Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Non-Fiction: Iced: The Story of Organized Crime in Canada by Stephen Schneider

On the world stage, Canada has a certain reputation. In general, Canadians are known to be quiet, self-effacing and the country itself is often seen as a vast, pastoral wasteland, but for the six months in winter when the country is covered in snow.

The reality, of course, is different. But just how different is it? Maybe we’ve never come closer to knowing than we can with Iced: The Story of Organized Crime in Canada (Wiley).

Well-researched and skillfully put together, Iced is an even better book than one might at first think. Author Stephen Schneider is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Because of these deep and real creds, I anticipated that Iced would be dry and textbookish, an idea helped by the fact that publisher John Wiley & Sons does have a textbook division. But while I imagine Iced may well function in that capacity at some point, lay people with an interest in this topic will find much here to enjoy. It’s easy to feel confident that Schneider has done his homework, but he never leaves his reader feeling as though they’d just like their six hours back. This is no doubt due Schneider’s skill, but the material here is just terrific.

Though some aspects are well worn and widely known -- the role Canada played during the United States’ Prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s, for instance -- much, much more of this material will be unfamiliar to most Canadians. From pirates operating off Canada’s east coast in the 17th century, to the contemporary gang violence that over the last two decades has accelerated to its highest point in history.

All the way through there are interestingly told anecdotes and careful documentation and, especially in the case of contemporary incidents, well considered ideas on what should be done and what isn’t being done and what needs to be done if only certain politicians would rise off their hineys.

Iced is a very good book. Readers with an interest in these topics will find a great deal to enjoy here.

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