Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas"

Chris Ewan is an entertainment lawyer on the Isle of Man, but spent his honeymoon trying his luck in Vegas.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas falls at the opening of Chapter 9, just as the trouble my lead character, Charlie Howard, has got himself in is about to crank up another notch. In the past, Charlie’s encountered trouble in Amsterdam and Paris, but this time the stakes are higher (well, it is Vegas).
I guess I’ve been lucky in life. There haven’t been too many occasions when I’ve been backed into a corner. Sure, as a burglar, I’ve had some close calls. Times when I’ve had to hide and wait for a danger to pass, or scram to avoid getting caught. But usually I’ve had some control over the situation I’ve found myself in, and more often than not, it’s worked out just fine. This time, I was struggling to see a way out of my dilemma.
The dilemma Charlie’s found himself in is the result of bad decisions and bad luck, and now he’s in the process of being interrogated in the backroom of a Strip casino, accused of perpetrating an elaborate gambling con, aided and abetted by his literary agent, Victoria.

At the end of the previous chapter, Charlie was shown surveillance footage by a detective called Ricks – a man with an expertise in gambling cons – that appeared to show him being palmed casino chips from a roulette table. Of course, Charlie wouldn’t do anything so devious – he was merely stealing a wallet. But the footage is convincing. And, well, Charlie does have a stash of high-denomination chips in his pocket…

Now, Charlie is the type of guy who tends to view life as a game. This is apparent from his exchange with Ricks, after he’s been asked to turn out his pockets.
“I’d rather not empty my pockets, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, we mind.”

“I’m an intensely private person.”

“Believe me,” Ricks said. “Nobody outside of this room will ever hear what happens inside of it.”
The other people inside the room are Victoria and a pair of identical twins who own and operate the casino. We don’t get much sense of Victoria from page 69 – she’s just beginning to speak when the book trips over to page 70, which is a shame, because a lot of the humour comes from her quick-fire exchanges with Charlie. But we do gain an impression of the threat the twins represent.
The twins had their arms folded over their chests and they weren’t saying a word. They hung back like a two-man jury, waiting to pass judgement, and I was beginning to find their silence menacing. Perhaps if there’d been just one of them, the effect would have been less powerful. Doubled up, it was making me sweat.
Overall, there’s enough on page 69 to give a flavour of what the novel is about – a tricky predicament, humour in the face of danger from our intrepid hero, and a hint of the peril he’s in. But there are other things I wish the page had contained, some description of Vegas, for instance, or a glimpse of Charlie doing what he’s best at – applying his questionable skills to break in someplace that’s difficult to access. But, hey, those things and more can be found on the other pages of the book – all 338 of them.
Learn more about Chris Ewan and his work at his website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Paris.

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

--Marshal Zeringue