Monday, September 7, 2009

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

Deborah Grabien is the author of the Haunted Ballad series and five stand-alone novels. Additionally, many of her short stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and magazines.

She applied the Page 69 Test to While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the second book in the JP Kinkaid Chronicles, and reported the following:
Page 69 establishes all three of the main characters: JP Kinkaid, Bree Godwin, and homicide detective Patrick Ormand. And it gives you the nature of the murder victim, Vinny Fabiano:

I stopped suddenly. Inside, I was cursing. What was it about Patrick Ormand, that he always got me to say too much?

Bree, managing a smile, reached out and patted my hand.

"It's okay, John. I was about to suggest I tell him anyway. God knows, there were enough witnesses. I'd rather have him hear it from me."

She looked up at Patrick. He was watching, looking back and forth between us. If he'd set a trap, if he already knew all about it and was trying to catch us out, he was a brilliant actor; he just looked puzzled and interested. Bree took a deep breath, and met his eye.

"I suppose - if the amount of mousehole-watching you did after Perry Dillon was killed is anything to go by - that you're going be asking around, seeing who'd had disagreements with him recently. Right?"

He nodded.

"Well," she told him, "Let me save you some trouble. Last Saturday night, we went to a party in Sausalito - it was a house the belongs to a guy called Paul Morgenstern. He owns a club in Marin, where a lot of the local bands play. John had gone hunting in the crowd for some chairs and I went to load up a couple of plates at the buffet."

Patrick waited. Bree patted my hand again; I must have looked worried, or something. "Anyway, Vinny came up behind me, and grabbed me - I mean, grabbed me, solid grip on my ass. He was reaching around front with the other hand. I told him he moved his hand or I cut his nuts off and wore them as earrings. I was not amused."

"Jesus." Patrick gave a long whistle. "No, I can see how you wouldn't be. What happened?"

"He took a swing at me, a real swing, full fist. John was halfway across the room, trying to get through the hordes. Vinny was looking to inflict some serious damage and show me who was boss. So I kneed him in the balls."

Would a reader, skimming the book, pick it up on that basis? You tell me.

The JP Kinkaid Chronicles were written from a place of personal truths. The series is my attempt to recapture my own history, and to recapture a particular man's voice, in the person of JP Kinkaid. But if I, as writer, do my job properly, the characters become unique and distinct unto themselves. That's what happened here.

This is a mystery series, and I think page 69 captures that. But it's also a coming of age story, set in the rarified world of rock stardom. The protagonists are adults, not twentysomethings. JP, a guitarist in his fifties, was written by a woman in her fifties, looking back, seeing what was lost and what was learned. Bree's reaction to the attempted grope is an adult woman's reaction, rather than a girl's. And her understanding that not hiding it from the cop gives her control. A small lesson learned - but that's what coming of age is all about.

There are grand themes at work here: love, loyalty, the family we make, taking responsibility as we age. But it's also a nice tense mystery series, with twists and turns. And while page 69 has some of that, I'd begin at page 1.
Learn more about the book and author at Deborah Grabien's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue