Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Dancing for the Hangman"

Martin Edwards is a British crime writer, and the author of two series, set in Liverpool and the Lake District. At the CWA Daggers Awards 2008, he received the award for best short story of the year for "The Bookbinder's Apprentice." The eighth Liverpool book, Waterloo Sunset, and The Arsenic Labyrinth (shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year 2008), have both recently appeared in paperback. The fourth Lake District Mystery, The Serpent Pool, will be published in February 2010.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his 2008 novel Dancing for the Hangman, and reported the following:
In the annals of true crime, the case of Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen is the stuff of legend. The discovery of human remains in the cellar of a suburban house in London, the home of a seemingly respectable professional man and his wife, a failed music hall singer who had devoted herself to charitable fund-raising, shocked and thrilled Edwardian England in equal measure. ‘Murder and mutiliation!’ screamed the newspapers. A Scotland Yard detective followed Crippen and his mistress (disguised as a boy) across the Atlantic, and the doctor’s trial at the Old Bailey provided an eager public with sensation after sensation.

The case may be famous, but Crippen’s motivation remains mysterious. ‘You can’t help liking the guy,’ admitted Raymond Chandler. Even the prosecution witnesses praised his good nature. In writing Dancing for the Hangman, and telling Crippen’s story largely through his eyes, in his voice, I kept to the established facts, but strove to use a novelist’s imagination to explain what otherwise seems impossible to understand.

On page 69, we find cracks appearing in the relationship between Crippen and his wife: ‘My heart sank. One thing about Cora; she would not be denied.’ The scene is representative, in that my take on the remarkable psychology of Crippen and those close to him is at the heart of novel. But I’ve offered a fresh twist to the story. Everyone knows Crippen’s fate. But Dancing for the Hangman develops into a story about a murder nobody knew or dreamed of.
Read more about Dancing for the Hangman at Martin Edwards’ website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue