Ford Nation

Political thriller and psychological study

READ IT by Bruce Mason

 

• For many months, I tried in vain to avoid the mere mention of Rob Ford, the world’s most famous/infamous mayor. But as movie magnate Samuel Goldwyn said, “In two words, im possible.”

A friend of mine recently returned from New Delhi and recalled having tea with folks from Peru and Sweden. When she said she was from Canada, they leaned forward in wide-eyed, rapt unison, asking, “What’s the latest on your mayor?”

Let’s face it; right now our country is best known now for Justin Bieber, the Tar Sands and RoFo as he is referred to in TO. Peacekeeping, political compromise, politeness (and Pamela Anderson), all swept away by celebrity and sensation-obsessed 24-hour news cycles.

“It’s hard to hide 300 pounds of fun,” says Rob Ford, mayor of the fourth largest city in North America.

I picked up a copy of Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story – one of the most eagerly anticipated books of the season – telling myself it was a ‘guilty pleasure’ and an opportunity to fill blanks, connect dots, shed light, sort chaos. Movie rights sold immediately and it topped best-seller charts from the get-go. The Toronto Public Library ordered 145 copies, but it will take years for everyone with a hold request to get their hands on a copy.

I confess. I couldn’t put it down. And I managed to make contact with the author Robyn Doolittle – one of three reporters who viewed the legendary crack video – now in the limelight almost as much as her subject. Robyn noted, “The whole experience of being interviewed – when I’m the one usually asking the questions – has been odd. And as a print reporter, I feel like a fish out of water in front of a camera. But I’m getting a chance to talk about my work, about this profession that I love and believe in. And I certainly have a newfound appreciation for what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this stuff.

“In writing the book, I relied on two thousand hours of interviews, with hundreds of individuals, over four years covering City Hall; people in politics, law enforcement, friends, family, opponents, former employees and staff, business associates and classmates. I consulted thousands of pages of court documents, arrest paperwork, debate transcripts, family records, thousands of news stories and sources who sometimes didn’t want their names printed for fear of professional repercussions and legal implications.”

Don’t judge this book by its cover. It’s serious, old-school journalism by a young, trained and dogged reporter, who fact-checked and relentlessly tracked leads and reliable sources on the most explosive story of her career. In the face of heated and unrelenting criticism and death threats, it’s a rare, fascinating glimpse behind-the-scenes of Canada’s largest surviving daily, the Toronto Star.

Robyn Doolittle
Author Robyn Doolittle

Some critics call Doolittle and her colleagues a latter-day Woodward and Bernstein. But the world has moved on since All the President’s Men, at high-tech-fuelled warp speed into a warped neo-con parallel universe. Crazy Town is also Canadian. It’s part political thriller and part psychological study of our largest city, our most widely known citizen and our longest running gag, scandal and embarrassment.

I wanted to know how Rob Ford is still a serious contender for one of the nation’s most powerful jobs in an election seven months away. And, oh yes, why his family refer to themselves as “Canada’s Kennedys” and consider themselves destined to lead, Ford Nation, at least?

Doolittle’s book delivers. Literature in a hurry, three months in the making. The first draft of history, an unfinished, unfolding story. Crazy Town is for crazy times and folks who want to know how we got into this mess so we can get out of it or be doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

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