“American Requiem” by Jacques Côté: noir novel at the time of the biker war

MISE À DAY

A renowned writer, Jacques Côté had long dreamed of writing a noir novel. He threw himself fully into this project by writing American Requiem, a thriller in two volumes set against the backdrop of a biker war in Quebec in the 90s. Beyond the thrilling story of a struggle between rivals in organized crime, American Requiem shows the secret drama engendered by the rupture of the bonds between two brothers and the inevitable erosion of the family fabric.

The action begins in Montreal in the 1990s. Freshly released from prison, Marc Hamel, the head of the Hells Angels, commands an all-out assault against the Rock Machine. The challenge: to expand their territory and control the drug market.

American Requiem, Jacques Côté, Éditions Flammarion Québec, 320 pages, 2023

The restructuring of these two enemy clans quickly leads to confusion and chaos. Montreal becomes a powder keg and settling of scores follows. The bombs explode.

To stop this escalation of violence, the team of Owen Hayden, lieutenant of the SPCUM, must strike fast and hard. But there's a catch: Owen's brother, Tom, is Marc Hamel's right-hand man.

Old Gangsters

Jacques Côté, a lover of noir novels for several years, was passionate about this turbulent period, while describing the story of a family on the verge of breaking up. 

“I am a author of detective novels and I have always loved the American noir novel. There were American noir novels that took place in the 1920s and 1930s, at the time of Al Capone, of Chicago, of the gang wars,” he said in an interview. 

When he was young, he loved these stories. “I was 11-12 years old and I knew all the gangsters in Chicago by heart, like little guys know hockey players on the cards. If there had been gangster cards, back then, I would have bought them!”

Two brothers, two clans

War bikers interested him a lot. 

“I read a lot about it and I saw a lot of documentaries. But almost everything has been said. I said to myself: I will create my own biker war, where people will be able to recognize certain dramas, certain stages related to the biker war.

Beyond this scenery and of these spectacular events, widely publicized, Jacques Côté wanted to describe the crumbling fabric of a family that is breaking up, and the bond between two brothers that everything opposes.

“One is the leader of an anti-gang squad and has been doing this for a long time, and his brother is a sergeant-at-arms with the Hells Angels. He's really the rising head, the one who will eventually take over.” 

The rift between them

Beyond the great confrontations presented in the novel, the writer wanted to show the rift that widens between the two brothers. 

“That's what interested me: all the times when they have the right to see legally, and the times when, illicitly, they will see each other and take a risk. I was interested in those moments when the two see each other. They have things to say and accounts to settle.”

“I approach in the book the possible corruption, the temptation of the gang, in a perspective where I document the war of the bikers. It interested me enormously, I read extraordinary works on it. But I wanted to deal with it in a typically romantic setting.”

In the second volume, to come in 2024, we will go even more towards the noir novel, he promises. “I'm having fun because I've wanted to do a noir novel for a long time and now I have the opportunity to do it in two volumes. It's really very pleasant for me!»   

EXTRACT

«The Traffic stagnated around Notre-Dame and Saint-Antoine streets. The furious honking made a deafening counterpoint; rise in urban frustrations at rush hour. Frozen pedestrians squeezed between grilles and bumpers, veering dangerously into drivers' blind spots. Other blows of horn which let off steam. Fingers of honor. Invectives.” 

 

  • Jacques Côté teaches literature at Cégep de Sainte-Foy. 
  • He is the author of numerous thrillers, including the successful series Daniel Duval and The Alienist's Black Notebooks.
  • He received the Arthur- Ellis three times.
  • He is the author of the series The Arsonist Voyeur, an adaptation of his essay Autopsy of an Imperfect Crime.< /li>
  • Volume 2 will be published in 2024.