1803 The locals of Tyee Lagoon
The Vicar’s Knickers: The Mildly Catastrophic Misadventures of Tony Vicar, Book 2
by Vince R. Ditrich
Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2022
$19.99 / 9781459747289
Reviewed by Caileigh Broatch
The Liquor Vicar, the first of Vince R. Ditrich’s three book series, introduces wannabe musician Tony Vicar. He’s missed his big break by a couple of years and is growing aware of just how off-course his life has drifted. The book starts at Tony’s lowest moment, as he drunkenly dives off the stage and transforms from wedding DJ to Elvis impersonator while knocking over a few people in the process. (A more in-depth review of The Liquor Vicar is available on The British Columbia Review here.
In The Vicar’s Knickers, Ditrich’s second book, Tony is coming to terms with becoming semi-famous. I’m sure, somewhere in him, he wishes it were for being a skilled drummer. The reality is, however, that his fame stems from fortuitous miracles: bringing a woman back to life after a fatal (or, rather, near fatal) car accident and, most recently, blessing a little league baseball for a home run. The miracles are supernatural phenomena that seem to follow Tony like a shadow.
He’s not only considered Tyee Lagoon’s lucky charm, but he also, over the break between books, became the local tycoon. Tony’s back on track. He’s the benefactor of a surprise real estate inheritance, and now owns the town’s ancient hotel. Tyee Lagoon, a fictional town on Vancouver Island, is according to Tony and his benefactor Frankie Hall, in desperate need of a bar:
Frankie Hall’s final wishes had quite readily become his wishes. A seed had been planted. A single comment she had made completely changed the trajectory of his life. He’d always fancied the thought of having a pub, but Frankie had put it on his radar. She had asked, ‘What kind of town doesn’t have a beer parlour?’ Vicar had replied, ‘It’s not a town without a pub.’
While the first book in the series grabs readers from the top with its quick and punchy visuals, The Vicar’s Knickers is slower in tempo—a reflection, possibly, of Tony Vicar himself. Nearly a year has passed since the closing of book one, and he’s grown up quite a bit. His temperament has toned down and he’s less overcritical of those around him. (For a time, anyway.) Interspersed within Tony’s antics are profiles of the town’s citizens; the shifting perspective allows the town and its residents to spread their wings. One moment you’re reading about the construction and design of the bar, and the next, you’re learning about the recipe to make the hottest hot sauce, ever. Or, you’re popped back to 1970. These alternating chapters help to provide details about Tony and the other inhabitants of Tyee Lagoon. Ditrich showcases the charm of a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business.
The Vicar’s Knickers is broken into three parts: the first details the rising of the Vicar’s Knickers Public House; the second dissects the characters of Tyee Lagoon and sets the characters up for a dramatic crescendo. The final section takes all the hard work that has gone into growing Vicar into a gentleman and tramples it. Quickly. Ditrich spins the tale best when the stakes are high and the future unknown—something that’s sure to delight readers who enjoy animated escapades that cast characters into danger. While there’s less punch in the second book, it gives the characters (and readers) a chance to breathe—though that’s not to say there are fewer “catastrophic adventures” in store for Tony.
Ditrich revives a handful of characters from the first book. In fact, one troublesome character returns with the promise to pull Tony back into his disastrous ways. But Tony’s grown a lot since his drunken, misshaped days. So much so that he begins to fancy himself a family man. Things are going well for Tony and his love interest Jacquie-O. Ditrich does a pretty good job at introducing the town in memorable ways, often in only a few short lines. Ross Poutine, the owner of the liquor store (creatively named “Liquor”), appears again and acts, in many ways, as Tony’s boisterous sidekick.
There’s no denying that the characters of Ditrich’s book have their hearts in the right place, but some veer a bit closely to being replicas of everyone’s “favourite” (that is to say, least favourite) uncle at Thanksgiving dinner who’s just a little too sloppy. And some of the remarks towards the women of Tyee Lagoon stray close to the creepy-uncle category. Take the introduction of Anna-Maria Theresa Lombardo: “Her capacious rear end displayed proudly. Poutine’s eyes widened and he felt a tingle in his fingers and toes.” Luckily, I suppose, Poutine and Ann are fated to be romantically involved.
There’s a parallel to be made between Ditrich’s skill as a drummer and a writer. After a decades-long career as the drummer and manager of the iconic west coast band, The Spirit of the West, the waters merge. Ditrich’s patience and persistence work together to create the novel’s suspense, while channeling energy and adrenaline into each line. He’s got the technical chops and musicality for writing and his passion for the instrument pours onto every page.
Tony Vicar will be back later this year in the series’ final volume. There’s no doubt that Ditrich has an explosive conclusion planned for Tony and the locals of Tyee Lagoon.
Caileigh Broatch is a writer from Vancouver Island with a BA in creative writing and journalism from Vancouver Island University. Her work has taken her to investigate Canadian literature, gold panning, ghosts, and killer whales, among more academic topics. Editor’s note: Caileigh Broatch has has recently reviewed books by A.J. Devlin (Five Moves of Doom), Nicholas Read, Nancy Hundal & Angela Pan, Denyse Waissbluth, Barbara Smith, and A.J. Devlin (Rolling Thunder) for The British Columbia Review.
The British Columbia Review
Interim Editors, 2023-24: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie
Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.
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