Thursday, April 10, 2014

John McFetridge in my home and native city / Ville de mes aïeux

I'd like John McFetridge's Black Rock even if I were not in it, in the person of an enterprising police photographer named Rozovsky, who appears to have a nice little business going on the side. (This proves that McFetridge borrowed nothing but my name. For me, initiative means dragging myself out of bed early enough in the afternoon to have lunch before I have dinner [we called it supper back home in Montreal].)

What I like about Black Rock is that even though I lived in Montreal at the time of the book's setting and so did McFetridge, my Montreal was not his, and neither of our Montreals was that of the events that made headlines at the time and form the background to the novel's real action.

Those events are the FLQ terrorist bombings of 1970, the investigation of which punctuate the life and work of a young police officer named Eddie Dougherty as her pursues his real professional interest: the murders of a string of young women. (Read a newspaper clipping about the killings that sparked the novel at McFetridge's blog.)

So, while bombs go off downtown and in Westmount and Old Montreal,  the action also takes Dougherty to crowded apartments off the Main and to bars in Point St. Charles, a local boy returning to his turf, this time as a cop seeking the killer of a murdered woman:
"They walked half a block to Dougherty's squad car, and Carpentier said, `They know you.' 
"`Yeah.' 
"`But you're not one of them?' 
"`English can be pure laine, too."
The past can be a foreign country, but so can one's own country. (For another crime-fictionalized look Canada's October Crisis, see Giles Blunt's novel The Delicate Storm.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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11 Comments:

Blogger seana graham said...

I'm very interested to read Black Rock. However, I feel I should read Tumblin' Dice before I move on in the McFetridge oeuvre.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Read what your fancy dictates. I loved Tumblin' Dice.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Well, I've read the first three in the quartet and I have the fourth, so it's only a matter of finding time. For better or worse, Trollop's whopper of a novel The Way We Live Now is standing in front of it. Among other things.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, you can knock off the Trollope in one sitting.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Well, let's hope it reads a lot faster than it looks to.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I like its descriptions as "Trollop's masterpiece" and "satirical."

You seem to be approaching the novel with some dread. Are you reading it for a book group, perhaps even one where you are to lead the discussion?

April 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Speaking of satirical, I am reading and enjoying Flann O'Brien's The Dalkey Archive. The book, er, recycles material from The Third Policeman, which O'Brien had written earlier but which not find a publisher during his lifetime. It's not considered among his best work, but I am having great fun reading it.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I actually read the Dalkey Archive when I was in Ireland or perhaps on the plane home. I hadn't yet read The Third Policeman, and perhaps it was better that way. It was fun because the trip had in some ways had so much to do with Joyce.

Yes, the Trollope is an annual group read, which we all grudgingly consent to take part in. It wasn't a good sign that the host himself hadn't realized how long it was and tried to bail, but now we're all on board--surprisingly the length has united us rather than torn us asunder.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Misery does love company, you know.

I wonder if The Dalkey Archive is slighted because it is marginally more comprehensible earlier/later books.

Joyce has just come on the scene in my reading. The highlights for me have been St. Augustine's comic turn, and the way O'Brien could make the most ordinary remarks funny. I hope to highlight these in a blog post.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger Mahrie G. Reid said...

I did not know this was out there. Having lived through the FLQ crisis as a student in Ottawa, I find the concept intriguing. Adding fictional events in a time of history grounds the reader in an ambiance, a time capsule and gives them more understanding that is possible just reading news releases.

April 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mahrie, Black Rock is very recently released. Your remarks apply especially strongly in this book. The reader is both grounded in an ambience and reminded that, as large as the history events may loom today, people could and did manage to live some kind of a life while all this was going on. You might also enjoy the three most recent books by the Irish novelist Adrian McKinty, about a youngish cop trying to make his way through the Troubles in Belfast in the Troubles of the 1980s. And, especially if you've spent a good chunk of time in Canada, I recommend McFetridge's previous novels..

April 11, 2014  

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