Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Steal the Show"

Thomas Kaufman is an Emmy-winning director/cameraman who also writes mysteries. His first book, Drink the Tea, won the PWA/St Martin's Press Competition for Best First Novel. His second book, Steal the Show, comes out this month.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Steal the Show and reported the following:
Steal the Show is my second book featuring private eye Willis Gidney. I knew from the start that, in this sequel, I wanted to bring back a few characters from Drink the Tea. One of them is a drug dealer named Griffin Blake. Blake tries to reinvent himself as a gentleman, and not a drug designer and dealer. Gidney reminds him of who he really is.

Page 69 lands on the last page of a scene between Gidney and Blake, in which Blake doesn't want to give up information that Gidney needs. Also, Blake is hurrying, trying to pack and get to the airport so as not to miss his flight. Gidney grabs Blake's sketchbook of cannabis molecular chains and holds it over a lighter. Blake tries to grab it away, but he's too stoned and Gidney is too fast. So Blake gives Gidney a lead, a gang banger named Tuckerman, saying:
“He’s spent most of his life in jail. Knows all the players in town. He’ll be at the ball field at M and Twenty-sixth around noon. Can’t miss him, scratches his neck all the time.”

“Palmer Park? In PG County? The Roaches’re into film pirating?” I asked.

“Who knows? They’re into everything else.” The fight had left him.

“You don’t approve.”

“They’re amateurs.”

I snapped off the lighter. “I know what you mean. Nobody specializes anymore. You look at today’s crooks, it’s a wonder any crime gets committed at all.” I handed him his pages.

He took them, then another hit, his anger fading with the hovering cloud of smoke. He shoved the notebook into the mound of clothes in his suitcase. “But let me caveat you, Gidney. Take backup. The Roaches like to shoot people.” Now he struggled with the shallow lid of the case, trying to force it shut.

“Anything else?”

His spindly, pale arms tried to press the suitcase halves together, his face white with the effort. He gave me the one-eyed look again, his gentleman persona peeling off like a rattlesnake’s skin. “Anything else? Like a letter of introduction? Just go fuck off, okay? I gotta get this suitcase shut.”

“Why don’t you sit on it, Buford?”

“And you’ll shut the latches?”

I went for the door. “I wasn’t talking about the suitcase.”
Once Gidney gets what he wants from Blake, he snaps off the lighter and hands the sketchbook back. It's very like Gidney to make a comment about the lack of specialization among crooks today. As a (nearly) reformed criminal, Gidney has an appreciation of anyone who practices their craft.

The next part of this scene is a setup, Blake warning Gidney to take backup. (Gidney decides to follow this good advice with disastrous results.)

Then there's the metaphor – "his gentleman persona peeling off like a rattlesnake’s skin." It seems appropriate to me, and I don't recall seeing it in print before.

The scene ends with Blake's getting angry at Gidney, and Gidney getting the exit line. Gidney doesn't always get an exit line, but when he does, I try to make it a good one.

This page 69 shows Gidney is active, controlling the situation, and expresses a point of view a little different from you or me. We get an insight into Gidney's character, as well. All in all, a tidy little page.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Kaufman's website and blog.  Kaufman's blog tour for Steal the Show continues at Jen's Book Thoughts, The Rap Sheet, and Writers Read.

The Page 69 Test: Drink the Tea.

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

--Marshal Zeringue