Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with John McFetridge

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John McFetridge

In Black Rock (ECW Press), John McFetridge plunges readers into the tension of 1970 Montreal, where bombs explode and riots break out as provincial tensions rise. But the politics aren't the worst of it — a killer has murdered three women already and a fourth is now missing. Frustrated and afraid for the woman's life, young police officer Eddie Dougherty decides to take matters into his own hands.

Today John joins us as part of The WAR Series: Writers As Readers, which gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Read on to hear from John about the cop in his own family, the perils of reading on the job and the CanLit icon he'd like to share with his seventeen-year-old self.

The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
The Super Summer of Jamie McBride by Christopher Wren. I was not an early reader.

A book that made me cry:
King Leary by Paul Quarrington.

The first adult book I read:
Walking the Beat by Gene Radano in the library at Centennial Regional High School in Greenfield Park. My older brother had joined the RCMP and everyone in my family was asking me if I was going to be a cop, too, so I wanted to find out what it was like. Then my brother got shot and people stopped asking me that question.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
In 1980 I was working as a night shift security guard in an unfinished office building in Calgary and I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and laughed out loud. Then I read Stephen King’s The Stand and stopped doing my rounds...

The book I have re-read many times:
Espedair Street by Iain Banks.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
Anything by Robertson Davies.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. The stories are all great and it would have helped seventeen-year-old me understand my mother.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
The Main by Trevanian. Partly for the writing and partly for the setting but mostly because when I was in high school and finally worked up the nerve to tell my parents I might want to try to be a writer and my father surprised me by giving me this book. After I read it I took the metro downtown and walked around the locations in the book, up and down St. Laurent and through Carre St. Louis and the back lanes (that’s about the only mistake the American who wrote the book made — we don’t call them alleys in Montreal) and I thought it might actually be possible for me to write a book. And here we are, only forty years later...

The best book I read in the past six months:
In the Morning I’ll be Gone by Adrian McKinty.

The book I plan on reading next:
Kill Fee by Owen Laukkanen.

A possible title for my autobiography:
I can never come up with a title until the book is almost finished so I hope I don’t need a title for this one for a long time.

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 lives in Toronto with his family and writes regular updates on his website ( and his blog (

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