Garner, Hugh

Hugh Garner, writer (b at Batley, Eng 22 Feb 1913; d at Toronto 30 June 1979). Garner's parents immigrated to Canada in 1919 and his father abandoned the family soon after. Garner spent his youth in the poorer neighbourhoods of downtown Toronto and entered the publishing world as a newspaper copyboy. He rode the rails during the Depression and fought in the Spanish Civil War and WWII.

Garner's poor, urban and Protestant background was a rare one for a Canadian writer and pervades his work. His focus is working-class Ontario and his preferred genre, the realistic novel; the best-known example is Cabbagetown (1950). Frequently, his theme is the victimization of the worker, reflecting his early association with radical socialism.

The legend of Garner grew out of a hard-living lifestyle that fed his writing. To the end he smoked and drank, and was outspoken, abrasive and always unfashionable. His extensive literary output - 100 short stories, 17 books, hundreds of articles and radio and TV scripts - has been criticized for banality and flawed characterization, but he loved telling stories and was genuine in his talent and determination. In 1963 Hugh Garner's Best Stories, a collection of his short stories won the Governor General's Award.