THREE-FIFTHS (Adult Literary)




John Vercher


Adult Literary

Word Count:

76,000 words


I am seeking representation for my completed 76,000 word fiction novel, Three-Fifths, a racial and family drama which takes place in Pittsburgh in 1995 against the backdrop of the O.J. Simpson trial.

Bobby Saraceno is a young biracial man, passing for white, who must confront the secret of his identity when his best friend involves him in a hate crime.

Robert Winston, an ER physician, returns to Pittsburgh amidst the crumbling of his marriage to care for his aging parents and comes to terms with a truth from his past: that he unknowingly fathered a son.

Isabel Saraceno, Bobby’s mother, is a desperate alcoholic with one last opportunity to set things right after a chance reunion with her son’s father: Robert Winston.

Bobby’s unwitting involvement in the crime sets in motion a series of events that brings these three parallel first person POV’s together.

Three-Fifths is a story of addiction, infidelity, hate and ultimately love, that comes to a tragic but inevitable conclusion leaving all involved questioning the measure of a man.

My novel shares the themes of family and addiction present in Delicious Foods by James Hannaham and the struggles of racial identity and infidelity in Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You.

I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University, where I spent a year studying under Chinelo Okparanta. An excerpt from my novel won the honor of being printed the inaugural issue of Assignment, the literary magazine of Southern New Hampshire University, alongside new work from Adam Wilson and Joshua Cohen. I am currently a contributing writer for Assignment.

I am a biracial man (African-American and Caucasian) who has wrestled with identity throughout my life. I live in suburban Philadelphia with my wife and two children.

First 300 words:

Bobby Saraceno

March 15, 1995

When Aaron smashed the brick into the side of that black kid’s face, it sounded like a gun went off. The kid dropped like he was one of those old wooden puppets and somebody had cut his strings. One of his legs caught underneath him all crooked. The other side of his head bounced off the sidewalk with a wet smack. Through the driver’s side window of the truck, I couldn’t tell if it was the snow on the pavement that made that sound or if something in his face broke. He was still for a minute and I was sure he was dead. Then his legs slid back and forth as he tried to crawl. The snow turned to dirty slush under his boots. His hands clawed at the ground and he tried to press himself up but his arms shook and his face hit the ground again. Gashes covered the side of his face that Aaron crushed, but there was no blood. It was like it happened so fast, his skin didn’t know it was supposed to be bleeding. It figured it out quick. Blood poured out, from his nose, his ear, his eye. Then he moaned. It sounded like “why?” I didn’t know the answer.

Aaron whipped open the passenger door behind me and I jumped. He dropped the brick on the floor in front of him. 

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” he said. 

He breathed heavy, but calm. His breath stunk of beer. I forgot I’d already started the truck and the engine’s insides scraped when I turned the key. I threw it into drive and the tires screeched as I took the corner onto Forbes. Aaron looked out the back and I watched the rearview. The empty patrol car across the street didn’t move.


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