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Coming Soon on Run Amok Crime

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Vern Smith’s Scratching the Flint puts here and now into proper historical context by examining the lowest common denominators of policing. It’s the story of how conflicts of interest, casual racism, petty dissention, gatekeeping, and the slow death of real information came to destabilize North American law enforcement, and, in turn, society. For comic relief, Smith provides absurdities of the same.

Set in pre-9/11 Toronto, this detective noir takes place over twelve days during the spring of 2001. Smith’s two-tone anti-fraud team of Alex Johnson and Cecil Bolan—who shortlisted at the Arthur Ellis Awards with The Gimmick—are back in their first full-length novel to investigate a vintage car theft ring à la MacGyver. When witnesses end up mocked and murdered, proof becomes a relative term to Cecil. Racked with guilt while the system sputters, he covertly assumes the role of not just investigating officer but also that of crown attorney, judge, and executioner, driving the case to a conclusion as brutal as the future.

In doing so, Smith’s novel considers how factors of institutional failure led to the end of the pre-9/11 world, shedding light on how we got here from there. In other words, contemporary leadership hasn’t helped, but it would be short-sighted to think the roots of our problems are an election or two old. That’s where Scratching the Flint comes in.