Thursday, March 12, 2009

Extra time in Toronto, extra crime fiction

(From left: Sean Chercover, Peter "Deadbeard" Rozovsky, Howard Shrier)

My plane never made it off the ground, thanks to bad weather in my destination of Philadelphia, so I headed back into town to buy more crime fiction and Montreal-style bagels. Today's crime books come from England, Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands.

On my way back to Sleuth of Baker Street, I saw a fellow passenger on the bus reading Howard Shrier's Buffalo Jump. She was reading the novel for a crime-fiction book group, and she also told me about a local university detective-fiction course that she said had been taught by Peter Robinson, among others.

"You should read this McFetridge guy, too," I said. "And this Sean Chercover guy, and this international crime-fiction blog, for which I just happen to have a business card right here."

Are crime-fiction sirens calling me to Toronto?

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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44 Comments:

Blogger seanag said...

Could be, Peter, and not the kind where you have to tie yourself to the mast of the ship and attempt to ignore them, either...

Crime-fiction book group? Sounds a little too good to be true.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

seanag, he met a girl, after all.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This city's growing; Philadelphia is shrinking. I know people here. I have networked. It's cleaner, more polite, full of crime writers. It has a crime-fiction bookstore and Montreal-style bagels. Hmm.

That book group consists of women who met in a detective-fiction course and "bonded." They've been meeting for six years. I'm sure you'd be welcome to attend if you lived up here.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No, meeting the girl happens after I move up here.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

All Montrealers resist moving to Toronto, Peter. Eventually we give in to the inevitable...

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter what is a Montreal-style bagel? Does it still have a hole in the middle?

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dommage, John. But at least Montrealers have shown Toronto what real bagels are.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Uriah, the holes are where anyone could find them.

Montreal bagels are smaller than what Americans call bagels, and they're also doughier and a bit sweeter.

They are prepared with ingredients that include water, oil and maybe butter, and no shortening (this from a newspaper article about bagels that was posted in The Bagel House in Toronto).

I think they're better than any other kind, but the main thing is that they're discernibly different.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

This is fascinating to me. The NYT had an article a few years ago about how bagels had gotten bigger and airer (and less good) over the years. So what you're saying is that the local bagels are slightly more old fashioned, smaller, but also more authentic?

I'm also curious, if they are smaller wouldn't that also make them denser and chewier? How does that gel with what you said about doughier? Dense is a good thing in my book BTW.


The local kosher baker here in Melbourne is a man called Glick who's been foisting fraudulent bagels on the population here for decades. His "bagels" are baked rolls with a hole in the middle of them. Mr Glick's challah bread is outstanding but his bagels are an outrage to all right thinking people.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I may be guilty of imprecision. By doughier, I meant to convey Montreal-bagels' greater density.

I'd be interested in that article about the degeneration of the bagel. I'd always assumed that the denser, smaller, chewier, slightly sweeter Montreal product was one thing, and the New York-style glorified roll another. It had not occurred to me that New York and other bagels might be degenerations of a common prototype to which Montreal-style bagels have remained faithful. If that is the case, several Montreal bagel bakeries deserve to be UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Bagels are more than just bread formed into a torus. Your Mr. Glick ought to visit Montreal or some of its outposts in Toronto.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Only on Detectives Beyond Borders could a man called McKinty complain about the local bagels and praise challah. Good on yer Adrian and your mention of challah bread reminded me of the time when a friend spent 10 minutes explaining to a local baker in deepest Devon what a challah was. Then the baker smiled and said "actually I used to work at Grodzinskis in Golders Green".

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If I can say "gobshite" and call someone a big ganch, Adrian McKinty can hold forth on challah -- especially since I know some of his wife's Yiddish professors.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Uriah, I forgot to mention that the Bagel House in Toronto, where I ate Montreal-style bagels this week, is run by Indians who got their start working in Montreal's Jewish-run bagel meccas.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I won't presume to weigh in on bagels--although there are at least two distinct styles in Santa Cruz, both of which have their proponents-- but I do wonder in earnest if you should give Toronto some serious thought, Peter. Of course all I really know about it is from John McFetridge's Dirty Sweet, which would perhaps not be the best indicator as it sort of about the underbelly. But even from that you get the sense of it being an up and coming sort of place, with many possibilities.

I suppose it all depends on how attached you've become to Philadelphia. It is, if nothing else, the home of the Liberty Bell and the Peter Pancake. Though I suppose your reputation would live on without you...

I do somehow see that chance encounter on the bus as a helpful sign. But of course, it's yours to interpret.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Funny you should say that. I don't remember if I said so to John this week, but I wanted to tell him that even the crime that he writes about is a sign that Toronto is a growing, vital city.

How attached am I to Philadelphia? Somewhat less than W.C. Fields was.

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

How would you describe los bagels Santa Cruzeros?

March 12, 2009  
Blogger Sean Chercover said...

Montreal bagels rule. No contest. Toronto bagels aren't even bagels; they're just bread in the shape of a bagel.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

You're going to make me look that Fields quote up, aren't you?

For years and years, The Bagelry was the only Santa Cruz bagel place. I think it would qualify in the doughier or denser category. But then a few years ago, Noah's Bagels, which is a chain that originally started in Emeryville, outside of Oakland, came into town, proclaiming a purer, more New York style bagel. Both are popular. I think I prefer the Bagelry still, but Noah is better on the salmon, whitefish side. Plus, it's right across the street from where I work...

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"You're going to make me look that Fields quote up, aren't you?"

No, I'm not.

The Bagelry sounds closer to Montreal style.

Montreal-style bagels have diversified their adornments with the times. When I was young, they were available in two models: coated with sesame seeds or poppy seeds. I still remember the time not so many years ago when I brought my mother her first garlic bagel.

Her reaction?: "Delicious."

I don't remember ever eating whitefish salad on a bagel until after I left Montreal. The traditional additions were cream cheese, butter or lox. So leave it to Americans to come up with the fancy garnished and coatings -- the bells and whistles, if you like. But the bagel itself in its highest form is a Montreal thing all the way.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sean, did Toronto even dare to sell anything calling itself a bagel before ex-Montrealers brought real bagels to town?

And congratulations on winning this. That's a nice-looking skull.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Wow. Congratulations, Sean!Nice skull!

Peter, I cannot say where all the accoutrements come from. But I'm thinking I'll have a bagel and whitefish for lunch tomorrow.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I too have tried the famous Saint Viateur bagels of Montreal. In fact in a bizarre "coals to Newcastle" moment I once brought a box to NYC on the train. And yes they are damned good.

BTW when I was there somewhat confusingly it wasn't called St Viateur bagels. The sign said something else entirely which fooled me for a bit.

If I had to make a list of the worst abd best bagels I'd ever had I'd say:

Best:

1. Saint Viateur
2. Zabars, Upper West Side
3. Fairway, Harlem

Worst:

1. Glicks of Melbourne
2. Einstein Brothers of Denver
3. Safeway Bakery Bagels

March 13, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Bagel and whitefish - otherwise known as the Larry David.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Oh, and I liked the second quote on that Fields link the most, for some reason. Even though it wasn't witty.

Adrian,

If I had to make a list...

Right. Like anyone needed to twist your arm to make a list.

My brother-in-law somehow managed to have Zabar's bagels shipped to California, which is the only reason I can say I have had anything like the experience.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I'm casting my memory backward, trying to remember my first encounter with whitefish salad. I certainly don't remember eating it regularly with bagels until I moved to the U.S.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"I too have tried the famous Saint Viateur bagels of Montreal. In fact in a bizarre "coals to Newcastle" moment I once brought a box to NYC on the train. And yes they are damned good."

A chauvinistic soul might suggest that taking Montreal bagels to New York was more like giving eyesight to the blind. But I understand what you mean.

The thing to understand about Montreal bagels, though, is that the Montreal style is characteristic of bagels available throughout the city, not just at St. Viateur.

I haven't tried Zabar's or Fairway, but I did make a special visit to H&H, around the West 80s, I think, because its bagels enjoyed a high reputation. There was nothing wrong with them, but they were not Montreal bagels.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I first got into bagels and whitefish in Boston.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana if this is an accurate quotation -- "Goddamn the whole friggin' world but you, Carlotta!" -- it's a classic. It lends itself so well to surreal irrelevance that I'm surprised I had not heard it before.

I visited Zabar's at least once, when I got hoodwinked into shopping for supplies for my own surprise birthday party.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Yes, a bit like Countess Marie d'Agoult I do love a list.

Peter

H&H aint bad with lox and cream cheese. You know what though, this could be my imagination (and this is highly counter intuitive) I think they're better on the Upper East Side.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, Seana

Way out of context and with almost no hope of being understood my wife still uses the expression "She/he looked like a lox in Zabars" but which I believe she means stupefied or dazed.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"H&H aint bad with lox and cream cheese."

Montreal bagels are delicious with either, both or butter. But they're so good that no additions are necessary.

Montreal bagels: You can eat them naked.

"Yes, a bit like Countess Marie d'Agoult I do love a list."

Wouldn't be surprised to see that one turn up as a post heading on Declan's blog one day.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Way out of context and with almost no hope of being understood my wife still uses the expression "She/he looked like a lox in Zabars" but which I believe she means stupefied or dazed."

I was going to ask where your wife was from, but I guess it doesn't matter. She certainly would have spenf enough time on the Upper West Side to be familiar with Zabar's. In any case, that's a gorgeous expression. I'll try to remember to use it some time.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Well, being understood is overrated. I say things for my own amusement all the time. And from evidence in this blog alone, I think both of you, Peter and Adrian, are guilty of the same crime.

But maybe your wife just means that someone looked good enough to eat. If she ever said it about Brad Pitt, I think you have the answer.

I am going to try to work the Carlotta quote into the conversation around me sometime soon. I think it will be more effective if I do it right before I pass out in a bar or something. It would probably help if there were someone named Carlotta around. But not wholly necessary.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Okay, I had to look up the good Comtesse, as I have never heard of her. Looking through the Wikipedia article just now, thinking "Where's the list? Where's the list?"

If I'd said it aloud, it would have come to me quicker.

I offer no aid to anyone reading through here. Retrace my steps.

"Goddamn the whole friggin' world but you, Carlotta!"

There. I feel better now. I'm going to bed.

v word=abliti, a dyslexic word for 'talent'.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

She and Franz had three children, I read. Perhaps her cries of joy after each inspired Gilbert and Sullivan to write "I've Got a Little Lizst."

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Actually, "abiliti" sounds like the trade name of an anti-depressant.

I think I like "Goddamn the whole friggin' world but you, Carlotta!" for some of the same reasons I like "And Bob's your uncle!"

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, was the future Cosima Wagner one of those three little Lizsts?

March 13, 2009  
Blogger marco said...

It is a terrible pun all right, but can't touch "We'll always have parricide".

March 13, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Marco

Well for a bad fictional movie title its ok but I nicked it from a book with the superior and wonderful title "We'll Always Have Parrots" - a punning classic that made my heart leap with joy.

BTW when vampires fall in love is it the beginning of a beautiful fiendship?

If Declan Burke wouldnt clean up every year there should be some sort of punning olympics like the Bulwer Lytton competition.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Sean Chercover said...

Thanks for the congrats, Peter. I'm thrilled.

Yes, there is such a thing as a Toronto bagel. There are maybe a dozen (if that many) places in Toronto that sell Montreal bagels. Everywhere else, they sell some bread product that resembles a bloated bagel but tastes not at all like a bagel and lacks the bagely texture of the splendid creations from Montreal.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thumbs up to "parricide" and "parrots.' My heart, too, would leap up at the latter.

A Bulwer-Lytton entry in the mystery category one recent year was brilliantly funny. Let me go see if I can find it.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, Montreal bagels: The choice of discriminating crime writers everywhere.

And thanks for that lesson in bagel sociology and history.

March 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, here it is:

"I'd been tailing this guy for over an hour while he tried every trick in the book to lose me: going down side streets, doubling back, suddenly veering into shop doorways, jumping out again, crossing the street, looking for somewhere to make the drop, and I was going to be there when he did it because his disguise as a postman didn't have me fooled for a minute."

-- Bob Millar, Hässelby, Sweden

March 13, 2009  
Anonymous Private Investigators said...

Montreal bagels rules!!!

March 13, 2009  

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