Friday, March 26, 2021

Brian Moore's Fergus (#BrianMooreAt100)


Hubert and Fergus and weather that looks more Ireland than LA

A couple of weeks ago I read Brian Moore's The Color of Blood and enjoyed that so much I thought I should try another Moore. Cathy at 746Books and Brian Moore At 100 are hosting a readalong of Moore's novels and this month's book is Fergus, his novel of 1970. I saw I could get it from my library, so I did.

Fergus Fadden is a novelist and scriptwriter living in the LA area. He's 39, recently divorced and is short of money for alimony and child support; he's taken a purportedly lucrative Hollywood job scriptwriting for the team of Redshields (director) and Boweri (producer). He's living with Dani, 21, and is more interested in marrying her than she is him. He's haunted by his Irish past.

And when I say haunted, that's more literal than metaphorical. His father, who is long since dead, is the first to show up. Page 2, in my edition:

"Fergus was afraid. He looked away as a child looks away when it sees something which upsets it. Then, uneasily, he looked back at the yellow sofa. His father was still there."

Fergus quite rightly wonders if he's losing it. And we're allowed to wonder for a while, too. But when his sister Maeve shows up, who's living in Ireland and not in LA, and at an age younger than she would be in life, she eats a plum. Fergus later finds the pit and deduces only Maeve could have eaten it. Hmm.

Other figures than Fergus' parents and siblings show up as well. Aunts and uncles. A couple of priests from Fergus' youth. The married neighbor Fergus once lusted after, and her dentist husband. Ex-girlfriends. Friends from the places he's lived--Ireland, New York. He talks to them, wants to talk to them, feels they're real enough he has to talk to them, even though other (likely real) people might be in the room and seem unable to see whom it is he's talking to. This leads to comic complications.

Various factions accuse him of terrible things: the priests, the neighbor's husband; others stand up for him, his parents at times, his friends, though often ironically. It's an odd setup, but actually fairly successful. It gives a real picture of a man going through a personal crisis. Not that I'm now necessarily all that sympathetic--any more at least--to someone who's worried his life is already over at 39... ;-)

The Boweri/Redshields episodes, though, I have to say, I liked less. They're a bit background to the main personal crisis, but I wish they had been further in the background. The pair are a bit too much stock Hollywood movie-producing villains. And, what's especially disappointing, as I learned from Cathy's review of the book, this is based on an actual episode in Moore's life as a scriptwriter for Alfred Hitchcock. Whatever one may think of Hitchcock, he should at least make for a more interesting figure than these two. 

Having previously noted Moore's failure in 1987 to predict the fall of the Iron Curtain, I was also amused by this:

"...twenty years from now, when birth control will be permitted for Catholics..."

This, in 1970. It's a good thing Moore didn't hang up his shingle as a pundit.

All in all, though, quite a good novel, funny and poignant both, even if this one didn't quite rocket up to be among my favorite Brian Moore novels. Next month's book in the year-long readalong is The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, undoubtedly one of Moore's most celebrated. I have a copy, which I read something like twenty-plus years ago, not too long after emigrating to Canada. I remember it as pretty great, but terribly sad. We'll see whether I have the emotional wherewithal to reread it next month...

For more information on Moore, I definitely recommend the pages from Cathy's blog and University of Exeter Brian Moore at 100 blog linked above.


  1. so is this a time travel book? oh, you said a psychological profile of a sort? i see... he said, mutely...

    1. Fergus himself doesn't time travel--he stays in one place and time. It's just that all these other people from different times and places come to him. Is he cracking up? Are they ghosts? (Then the first living person shows up.) Maybe they're physically there? It is a weird premise.

  2. "This, in 1970. It's a good thing Moore didn't hang up his shingle as a pundit."

    Thanks for the chuckle! LOL