses the Ontario division of the Eye Bank of Canada. Originally it was Knox College but later became barracks during WW1 and then a military hospital. Amelia Earhart worked here as a nurse's aide in 1918. A tragic history surrounds the place now after an art professor was stabbed to death here in 2001. The murder remains unsolved to this day. Eight years later, a woman who was reportedly 'ghost-hunting' in the building fell to her death from the rooftop.

I pass this building every day, often admiring its imposing facade as the road snakes around it. Funny the things you take for granted without ever seeing its true nature or history.

So, all of that brings us round to the new work. September 10 is the release date for....

Here's the hook: Struggling to balance an unstable music career with her obligations as a wife and mom, Tilda Parish’s life becomes  complicated by the mysterious return of an old boyfriend. One who died almost twenty years ago...

I'm giving away 6 paperback copies via Goodreads, You can enter here or click the button under the banner.

But if you have an ereader and ask really nicely, I'll happily send email you the ebook version.