Book review: Tight Corner, by Roger White auto articles car culture auto book reviews
Tight Corner; by Roger White. Click image to enlarge

By Paul Williams

It has been said that if you want to write a novel, you should write about what you know. When it comes to classic British cars and the machinations of Ottawa’s Public Service, Ottawa-based novelist Roger White sure knows a lot.

The question is, do these two areas of expertise combine to create a compelling read?

In “Tight Corner” (BPS Books, 2011, $19.95), Mr. White, himself a former public servant and British-classic car buff, constructs an original story of government intrigue, underworld activities and automotive enthusiasm told through his protagonist, Conn Anderson.

Mr. Anderson, retired from his role as a security expert in the Public Service, operates “Britfit,” a downtown-Ottawa garage specializing in the repair and restoration of old British sports cars like MG, Triumph, Jaguar, Riley and Austin-Healey. Apart from Jaguar, which still operates, the newest of these brands disappeared from Canadian roads over three decades ago.

The Britfit team — ruddy characters with names like Reg, Marjorie and Dougwald — service a parade of such vehicles now owned by hobbyists in the Capital region. Apprentice Jean-Paul rounds out the group.

Book review: Tight Corner, by Roger White auto articles car culture auto book reviews
Tight Corner; by Roger White. Click image to enlarge

All is well in this world until a Jaguar is firebombed at Britfit, nearly burning the place down. Subsequently, while driving his vintage Mini Cooper, Mr. Anderson is run off the road by a mysterious grey Ford Crown Victoria, knocked out, takes to packing a pistol, and is otherwise introduced to a seamier side of Ottawa.

As these events take place, Conn Anderson transforms into a something of a secret agent man (or at least a Gideon of the Yard), acquiring a pretty love interest and dispatching bad guys. It is at this point that “Tight Corner” shifts into a higher gear.

Conn Anderson is no James Bond, but author Roger White apparently knows his way around government and how it works, enabling Anderson to believably move the story along. On the way, he hooks up with an old RCMP buddy, a haughty Deputy Minister and local cops, all of whom play a role as Anderson pretty much takes the case into his own hands.

The conclusion demands a somewhat reluctant suspension of disbelief as Anderson makes some bizarre choices that put him in harm’s way, but all is well in the end, with Conn Anderson emerging bruised but unbowed.

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