Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Shooting Gallery"

Hailey Lind is the author of Feint of Art, Shooting Gallery, and the forthcoming Brush with Death.

She applied the "page 69 test" to Shooting Gallery and reported the following:
When I turned to page 69 of Shooting Gallery, the second book in the Art Lover’s Mystery Series, it surprised me to see that I dropped the “F” bomb about halfway through the page. Not that I haven’t been known to drop said bomb myself from time to time – especially when dealing with the legendary San Francisco Bay Area traffic — but I rarely use such language otherwise, and certainly not gratuitously.

However, the scene explains the language: after a rather raucous scene the series protagonist, Annie Kincaid, has finally gained access to the studio of reclusive sculptor, Robert Pascal. Pascal brought a marble sculpture to his studio in order to do some repair work, but ever since has refused to give the sculpture back to its rightful owners. Pascal’s character becomes clear to the reader in the following scene from page 69:

“No. They can’t have it back,” he said dispassionately. “Not now.”

“Not now?” I echoed. “Does that mean you’ll give it back later?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Not at the moment, anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t fucking want to.”

“But you must know it’s driving the Hewetts crazy.”

“I don’t care. It’s my goddamned sculpture.”

“Mr. Pascal, don’t get me wrong — I’m a strong supporter of the integrity of an artist’s vision. But Head and Torso belongs to the Hewetts. You sold it to them in 1968, and surely the check’s cleared by now—“

“They’re morons. They don’t appreciate it.”

My brief interaction with Janice Hewett inclined me to share Pascal’s assessment, but that was not the point. If intelligence were a prerequisite for owning art, most of the world’s finest palaces would have nothing on their walls except spiderwebs.

“They paid only twenty-five hundred dollars for it,” Pascal continued. “It’s worth nearly half a million now.”

“I think I understand,” I replied, choosing my words with care. “I know how hard it is to part with something that comes straight from your soul. But in the society we live in …well, the people who buy the stuff get to keep the stuff. Are you aware that the Hewetts are threatening a lawsuit if you don’t return the sculpture?”

There was a scuffling sound high overhead, followed by a muted pounding…

This excerpt is representative of the book in the aside about art hanging in palaces, and in Annie’s acknowledgement of the difficulty in the artist giving up his work – especially to someone he thinks is undeserving. Though the books are humorous, character-driven mysteries for non-art lovers as well as art fans, I myself am an artist and enjoy including personal asides from an artistic perspective.

On the other hand, page 69 is not typical of Shooting Gallery in that it is not particularly funny. The “scuffling sound” overhead is precursor to a comical stunt by some of Annie’s friends; and this discussion with Pascal occurs right after a riotous party in the hallway. As such, it is something of a breathing space in the story, a character set-up that will lead to much more throughout the book.
Visit Hailey Lind's website and blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue