Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Seven for a Secret"

Lyndsay Faye is the author of critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow, and is featured in Best American Mystery Stories 2010. Faye, a true New Yorker in the sense that she was born elsewhere, lives in Manhattan with her husband.

Faye's love of her adopted city led her to research the origins of the New York City Police Department, the inception of which exactly coincided with the start of the Irish Potato Famine. Her second and third novels, The Gods of Gotham and its sequel Seven for a Secret, follow ex-bartender Timothy Wilde as he navigates the rapids of his violently turbulent city, his no less chaotic elder brother Valentine Wilde, and the perils of learning police work in a riotous and racially divided political landscape.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Seven for a Secret and reported the following:
Seven for a Secret’s plot is about the kidnapping of free Notherners of color from the streets of New York City. African American committees of vigilance sought to protect their loved ones from the worst imaginable sort of identity theft—being sold south of the Mason-Dixon line to plantations under false identities. The practice was widespread, and many law enforcement bodies turned a blind eye, or else were complicit in this form of systematic assault. Timothy Wilde and Valentine Wilde are arguing in a hackney cab on page 69, en route to try to free two black captives from the slave catchers known in the slang of the day as blackbirders.

As is weirdly usual for me, the Page 69 Test applies aptly to Seven for a Secret. In The Gods of Gotham, I introduced Timothy and Valentine Wilde, a pair of brothers who work for the inaugural NYPD. Timothy is passionate, moral, kindhearted, and an abolitionist social radical. His older brother Valentine, while no less principled at heart, is a feral Tammany Hall insider who comprehends that politics are savage and that the fledgling “copper stars” owe their existence to the Democratic Party—to that end, he argues that Timothy’s outspoken abolitionism is dangerous.
Then the obvious dawned—bright and painfully clear.

“The Irish,” I conceded. “Your voting majority. Every Irishman is a Democrat, and the Irish compete with the blacks. Fine. Why not gain some black voters to make up the difference?”

This time is was my turn to be stared at as if I were some monstrosity from Barnum’s American Museum.

“Timothy Wilde, I will slap the stupid out of you if it is the last thing I ever do,” Valentine vowed. “Blacks can’t vote.”

“Of course they can,” I said, frowning.

“They’re held to a property requirement. Whites can vote, if citizens. Blacks can vote if citizens who also own a minimum of two hundred and fifty dollars in property.”

My head listed back against the cab interior in considerable disgust. I live on fourteen dollars a week—four dollars more than the roundsmen—because Matsell seems to think the denser of the two Wildes something special. So if I counted up all my earthly goods, the sum of them would maybe total forty-five dollars. Maybe. That’s including my half of the fifty dollars in silver that Piest and I had left hidden in my office.

And I am richer far than almost every colored person I have ever met.

“Can any of them vote?” I wondered bleakly.

“Maybe two hundred or so of around ten thousand. And they sure as hell is warm don’t vote Democrat. The Liberty Party, now there are some abolitionists.”

“The whole process is a repulsive circus. I’m far more of an abolitionist than a Democrat.”
At the end of the page, elder brother Valentine loses his temper, reminding Timothy that his own employment by the Democratic Party kept the pair of them alive after their parents were killed in an accidental house fire (a house fire for which Valentine believes himself responsible). The emotional crux of the series hinges on the relationship between the two brothers, and the tense, emotional confrontation that follows reveals continuing guilt on Val’s part over the loss of their family, dedication to the political machine that saved their lives as orphans, as well as Tim’s inability to converse with his brother in a frank fashion about the tragedy that altered their lives as children.
Learn more about the book and author at Lyndsay Faye's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Gods of Gotham.

--Marshal Zeringue