Watch Out When the Ants Scatter on Jim Jackson’s Farm

Ant Farm Cover smallJames M. Jackson came in handy. I needed his novel Ant Farm. It leads to more. I can’t wait to get around to them.

Ant Farm reminds me of the mysteries of the late Dick Francis. Jim’s Seamus McCree is an American. Francis mainly wrote about Englishmen. Ant Farm reminds me of a Francis mystery in the way it is meticulously plotted and rationally advanced.

Francis is my go-to guy, or was, along with Elmore Leonard, who has also died after a long, glorious run of crime thrillers. If anyone taught me how to write dialogue, it was Leonard, but Leonard’s spare style and detached view were unique.

Jackson is destined to fill part of the Francis-Leonard void.

I read a variety of books, fiction and non, some written centuries ago, some recently. After a long slog — Conrad Black’s bio of FDR, for instance, or a classic such as Don Quixote, which I finally got around to reading a couple years ago — I need something light, not any less skillful, just less of an investment and pressure to bear down.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Jackson isn’t a Francis clone. His novel doesn’t have a horse-racing tie-in. (Francis was once a jockey.) Francis wrote exclusively in first person. Jackson writes through the eyes of McCree except when he shifts to the villain who is stalking McCree and waiting patiently for an opportunity to kill him.

My three novels — The Audacity of Dope, The Intangibles, and the just-released Crazy of Natural Causes – were all written in third person. I like third person, but the McCree style, also used by Craig Hart in Becoming Moon, is tempting to try. It works, too.

McCree — who worked on Wall Street before he gave it up, went through a divorce, and settled in Cincinnati — works for a company, CIG, that assists the authorities in solving cases. McCree’s job is perusing records and sniffing out financial irregularities, but it’s not his only talent. In the latter half of Ant Farm, McCree reveals an impetuous, risk-taking side, one that nearly proves fatal.

Seamus is not what he seems, which often catches his villains unawares and causes them to underestimate him. He is also quite lucky in that he finds surprising allies along his way.

He has a son, Paddy, who has come to live with him until it’s time to go back to college, and the two clash, primarily because they are a lot alike. Each rather resents the other, mostly for a generational difference in the same character traits.

McCree becomes enmeshed in separate cases that wind up being connected. He suspects a series of bad guys, some of whom change his mind, but, ultimately, it turns out he was right all along.

Then there are bad guys who never dissuaded him, and one particularly sinister hit man, lurking outside his range of suspicion until near the end. I expect this one will resurface in subsequent novels.

In such a way is the franchise advanced, and I expect to be reading tales of Seamus McCree’s adventures for years to come.

Please consider Ant Farm, which may be purchased here:

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One thought on “Watch Out When the Ants Scatter on Jim Jackson’s Farm

  1. Mote — Thanks for your write-up of ANT FARM. I’ll stop back and answer any questions folks may have.

    Using first person or third person point-of-view is an interesting choice the author needs to make. Both can work well, but sometimes a certain story shines a bit more in one or the other. In the Seamus McCree series, I always use first person for Seamus, however, in Cabin Fever, I include several other points of view and those all all third person.

    ~ Jim

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