Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Death Was in the Picture"

Linda L. Richards is the editor and co-founder of January Magazine and a regular contributor to The Rap Sheet.

applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Death Was in the Picture, and reported the following:
Death Was in the Picture’s Page 69 occurs at a telling moment. Not a lot is happening in terms of the mystery that carries this story through. However, we come across narrator Kitty Pangborn, secretary to gumshoe Dexter Theroux in 1931 Los Angeles, just as she meets one of the central and key characters in the second novel in which Kitty features.

At the beginning of Death Was in the Picture, Theroux was hired to follow Laird Wyndham who is an old-school Hollywood star. In Kitty’s words (back on page 10) “You’d have to have been living on the moon and surviving on its green cheese for the last half dozen years not to know the name and face of the biggest motion picture star there had ever been and probably ever would be.”

So Wyndham is an actor. More: he’s a movie star, with all the weight those words carried in that part of Hollywood’s history. Page 69 of Death Was in the Picture is the first time Kitty has met Wyndham face-to-face. To her, he’s an icon: it’s a momentous occasion. She entreats herself to “remember the details” of the meeting. This is, she reasons, a moment that won’t happen often in a girl’s life. For me the scene conveys one of the things we share with 1931. Oh: lots of things are different, sure. But show a girl a movie star? She might just grow a little weak.

So, page 69, from Death Was in the Picture:

I made myself remember the details, it seemed likely I’d want to take them out later and replay them. At a gesture from Wyndham, Dex and I took the two seats opposite him, the table between us. Dex looked as comfortable as he always did and I tried to follow his example. This was not, however, a normal day. Laird Wyndham was sitting directly across from me. Close enough, I realized, that if I stretched out a leg, I’d be able to touch him with my toe. Close enough that, with the right crossbreezes, I’d be able to catch a whiff of his scent, and he -- I thought headily -- mine.

I was so caught up in thoughts of toe-touching and possible scent exchanges that I missed the earliest part of the conversation. Nor did I later regret it. How often, I reasoned, would I have Laird Wyndham practically almost to myself in this way? I knew what they were talking about anyway, or thought I did. The small talk that marks the earliest part of human interaction: I’m here because of this, you’re here because of that.

But his hair.

Up close -- this close -- I could see the irregularity of his part. And I could see that while his hair did not appear especially thick, there was a lot of it, dark chestnut in color, waved back so neatly it looked almost creamy. Thick, dark cream. A lock of it fell over his forehead and dipped toward his left eye.

“She’s not taking notes.” I’m not sure if the words themselves stirred me or the fact that they were about me. Probably both. There was amusement in Wyndham’s voice and I found myself only lightly mortified that he should have found me out so quickly. It was likely not the first time a young woman had finagled her way into his presence.

“Hear that, Kitty? Your lack of note taking is inviting concern.” I smiled timidly at Wyndham, then cast Dex a disapproving look. He paid no attention.
Learn more about the author and her work at Linda L. Richards' website.

View the Death Was in the Picture trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Death Was the Other Woman, the first Kitty Pangborn novel.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue