Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award 2015 — Nominated
Faith healers, movie moguls, and social-climbing fraudsters collide in Depression-era Los Angeles
It’s the Great Depression and Mary Mabel McTavish is suicidal. A drudge at the Bentwhistle Academy for Young Ladies (aka Wealthy Juvenile Delinquents), she is at London General Hospital when little Timmy Beeford is carried into emergency and pronounced dead. He was electrocuted at an evangelical road show when the metal cross on top of the revival tent was struck by lightning. Believing she’s guided by her late mother, Mary Mabel lays on hands. Timmy promptly returns to life.
William Randolph Hearst gets wind of the story and soon the Miracle Maid is rocketing from the Canadian backwoods to ’30s Hollywood. Jack Warner, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Rockettes round out a cast of Ponzi promoters, Bolshevik hoboes, and double-dealing social climbers in a fast-paced tale that satirizes the religious right, media manipulation, celebrity, and greed.
Allan Stratton is the internationally award-winning author of Chanda's Secrets and Borderline. He is also a playwright whose hits include Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii and Rexy! Stratton's first adult novel, The Phoenix Lottery, was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. He lives in Toronto.
... this is a damn smart book.
Stratton's (Chanda's Secrets) comedic examination of celebrity in a bygone era, the novel acknowledges that media frenzies are in no way a uniquely modern phenomenon, nor is the way the people at the center of these frenzies are often helpless to prevent their public images from being molded to suit the great and powerful, the ambitious and the brazen opportunists. As the plot weaves back and forth across Canada and America, celebrities from Hoover to Hearst are skewered, but at no point does the book lose sight of its essential good nature or that of its protagonist.
…skewers the chicanery and entrenched religious right of the 1930s. Its language is spot on for the times and will produce much laughter.
Playwright and novelist Allan Stratton obviously had big fun writing this Depression-set story about a charismatic (maybe) healer… Stratton rips into every social institution he can think of. It's all pretty entertaining. And Mary Mabel is a great character.
Like some of the great comic novels – Catch 22, for example, or MASH – this one gets its humor from its characters…This is a stylishly written, very funny historical that has some smart things to say about the mass media, about manufactured phenomena, and about religious nogoodniks.
[Stratton’s] new novel…is a skewering of society, especially its religious structures, official pomposity and hypocrisy, with its emphasis on money and the eternal grasping to get it at any cost. Little escapes Stratton’s machine-gun-peppering approach to the world…
The book is a frolic, full of mischief and mayhem.
Stratton's expertise at black comedy is very much in evidence in this novel. His ability to make extraordinary events seem somehow plausible, combined with his mastery of wit and language, leaves us shaking our heads at one moment, and laughing out loud the next. Like many a modern humorist, Stratton's real talent lies in his honest — and sometimes grisly — depictions of human foibles, coupled with a recognition of how easy it is to slip over to the dark side.