Owen and Duncan are childhood friends who've grown up in picturesque Niagara Falls--known to them by the grittier name Cataract City. As the two know well, there's more to the bordertown than meets the eye: behind the gaudy storefronts and sidewalk vendors, past the hawkers of tourist T-shirts and cheap souvenirs live the real people who scrape together a living by toiling at the Bisk, the local cookie factory. And then there are the truly desperate, those who find themselves drawn to the borderline and a world of dog-racing, bare-knuckle fighting, and night-time smuggling.
Owen and Duncan think they are different: both dream of escape, a longing made more urgent by a near-death incident in childhood that sealed their bond. But in adulthood their paths diverge, and as Duncan, the less privileged, falls deep into the town's underworld, he and Owen become reluctant adversaries at opposite ends of the law. At stake is not only survival and escape, but a lifelong friendship that can only be broken at an unthinkable price.
CRAIG DAVIDSON was born and grew up in the bordertown of St. Catharines, Ontario, near to Niagara Falls. He has published two previous books of literary fiction, Rust and Bone (Penguin Canada), which has been made into a major feature film of the same name, and The Fighter (Penguin Canada). He is a graduate of the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop, and his journalism and articles have been published in The Globe and Mail, Esquire, GQ and the Washington Post, among other venues. He lives in Toronto, Canada, with his partner and child.
LONGLIST - 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Cataract City is a terrific book. . . . [Elmore] Leonard is a writer against whose work Cataract City may equitably be compared. . . . Davidson’s remarkable storytelling gifts are several. He solves, with a little information deftly supplied, the conundrum of a miscreant narrator eloquent beyond his station. And along with his own wonderful ability to capture just how insidiously factory jobs affect people, Davidson possesses a stealthy capacity for pace and plot exercised in a cinematic array of places. . . . We have, here, a superb, thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining novel that is, page by page, mostly riveting, its prose flawless and its observations acute and, often touchingly sympathetic, about far more than men’s violence. Davidson is a seriously talented writer with a proven pedigree.”
“Dark humour punctuates Cataract City, lifting the blood and guts and regret that permeate its pages into an elegy for lost dreams and innocence. . . .”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“An astounding, accomplished book. I truly did not want to leave this world.”
—Paul Haggis, Academy Award-winning director of Crash
“Davidson is one of this country’s great kinetic writers. Whether his focus is on bare-knuckle boxing or the lithe grace of racing greyhounds tearing along a straightaway, Davidson’s stock-in-trade is describing bodies in motion. There is a brute physicality to his writing that immediately sets him apart from his CanLit peers, many of whom prefer rumination and stasis to vivid action. It is no accident that one of the words that reappears throughout Cataract City, peppering the prose like a syntactical signpost, is ‘torque’: This underscores the almost palpable energy with which the author infuses his writing.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Davidson balances his headlong plotting with fresh, poetic language and finds fascinating details in even the most morbid scenes. Moreover, his exploration of bromance, violence and thwarted dreams can be both bracing and poignant. . . .Davidson grabs readers in a chokehold and won’t let go.”
“He is a compelling storyteller . . . it will stay with you long after you put it down.”
—The Financial Times (UK)
“Compelling and witty.”
—The Chronicle Herald
“Craig Davidson’s superb storytelling skills, extreme plotlines, and unabashedly masculine take on human conflict have distinguished him from many of his literary contemporaries. He has also proved willing to freely borrow from such diverse genres as detective fiction, dark fantasy, and horror. These unconventional (at least in Canada) narrative and aesthetic strategies are given full rein in Davidson’s new novel, and to better effect than ever before.”
—Quill and Quire
“Davidson rises to the challenge with some marvellous descriptions of the action. . . . Cataract City aspires beyond its gloomy, grudging setting to the state of literature.”
— The Times (UK)
“This is a book with remarkable heart. The bonds between Owen and Duncan are explored with sensitivity and depth, and their symbiotic relationship is portrayed with an intelligence and complexity I’ve seldom encountered before.”
—The Independent (UK)
“In the first few pages of Cataract City we are given not just the truth—or trueness—of the weight of a gun, but the Niagara basin, “black and snaky . . . littered with the bones of men and boys who’d pitted their weight against it”; the titular image of a cataract, broad smooth water breaking into violence; and the image of a city of optical cataracts, where everyone’s moral sight is failing.”
“The strengths of Cataract City steamroll over the speed bumps. Davidson is fearless in how he takes his set pieces to their logical extremes. . . .Best of all, Davidson consistently dazzles with his evocation of physicality and brute combat. . . .Read this book in proximity to Joseph Boyden’s blood-soaked The Orenda and you just might be ready to run into the drawing-room arms of Jane Austen for a gore-free change of pace.”