Archival photos set the scene in new Toronto murder/mystery


          City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257_series1057_Item 7643

The murder/mystery “The Reluctant Virgin” is the story of a serial killer who haunts that streets, laneways and ravines of 1950s Toronto. Although it is unusual to insert archival photographs in a fictional tale, their inclusion adds a degree of reality that creates the illusion that the events actually occurred. The detailed, accurate descriptions of Toronto during this decade, increase the illusion. The novel reads more like historical fiction than a murder/mystery. 

The photo above appears at the beginning of the book. It is not the neighbourhood where the main characters of the story lived, but they would have felt at home on this tree-lined avenue. The street was akin to a small village. For decades, families had purchased homes, raised children, and after their offspring had departed, remained in the same dwellings. Up and down the avenue, people recognized each other, either by name or at least by sight. They warmly greeted those they passed on the street, and conversed with those they knew more intimately. On Halloween, excited children knocked at their doors. At yuletide, they heartily wished each other a “very merry Christmas.”

The corner store in the picture is typical of the type that the book’s character patronized. In the photograph, a boy stands on the sidewalk beside his bicycle, gazing at the quiet roadway. Coca Cola advertises its refreshing beverage, the price a mere seven cents. It was indeed a different world to that of today.

Though larger supermarkets were increasingly common, plazas had not yet appeared on the urban scene. The daily needs of most families in the 1950s were met by a corner store such the one in the photo. It was where neighbours gossiped and shared life’s tribulations and joys.

It was decade when homes lacked air-conditioning. Along with their neighbours, people relaxed on their sheltered veranda on humid summer evenings to escape the heat inside the house and to observe the passing street scene. In winter, they chatted with their neighbours as they shovelled the blowing drifts of snow from their sidewalks.

If compared to our modern world, the street seems to represent a less harried way of life, but despite the slower pace, people in those days did not always view it in that manner. The Second World War had ended just six years before, and the wounds had not healed. Although industry had converted to peacetime production, unemployment remained a threat.

Adding to their difficulties, it was increasingly evident that change was in the air, and they viewed it with apprehension. As in any generation, teenagers and young adults were the first to adapt to the changing times. It was evident in their music, slang, dress code, and behaviour. This too was a worry for the adults.

The above passage is from the foreword of “The Reluctant Virgin.” It sets the scene where the brutal murders are about to unfold. The quiet world of 1950s Toronto was about to be shattered.

For more information on the book, follow the link

Author’s Home Page :

To purchase electronic versions of the book or order paperback copies:

“The Reluctant Virgin”is available at any Chapters/Indigo Store and also on-line in electronic versions.

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