Saturday, November 24, 2012


Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of numerous widely praised books—twelve novels and a work of nonfiction—including the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers and the Junior Bender mysteries.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Crashed, the first Junior Bender novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is perfect for this. At the very top, centered, is the number 9, and below that the chapter's title, Thistle.

My hero, a highly skilled burglar named Junior Bender works, on occasion, as a private eye for crooks. (Crooks are less likely than the rest of us to call the cops.) In Crashed, Junior is being forced to identify the person who's been sabotaging a movie and also to prevent future sabotage.

Problem Number One is, it's an adult movie. Problem Number Two is that it's being produced by Trey Annunziato, the beautiful and effortlessly lethal head of the San Fernando Valley's biggest crime operation, a job she got by having someone kill the outfit's previous leader, Deuce. Deuce Annunziato was her father.

Problem Number Three is that the movie stars someone named Thistle Downing, now a drug-addled, impoverished depressive living in a borderline squat in Hollywood, but once America's favorite TV child star, a young actress of incandescent comedy talent who slowly, over the course of years, lost her ability and all her confidence in view of the entire American public. Thistle is so out of it she doesn't even know what kind of a movie she's signed up for. She's thinking art house, an audience made up of guys who go to the movies wearing sandals.

Chapter Nine is the one in which Junior, who never watches TV, learns who Thistle is, and why he's going to have to risk his neck to get her out of the movie while apparently making sure everything moves forward. (Junior's moral code may be improvised and paper-thin, but he lives by it.)

Junior learns all this from his friend Louie the Lost, a former getaway driver with a bad sense of direction. Here's a bit from the page:
Life is definitely not fair. First I had to watch Hacker throw food at his mouth, miss with about half of it, and chew openmouthed on the stuff that found its way in. Then I had to watch Louie cough and spit and pull long dark shreds of wet tobacco off his tongue. When he was finished, he had brown lips and there was a pile of something in front of him that looked like used carnitas.

I decided to skip dinner.

“Thistle Downing?” he finally said. Louie looked at the remnants of his cigar and dropped it, with a surprising concentration of disgust, into the salad bowl. “But ... but ...” His head was shaking back and forth and he was practically spluttering. “They can’t put Thistle into that kind of movie. They can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It’s—it’s sick. Diseased, perverted, just wrong.” Louie is a short, stout guy who has a fat, cheerful little face that’s mostly forehead, and a dark Mediterranean complexion, and he generally looks like a happy olive. But he was actually flushed with indignation, and his lower lip was quivering. “They can't.”

“Louie,” I said. “You’re acting like she’s your kid sister.”

“She is,” Louie said. “She’s everybody’s kid sister."
And that's what sets the rest of the book into motion.
Learn more about the book and author at Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue