Red Ryan was the actual person who served as the model for the hero of More Joy in Heaven. He was released from prison in 1935 after serving more than ten years for grand theft. For a few months, Ryan was the toast of Toronto, but the fashion of his popularity passed and he reverted to his previous patterns. Ryan was finally killed by a police officer while attempting to rob a liquor store.
Callaghan’s novel turns this true story into a version of the parable of the prodigal son. The fictional hero of More Joy in Heaven, Kip Caley, sees another side of life while serving his long prison term. His transformation is due largely to the help of a priest who is ministering there. Caley forgets the demands of his giant ego and finds new satisfaction in helping other inmates. He becomes a model prisoner, and through the intervention of a Canadian senator and other political figures, he is granted parole.
Unfortunately, his well-earned reputation for being reborn on the inside makes him a valuable commodity on the outside. The senator gets him a job as a greeter at a popular sports bar, which puts Caley back in contact with the fast-track world of heavy drinking, gambling, and prostitution. Shrewd entrepreneurs, political opportunists, and thrill seekers of various kinds pounce on him as soon as he is free.
Caley loses touch with Father Butler, who in prison had shown him a better way of life. Instead, Caley finds...
(The entire section is 523 words.)