Friday, June 15, 2007

"City of Fire"

Robert Ellis is the author of Access to Power and The Dead Room.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new book, City of Fire, and reported the following:
I grabbed a copy of City of Fire off the shelf, turned to page 69, and started laughing. I have never been very good at tests. And by all appearances "my new baby" just failed! Page 69 does not represent the feel or kick of this book because it’s almost entirely dialogue. An interrogation scene between LAPD Detective Lena Gamble and her most likely suspect in the grisly murder of a beautiful young woman. A back and forth between a homicide detective and the victim's arrogant husband. But there is something of a hint here. A certain mood that lingers.

Lena starts it off ...

“Your boss seems to think a lot of you. Why would you be worried about losing your job?”

“My boss wouldn’t be making the decision. We’re merging with a Fortune five-hundred company based in Chicago. That’s two thousand miles away. All I’ll be is a number. Numbers don’t have faces. They come and go.”

“But you’re going to benefit from the merger.”

“So what? Everybody is.”

“How much money will you receive in back pay?”

“I haven’t had time to add it up.”

Lena smiled. “In other words it’s a lot of money and you’re afraid to tell us how much.”

“I haven’t had time to add it up,” he repeated. “And it won’t be that much. Not enough to cover my place in the unemployment line.”

“Did you know your wife was pregnant?”

Brant didn’t bat an eye. He should have, but he didn’t.

“Where’s that coffee?” he asked.

“On its way,” Lena said. She repeated the question, then watched him think it over. After a few moments, he slid down on the seat and sighed with resignation.

“Yeah, I knew,” he said. “I knew, but I didn’t know. I’ve been thinking about it all day. Nikki had been acting weird for almost two weeks – hinting at it but not saying anything.”

“Then she didn’t tell you directly. She didn’t say anything when you called last night from the office.”

“No. When I called, she just told me she was going to bed.”

“For a man who’s just learned that he was about to be a father, you’re not showing much emotion.”

“That’s because I’m having such a wonderful day.”

“Why did you give your assistants the night off?”

He smiled. “So I could go home and kill my wife.”

“Do you think this is funny, Mr. Brant?”

“No. I think it’s a fucking waste of time.”

“Why did you give them the night off?”

“Everyone was tired and they were screwing up. I knew we’d be working the weekend. I thought they needed a decent night’s rest.”

“What did you do when they left?”

City of Fire serves as the introduction of Detective Lena Gamble, working her first big murder case. She’s carrying baggage. Her brother was gunned down on a dark street in Hollywood five years ago, the case still open and unsolved. As the body count rises, Lena begins to realize that her serial case has everything to do with her brother’s death. The ride she’s on is fast and gritty and nowhere to be found on page 69! But what I love most about this scene is Lena’s persistence. Her voice. It’s a demonstration of who she really is. This couldn’t have been the first page in City of Fire. It couldn’t have been the third or even the twenty-third page. It took time walking the tightrope to find her voice. Lots of pages ripped up and deleted. Two or three trees worth. Detective Lena Gamble isn’t a man with a woman’s name. And she’s not an action figure built for a cartoon. For me, Lena Gamble is the very definition of what is real.
Check out Robert Ellis's website and read an excerpt from City of Fire.

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

--Marshal Zeringue