Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"The Good Cop"

Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus Award and Nero Award for the same novel. That book, Faces of the Gone, introduced Carter Ross, the sometimes-dashing investigative reporter, who has gone on to star in Eyes of the Innocent and The Girl Next Door, which was named to the Kirkus Reviews' Best Fiction of 2012 list and nominated for a Lefty Award for best humorous mystery.

Parks applied the Page 69 Test to The Good Cop, the fourth book in the Carter Ross series, and reported the following:
My older brother, Greg, is a lawyer – a damn good one.

He’s pretty much always wanted to be a lawyer. Starting from the age of nine, he began lugging home books about the law that were so thick I couldn’t even lift them. (Mind you, I was six. But still).

Greg quickly figured out that part of being a lawyer is getting other people – namely, juries and judges – to believe your version of the truth. The only thing was, back then, he didn’t have juries and judges to practice on. He just had me.

So Greg often made it his goal to convince me of things, sometimes even things that bore no resemblance to reality. And while I went onto become the brother who wrote novels for a living, I can honestly say whatever skill I have at creating fiction is dwarfed by his.

At various points, Greg got me to believe: that we were related to baseball legend Ty Cobb; that I ought to eat an entire cheeseburger in one bite; that the cable coming down from the wall in our grandmother’s house was a snake; that buried in the dirt beneath a fallen tree trunk in our backyard there were dinosaur bones, a fact he verified using our mother’s ratchet set; and that when he was five, he owned a motorcycle.

(And, yes, I do seem to recall an entire day in the summer of 1982 when he had me convinced the word “gullible” wasn’t in the Dictionary).

He was able to accomplish this not with guile or cunning per se, but rather by speaking with the force of pure, ironclad certainty – the voice of total authority. I had no choice but to believe him.

All of which leads me to Page 69 of my latest Carter Ross thriller, The Good Cop, which reminds me of something my older brother would have done to me as a kid. By the end of the scene that starts here, Newark Eagle-Examiner investigative reporter Carter Ross has the paper’s new intern, Geoff “Ruthie” Ginsburg agreeing to administer pregnancy tests on random strangers’ toilet water (this being the only way to determine if their sewer lines are backing up).

In other words, classic Greg. And this is how it started:
(Page 68)

“Carter Ross.”

“Hey Carter, it’s Geoff Ginsburg.”

Geoff was another Syracuse intern. In the modern newsroom – which has more demand for work than money to pay for it – interns have two of the things editors prize most: enthusiasm and affordability. Like some invasive species, interns started in relatively small numbers but, with no natural prey – beyond their own in inability to survive on the near-poverty-level wages we pay them – they have been allowed to proliferate to the point where I think the interns now outnumber the full-time staff members.

Talent-wise, they were a mixed lot, though Geoff was better than most. He was a smart kid, an excellent writer, and a keen reporter. Because of his surname, some wiseacre on the copy desk had taken to calling him Ruth Bader. That turned rather quickly into Ruthie, the name that stuck. Mind you, unlike the Supreme Court justice, our Ruthie looked like he was about thirteen years old. He had an enthusiastic demeanor that made you wonder if he was getting his Journalism Merit Badge and a round, boyish face that I’m fairly certain didn’t require regular shaving.

That youthful appearance made his obvious crush on Tina Thompson all the more funny.

(Page 69)

It was unclear whether the crush was professional or personal. Ruthie struck me as the kind of kid who might go for an older chick, especially a hot one like Tina; but he also struck me as a total suck up, so it could go either way. All I knew is he spent an awful lot of time hanging around her office, following her on trips across the newsroom, yapping around her heels like the lap dog he wanted to be.

“Hey, uh, Geoff,” I said, barely resisting the urge to call him Ruthie. You never knew whether the interns were aware of the clever nicknames we had awarded them. “What’s up?”

I started my engine, just to get the heat going. It had been a mild day, for March, but it was starting to get chillier now that the sun was going down.

“Well, I remembered you were working on that project about public housing,” he said. “I happen to be really interested in public housing, so I was seeing if you wouldn’t mind me tagging along.”

I felt my eyebrow arching. It was highly unlikely he “remembered” anything. The only people who would know about that project were the editors who had access to the master Work In Progress spreadsheet that tracked all reporters’ activities. Plus, no one is really interested in public housing. Not even the people who live there.

Tina had obviously dispatched her little puppy dog to spy on me. The only question was whether he knew he was a spy or if he was just an unwitting pawn. One way to find out.

“Geoff, did Tina tell you to call me?”

“N… no,” he said, faltering slightly. “I’m just… really interest… interested in public housing and… the issues that go along with them.”

Okay. I could play that game. I felt a wicked smile spread

(Page 70)

across my face. Ruthie, I thought, meet my wild goose. Have fun chasing it.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Brad Parks website and Facebook presence.

The Page 69 Test: Faces of the Gone.

The Page 69 Test: Eyes of the Innocent.

Writers Read: Brad Parks.

My Book, The Movie: Eyes of the Innocent.

--Marshal Zeringue