Monday, September 15, 2008

"Angel’s Tip"

A former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair Burke now teaches criminal law at Hofstra Law School and lives in New York City. She is the author of the Samantha Kincaid series—which includes the novels Judgment Calls, Missing Justice, and Close Case—and Dead Connection, her first thriller featuring Ellie Hatcher.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new Ellie Hatcher thriller, Angel’s Tip, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Angel’s Tip reads “Part II/ Dream Witness.” That tells you that Angel’s Tip is a book with parts. The next page with text, however, contains the following:

The distance between the Thirteenth Precinct and the Meatpacking District was almost exactly two miles, but culturally, the neighborhoods were a globe apart. The short drive from the east twenty-something blocks of Manhattan to the far west teens unveiled a dramatic transformation from the sterile and generic high rises of Stuyvesant Town to what was currently the city’s hottest neighborhood.

The key to the Meatpacking District’s current popularity rested in its unique blend of glamour and grit. All of the upscale requirements were here – high-end boutiques, trendy clubs with signature cocktails, expensive restaurants with tiny portions piled into aesthetically pleasing towers. But they existed in loft-like, pared down spaces that still had the feel – if not the actual structure – of rehabbed warehouses. The streets outside were narrow, many still cobblestone, adding to the sense of an old neighborhood uncovered, dusted off, and polished by its latest visitor.

And, of course, there was the name. Not SoHo. Not Tribeca. Not NoLita. Nothing cutesy, crisp, or clean. This was the Meatpacking District, and, lest you forget it, the distinctly bloody odor emanating from the remaining butchers and beef wholesalers was there to remind you: This was a neighborhood with substance, history, and dirt beneath its blue-collar fingernails. Just ask the Appletini-sipping super-model taking a load off her Manolo Blahniks on the stool next to yours.

Angel’s Tip is my fifth novel, but only the second to be set in New York City and to feature NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. I write about crime in contemporary New York City, not in the days of Bernie Goetz or David Berkowitz. And I write not about Brooklyn or the Bronx, but about Manhattan.

Given those choices, the New York setting of the Ellie Hatcher series actually made plotting a thriller more difficult than in my Portland-based Samantha Kincaid series. When Manhattan is famous for being safe, how does a writer create danger on the page? In Angel’s Tip, I’ve taken this now-tourist-friendly city’s famously low crime rate and used it to my advantage. In the opening pages of the book, Indiana college student Chelsea Hart chooses to remain alone in the VIP lounge of a club in the Meatpacking District precisely because she’s in the Big Apple. The club is over-the-top luxurious. Fantasy. Safe. But when she leaves at four in the morning without her friends, everything changes.

Page 69 of Angel’s Tip (or at least, the next consecutive page with text) hopefully conveys that same contradiction: new but old, gentrified but gritty, safe but at risk. If nothing else, it was a fun page to write.
Read an excerpt from Angel’s Tip, and learn more about the book and author at Alafair Burke's website, Facebook page, MySpace page, and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Connection.

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

--Marshal Zeringue