Tuesday, July 23, 2024

“The Green Ghetto”

Canadian author reads from new novel in Perrysburg

According to author Vern Smith, a green ghetto is a phenomenon that emerges as a sort of no man’s land at the edge of urban landscapes, where the people have simply left. In these places, many of which are in the Midwest, where farmland is never too far away, nature slowly creeps back into the formerly urban landscape: moss and vines grow over park benches, trees and weeds sprout up in basketball courts— birds and other animals return to reclaim the land.

“Detroit’s green ghetto seemed like a good place as any to set a Western about a mail-order cowboy who drops out to cultivate an illicit substance for a living,” says Smith (pictured below).

Border crawl

Smith grew up across the northern border in Windsor, Ontario, and as a kid, made frequent trips across the river to Detroit to see rock shows. But then, Smith said, things changed. “Pre-9/11, you could cross [the border] with a library card at midnight and have a Coney dog in front of you within 15 minutes. After 9/11, that changed overnight, and I guess I found my love affair with Detroit slipping away. It was abrupt, something keeping us apart, and my world view of the catalyst forcing that change— hysteria— started to gel. Within a year or so, I started to work on something— first a short story, then a novel.”

The Green Ghetto is set in 2002 and takes a look at the effects of this post 9/11 culture on the area. The book blends a keen, cultural eye with certain genre elements of crime fiction. Smith commented about this backdrop and how he sees 9/11 tied to the book: “The way the border is changing, (and the) scrutiny. The way Dubya (George W.) was running things, or not, going on about evil doers, and of course the hysterical public service announcements making us look at each other funny.” This paranoia seeps into the cultural backdrop of the text and its effects bleed into the story itself as main character, Mitchell Hosowich relocates to Detroit’s green ghetto to grow and sell marijuana.


Smoke trail

Smith’s novel is released by Run Amok Books, an independent press based out of New Jersey. Smith talked with managing editor Gary Anderson and relates, “I liked his editorial vision, and that was important to me. Right away, I felt he understood the manuscript. I remember him saying that it’s about marijuana, but it’s not really about marijuana. I guess you have to read the novel to understand that, and so I signed up.”

In addition to reading at Gathering Volumes, Smith will be doing a handful of readings from the book. After Perrysburg, he will be in Indianapolis on March 9, and in Windsor March 21 at the Public Library. He seems particularly excited about the reading in Perrysburg, “My publisher had a relationship with Gathering Volumes, sent me to talk to Denise Phillips, and she was interested in the story right away, interested in the Detroit angle I had taken. Plus, I’m a huge Toledo Walleye fan and they have a game that night, March 2, so I’m going to make a mini-vacation out it, see some live hockey, maybe get my picture taken with Spike, then check out some live local music.”

Meet the author and learn more about The Green Ghetto at his reading. Copies of the book will be available to purchase at the event, as well as online at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and at Run Amok Books (runamokbooks.com)

2:30pm | Saturday, March 2
Gathering Volumes, 196 E. Boundary St., Perrysburg.
567-336-6188 | gatheringvolumes.com | Free

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