Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Another Thing to Fall"

Laura Lippman's 2007 novel, What the Dead Know, was a New York Times bestseller. Her Tess Monaghan books — By a Spider's Thread, The Last Place, The Sugar House, Baltimore Blues, Charm City, Butchers Hill, In Big Trouble, and No Good Deeds — have won the Edgar, Agatha, Shamus, Anthony, and Nero Wolfe awards, and In a Strange City was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Lippman is also the author of the critically acclaimed stand-alone novel Every Secret Thing.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new Tess Monaghan novel, Another Thing to Fall, and reported the following:
As it happens, I have two versions: The regular hardcover and the large print, which just arrived today. In the regular hardcover, page 69 centers on a lunch among Tess Monaghan, a television producer and the young actress he thinks needs Tess as a bodyguard. It is set in Martick's, a one-of-a-kind Baltimore restaurant and begins:

The waiter brought them more rolls, but Selene had already lost interest. For all her talk about her famous appetite and penchant for head sucking, Selene simply sniffed at the bread, leaving a whitish smear of flour beneath her nose. It looked rather natural
to Tess. How strange Selene's world must be, where spoons were used for mirrors and mirrors were used --

But in the large print edition, page 69 falls toward the end of a scene in which Tess has interrupted a screening of Once Upon a Time in the West, and her boyfriend, Crow, begins lecturing his young protege, Lloyd, on the career of Charles Bronson.

Just out of Crow's eye line, Tess pretended
to slump in catatonia at this pedantic discussion of Death Wish, and Lloyd began giggling, a high-pitched bubble of sound that reminded Tess he was at once a very young and very old seventeen.

Both go to the heart of the novel, but in such different ways. The first one is essentially the set-up: Actress needs protection. Problems, inevitably, ensue. And Tess's assumption that the actress uses cocaine is meant to be an example of bigotry. But the second page 69 is closer to the book's heart, which is concerned with how our culture's insane passion for film and television. Plus, there's just not enough discussion of Charles Bronson in contemporary fiction.
Read more about Another Thing to Fall and the author at Laura Lippman's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue