Monday, April 27, 2009

"Dope Thief"

Dennis Tafoya was born in Philadelphia and attended Oberlin College. He dropped out and worked a series of jobs, including housepainter, hospital orderly and EMT before starting a career in industrial sales. He began writing poetry, publishing stories in journals, and then started work on Dope Thief, his first novel.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to Dope Thief and reported the following:
“Manny grabbed the key and twisted. Ray’s mind went completely blank and he just watched Manny cranking the engine over and over. There was a glow over the rise behind them and Ray began to see red light reflected on the tops of the wet trees.”

Page 69 of my novel, Dope Thief reads to me like a random page of a hardboiled crime novel, which I think is both an accurate description and a box I’m trying to break open. It’s a nearly wordless account of the escape of the two main characters from a burning meth lab. It’s about panic and fear, and the only line of dialogue is, “Oh, Jesus, get moving.”

I hope the book is just the right mix of spare, violent action balanced with glimpses of the interior life of Ray, the main character, as he tries to first fight, and then think and feel his way out of the life of crime to which he feels chained by blood and bad luck.

My favorite parts of the book are actually Ray’s recollections of moments with his high-school girlfriend, Marletta, lost when they were both still young. I won’t cheat and quote any of them here, but they’re places where I get to stretch the conventions a little, and they were fun to write.

But writing sequences like page 69 is about the core territory of the crime novel, and I hope readers will think I cover it well: Desperate characters, armed to the teeth, running from fire and violent death with heads full of dope and a bag filled with cash.
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Tafoya's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue