Toronto Life had less than great expectations last winter when it published a short but blistering diatribe about newscaster Evan Solomon’s not-yet-published first novel, Crossing the Distance.
The manuscript needed massive editorial work, sneered the magazine, and its intended publisher, McClelland & Stewart, had taken it on merely because of its author’s high media profile. Not so, responded M&S senior fiction editor Ellen Seligman in a curt reply, asserting that the manuscript was first-rate.
Now in print, Crossing the Distance seems an ambitious first novel that demonstrates adroitness, even cleverness. Solomon, who has hosted two CBC Newsworld television programs and co-founded the magazine Shift, has followed the writerly maxim of sticking to what he knows: the fickle, shallow, image-obsessed universe of television and the mass media.
In Crossing the Distance, TV newscaster Jake Jacobson is the prime suspect in a murder of the sort he has covered endlessly on air — only this time, the victim is his girlfriend. Despite his innocence, he takes to the lam, eventually communing with his brother, an outlaw environmental activist.
My verdict: the book seems competently written, but its characters lack depth. To some degree, Solomon’s wildly satirical-cynical take on the excesses of television parrots TV’s own habit of delivering talking heads. All in all, not a memorable read. ♦