Trevanian's crime classic from my home town
The Main reminds me especially of McFetridge's new novel, Black Rock. That book departs from McFetridge's Toronto series in several respects. It takes place in Montreal, it views its sweep of character and incident largely through the eyes of a single character rather than from multiple points of view, and it is set in the past, 1970, during Montreal's own wave of terrorist bombings.
Trevanian looks at Montreal's Boulevard Saint-Laurent and its crowded side streets and alleys (known colloquially as "the Main") through the eyes of a tough local cop called LaPointe and, while the novel's setting is roughly contemporaneous with its publication (1976), time and Trevanian's copious research lend it a retrospective, even anthropological air. And that's no bad thing, because his preparation was so thorough, and his writing was so good. Here's an example of research that may not be strictly necessary to the story, but that I loved, because it was so unexpected:
"Guttmann speaks up in his precise European French, the kind Canadians call `Parisian,' but which is really modeled on the French of Tours."And here's a bit of research that contributes greatly to the novel's atmosphere:
"When LaPointe began on the force, there were almost no Anglo cops. The pay was too law; the job had too little prestige; and the French Canadians who made up the bulk of the department were not particularly kind to interlopers."Trevanian excels at rendering with complexity characters who could easily be stereotypes. The snooty, careerist police commissioner, a stock figure in police procedurals if ever there was one, here has the respect of his men, and, Trevanian takes care to point out, has actually read the books that line his office.
Furthermore, Trevanian knew he was doing this. He made the savvy decision to pair the tough, older Francophone cop with a younger, college-educated, Anglo partner, just so he can have the partner think, after the requisite physical inventory ("the wide face with its deep-set eyes that is practically a map of French Canada") that "there are aspects that Guttmann had not anticipated, things that contradict the caricature of the tough cop." It's pretty clear what Trevanian is up to, but he pulls the strings so well.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014