Acclaimed Canadian author John Farrow coming to Brant Sports Complex March 18th
by: Yvonne Van De Wiele- Cooper
John Farrow has been referred to as Canada’s best novelist by the likes of the Toronto Star, but readers may be surprised to learn he never attended university. He had many jobs over the years, but vowed never to take one he liked too much, instead focusing on writing as his main priority.
John Farrow is actually the pen name for Trevor Ferguson who has written several novels and plays. He found success using the Farrow name after submissions to publishers from Ferguson were constantly being rejected. He now finds success under both names.
Born in the Huron County community of Seaforth, he moved to Montreal with his family at the age of three, where they settled in the “working class” Park Extension area. “It’s called a working class neighbourhood to be kind,” he says of the very poor district where his father worked as a church minister.
Farrow’s love affair with the written word began at the tender age of 11, when he began “devouring” much of the popular twentieth century literature his older siblings were bringing home from university. “So that was my formal education as it were,” he said.
As an adult, Farrow worked as a cab driver and on railway gangs doing much of his writing in bunkhouses. Not only did the acclaimed writer not attend university, he never graduated from high school. However, “the interesting thing is I ended up teaching at university,” he says. “A little irony, I would tell my class at the beginning, that every one of them already had more education than I did and that would throw them off a little bit,” he laughed.
He got the theatre bug while working at one of his odd jobs as an usher at Toronto’s Royal Alexander Theatre, but never intended to be a play-write. However, one week he received a call from a theatre director who had just read one of his novels, urging him to write a play. He wrote his first one, Long, Long, Short, Long in 11 days. Farrow enjoyed the collaborative experience of working with the cast and crew as change from the solitary task of writing fiction. “But I have since walked away from it, because you can’t do everything all the time,” he says. The play was also a huge critical and commercial success when performed in French, drawing 22- thousand audience members over an eight week run.
Farrow says when he a writes a novel like The Storm Murders, this year’s One Book, One Brant selection, he has no idea where it will go, nor does he want to know. Since he began working at such a young age, he’s trained his mind “to come up with stuff.” Farrow believes “there’s a part of the mind that works this thing out underneath the surface.” Once he goes with a strong “feeling” then “it comes day by day by day.” If he knew in advance what the story was about he says “it would be a bit like paint by numbers” and he wants to experience the story it as the reader would.
Retired Montreal police officer Emile Cinq- Mars is the central character in The Storm Murders, based on a real cop who ran the night patrol and “ruled the roost” back in the 1940’s and fifties. The character is “a very moral man with a strong sense of right and wrong,” says Farrow. He’s also someone who “irks” the police department.
“I made him French Canadian because that makes sense and I made him religious, because that’s simply different and something to explore and I put him out on a horse farm because that’s also something to explore and after that, I just wake up and see what he does that day,” he said. He adds, “Because he has to be a lot smarter than I am, he keeps me on my toes.”
The Storm Murders, published in 2015 is the first in a trilogy of stories where weather plays a prominent role. The two novels that follow include; Seven Days Dead and Perish the Day.
Anyone who signs up to read The Storm Murders at any Branch of the County of Brant Public Library will be entered to win a number of prizes including, a grand prize of an Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8. The draw for the grand prize will be made at the annual One Book One Brant Meet the Author Event which will occur at the Brant Sports Complex, 944 Powerline Road, Paris, on Sunday, March 18 at 1:30 p.m.
A separate event will offer the opportunity to learn about the workings of an actual investigation. Detective Constable Jeff Gracey of the Brant County OPP will be doing a talk on Tuesday, March 6th at 7pm at the Paris branch, providing insight into how an actual murder investigation proceeds. The events are free to attend and light refreshments will be served.