Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Black Rock"

John McFetridge, author of Dirty Sweet, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and Swap, became fascinated with crime when attending a murder trial at age 12 with his police officer brother. McFetridge has also co-written a short story collection, Below the Line, and wrote for the CBS/CTV television series The Bridge.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Black Rock, and reported the following:
On the back of the book it says:
Montreal 1970. The “Vampire Killer” has murdered three women and a fourth is missing. Bombs explode in the stock exchange, McGill University, and houses in Westmount. Riots break out at the St. Jean Baptiste parade and at Sir George Williams University. James Cross and Pierre Laporte are kidnapped and the Canadian army moves onto the streets of Montreal.

A young beat cop working out of Station Ten finds himself almost alone hunting the serial killer, as the rest of the force focuses on the FLQ crisis. Constable Eddie Dougherty, the son of a French mother and an Irish-Canadian father, decides to take matters into his own hands to catch the killer before he strikes again.
A lot of that has happened by page 69; the riots, the bomb in the stock exchange, the bombs in Westmount, the discovery of the missing woman - girl really, she’s only fifteen - and Constable Eddie Dougherty is pulled into the middle of the investigation. Or what there is of an investigation with everything else that’s going on.

Black Rock is based on real events that happened in Montreal (including the “Vampire Killer”) and when fictionalizing the stories I tried to stay as close as possible to the facts. Every bomb in the novel, every riot, every murder is pretty much as it happened.

Of course, in addition to the bombs that went off there were many bombs scares and false alarms. One of the things I was trying to do with Black Rock was get across the day-to-day feelings of the time, especially what it was like for the cops on the front lines.

On page 69 Constable Eddie Dougherty and a lot of other cops have arrived to search the buildings on the McGill campus after a bomb threat has been phoned in.
“But what if it’s in one of the locked buildings?”

The dispatcher said they’d have to check them all, and Dougherty said, “How many is that?” Before the dispatcher could answer, one of the cops in the break room said, “Delisle arrive,” and everybody straightened up as the Sergeant came up the stairs from the building’s front door, saying, “Mettez vos patins, les boys.”

The first one he saw was Dougherty standing by the dispatcher’s desk and he said, “Okay, Dougherty, you and ...” he looked around and waved a couple of cops out of the break room saying, “... Champoux and Deslauriers, go to the Redpath Building — the museum not the library,” speaking English as he looked back at the dispatcher, saying, “A lot of the buildings are Redpath.”

“The library and the museum,” the dispatcher said. “Redpath Hall, too, I guess, but that’s sort of the same as the library.”

Delisle said, “Sort of,” and looked at Dougherty. “You know where is the museum? Meet the foot patrol, he has the keys.” Then Delisle went into the break room and started speaking French to the other cops, handing out assignments.

Dougherty looked at the dispatcher. “Where is it?”

“Go out to Dr. Penfield,” he said, pointing down the stairs to the front door of the Physical Plant, “turn left and turn left again. It faces in towards the campus, the big lawn. You can’t miss it, it looks just like a museum.”

Walking downhill along Dr. Penfield Avenue, Dougherty said, “If we have to check all the locked buildings, too, we could be here all day.”
Visit John McFetridge's website.

--Marshal Zeringue