Friday, May 14, 2010

"The Third Rail"

Michael Harvey is the creator, writer, and executive producer of the television series Cold Case Files, as well as an Academy Award-nominee for his documentary Eyewitness, and is a former investigative reporter for CBS.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Third Rail, and reported the following:
Page 69:
Outside, the night offered an inky canvas on which to replay the day’s events: a woman dropping to the hard boards of the Southport L, surprise scratched all over her face; an alley, tunneling through the black and filling up with snow; a tangle of footprints and the fat hole of a .40 cal. pressed to my head. Slipping underneath was the electric silk of the voice on my cell phone, one that called me by name, one I couldn’t place. I closed my eyes and let the images play. Pretty soon I started to drift, the pup close by, readily following my lead.
Page 69 of The Third Rail marks the end of a chapter, and thus consists of just a few lines of text and a lot of white space. I have included the text above, picking up a fragment of an extra sentence from the previous page so the excerpt makes sense. Now, what does it mean? How is it representative of the novel? Or not? Hmmm...

At first, I thought this little slice of text was representative of nothing worth writing about. I was wrong. In many ways, it sums up what the first half of the book is all about. In the opening pages of The Third Rail, a spree killer has committed a series of murders on Chicago’s L. Kelly is drawn into the crimes and taunted by the killer who somehow seems to know him. For Kelly, this turn of events is unsettling. Kelly is used to being the hunter. Used to controlling the action and orchestrating events. Here, he is confused, defensive, and cast into a purely reactive role.

I wanted the first half of The Third Rail to replicate that feeling for readers. I tried to accomplish that by dropping readers into the action from page 1. No preamble. No messing around. I also decided to move away from an exclusive “first-person Kelly” point of view and into, at times, a “third-person killer” point of view. This allowed me to develop multiple crime scenes simultaneously, ramp up the action and further bounce the story around a little. My hope was to both draw the reader in and disorient her just a little bit. In real life, that’s how cops feel during these types of investigations ... especially in the early days ... and that’s what Kelly feels on page 69. He is processing information, trying to “get ahead of the curve” and get a handle on what’s happening and why. Kelly’s not there... yet. Page 69 is a microcosm of that initial period of confusion and immersion in the rush of events.
Read an excerpt from The Third Rail, and learn more about the book and author at Michael Harvey's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue