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John Vercher Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Three-Fifths (2019) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

John Vercher is an American author best known for his 2019 debut novel Three-Fifths. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master of fine arts in creative writing from Mountainview Master of Fine Arts. At first, John never thought he had what it takes to make it in writing, and so he went to school to be a clinician. After a decade of dissatisfaction in his role, he decided to venture into writing. And because he only had written occasionally, he knew that going back to school would be a smart move. Not only would it educate him in craft again, but it could also make him a published author.

His efforts paid off. Just three years after graduating from Southern New Hampshire University, John Vercher published his thesis and first novel Three Fifths.

Vercher’s debut is a tale of lost identity, histories, deadly obsessions, and dangerous secrets. It’s confident and also a thoughtful book that doesn’t hesitate to illustrate the complexities of race relations, the brutality of violence, without braking for the faint-hearted. It’s a well-mannered debut novel that can be compared to novels by seasoned authors.

Launched on Sep 10th, 2019, Three Fifths received strong advance starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal and praise from Kirkus. The book was also named by the Chicago Tribune as one of the best novels of 2019, the best debut novel by CrimeReads, and a nominee for the 2020 Edgar Award and Left Coast Crime’s Lefty Awards for best first novels respectively.

Three Fifths

The last few years have seen the urge for a call to action on the diversification within the crime fiction genre. And because the change as such must be initiated at the top level to be a success, the announcement that Polis Books intended to launch a new imprint dedicated to diversity in all its wide manifestations was received with much support.

The publication of John Vercher’s book places a distinction spot on the lineage of densely branched crime fiction- delineating pre and post-Three-Fifths. While this may seem hyperbolic, it’s the only way to showcase personal reaction to this work. There’s something unique in Vercher’s approach that’s deceptively straightforward, which allows its impact to reverberate differently for different readers depending on their position on the diversity continuum. The best part is that each reader, in the end, will have a new and better insight into differing and opposing opinions.

The author wastes no time in drawing his readers into this world. The first chapter of his books, Three-Fifths, is both gritty and naturalistic, which sets the tone for this realistic narrative. The readers should be ready for full immersion- meaning that the action, reactions, language is not always natural to consume, but very authentic. And by the time the reader reaches the last line of the first chapter, there’s no turning back.

Three-Fifths is the tale of Bobby Saraceno, boy coming of age in the mid-90’s Pittsburg. Years earlier, Bobby had chosen to live his life as a white man, swearing never to discuss his heritage, not even with those close to him, mainly because of the reactions he witnessed towards African-Americans from his Grandfather.

When his best friend Aaron is released from prison, Bobby comes to learn that his friend’s prison time changed him in troubling ways. Aaron is a member of the white-supremacist group and takes for granted that his friend Bobby is on his side. One day, an argument between Aaron and a young African man turns aggressive, leaving Bobby in a state of fear and uncertainty- forcing him to confront his identity in ways he’s never done before.

In the meantime, Bobby’s mother Isabel, an encounter with a man in a local bar, changes her life forever. Left with no other option than examining her life’s path, Isabel will have to make a choice that will be equally painful as it is healing. The man, Dr. Robert Winston, is also at a turning point in his life, and his encounter with Bobby’s mother brings up old memories, both good and bad.

The Three-Fifth is a relatively short novel; however, beneath the pages lies the volume of revolutionary thoughts within. There are times when John Vercher writes with pinpoint accuracy, a character that’s mostly associated with poetic endeavors. The emotions and feelings in this book are not only explained, but they are also written in a way that the reader felts them in ways that are rare to witness in debut novels.

The author brings to life the time period with the briefest of touchstones with things like the X-Men comics and the OJ Simpson trial. The point of view flows well to create a well-rounded yet complex tale. Additionally, the reader also gets a glimpse of Bobby’s mother as she struggles and battles with the bottle, her broken promises, her past, insecurities, her relationship with Bobby and Bobby’s father, and her racist father. The book also focuses on Robert, Bobby’s dad, a doctor grieving his broken marriage, and the loss of his unborn child.

In the end, what you will gain from reading this book will depend on your needs and preferences. At the very least, this book is a detailed examination of the damage associated with hate. Even decades after a decision, it can be impossible to under the missed opportunities, unfulfilled potential, and the lost hope some decisions lead to. But if you truly open your heart and listen to each character in this book, you will also learn more about healing.

John Vercher’s Three Fifths is not a book designed to put and pinpoint wrongs. Instead, it’s a novel that examines the whys and how’s across the board. This is a compelling and moving story. You would need to have a heart of stone not to be affected by Bobby’s story and his struggle to accept who he is. The author knows that understanding and empathy are the only way forward that leads to a better tomorrow.

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