Local author and Everett resident James Tarr visits EHS


Ryan McGowan

Author and Everett resident James Tarr spoke with Mr. Fineran’s AP Language students last Thursday about his dystopian novel “These Troubled Days” and the ideas that inspired it.

Shishir Pokhrel and Rebecca Hickey-Schultz

Local author James Tarr visited Everett High School last Thursday to speak to AP Language students about his book “These Troubled Days,” the state of the world, the writing process, and growing up in Lynn. 

“These Troubled Days” takes place in Boston. After main character Harold Maguire’s wife dies in a subway bombing, Maguire is solely focused on his daughter, Aiden, who he fears will pick up the banner of political activism he put down decades ago. 

Tarr’s dystopian thriller is mixed with paranoia, terrorism, and chaos. “Some of the themes in this book include the rise of fascism, far-right groups, and privatization and militarization of state functions like policing,” Tarr told a group of students assembled in AP Language teacher Michael Fineran’s classroom. 

Tarr was born and raised in Lynn but currently resides in Everett.  Lynn has always been a diverse community filled with poverty. In recent decades a lot of employment has been taken away from the people. 

“Growing up there in the 1990s, it was the very height of Lynn’s decline,” Tarr said. “Lynn used to have a General Electric. They had 25,000 jobs at one point in the city of Lynn. Today there are less than 2000 General Electric jobs in the city. I grew up in the aftermath of the decline.”

“I also grew up in a very diverse community,” Tarr added. “I wasn’t necessarily racially conscious so seeing how diverse it was, I didn’t think a lot about it. After leaving Lynn, I went to college, and kind of reengaged with this in a more meaningful way. I wasn’t necessarily racially unconscious, but I wanted to learn why my hometown looks like a demilitarized zone.”

He used his knowledge of Lynn, Everett, Chelsea and other cities surrounding Boston to write a dystopian novel about the future of the country at large. 

Tarr originally started writing the book during his senior year in high school when he was tasked with the assignment of writing a ten-page short story. He wrote a 14-page story which became the genesis of the book. 

Tarr continued working on the book in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but reached a point where he wasn’t satisfied with how it was going.  “I would pick up the book, put it down. I’d write some, I’d put it away. And every time I put it away it was because I was a little jarred by something that was happening in society,” Tarr said. “Then I kind of sat and waited around. Then Trump became president.”

Tarr wanted to write something that someone could pick up, read, and then think about how if people don’t act now, nothing will get better and we’ll just be going towards something that’s not good. Something deeper and darker.  He believes that the most pressing dangers for the future of America are politically far-right groups, conspiracy theorists, nationalism, and hatred towards others.

“When the conspiracy theories get mixed into politics, it goes downhill,” said Tarr. “I don’t think many Americans realize how much of what we are seeing right now is very similar to tactics that the fascist leaders have deployed.” 

“These Troubled Days” was also influenced by books such as “1984” and “Animal Farm” by George Orwell,  “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, and “We” by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Tarr currently works at UMass Boston as a consultant. He lives with his wife and four month old daughter in Everett. You can purchase “These Troubled Days”at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Porter Square Books in Cambridge.