Monday, 16 November 2020

Three-Fifths - John Vercher


Three-Fifths is the debut novel by Amercian writer John Vercher.  It is a slim, powerful noir set in Oakland at the time of the OJ Simpson trial.  It is about everybody trying to do the right thing, which inevitably ends the wrong way.

Vercher keeps his focus extremely tight.  There are no more than ten or a dozen characters and their lives are all entangled.  Up front is Bobby, who is mixed race but passes for white.  Aaron is his one and only school friend; at school, as one of very few white people, Aaron played at being black.  This landed him in jail for drug dealing.  Now he is out, muscled-up on steroids but wrecked in mind and soul.  The same night Bobby's mother Izzy bumps into Bobby's father, Robert.  Robert didn't even know Izzy was pregnant.  Since then he has married, been through IVF hell with his deeply-loved wife and is now getting divorced.

To say more might be to give away key plot elements.  The point is how tightly Vercher has wound his narrative line.  And boy, it pays off.  Very dark, very bleak, but full of humanity and its essential urge to do right, and deeply compelling.  A brilliant debut.  Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Been to S.F., it’s a beautiful place...Mum said Black American’s did themselves a grave disservice letting him go.