Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Occupational Hazards"

Jonathan Segura is the deputy reviews editor of Publishers Weekly and holds a master's degree in fiction writing from Columbia University.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Occupational Hazards, and reported the following:
Occupational Hazards is a newsroom noir set in Omaha, Neb., about a guy named Bernard Cockburn. He’s a reporter at a low-rent alterna-weekly, arguably an alcoholic, an awful boyfriend to a less than ideal girlfriend and, I like to think, sorta funny. He gets in over his head at work with a story that starts out lame and then goes big. And his girlfriend gets knocked up, which he isn’t very happy about. Things pile on from there.

On Page 69, Burn’s making a date with a source, and then he’s plunged into the wretched blitz of closing an issue. He’s also doing some research on the lame story, which, by this point, is becoming less lame. It’s fairly representative of the book in terms of tone and velocity, but there isn’t this much italics throughout. It’s not, overall, an italics sorta book.

“Won’t take long. Grab a coffee after work or something.”

He rapidly clicks his tongue a few times. “You know Trudy’s? It’s on—”


“Right. Will that work? Say 5:30?”

“On it.”

Kid brings me my coffee and I give him the releases. “Make these not suck. Briefly. Then find me whatever you can over at city hall about the Baron Square project. Memos of understanding – mayor’s office, third floor; they got a sweetheart tax deal, so check with the finance department – fifth floor; whatever planning has – eleventh floor.”

Then the ringing begins. The phone. Not my ears. Seth calling back. No, the mayor does not feel this is a good ordinance; it will cost the taxpayers way more than it is worth. No, no, the city law department has not addressed the grievance yet. All right. Call me if you need anything. Write ‘em up. Short, sweet, punchy. Make a call for Leroy, whatever. Learn: part of the downtown historic district so no Mickey-D’s. Owner’s up on his taxes. Hit something like paydirt with my planning guy—NüCorp’s in preliminary talks to renovate it. Planning dept. loves NüCorp. Everyone loves Nücorp. Take the old, make it new. Higher valuations, more yuppie pads, more jobs. Fuck them. Hi, Bernard, what’s your e-mail? For the mugshot? Okay, okay… dot-com, got it. Coffee. Boy, rewrite that crime stats piece, it’s too sassy. Sassy. Fuck you, sassy. Cigarette. Donna’s still trying to quit. Bernard, press conference today at three. Yeah, the union’s going to respond to the mayor’s veto of the staffing ordinance. Great, we’ll see you then? Paragraphs, bang clatter bang and my fingers are sore as hell.
Read an excerpt from Occupational Hazards, and learn more about the author and his work at Jonathan Segura's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue