Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts"

New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice called Laura Benedict’s Isabella Moon "[a]n exquisite, closely observed novel that happens to be a great thriller.”

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts, and reported the following:
When I was asked to take the Page 69 test, I felt like a kid about to pull her fifth grade school photo out of its envelope--those school photographers only allow one take. And if you're snapped with your eyes blinked closed, you'll forever remember your fifth grade year as the year you had a truly terrible school picture.

I opened to Page 69 of Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts with trepidation. What if it was a description of a house or something equally prosaic? There would never be a chance to change it and make it something more exciting.

Page 69 begins within a dream sequence. Dillon, a secondary character, has been living in a posh downtown loft as a guest of Varick, the book's villain/demon. Dillon's days and nights have been a dream-come-true for a nineteen year-old kid with a taste for drugs, seductive women and gourmet carry-out. His companions have been Malina and Ivanka, twins with "centerfold bodies" and an apparently desperate desire to please him. But in his dream he fears he's been left alone in the loft. He's never been allowed in the girls' bedroom and so goes to open their door.

The cold burned his cheek. There was a sound, too, an uneven, sonorous hum as from a massive hive of bees. It wasn’t right. He wanted to get back to the spoons, to feel good again, because he could feel the goodness slipping from him. He tried to close the door. There was nothing in the way, but he couldn’t pull it to. The handle jerked beneath his hand, and the door flew open, revealing a blackness that he couldn’t have imagined when he was awake and in the world.

Something brushed against his foot and he kicked out. “Motherfucker!” Then the floor was covered with blackness, an eddying, squeaking, suffocating blackness, and something poked up out of the flood: a rat’s face.

The blackness grew into such a height in front of him that he was afraid to open his mouth and scream. He felt himself falling, pulled down by the tide, and understood that he would be eaten clean to the bone, and the fear of it was unbearable in his chest and the fear finally woke him.

He wakes to find Varick standing over him. Fun time is over for Dillon, and Varick is ready to put him to work.

Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts is the story of a former priest who enlists the aid of a demon (Varick) to take revenge on three young women who, as teenagers, ruined his life and career. While none of the women appears on Page 69, it speaks directly to one of the themes of the book: Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it--and it's never what you expect it to be. Page 69 also makes it clear that the supernatural is integral to the story and that Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts is no book for children or young teens. This is a novel for grownups who love a good scare.

So, please imagine my happy sigh of relief at my discovery that Page 69 is the perfect representation of the novel as a whole. Sometimes one take is all we need!
Read an excerpt from Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts.

Check out Laura Benedict's website and blog, and watch the Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts trailer.

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

--Marshal Zeringue