Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Rizzo's War"

Lou Manfredo served in the Brooklyn criminal justice system for twenty-five years. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Brooklyn Noir.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Rizzo's War, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel, Rizzo's War, presents a bit of an enigma for me in so far as how representative it is in comparison to the entire work.

On one hand, some insight into Detective Sergeant Rizzo’s character is gained. We see him in true form during the onset of the culmination of an investigation he has so carefully engineered: An arrest is about to be made. Through dialogue, the reader gets a good glimpse of Joe Rizzo at his pragmatic best.

“One more thing,” Rizzo said. “I want everyone to hear this. This is my collar, me and my partner’s. But for tonight, Jake is running the show. We all look to him to make the calls. Everyone clear?”

They all nodded. Rizzo looked satisfied and turned to Simmond. “Okay, boss. What now?”

On the other hand, this particular scene has Rizzo and his new young partner, Detective Mike McQueen, in a rare interaction with a team of other cops. For the most part, Rizzo's War is a studied and authentic examination of the developing partnership of Rizzo and McQueen: They normally work alone, with Rizzo preferring the security of such an arrangement.

Much of page 69 consists of dialogue which is very reflective of actual exchanges among law enforcement personnel. The nature of the chatter moves from the nuts and bolts of the business at hand...

“Donzi may not be a pushover,” Rizzo said. “He’s got a couple of assaults in Queens and a few in Manhattan. Likes to use his hands.”

... to the tension easing banter of seasoned, hardened cops...

“Mongo like tough-guy,” he said in a monotone. “Mongo like fight.”

Rizzo glanced at McQueen and then spoke to Simmond.

“Maybe we’ll just let him deal with Donzi,” he said.

Simmond chuckled. “Just keep your hands away from his mouth.”

I’d like to think that after reading page 69 of Rizzo's War, a casual browser inclined toward police novels would be intrigued enough to read on. There are many pages similar in nature, and although much of the novel exists in the procedural characterization vein, those similar pages contain sufficient action to keep things moving at a steady pace.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with page 69. Perhaps it is not perfectly representative of Rizzo's War, but then again, can any one page truly be? Can any single page reflect the layered complexities of an entire novel?

I truly doubt it, but I do know now that it’s a fascinating concept to grapple with.
Read an excerpt from Rizzo's War, and learn more about the novel at the Minotaur Books website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue