A few weeks ago I wrote about the Montreal-set crime novel The Main by Trevanian for Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books. I was interested in it because a few weeks earlier Gerard Saylor had written (actually talked about in a YouTube clip) the books City of Ice and Ice Lake, a couple of Montreal-set crime novels by John Farrow (the pen name of Trevor Ferguson).
What I noticed about all three of those books is that they are set in the winter and there’s a lot of complaining about the cold. Well, I grew up in Montreal and there’s no doubt it’s cold in the winter.
But it’s really hot and unbearably humid in the summer.
And now a small press, Vehicule, has reissued a couple of Montreal-set private eye novels written in the early 50’s by David Montrose (Charles Ross Graham) and the first one, The Crime on Cote Des Neiges, takes place in August and there’s a lot of complaining about the oppessive heat:
“I couldn’t sleep.
“Maybe because of the heat. It was hotter than hell. It was hotter than a fundamentalist thinks hell is. It was hotter than it had ever been before anywhere else in the world. It was almost as hot as it had been in Montreal last August.”
I can safely say that Montreal is that hot in August.
But I wonder why the summer heat doesn’t seem to be what books set in the city now feature? I wonder if David Montrose was writing with the idea that the readers knew the city and that more recent books have been written with an eye to a much larger market (really here we Canadians mean the US market) that doesn’t know the city that well?
When we choose a setting to write about do we just naturally use the features most well-known outside of that setting?
The first fiction I wrote set in Montreal (well, outside of a private eye novel I wrote in the early 80’s that’s safely stored in my basement in a locked safe) used the fact that Jackie Robinson played his first year of otherwise all-white baseball for the Montreal Royals in 1946 – the year before he joined the Dodgers.
But that may be something about Montreal that’s not nearly as well-known outside the city as I thought it was.
Anyway, my story Barbotte has been online for a while and it takes place in the summer in Montreal.