Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Jack 1939"

Francine Mathews is the author of over twenty novels of mystery, history, and suspense. Her historical thriller The Alibi Club was named one of the 15 best novels of 2006 by Publishers Weekly. A graduate of Princeton and Stanford, she spent four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA, and presently lives and works in Colorado.

Mathews applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Jack 1939, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
She looked canny and cool, as though she’d apprenticed as a gangster’s moll and was accustomed to hysterics in the night.

She slung a leg over the armchair next to Jack’s and clinked her glass against his. “Cheers.”

And that quickly, the singing tension was back, the awareness of her throbbing in his veins. He fought the impulse to set down his drink and reach for her—slide the silk off her shoulders and his mouth along her collarbone—and remembered instead why he was there.

“The guy showed up,” he said. “At my stateroom door.”

“The chap who slugged you?”

“He’s picking the lock. Probably inside by now.”
Ah, yes. The femme fatale and the college kid—Diana Playfair and Jack Kennedy, drinking in a Queen Mary stateroom at three in the morning, while a Gestapo killer hunts them down. Page 69 of Jack 1939 presages essential bits of the story: Jack’s fascination with Diana, a British nightclub dancer-turned-Foreign Office wife, who may or may not be a Fascist spy. His sick fear and impossible excitement at the game of espionage he’s so new at playing. His passage from boy to man, during the spring semester of his Junior year.

The guy picking the lock turns out to be Jack’s nemesis—and Diana’s. She turns out to be something like Jack’s conscience, in the end. And Jack? He learns he’s more valuable for his wits and his courage than his sick body ever allowed him to believe.

Diana Playfair never met Jack Kennedy, of course. She exists only in my mind. But in that way, too, page 69 is representative of the entire book: a shared drink between Fact and Fiction, a mosaic of what-ifs and coulda-beens, a fantasia on one of the twentieth century’s most enduring men.
Visit the Jack 1939 Facebook page and Francine Mathews's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue