Going Fast


  • Going Fast is tender and tough-minded, compassionate and dark. It is also
    exceptionally well-written and frequently hilarious. Elaine McCluskey has
    written a stunning debut novel.”

Paul Quarrington

Here is a link to the PEI Sports Hall of Fame page which talks about the McCluskey family’s involvement in boxing.

PEI Sports Hall of Fame

Reviews of Going Fast

  • McCluskey has found pure gold among the blue-collar streets of Old Halifax. Her gift as a writer is the ability to take the familiar, the tragic and the sometimes mundane and, through keen, insightful and often comedic observation and interpretation, raise it to the level of poetic art. Her descriptive powers enliven and enrich her locales and characters, however fleeting, like the fat cleaning woman — “the bones in her face had vanished like twigs in a pit of human quicksand” — or hard-news reporter Jock Smith who, covering a plane crash, was “a human teletype running open. Sledgehammer leads, tearjerking sidebars so riveting the paper had to order an extra run.”

Stephen Thorne, The Canadian Press

  • With its demimonde characters, odd nicknames and boxing and newsroom settings, Going Fast reads at times like Nova Scotia Damon Runyon. But a melancholy Runyon. It’s also compulsively readable and packed with hilarious wordplay. It’s a book of caricatures and even grotesques, filled with descriptions like this one, of a fat cleaning woman: “the bones in her face had vanished like twigs in a pit of human quicksand” and this depiction of lumpenproles at the beach: “clad in cut-off jeans, the men churned up the water in furious imitations of the overhead crawl, pulled up exhausted, then performed raucous dives, the kind that led to spinal injuries.” There’s also some lovely characterization through dialogue, such as this meditation from a secondary character, a not-very-ambitious boxer and would-be singer named Johnny LeBlanc: “If I’m in a city with subways, I feel like I’m going somewhere. And Italians. I like a place big enough to have Italians.”

Bob Armstrong, Winnipeg Free Press

  • McCluskey is a vigorous, colourful and often humorous writer, with a sharp and sometimes wicked eye. . . The writing is lively, like good gossip at a journalists’ watering hole or a fighters’ hangout.  She knows her territory well, whether it’s a rundown gym or Scott’s memory of kayaking on an early morning lake.

D.R. MacDonald, The Globe and Mail

  • The cast of characters, the flavour of the language and the downright improbability of a standard day in boxing make for colourful and very funny reading. There are a lot of bit players in Going Fast, occasionally clad in spandex. McCluskey pays careful attention to each of them, and their quirks and foibles allow their personalities to shine. Slugger, 84, walks with the “nimble, hot-footed step of a log-roller” and still swims a mile every day, “with flip turns.” That is, until the complaint of a group of old ladies causes him serious consternation and he has to make things right. As he tells his story to Ownie, he “wiped his mouth as though he was wiping away the last traces of shame.” This is a tiny, exquisite, heart-melting vignette.

Judith Meyrick, The Halifax Chronicle-Herald

  • Goose Lane has produced another winner. This is a book for tough times, – one that makes us nod with satisfaction, laugh with relief and feel we should greet each day with joy. Here prose, – especially dialogue, – is as tight as poetry. Going Fastis a superb study of motivation, of what makes people alive. Its subject is control: who has it, who doesn’’t and why. It’’s also about betrayal, forgiveness, courage, loyalty, hard work, self-respect, and profound friendship.

Diane Reid, The Fredericton Daily Gleaner

  • McCluskey’s writing is crisp, clear, witty and efficient….Elaine McCluskey leads the reader through a series of fundamental reflects on life and on relationships without making these too heavy or too hard to digest. In fact the reader may be too busy laughing his head off and nodding in agreement to stop at the thought that he may have a few regrets and disappointments too. Under McCluskey’s pen, the news world and the boxing world come together beautifully in a touching and funny novel about ambition, pride, nostalgia and popular culture. Definitely worth reading.

Julie Leroux, The Maple Tree Literary Supplement

Boxing and sprint kayak paddling are large parts of Going Fast, a novel based in Dartmouth, N.S., which has hosted world paddling events on its natural flatwater course.

From the author:

In the back of Going Fast is a list of old names that Ownie saved from the Obituaries of his daily newspaper. The names are for his daughter, a collector, and they are a means of staying close to his child and of preserving a past that is slipping away. When I visited a Halifax book club, I was asked about the names. Are they real? The names actually came from the Obituary pages of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, which I read each day, looking for keepers. Starting with Ada and ending with Zita, the list took several years to compile. One family yielded Ancie, Opal, and the lovely-sounding Ivy Delight. Ownie’s favourites were Ransom for men and Fairy for women.

The photos on this page are my father: as a boxer, as a training taping the hands of Dicky Howard, and holding the heavy bag for Trevor Berbick.