Sunday, May 2, 2010

"31 Bond Street"

A photo editor for books and magazines, Ellen Horan has worked on staff and in a freelance capacity for many publications, including Vanity Fair, Vogue, House & Garden, Forbes, and ARTnews, as well as for a number of book publishers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to 31 Bond Street, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of 31 Bond Street falls on the opening of Chapter Nine, and the heading says September 1856, New York City. I'd say it was a seminal page in that each chapter shift is important in driving the narrative forward. From the very beginning, when I decided to write about the factual murder case of Dr. Burdell in 1857, (which I turned into a novel), I had the idea to structure the book around two narrative threads: one is from the point of view of the lawyer Henry Clinton, who takes on the defense of a woman accused of murdering a wealthy dentist, Harvey Burdell, in his townhouse. The other narrative thread is from the point of view of the accused, Emma Cunningham, and her story backs up to the previous summer, when she first meets the murdered man. This particular chapter opens with such a switch -- in Chapter Eight we have left the lawyer, Henry Clinton who has just announced to his wife, that against his partner's wishes, he is taking on this high stakes murder case. Chapter Nine opens the previous fall, with the flirtatious widow, Emma Cunningham, sitting in a tea parlor on Broadway, waiting for the eligible bachelor, Dr. Burdell, to pick her up and take her to the theatre. She has met him on her summer trip to Saratoga, and he has expressed an interest in seeing more of her upon their return to New York. We enter inside her thoughts as she waits for him to arrive, and she calculates his qualities, one of which is a beautiful townhouse at 31 Bond Street. It is through her inner voice, that we learn of her past husband, and her humble origins in Brooklyn. If the reader were to read only p.69, (and the rest of the paragraph on the following page,) you would get a very good sense of this woman's character and her background. The relationship between Emma and Dr. Burdell develops into a series of precise calculations and increasingly sinister manipulations.

As each chapter switches from the present context of Henry Clinton's court case, to the background of his client, the reader is propelled closer to the heart of the mystery: Who killed Dr. Burdell? The sentence for murder is hanging, so Emma Cunningham's life is at stake, as all of New York is watching to see if a jury will find her guilty or innocent of murder.
Read an excerpt from 31 Bond Street and view the trailer; learn more about the book at author at the official 31 Bond Street website.

See "The Story Behind the Story: '31 Bond Street,' by Ellen Horan," at The Rap Sheet.

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

--Marshal Zeringue