Tuesday 6 January 2009

A Wee Review - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by John McFetridge

John McFetridge, a Canadian with a little Northern Irish blood in his family, has published two crime fiction novels set in Toronto, his home city, to date. He’s been favourably compared to Elmore Leonard, and freely admits that he’s delighted by that. You can find a number of his short stories on his website and if you give them a read, you’ll get a glimpse of his style. However, I don’t think they give you the full appreciation of his talent. For that, you’d need to splash out on one of his books. Why not start with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere? It’s the second of his Toronto Series, and although there are some references to his debut, Dirty Sweet, McFetridge reckons they can be read in any order.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is a long title snaffled from a Neil Young song. But that’s not stealing. You can’t copyright a title. And in a brief dialogue exchange, McFetridge acknowledges the title’s source, so there couldn’t be any hard feelings, right? So we’ve acknowledged that the author isn’t a criminal, as far as we know. Not unlike the online Meta-Fiction he’s working on, the crime is fiction and the fiction ain’t a crime. He’s certainly got a criminal mind though.

In the fresh landscape of Toronto, McFetridge shows us a world of good cops, bad cops, organised criminal bikers, Vietnamese drug traffickers, illegal immigration and prostitution. Oh, and there’s the Mounties! Although the big cast and forever skipping POV makes it hard to identify a protagonist, the main thrust of the story centres on Sharon, a housebound, pot-dealing, single mother. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say it’s her story. Ray, the mystery man is drawn to her, the good cops, Bergeron and Armstrong know she’s the key to a case they’re working on. An ambitious and highly-ranked criminal biker, Richard, thinks he’s using her to increase his own grip on the drug trade. Yeah, man, there’s a lot going on. And that’s before we look at the smaller plot strands. All the while, McFetridge keeps in mind something very important; he intrigues and entertains, but he doesn’t confuse the reader.

And like I mentioned earlier, his style, though comparable to Leonard’s, is unique. Things like his dialogue idiosyncrasies and sparse prose are evident in his short work and give it all a McFetridge feel. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to download his free eBook and see what you think. It’s only the tip of the iceberg, though. As you read Flash, remember; McFetridge cranks his style up to eleven in the novel.

I got the impression that he knows Toronto’s streets like the back of his hand, even though he’s never guilty of info-dumping. And I’m guessing his background in film has a lot to do with the short scenes and interesting references to the industry.

So, if you’re an Elmore Leonard fan or enjoyed Declan Burke’s The Big O, you should try Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. You’ll get to know about a million characters, each one fully formed and memorable and you’ll find little scenes and ideas that’ll stick with you for good. I seriously doubt McFetridge will disappoint you. In fact, you’ll thank me for the recommendation. It’d be rude not to.


col2910 said...

still on the TBR pile along with Dirty Sweet and a hundred other things..probably got to move it up a few places nearer the top

Gerard Brennan said...

Yeah, Colman, nudge it up there. I reckon you'll love it. Sex, drugs, crime, mostly in that order. What's not to love?


adrian mckinty said...

Look his family is from Larne - them's the breaks so I think we can call him Northern Irish just to make up for that.

Everybody Knows is a terrific novel. I've read 3 McFetridge books now and they've all been great. Big thanks to Dec Burke for turning me on to this guy.

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - Aye, you're right. He's Northern Irish, then. I hear there's absolutely no reason to visit Larne. And I've met a few reasons not to.

And cheers for the manners check. Both Dec and Peter "Johnny 5" Rozovsky had a lot to do with my interest in Fetch. Cheers, guys.


Peter Rozovsky said...

Great v-word on this one: squishe

I don't know about the crime-fiction/fiction-crime thing. Looks to me like the fictional McFetridge is trying to blame everything on the fictional Declan Burke.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Gerard Brennan said...

Yeah, I read that in part 4. Seems a bit far-fetched. Especially after a confession of sorts in his Noir Originals interview.

It's a grift I tells ya.