Monday, January 3, 2011

"Set the Night on Fire"

Libby Fischer Hellmann's crime fiction thrillers include An Eye For Murder, A Picture Of Guilt, An Image Of Death, A Shot To Die For, Easy Innocence, and Doubleback.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Set the Night on Fire, and reported the following:
Page 69:
curb. The snow was still white, unsullied by exhaust fumes, and a bright sun made it glint and sparkle. Why did the morning after a storm always seem so perfect? As if Nature were apologizing for its wrath the night before?

She turned back to the room. Over the past few weeks she’d learned grief was in the little things: scanning her father’s files, making her brother’s bed, catching a whiff of his aftershave. But so, too, was joy. Looking outside at a perfect winter day, some of her darkness fell away, and she felt a kernel of hope.

* * *
Early that evening, she drove Danny’s Jeep down to Chicago’s Gold Coast, an affluent neighborhood of million-dollar condos and even more expensive brownstones. She parked in a lot on State Street and walked around the corner to Astor Place. Purple twilight was dismantling the day, but faint streaks of light in the western sky signaled the onset of later sunsets. Still, it was January cold, and people scurried past, thinking, no doubt, about hot meals and cozy evenings at home.

She’d called the Alumni Club back that afternoon, and, through a combination of persuasion and desperation, wangled the name of a Michigan alumnus who graduated in 1971. With a little work on the Internet, she found his address and phone number. She considered calling, then decided just to show up. It was riskier—he might not be home, and if he was, he might slam the door in her face. Still, it would be harder to turn her down in person.

She stopped in front of a three-story brownstone and checked the address. A large bay window extended from the second floor, and light blazed through the drapes. A good sign. A wrought-iron fence surrounded a tiny front lawn, but the gate was unlocked. Another good sign.

As Lila stepped through, a ferocious barking erupted inside. She waited. The racket stopped. She went to the front door and tentatively
My first reaction was that Page 69 wasn’t very representative of the ideas and story of Set the Night on Fire. Then I decided I was being hasty. In fact, I see two themes on this page.

The first is the character of my main protagonist, Lila Hilliard. Lila is a reserved, 30-something financial manager who comes home from New York for the holidays. While she’s out doing errands, her home goes up in flames, and her father and brother die. We’ve already learned that her mother died when she was a baby, so by page 69 her only living relative is her Aunt Valerie, a self-involved, unreliable character. Virtually alone in the world, Lila decides to track down her late mother’s family, as she’s doing on Page 69. But this page also marks the beginning of Lila’s transition from a passive, reticent woman to a more assertive person. She proves to be more resourceful than she’d imagined, using her skills to persuade someone to share information with her. As the story progresses and her search for answers becomes more vital, she becomes even more inventive.

The other theme on Page 69 deals with time. The middle section of the SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE takes place in Chicago in 1968-70, but the rest of the book is set, like Page 69, in the present. There’s only a fleeting reference to the past here. That’s indicative of the balance I tried to strike between past and present, and how they are interconnected. That connection, the repercussions of the past on the present, is a critical element of the story. Even though we’re in the present, Lila is seeking information about the past, with the hope that it will shed light on her current circumstances.

I guess you’ll have to read the story to find out if she succeeds.
Watch the video trailer for Set the Night on Fire, and visit Libby Fischer Hellmann's website and group blog, The Outfit.

My Book, The Movie: Set the Night on Fire.

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

--Marshal Zeringue