A graphic novel by Terri Favro & Ron Edding
inspired by an unsolved murder that gripped
Toronto in winter, 1933
In evocative black and white drawings, COLD CITY tells the story of an unsolved murder that gripped Toronto during the cold winter of 1933. The crime triggered a media frenzy and highlighted the class divisions and prejudices of the era.
Using newspaper accounts from the Toronto Archives, and imaginative speculation about a possible killer, the graphic novel blends historical fact with well researched fiction to create a story that is still timely today – a story of rich versus poor, privilege versus poverty, establishment versus immigrant.
The true story behind COLD CITY
A young man –– the 23-year-old son of a wealthy surgeon –– confronts a burglar breaking into his family’s stately Wellesley Street home. A fight ensues. The young man is shot. The gunman vanishes into the night. The victim lives long enough to give a description of his assailant to the police: “a man with a dark complexion and a foreign accent.” In a city rife with class divisions, the police bring in scores of immigrant men for questioning.
A $5,000 reward is offered, a huge incentive during the Depression, but no arrests are made. Someone in the close-knit immigrant community of the Ward must know the killer. But no one turns him (or her) in.
The case remains unsolved to this day.
The young man’s grave is in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant cemetery, overgrown and forgotten. The crime scene – in the back yard of a stately home on Wellesley Avenue near Cawthra Square, where Toronto AIDS Memorial now stands – was demolished decades ago. Today the crime scene is covered by a large apartment building.
“Died in defence of his father’s home.”
A church memorial to the victim still stands in a Toronto church, the plaque reading that the young man “died in defense of his ather’s home.” At the time, attacking an intruder was considered an act of heroism, an echo of a Victorian sensibility that still resonated in the hearts of Torontonians in the nineteen-thirties.
Every year on the same November evening, artist and writer
walked the streets that the killer might have used as an escape route.
Edding and Favro looked for buildings from that era where the killer might have sought shelter. They tried to reconstruct how he got away, and who he might have been. How did he escape without a trace? And why was the murder weapon never found? As the artist and writer walked through the streets of Toronto’s downtown neighbourhoods, a fictional framing narrative emerged, set in 1994, when Claudio, a 74-year-old jazz musician, meets a fiend in a Wellesley Street bar.
Claudio witnessed the 1933 murder.
He knows who the gunman is, and what happened to the weapon. He wants to get the story off his chest before he dies.
Claudio’s story unfolds in the Ward district and Providence House, a charity home that once towered at the intersection of Parliament and Queen East. The Victorian building was the refuge of last resort for many of Toronto’s poorest residents, Claudio and his sister Caterina, siblings whose father was murdered in a bootlegging war.
COLD CITY explores the class and ethnic divisions of Toronto in the 1930s.
The detailed drawings not only tell the story of a true crime, but also evoke the desperation and hard choices of life in the back alleys, churches, booze cans and cramped rooms of a Toronto winter during the worst of the Depression.