Review Time: Crack Town, I mean…Crazy Town by Robyn Doolittle

There’s something really special about reading a book set in a location you’ve been to. You can picture these things happening so much more vividly, and getting into the story has a whole other level to it. Now that I’ve travelled a little bit, I get a nerdy thrill out of reading books set in London or Paris or Rome, and so many good books are! Living in Toronto, I should probably start seeking out books set here, as I hear people talk about local authors all the time (suggestions welcome!).

With that in mind, I was excited to read Robyn Doolittles’ “Crazy Town”. I figured that as well as being a journalistic look at our citys’ mayoral…situation, it would be a really neat look at Toronto politics in general and maybe my neighborhood in particular. You see, I live around the corner from the Ford matriarch and right in the middle of the world outlined in the book. So I got to read about deals being made with gun-runners in the local country style donuts*, and the “Dixon City Bloods”, my friendly neighborhood gang.

*I did always wonder why that donut shop never actually had any donuts…

The book was really good, but reading about North Etobicoke, apparently also called “Little Mogadishu”, didn’t give me the same feeling as reading about museums in Paris or the streets of London…

It made me want to move.

However, I did enjoy the book. For those of you who don’t know, Robyn Doolittle is the Toronto Star reporter who first broke the Rob Ford crack scandal or “Crackgate”, as the media likes to call it. Doolittle is one of only a select few people to have seen the notorious crack-smoking video and has been following the story ever since. This book is not only the story of the scandal that should have finally taken down that wife-beating, heavy-drinking, program-slicing clown**, but she delves into Fords’ entire career and the history of the Ford family in Toronto.

**For those of you about to email me angrily, telling me about how Rob Ford has kept all his promises as mayor and my pinko friends and I need to lay off him: I see your subway digging and tax cuts and raise you reduction of public programs and library hours and personal misuse of publicly-owned services. Oh, and worldwide embarrassment, association with known gun-runners and support of the drug industry. Your move.

If you followed the news closely, this book may not hold any new revelations for you, but Doolittle does take all of the recent happenings and puts it all into context using the Ford family history and little-known facts about Rob in particular. This is very clearly a reporters book; even-handed, thoroughly researched and written very plainly. No flowery prose here, just the facts. Doolittle does speculate on the upcoming mayoral election, explaining how, despite being a disaster of a human being, Ford might actually win re-election (I swear, I’ll move).  If I have one critique of this book, it would be that it seems to be a little hastily put together, with some typos. Not the end of the world and I suppose understandable as these sorts of books need to be released inside of the time frame of their relevance. (And I guess I’m in no position to say anything about other peoples’ typos…)

Overall though, this book was an informative and interesting read. It was a concise re-telling of the Toronto mayoral quagmire, a revealing look at a surprisingly influential family and an unexpectedly interesting insight into municipal politics and journalism at a big-city paper.

A little note for any Toronto readers I might reach with this review: please cast an informed vote this October. And keep in mind that although the personal life of an elected politician is not necessarily a basis on which to cast a vote, everyone comes to work with their personal life in tow. And if that personal life includes getting so drunk that you thought trying crack cocaine with your gun-runner friends wasn’t the worst idea ever, that will impact the Mayors work. The Mayors work impacts your day to day life. Think about it.




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