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The Builders, the Mob and the Men

By Catherine Wismer

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Toronto was Boomtown in the 1960s. The city was growing quickly, gobbling up farmland for suburbs, pushing through expressways, knocking down neighbourhoods to make way for high-rise apartments.
With the rapidly growing population, there was huge demand for new housing. Toronto needed apartments, lots of them. It was a perfect market for a new kind of housing high-rise apartments, replacing older low-density houses and sitting alongside the expressways in the suburbs.
Housing was a great business for making lots of money, quickly. Young entrepreneurs, many of them Jewish, seized the opportunities. But when they went looking for financing, their projects didnt fit the rules and regulations of the banks and the insurance companies. So they turned to other sources of funds. Like John Pullman, who came to Toronto with money to lend that belonged to mob genius Meyer Lansky and his associates. Source of the cash: the mobs profitable gambling operations in the U.S and the Caribbean.
Building high-rise apartments takes lots of construction workers. Toronto attracted thousands of immigrants, many from Italy, ready and willing to work. Unscrupulous subcontractors found it easy to exploit labourers who spoke little English. The men were ripe for unions, and union leaders saw the opportunity. But residential construction unions in Toronto had close Mob ties. Corrupt officials could extract money from the developers as well as their members.
Extortionists, hit men, mysterious fires, accidents, wildcat strikes it was a wild scene. Writer Catherine Wismer follows all these threads in her fascinating account of this colourful and little-known episode in Torontos colourful history.

"Fascinating...All in Toronto should read!"

- Margaret Atwood, Twitter

"...Excellent and fascinating reading."

- Graham Greene, Author, J'Accuse

"...Wismer has hit upon a fascinating and frequently neglected aspect of Toronto's development... [she excels in describing the social and political atmosphere of Toronto in the late 1950s and 60s... in a clear precise style [she creates sharp descriptions of flagrant abuses of immigrant labour and the 1972 shooting of labour organizer Bruno Zanini.''

- Henry Mietkiewiez, Toronto Star

''She documents her case well and provides a very human chronicle of a shabby period in modern Toronto's labour history.''

- Peter Moon, The Globe and Mail

''Wismer...tells a colourful tale of high level intrigue that intelligibly renders a byzantine plot in such a breath-taking way it would make many accomplished novelists envious."

- John Bacher, Urban History Review

''...accurately and powerfully describes the routine nature of corrupt business practices and of the horrendous living and working conditions of the workers.... Sweethearts is an informative and provocative study of one important area of urban development. It adds a new and enlightening dimension to the impression created by labour history texts that white-collar and public service unionism dominated the affairs of labour in these years.''

- John Bullen, Labour/Le Travail

''Wismer has written a tremendously informative piece of work and for many people it will be an eye-opener.''

- Astra Roze, Canadian Book Review

CATHERINE WISMER has worked for Toronto Life and Maclean's. She has published two previous books, Come See My Garden and Faces of the Old North.

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Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 264 pages
Publication Date: 16th October 2014
ISBN: 9781459406520
Format: 9in x 6in
illustrated with photographs

Binding: Electronic book text
Publication Date: 16th October 2014
ISBN: 9781459404090
Format: EPUB
12 b&w photos

Previous Editions: (show)
Publication Date: 1st January 1980
ISBN: 9780888623836
Binding: Paperback

BISAC Code:, POL002000, TRU003000
Imprint: Lorimer


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