Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Parlor Games"

Maryka Biaggio, Ph.D, a professor of psychology for 30 years, undertook writing fiction as a serious pursuit around 2000. She attended writing conferences, started a critique group, and devoted half her time to writing. She improved her craft by completing three novels before writing Parlor Games. Now she splits her time between writing and working as a higher education consultant. Excerpts of her novels have garnered Willamette Writers and Belle Lettres awards. She specializes in writing historical fiction about real people.

Biaggio applied the Page 69 Test to Parlor Games and reported the following:
A bookworm hungering for a good read wanders into a bookstore, picks up Parlor Games, and reads the publisher’s description: “A sweeping historical novel about a beautiful con artist whose turn-of-the-century escapades take her—and her Pinkerton detective pursuer—around the world.” She cracks the book to page 69:
We arranged to gather on a Tuesday evening at Fitzgerald and Moy’s, one of Chicago’s most opulent saloons. Claude met me at the door and escorted me across the tavern’s multicolored tile floor to a back room that was no doubt typically occupied by poker players.
Hmm, our ravenous reader thinks, sounds like a woman is telling the story—perhaps the beautiful con artist. Skipping ahead to some dialogue, she reads:
“Pauline,” Claude said after closing the door, “allow me to introduce Mr. Reed Dougherty.”

Dougherty rose from his seat and bowed. “Miss Davidson, a pleasure to meet you.”
OK, the reader thinks, two characters who know each other are meeting a third. What game are they playing in the back room of a saloon?
As I seated myself opposite him at the round, felt-covered table, Dougherty locked his penetrating dark-brown eyes on me—in the manner of an admirer first taking in my God-given beauty. He wore a navy-blue suit, an unadorned white shirt, and a slightly askew blue cravat, the sort of plain but respectable attire one might find on a country storekeeper. His large hands, as well groomed as a surgeon’s but as muscular as those of a farmer, were quite at odds with his fine-featured cheekbones and straight-lined nose—all in all, a handsome face in a not-quite-classic but understated way. In fact, I found him an odd jumble of traits: savvy but not terribly refined in manner, as if he had accustomed himself to relying solely on intellect and grit; and light-handed in gesture but melancholy of expression, with his blade of a mustache waxed to a forlorn downturn.
Hmmm, muses our reader, this narrator is pretty sharp; no doubt about it, she’s our con woman. And the author spends a lot of time on this Dougherty character. Maybe he’s that Pinkerton detective pursuer.
“May I offer you a glass of port?” Dougherty asked, lifting a bottle and tipping it over a glass.”

Claude and I joined Dougherty in his toast: “To our business. May it be profitable.”
Our hungry reader slaps page 69 closed and heads for the register. She has guessed right—the charming protagonist of Parlor Games has just met her nemesis, Detective Dougherty. Did our reader choose a good page to preview? Absolutely, for she will soon learn that the novel’s lovely enchantress repeatedly leaps from one frying pan to another. And as she turns the pages she’ll be asking herself if this con woman can manage to steer clear of the fire.
Learn more about the book and author at Maryka Biaggio's website.

My Book, The Movie: Parlor Games.

--Marshal Zeringue