Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"A Measure of Blood"

Kathleen George is the editor of Pittsburgh Noir and the author of Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds (Edgar finalist, best novel), Hideout, and Simple. The newly released A Measure of Blood is her seventh Richard Christie novel.

George applied the Page 69 Test to A Measure of Blood and reported the following:
Maggie Brown dies early in A Measure of Blood, but she exists still in memory—in the lives of her friends, her bereft son, and her killer, Nadal Brown (no relative at all). Nadal met her, was fascinated by her and became ecstatic when he learned they shared the same last name.

On Page 69, Nadal is obsessing over what he characterizes as their breakup. He doesn’t understand that Maggie never considered what they had a relationship. She was pretty forthright with him, telling him that, shallow as it was, she just liked his looks, and that she was mixed up, too old for him, a bit desperate to have a child. She was lonely, she said, and they were just messing around, foolish as that might be. None of this mattered to Nadal. He wanted her, the child, a new life.

The “breakup” or shaming of Nadal is the catalyst for his angry behavior, which culminates in a rage against Maggie, an inciting incident that happens before the novel begins. Later, as we follow him, he can hardly remember the split second’s fury in which he killed her, but his real motive all along was—and continues to be—to have his son. Or the boy he believes is his son. The bulk of the novel is about Nadal’s hunting and finding seven year old Matt Brown.
The police, led by Commander Richard Christie, must then search for Matt.

On page 69 Nadal remembers and is fueled by the insults he suffered from Maggie. He remembers everything she said, every rejection, private or witnessed, in person or by phone or by email. He is reviewing moments of interaction with Maggie in which he tried to understand her:
“You said you like how I look.”

“That isn’t enough. You need to just forget about me.”

“You’re Brown. I’m Brown. It was meant to be.”

“No, no, no.”

“You want a baby. I want a baby. We both want a family.”

“Right. And you want to put my hair down and take me to some farm in Puerto Rico.”

“You think I’m nothing.”

She sighed. “See, I can’t even have a conversation with you. No more. That’s it. I’m not dating ever again. Never. I’m finished.”

But it wasn’t true, what she said. He went back to her place unannounced and waited for her one afternoon. She walked up to her door with a guy.

“Oh-oh,” she said when she saw him.

“Who’s this kid?” the guy asked. He was not good looking. Older. A little bit bald.

She said, “A guy I know, that’s all.”

“You want me to dust the sidewalk with him?”

“No. Let’s just go in.” She walked past him as if she hardly knew him.

He had never given his phone number, which meant she couldn’t call him. So he called her from work.

“What are you doing?” he asked. “You treat me like shit. Who was that guy you started up with?”

“I was wrong,” she said. “Look. Erase everything. We are no more. We are finished. No more. Don’t call.”

But he had an email for her. Were you just using me? he wrote.

Yes. I’m sorry. I was. But I’m not the only one at fault. I got a new phone two weeks ago and when you called me, I saw the phone number on the screen. You were calling from Bellefonte. You said you were home. What’s that all about?

I live near there. I traveled to see you.

Don’t travel. Don’t call me. This is over and I will call the police, I swear. I’m sorry if I hurt you, but I don’t want to see you ever again.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

The Page 99 Test: Afterimage.

The Page 99 Test: The Odds.

The Page 69 Test: Hideout.

My Book, The Movie: Hideout.

The Page 69 Test: Simple.

Writers Read: Kathleen George.

--Marshal Zeringue