Saturday, May 2, 2020

"Roar Back"

John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, who has written numerous novels and plays, all to extraordinary acclaim. His Émile Cinq-Mars crime series has been published around the world and cited by Booklist as "one the best series in crime fiction today," while Die Zeit in Germany suggested that it might be the best series ever.

Farrow applied the Page 69 Test to Roar Back, the newest novel in the Émile Cinq-Mars series, and reported the following:
A fun test, especially as Page 69 of Roar Back provides a glimpse into the novel at an intriguing moment. In a complex tale that moves from petty crime into major gang machinations that demand the involvement of multiple police forces, the page offers a simple cop-and-suspect exchange. My detective is questioning a teenager following a rash of burglaries which, when investigated, yielded a murder. One young man says he slept through it all. Cinq-Mars is not convinced that he did.
‘Did you see anybody marking doors with yellow chalk?’


‘Anybody hanging around lately who looked suspicious?’

‘Everybody looks suspicious.’

‘Try not to be a smart-ass, OK? You’ve been good until now. Don’t start.’

‘OK. No. I haven’t seen anybody look more suspicious than usual. Why ask me?’

‘Because half a squad of cops went through your apartment. You could barely open an eyelid. Makes it look as though you knew what was going on. That you didn’t need to ask.’
On the page, Cinq-Mars will assess him and try to penetrate the young person’s attitudes and culture to see what that might reveal.
‘Anyone come around trying to recruit kids like you?’

‘Kids like me?’

‘Kids in general.’

He shrugged. ‘The usual. If that’s what you mean.’

‘What’s the usual?’

‘Pedophiles. Pushers. The usual.’
Cinq-Mars finds it interesting that he uses the word pedophiles rather than a slur. He then asks if he’ll help him out if anyone attempts to recruit young thieves, and he tries to create a positive connection by discussing the boy’s habit of using a tree limb for chin-ups.
‘How many chin-ups can you do?’

The boy looked across at the maple. ‘Thirty. The bark cuts into my hands or I’d do more.’

‘Then I won’t challenge you. I could blame the bark, but you’re doing too many for me.’
This is the first of a number of talks between the two of them as Cinq-Mars figures out the youth’s place in the midst of everything. He will try out various conjectures and ultimately be surprised at how the matter shakes down with the boy and his dad. At this moment in the novel Cinq-Mars is at an early stage and determining if his relationship with this youth and others will be adversarial or cooperative. The writer, at least, enjoyed their talks.
Visit John Farrow's website and Trevor Ferguson's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue