In Perish the Day (Minotaur, May), Farrow concludes his trilogy of weather-themed mysteries featuring Émile Cinque-Mars.
How did the series begin?
The genesis required two disparate and unfortunate developments to intersect. The first was professional: a literary novel of mine was reviewed prematurely, always a bad thing, in a national paper. While the review was marginally okay, it was accompanied by a devastating headline. The book was dead before being printed. My career was on life support. Around that time, an 11-year-old boy was killed by a biker gang’s bomb on the streets of Montreal. I decided that what was happening in my city, on the streets where I’d been a child, warranted my attention. Venturing into crime fiction seemed an appropriate course of action to both examine the urban warfare and resuscitate my career.
Why a storm-themed trilogy?
Elmore Leonard said that the crime writer should never open with the weather, but I suspect that he’d agree that all rules are worth breaking when done right. Here the storms are taken out of the background and placed in the forefront: storms are accomplices to crime. While the darkness and violence of the storms generate atmosphere, they also provide a way to enter both the geography and the social landscape at a time when chaos prevails.
Is Émile based on a real person?
He’s loosely based on Jacques Cinq-Mars, who was captain of the Night Patrol in Montreal during the 1950s and ’60s. Jacques cleaned up the city in Elliot Ness fashion, but when he retired, the police bureaucracy was reconstituted so that no one would have his authority again. In Émile, I chose to bring back a man like Jacques in a different time and with an updated set of precepts. Whereas the real Jacques freely admitted to me that he’d beat the crap out of a mobster, the fictional Émile must combat those guys with his wits and the rule of law.
Which of your non-writing jobs have had the greatest influence on how you write fiction?
Driving a taxi at night on the streets of Montreal and being a waiter in a Mafia bar. My younger brother was the bartender in the Mafia establishment, and we both got a pass because half the ex-cons in the place had had our mother as their teacher in first grade. Driving a cab kept me in touch with every part of the city by night, whether ferrying drunks at 3:00 a.m., or strippers back home, or slipping my tire iron out from under the seat to tangle with muggers: an education rich in atmosphere and intrigue, and interesting chat.