Monday, June 9, 2008

"The Fourth Watcher"

Timothy Hallinan is the author of nine widely praised books, seven novels and a nonfiction work on Charles Dickens. Last year's A Nail Through the Heart introduced Bangkok-based rough-travel writer Poke Rafferty.

Hallinan applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Fourth Watcher, the second novel in the Bangkok series, and reported the following:
What I like about the Page 69 test is its total randomness. If' I'd been asked to pick a passage from The Fourth Watcher that was suggestive of the novel as a whole, not a single sentence on page 69 would have come to mind. So it's a very pleasant surprise to learn that this relatively obscure sequence is actually tied to practically everything that matters in the book.

The Fourth Watcher is a thriller set in Bangkok, but it's also a novel about family, and the differences in the way Thai and American culture view the family. At the beginning of the book, my hero, Poke Rafferty, is trying to shake three men who are trailing him; the exercise is part of a book he's writing. He fails to see the fourth watcher, who represents something very much more dangerous than a training exercise, and who is watching Poke under orders from the person Poke wants least in the world to come face-to-face with.

At this point, he's taken refuge from a torrential rain, having just seen an exquisite young woman whose face is somehow familiar to him. He'd ducked into a coffee shop, behind the counter of which is a girl of nine or ten who asks him where he comes from, whether he likes Thailand and whether he has any babies. When he says no, she says,

“Why? Why not have baby? No have baby, not happy.”

And, from a Thai perspective, she's absolutely right, although Poke's own family experience was much more complicated. He's chatting with her when:

... someone comes into sight through the window, shrouded in rain. A woman, her clothes pasted to her slender form. She does not keep her head down against the downpour but shields her eyes with a hand, obviously looking for something or someone. He watches idly for a moment, wondering why she hasn't ducked in to wait out the storm, and then, with a start, realizes who she is.

Who she is will change Rafferty's life forever, and will lead him into a forced and uneasy alliance – with an ambiguous and bittersweet outcome – with his long-estranged father.

So in its own way, it's all here, on random old page 69.
Read an excerpt from The Fourth Watcher, and learn more about the author and his work at Timothy Hallinan's website and his blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Nail Through the Heart.

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

--Marshal Zeringue