The first copy of Go-Boy! I saw was a well-loved book, likely stolen from a library with its cellophane cover. It was in an apartment in Ville-Emard, an urban wasteland beneath Montreal’s Turcot overpasses. An ignored and forgotten place of concrete nothingness, empty lots, and crumbling factories. A neighbourhood of new immigrants and the dying sounds of working-class Quebecois French. Neither of the two boys who gave me Go-Boy! — by Roger Caron, who passed away earlier this month — had made it to high school. One had been to juvie, and the other saw the inside of a drunk tank more often than most. It was surprising that a prized possession of theirs would be a Governor General’s Award–winning book, because yes, Go-Boy! made it that far. I think I know why.
As a young deliquent, Roger Caron imagined himself as Dillinger every time he was carted away by the law. He grew up to become one of Canada’s most infamous bank robbers and escape artists. Caron’s infamy exploded in 1978, when he received the GG for non-fiction for Go-Boy! It was a book so widely hailed that judges and criminology students later kept it on hand, and so widely selling that it made him “one of the most financially successful writers in the country.” (In the early 1990s, Caron estimated his earnings at $250,000. This was all before the threat of Paul Bernardo earning money from the telling of his offenses provoked a surge in proceeds-of-crime legislation at the federal and provincial levels.) (more…)