Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"House of Secrets"

Richard Hawke is the author of Speak of the Devil and Cold Day in Hell. He lives and writes in New York City.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, House of Secrets, and reported the following:
On Page 69 of House of Secrets, New York State Senator Andy Foster is haranguing a member of the insurance industry who is testifying in Congress. Andy is showing his biting wit and his outrage at the practices of the industry as he systematically sets up the witness for public humiliation. The scene then cuts to Andy’s Senate office and his acerbic aide-de-camp ribbing him about his Frank Capra-esque performance. You will also note Andy futzing with a bandage on his head. Bandage from what? Oh ... nothing much, except the wound he received from an attacker who burst in on the Senator during a tryst with a beautiful political adviser, beaned Andy with a pipe and murdered the woman. Oh. That.

So...page 69. It does attest to Andy’s authentic instinct to fight for the little guy ... but one might also deduce that the good Senator is the quintessence of a flawed hero ... one might even conclude, hypocritical. This, I can say, is Andy’s internal battle in this book. He is a man of hubris and privilege and in House of Secrets, both of them are nailing him big time. Plot-wise, Andy is in a race against time ... he is being called on to replace the retiring Vice-President. And if he can somehow manage to get this irritating little illicit sex-and-murder thing out of the way ... he’ll be fine!

Page 69:
“Mr. Sprague. I stand ready to apologize to the fortunate Miss Hammond for my characterization of her as a killer. I’m sure she is a lovely person, and she’s just doing her job. It was a harsh thing to say.” His eyes drifted to the gallery, then lowered again to the man at the table. “Perhaps, Mr. Sprague, you can show me how it’s done.”

The witness was confused. “I’m sorry, Senator. How what is done?”

“Apologizing, Mr. Sprague. Ross Foley’s widow and two of her three children are seated in the front row of the gallery. If you turn around, you can see them. Go ahead, sir. Have a look. They’re right there.”

Sprague knew he had no choice. Reluctantly, he twisted in his chair and peered up into the gallery.

Andy pulled the microphone closer. “Mrs. Foley. I don’t believe Mr. Sprague has any idea what you look like. Could you please help him out?”

A frail-looking black woman in a checked dress seated in the front of the gallery lifted her hand. She spoke some words, but they failed to travel down to the floor. A pair of preteens sat sullenly on either side of her.

Sprague turned back to the committee and waited for the senator from New York to complete the disemboweling. Andy Foster was only too happy to comply.

“If you’ll apologize to Mrs. Foley and her children for the unnecessary death of the late Mr. Foley, I will beg the forgiveness of your … your Benchmark Achiever of the Year, Miss Hammond. Do we have a deal, Mr. Sprague?”

The tomato looked perfectly ready to burst.

* * *
Back in his office, Andy hung up his jacket and loosened his tie. Jim Fergus, Andy’s aide-de-camp, was already seated in his usual chair, fidgeting with a pencil. Grabbing a tissue from the box on his desk, Andy dabbed gingerly at the wound on his head. The stitches had come out that morning, and he had been warned of the possibility of slight oozing. The tissue came away dry.

Fergus asked, “Did you enjoy that? Beating up on the good Mr. Sprague?”

Andy moved behind his desk and dropped into his chair. “Did you?”

“If Frank Capra were alive, I’m sure he would have enjoyed it. Either that or started making plans to sue your ass.”

Andy laughed. “The man is holding a one-way ticket to hell, Jim. He is literally in the business of killing sick people. Under the guise of providing insurance. It’s seriously nuts.
Read an excerpt from House of Secrets, and learn more about the book and author at Richard Hawke's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue