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Cataract City

by Craig Davidson

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literary, urban life, non-classifiable
list price: $22.00
also available: Hardcover
category: Fiction
published: 2014
publisher: Doubleday Canada
imprint: Vintage Canada
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Cataract City: Dark but Satisfying

This was a dark book. The kind of book that I had to put down sometimes before bed because it was bothering me too much. But in that way I know that it is good writing, because it really effects me.
The story is well told and relatable in many ways.
I would certainly recommend it.

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Some places you just can't leave. The specific gravity's too strong, keeps you locked in orbit. You've got to be launched out, like a circus performer from a cannon.
     Cataract City is a tourist town with an uncanny hold over those born within its borders, a place with more to it than first meets the eye: beyond the gaudy storefronts and sidewalk vendors, past the hawkers of tourist T-shirts and souvenirs, are the townspeople who toil at The Bisk, the local cookie factory. And behind that crumbling façade are the truly desperate: those drawn to gritty alleyways on both sides of the US-Canada border, inhabitants of a shadow world that runs on money exchanged over dog races, bare-knuckle brawls, and night-time smuggling.
     Owen Stuckey and Duncan Diggs are born and bred in Cataract City. They grow into men who dream of escape, a longing made more urgent by a traumatic childhood incident that cemented their friendship. But in adulthood, their paths diverge: Owen stays above the law, becoming a police officer, while Duncan sinks deep into the town's underworld. Inevitably, the two find themselves pitched against each other. At stake are not only survival and the possibility of escape, but their lifelong bond, which is once again tested against the haunting wilderness just outside city lines.

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Contributor notes

CRAIG DAVIDSON was born and grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. He has published five previous books of literary fiction, including Rust and Bone, which was the inspiration for a Golden Globe-nominated feature film of the same name; the Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated novel Cataract City; and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize finalist The Saturday Night Ghost Club. His bestselling memoir, Precious Cargo, about his year spent driving a school bus for children with special needs, was a finalist for Canada Reads. Davidson lives in Toronto, Canada.

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Editorial Review

LONGLIST - 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize

“Cataract City is a terrific book. . . . [Elmore] Leonard is a writer against whose work Cataract City may equitably be compared. . . . Davidson’s remarkable storytelling gifts are several. He solves, with a little information deftly supplied, the conundrum of a miscreant narrator eloquent beyond his station. And along with his own wonderful ability to capture just how insidiously factory jobs affect people, Davidson possesses a stealthy capacity for pace and plot exercised in a cinematic array of places. . . . We have, here, a superb, thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining novel that is, page by page, mostly riveting, its prose flawless and its observations acute and, often touchingly sympathetic, about far more than men’s violence. Davidson is a seriously talented writer with a proven pedigree.”
National Post

“Dark humour punctuates Cataract City, lifting the blood and guts and regret that permeate its pages into an elegy for lost dreams and innocence. . . .”
Toronto Star 

“Sharply written.”
Winnipeg Free Press
“Davidson is one of this country’s great kinetic writers. Whether his focus is on bare-knuckle boxing or the lithe grace of racing greyhounds tearing along a straightaway, Davidson’s stock-in-trade is describing bodies in motion. There is a brute physicality to his writing that immediately sets him apart from his CanLit peers, many of whom prefer rumination and stasis to vivid action. It is no accident that one of the words that reappears throughout Cataract City, peppering the prose like a syntactical signpost, is ‘torque’: This underscores the almost palpable energy with which the author infuses his writing.”
The Globe and Mail  
“Davidson balances his headlong plotting with fresh, poetic language and finds fascinating details in even the most morbid scenes. Moreover, his exploration of bromance, violence and thwarted dreams can be both bracing and poignant. . . .Davidson grabs readers in a chokehold and won’t let go.”
“He is a compelling storyteller . . . it will stay with you long after you put it down.”
The Financial Times (UK)

“Compelling and witty.”
The Chronicle Herald
“Craig Davidson’s superb storytelling skills, extreme plotlines, and unabashedly masculine take on human conflict have distinguished him from many of his literary contemporaries. He has also proved willing to freely borrow from such diverse genres as detective fiction, dark fantasy, and horror. These unconventional (at least in Canada) narrative and aesthetic strategies are given full rein in Davidson’s new novel, and to better effect than ever before.”
Quill and Quire

“Davidson rises to the challenge with some marvellous descriptions of the action. . . . Cataract City aspires beyond its gloomy, grudging setting to the state of literature.”
The Times (UK)

“This is a book with remarkable heart. The bonds between Owen and Duncan are explored with sensitivity and depth, and their symbiotic relationship is portrayed with an intelligence and complexity I’ve seldom encountered before.”
The Independent (UK)

“In the first few pages of Cataract City we are given not just the truth—or trueness—of the weight of a gun, but the Niagara basin, “black and snaky . . . littered with the bones of men and boys who’d pitted their weight against it”; the titular image of a cataract, broad smooth water breaking into violence; and the image of a city of optical cataracts, where everyone’s moral sight is failing.”
The Guardian

“The strengths of Cataract City steamroll over the speed bumps. Davidson is fearless in how he takes his set pieces to their logical extremes. . . .Best of all, Davidson consistently dazzles with his evocation of physicality and brute combat. . . .Read this book in proximity to Joseph Boyden’s blood-soaked The Orenda and you just might be ready to run into the drawing-room arms of Jane Austen for a gore-free change of pace.”
Montreal Gazette 

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