By Warren Kinsella, 304 pgs.
Named after a Bad Religion song and album and based (albeit loosely) on true events, Recipe for Hate is perfect for those who like murder mysteries, punk rock, and kicking Nazi ass. The narrator, Kurt Blank, is a stand in for the author in his youth, even playing in the same band, The Hot Nasties, whose Invasion of the Tribbles 7” is real and available on Spotify.
Though Recipe for Hate is aimed at teens, the second novel in what is now dubbed The X Gang series, will be geared more towards adults, understandably so after the gorefest Recipe for Hate entails. The novel opens on X and Kurt playing a show with the Hot Nasties before it all goes wrong. At first, it seems like the kind of endearing, nostalgic novel you might get out of Frank Portman, but it becomes clear very early on that this is not the case. Kurt and X realize too late that the Hot Nasties’ singer, Jimmy, is nowhere to be found. They find him in the alley in a crucifix position with a barbed-wire crown of thorns, and so the mystery unfolds as more gruesome murders come about, local white supremacist groups are discovered, and the cops, unsurprisingly, do absolutely nothing.
Prior to his YA debut, Kinsella published several nonfiction books about Canadian politics, including one about the Canadian far right, Web of Hate. Some of the events in Web of Hate formed the basis for this novel, but a lot of the violence and actions taken to counter it are a bit far-fetched and don’t seem realistic even within the convoluted plot of the novel (notably, the events that didn’t actually happen).
Recipe for Hate, though it falls flat at times, is increasingly relevant, with more “alt-right”ers and neo-Nazis coming out of the woodwork every day. The book takes place in 1979 but the ideologies represented within did not seem at all unrealistic for 2018. It’s certainly a novel for troubled times, and a scathing critique of—not even critique, call to arms against—white supremacists in religion and in power. The cast of punks and other sundry misfits Kinsella creates is fun, and it’s a solid portrait of life in a town without too many punks. Give it a shot when you want something engaging and just a little out there. –Jimmy Cooper (Dundurn Press, dundurn.com)