All Hat by Brad Smith (Penguin), 320 pages, $32 cloth. Rating: NNN
Sometimes a little bit of distraction goes a long way. And what better time for it than during a brutal war? Brad Smith (One-Eyed Jacks) delivers the goods in All Hat, a hard-driving, over-the top tale of rape and revenge set inside Ontario's thoroughbred racing scene.
Ray Dokes is just out of prison, where he's served two years for beating up his sister's rapist, Sonny Stanton. A lot has changed in his old town, but one thing hasn't: wealthy bully Sonny is still stalking women, and threatening the neighbourhood, too, buying up land for his horseracing complex.
Ray can't resist thwarting the always dangerous Stanton, so he gathers a crowd of misfits to execute a preposterous scheme to put his enemy out of business.
Smith's characters in this crackling country noir are sharply drawn: Chrissie, the tough-as-nails jockey; Paulie, Sonny's downtrodden stable boy with the gift of a horse whisperer; Misty, the stripper who pays for saying no to Sonny; and, of course, Sonny himself, a monster worthy of your best hate-on.
All Hat is not deep but it sure as hell gallops along. And a good story is nothing to snort at.
Smith reads as part of the Pure Fiction event at Harbourfront Wednesday (April 9). See Readings, this page, for details.
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