Friday, August 17, 2007

"A Nail Through the Heart"

Timothy Hallinan wrote a well-received series of six Los Angeles-based detective novels in the nineties, and now he's returned with a new series set in Bangkok, where he's lived off and on for more than 25 years. The first book in the series, A Nail Through the Heart, was just published by William Morrow. The protagonist is a rough-travel writer named Poke Rafferty, who now lives full-time in Bangkok.

Hallinan applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
“'When I was little,' Miaow says, 'he found me and took me to a place where kids were making garlands. My first day I made thirty baht. Almost a dollar. I could eat. Boo – that was his name then – showed me a good place to sleep. There was a number hotel that was closed. We could sleep in the garage. We were dry when it rained.' Number hotels, indispensable to Bangkok's sexually furtive, have curtained garages to allow customers to get out of their cars unobserved.”

The plot of A Nail Through the Heart is actually three stories braided together. They share some common characters, but each has different roots, and all those roots involve something that happened in the past. Three times in the novel (and for very different reasons) a character reopens the past and tells my central character, Poke Rafferty, what happened to him or her. On page 69, Rafferty's adopted daughter, an eight-year-old former street child named Miaow, tells the story of how she met the feral and occasionally terrifying street boy who now calls himself Superman, whom Rafferty has taken in – at least temporarily – at Miaow's insistence. This decision will have far-reaching repercussions.

So in some ways page 69 is extremely representative of a book in which the main action is the working out, sometimes violently, of relationships forged by events that took place long ago. It's one of the three times the veil is drawn on the past, and since it's the story that's closest to Rafferty's heart, I'm personally glad it's on page 69.
Read an excerpt from A Nail Through the Heart and learn more about the book at the author's website. And check out Poke Rafferty's own site.

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

--Marshal Zeringue