Contemporary Canadian Literature with a Distinctly Urban Twist

Anvil Press

Sweet Assorted: 121 Takes from a Tin Box

Sweet Assorted: 121 Takes from a Tin Box

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  • us orders US $20
  • world (outside Canada/US) orders US $20

Half-finished notes, scrawled snippets of conversation, observations made on the run, photographs of people known and unknown, scraps of paper with puzzling sketches on them, receipts, match packs, postcards, and other assorted paraphernalia . . . have all ended up in a Peek Frean’s tin biscuit box.

For nearly forty years, Jim Christy has thrown—willynilly, and with neither rhyme nor reason—such seemingly random items into the box. There has been absolutely no system to it; maybe, the author says, “I thought ‘I’ll pay more attention to this later’ or, perhaps, ‘I’ve got to check that one out some day…give it the attention it deserves.’” Being a restless traveller, investigative journalist and raconteur, many of these items have rich and alluring stories attached to them. The Peek Frean’s biscuit box has provided the essential ingredients for a fascinating assortment of highly entertaining anecdotal tales called Sweet Assorted.

“… lively, and often somewhat cynical, commentaries … Especially enjoyable are Christy’s musings on a night spent listening to a band, typed on now-brittle yellow pages in the wee hours of a morning thirty-five years ago after consuming twelve vodkas. He wrote, ‘The drummer and the bass player tonight are modern cats with long, styled hair and moustaches, flowered shirts. But the piano player is a skeletal throwback to 1949. He looks like every gaunt junkie hipster of that long-gone era. He’s hunched over the keys with eyes closed muttering phrases to himself and … the audacity of it … actually stealing the show.’ As Christy shares his travels through the landscapes of his capacious and inquiring mind to unearth treasures from his past, he offers readers a glimpse into the life of a free and nonconforming spirit. More than that, his brief, intriguing tales encourage readers to examine the bits and pieces that weave together the colorful tapestries of their own lives. Jim Christy is a writer, internationally exhibiting artist and traveler … Raised in inner-city Philadelphia, he moved to Toronto at age twenty-three …”
— Foreword Reviews (USA)

“… There was a shine to this eccentric work that I appreciated. Christy is being himself. His tin alternately brings back memories and reveals what he has forgotten. He lays out his successes and his failures and leaves us to form our opinions. I closed the book hoping to meet Jim Christy one day. His curiosity, convictions and thirst for adventure have lasted decades, and they don’t seem to be fading with time. I admire that.”
— Coastal Spectator

  • Publication: November 2012
  • ISBN: 978-1-927380-05-5
  • Pages: 194 pp
  • Size: 5.5 x 8 inches

Always in search of original characters and experiences, Jim Christy is a literary vagabond with few peers. He was once described by George Woodcock as ‘one of the last unpurged North American anarchistic romantics’. His publisher has called him a hip Indiana Jones; one reviewer credited him with a ‘Gary Cooper-like presence’. His buddies have included hobos, jazz musicians, boxers, and non-academic writers such as Charles Bukowski, Peter Trower and Joe Ferone. “I never dismiss another’s story out of hand,” he writes, “no matter what it’s about or how outrageous it may seem.” Christy’s often wry reminiscences of his travels, trysts and trials are fueled by a hard-won pride. A gardener, a sculptor and a spoken word performer with a jazz/blues ensemble, Christy has been seen in film and television productions, usually in non-speaking roles as a thug or a gangster.

Born in Richmond, Virginia on July 14, 1945, Jim Christy grew up in South Philadelphia, a tough area featured in his autobiographical novel Streethearts, and also featured in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky movies. “Boxing was in the air,” he once recalled. “You knew people who had boxed; if Dickens had been around he would have written about boxing.” Christy later wrote about boxing as a business and a sub-culture, in Flesh & Blood. Christy began running away from home around age twelve, once getting as far as the outskirts of Buffalo. He befriended one of his closest friends and mentors, Floyd Wallace, a hobo, a former boxer and a former soldier of fortune, and learned to ride the freights at a young age. Christy came to Canada in October of 1968, to evade the Viet Nam war draft, and was active in co-founding two shortlived underground press publications in Toronto. His first book concerned draft resisters in Canada. Christy became a Canadian citizen as soon as possible. While researching Rough Road to the North, he became fascinated by the life of Charles Eugene Bedaux, and subsequently wrote a biography called The Price of Power. Other outsiders who have struck Christy as heroes include a veteran carnival performer named Marcel Horne, jazz musician Charlie Leeds, leftist Emma Goldman and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Jim Christy first came to Vancouver in December of 1981 to promote his novel Streethearts, and remained on the West Coast for many years, adopting Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast as his home base. An artist, gardener, prolific freelance journalist and an ex-regular on American Bandstand, Christy has evolved his own King of the Road outsiderism into a cool-headed series of ‘noir’ fiction featuring a tough-talking private detective in Vancouver named Gene Castle. The series opens in 1937 with Shanghai Alley and moves forward to 1939 in the second Gene Castle gumshoe mystery, Princess and Gore, a title drawn from two street names in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The third Castle mystery is Terminal Avenue, another title drawn from a street name. It features the bullet-eating detective searching for the kidnapped daughter of a Nazi resistance leader. Jim currently lives in Ontario.

Books by Jim Christy