Review by M. Wayne Cunningham

Some guys have some pretty grim tales to tell. Take Saskatchewan author Rob Harasymchuk's 36-year old hero, for example. First, he has an alphabet soup of a name, Dingonaslav Marion Radashonovich. Then there is the fact that he lives among "a pack of starving coyotes," the 900 inhabitants of Bennington Falls who know his barkeep sister, Marty, as the town tramp and his kid brother, Pitch, as "the feeb" who parades his garden gnomes, including the hollowed out Big Daddy, on the family's front lawn, and daily counts the rubber bands he keeps in his coffee can container.

Since he was 18 and his drunken father and despondent mother were killed in a crash at a railroad crossing, Dingonaslav, now known as Dingo Radish, has been the sole support for his siblings, a role that meant existing on petty thievery, part-time employment, and the dole.

But despite his problems, Dingo has a major dream of leaving the Falls and his past behind, and he has a plan to make it all happen - all of which results in a reader's rollercoastering ride of plot twists and turns, excitement and entertainment, and the introduction of a turtle named Jesus.

As Dingo shares the background intimacies of his life - getting beat up while defending his brother from bullies, run-ins with his old man, and his mother’s claim, “Dingo, you were a life sentence” - he also reveals how much of a con man he can be, how he “can lie with the best of them,” and just how dedicated he is to making a better life for Marty who has become pregnant and for Pitch who has become emotionally dependent upon him. Theirs is a poignant story of skillfully drawn down-on-their-luck characters held together by a family bond as everything else around them seems to go wrong.

To reach his goal of the good life for his family Dingo needs to climb the ladder, starting on rung one by blackmailing a local service centre manager into a partnership. Dingo will steal chemical fertilizer from nearby depots and the manager will resell it to area farmers. That works for a while but Dingo figures he needs ever more money to fulfill his dream. So, to get a better return on his risk he decides to go for a major haul, a million dollar theft of a semi-trailer load of fertilizer hi-jacked right from the Saskatoon plant where it is manufactured.

True to form for Dingo, though, his best laid plans of casing the plant, hitching a trailer to a rented rig, and then escaping go wildly astray. First he gets caught up in a group of environmentalist pickets parading around the plant, meets up with

Emily, a female bioethicist who questions his motives, a police dog that bites his thigh and a security guard who knocks him unconscious. After a stint in jail, he gets a buddy to help with the robbery while he uses a subterfuge to gain access to the plant’s loading dock. As he is hitching up all hell breaks loose. Security guards start shooting at a group of intruders, Dingo dodges the bullets and bumps into and falls over new and old friends from the environmentalist protest. With two of them rescued and in the cab of his truck he crashes the gate to escape.

But his break-out is only the trigger for further troubles. The subterfuge he was so proud of for getting him into the plant almost costs him his life. And one of the people he rescued is a kidnapped scientist who has been working on stem cell research and adaptations of fertilizer products that could turn them into weapons of mass destruction. And obviously some one wants him back. The other person he rescued is the bioethicist, Emily, whose scientist father has already been murdered. And obviously the murderers want their identity kept secret. All of which gets Dingo into some pretty tight quarters. His robbery pal is tortured and killed. Pitch is kidnapped. Dingo and Emily get into a gunfight where she is wounded and he kills one of the shooters. And in a final confrontation, just when Dingo’s dreams are about to become dust, he is saved by the most unlikely of heroes, and not Jesus the turtle.

Hyrasamchuk’s easily readable debut novel was nominated as a finalist in the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel category for 2005. An amazing result since the author admits it was turned down a couple of hundred times before being accepted for publication. Evidently, more than Dingo’s dreams came true.


M. Wayne Cunningham writes his reviews in Kamloops BC. Formerly an English instructor and a senior manager in post-secondary education in three provinces he also served as the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Arts Board. A member of the Crime Writers of Canada and the Canadian Authors Association, his reviews have appeared in various publications including a weekly column he wrote for two years for the Kamloops Daily News. He can be reached at

Return to Fall 2006 Table of Contents

© 2006 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved

Baby Love
If It Bleeds
Behind You!
No Help For The Dying
A Kind of Puritan
A Thankless Child
A Certain Malice