Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Loot the Moon"

Mark Arsenault is a Shamus-nominated mystery writer, a journalist, a runner, hiker, political junkie and eBay fanatic who collects memorabilia from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

His Billy Povich series began with Gravewriter, a noir thriller praised for a fusion of suspense, humor and human tenderness.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Loot the Moon, the second book in the series, and reported the following:
Page 69 from Loot the Moon is a scene told from the viewpoint of a secondary character, Martin Smothers, a public defender who hurls himself relentlessly against the advancing bulldozer of evidence gathered by the prosecution, and with great frequency, loses in court. It’s not that Martin is a bad lawyer, it’s that his clients are usually guilty.

I’ve covered many criminal trials in my other life as a journalist. And I’m always enthralled by the stagecraft of a good piece of lawyering. Some of the most passionate lawyers I’ve watched were public defenders who represented some of the most violent and vile people among us. The lawyers assume that their clients are probably guilty, but that’s not the point. Their passion is for the Constitution. These people inspired the character of Martin Smothers.

On page 69, Martin is suffering through a sentencing hearing with a client named Stokely, who sits convicted of motor vehicle homicide. The last two paragraphs on the page are my blatant tribute to the public defenders I have quietly admired:

At trial, the prosecutor had pounded the facts. Martin could only pound the table. The Constitution provides that no matter how cold your heart and how terrible your crime, you deserve a competent and robust defense. If Martin could have won the case on some arcane technicality, he would have gone for the prosecutor’s throat. He gave Stokely a tenacious fight, and lost.

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, justice prevails.

Martin sees the world in black-and-white, though he’s cursed to be stuck in a novel full of grays. Throughout the story, I use him as a moral measuring stick for comparison to the other characters, even though Martin’s clarity makes him much more an exception than the rule.
Read an excerpt from Loot the Moon, and learn more about the author and his work at Mark Arsenault's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue