Bringing Back Benny’s Backlist
Canada’s crown jewel in PI fiction is Benny Cooperman, the amiable Toronto investigator created by Howard Engel. But both author and protagonist alike have been through some major changes as a result of Engel’s stroke, which left him with alexia sine agraphia, an inability to read even though his ability to write was spared. 2005’s wonderful THE MEMORY BOOK grew out of Engel’s disability, as did his recent memoir THE MAN WHO FORGOT TO READ.
Now comes word, from the National Post’s Robert Fulford, that all 12 of the Cooperman novels (including a brand new one, EAST OF SUEZ) are back in print with spiffy new covers:
Far from throwing him off his game, the famous bang on the head that
scrambled Benny Cooperman’s brains has expanded his reputation. The
novels by Howard Engel starring Benny as a soft-boiled private eye are
about to become inescapable in bookstores.
re-launched the first 11 Cooperman books in paperback with a lively new
design and a number emblazoned on the spine of each volume, so that
obsessive Cooperman fans can shelve them in order of their creation,
from No. 1, The Suicide Murders (1980), to No. 11, Memory Book (2005).
This is an exceptional publishing event, something the French might do
while promoting someone for a shot at the Nobel. Nobody has done it
before, on this scale, for a Canadian.
Benny has established
himself as the most insular character inhabiting our national
literature. He lives in Grantham, Ontario, a double for Engel’s
hometown, St. Catharines, Ont., and in the first 11 books he usually
travels no farther than 111 kilometres down the highway to Toronto. As
for the non-Canadian world, it consists of Miami, nothing else.
brain injury has changed him. The loss of short-term memory and the
loss of his ability to read have mysteriously encouraged a tolerance
for foreign countries. In the 12th Cooperman novel, East of Suez
(Penguin), he travels to Takot, the fictional capital of fictional
Miranam, a one-time French colony. Takot, close to Thailand, is far
from the peace, order and good government of Benny’s homeland.