CM Archive
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David Helwig.

Toronto, Stoddart Publishing, c1983.
Distributed by General.
230pp, cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 0-7737-2010-3.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Joan VanSickle.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

Helwig's third Kingston novel is a light adventure of petty crime and deceit. The characters are from a social cross-section typical of Kingston, where the proximity of the prisons to the professions and the university produce surprising alliances.

Representing oddly-blended groups, the main characters consist of a university administrative assistant partnered with a mediocre music professor, a student who longs for the respectability of law school (at any price), and an ex-con whose wish to steer clear of prison is based more on his wish to avoid inconvenience than it is a testament to the success of any rehabilitation program.

Circumstances of a professional, financial, and personal nature place these people in positions whereby their survival depends on fighting the system. The novel's conflict comes from the fact that when they are backed into various social corners, these people fight without rules. The first half of the book gives the reader an impression of both the seamy and tastefully established fronts of Kingston's society. The smallness of the city accounts for the collisions and affiliations among different social types, and the reader's sympathy for the characters' problems is invoked in context.

However, the events that follow the major climactic turn expose the characters' primitive and ignoble sides. The little tricks and games they have been playing, small crimes in themselves, have destroyed their hopes for future respectability. The administrative assistant exploits her privileges shamelessly; the student's insatiable ambition builds for her a background that will disqualify her from the law career she seeks, and the ex-con finds that casual association with the hardened criminal element means bigger trouble than he is prepared to become involved in. All the characters who breach the ethical and legal rules learn that their irresponsibility has cemented them just outside of the bounds of respectable society.

The book is sophisticated and contains some explicit passages. It is to be recommended to senior students as an example of modern literature in a Canadian setting. It is tight, well-structured, and relevant. Helwig makes his point without preaching and gives the reader the opportunity to interpret the motives and actions of the main characters on a broad scale.

Joan VanSickle Heaton, Sydenham H. S., Sydenham, ON.
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