Friday, June 13, 2014

"The Splintered Paddle"

Mark Troy is the author of Pilikia Is My Business, a private eye novel published in 2001 and republished in 2010. Pilikia was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America for Best 1st P.I. Novel. Game Face, a collection of short stories featuring P.I. Val Lyon, was published in 2011. The Rules, the first story in the Ava Rome series, was published as an ebook and audiobook in 2013.

Troy applied the Page 69 Test to The Splintered Paddle, the latest book in the Ava Rome series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Splintered Paddle finds the protagonist, Ava Rome, a private detective, in conversation with her sidekick, Moon Ito. The sidekick is a fixture of many private eye stories, indeed much of literature. Spenser has Hawk; Elvis Cole has Joe Pike; Modesty Blaise has Willie Garvin; Don Quixote has Sancho Panza. The sidekick is usually different from the main character in some obvious ways and has abilities and attitudes that complement those of the main character. In spite of those differences, there is a bond of loyalty and respect that connects the two.

Moon is a Hawaiian-born Japanese American whose speech is peppered with Hawaiian pidgin expressions and grammar. As with Spenser and Hawk, there is a racial difference between Ava and Moon. As with Modesty and Willie, there are gender and linguistic differences. Like Joe Pike, Moon is a tough guy whose solutions to problems are not as nuanced as Ava's.

On this page, Ava is laying out the central problem facing her. She has just met her antagonist, a man whom she arrested years earlier and who is bent on revenge. The man, Norman Traxler, has visited Ava at her office and hinted at the revenge he has in mind. Moon suggests a direct solution and even offers to carry it out. Ava, of course rejects it, but as the story progresses, Moon's solution looks more and more like the only viable one.

The reader has met Moon earlier in the book, but those meetings were all business. Here, we get a deeper look into their relationship, which is summed up in the last line. The scene takes place on a basketball court in a public park because that's where the two of them can interact as equals. Moon addresses Ava as "Tita," a Hawaiian pidgin word meaning "tough girl." From Moon, it's a compliment. Moon's admonition to "Keep a simple thought," will be repeated later with more urgency.

Moon drained a jumper. “Murder what he got in mind for you. One day he going pop you. Step out of the shadows. Bang!”

“He’s got something else in mind. He gave me this speech about all he lost when he went to prison and how he’s been thinking about me.”

“What, he gonna try and take everything you got first?”

“Picked the wrong girl for that, didn’t he? What’s to take? I’ve got a one-bedroom apartment and a shitty-looking car.”

“Plenty people you care about.” He bounced the ball to me and I drove for a lay-up.

“Right now my love life is in the toilet, so that leaves only you.”

“Get me all choke up, you talk li’ dat. You know where Traxler lives?”

“Makiki. I got the address from directory assistance. He’s not trying to hide.”

Moon sank one more shot and went to a bench alongside the court. I followed. He passed me a water bottle. “Pre-emptive strike time. Some guys and me take him shark fishing. Use him for bait.”

I drank from the bottle and gave it back to him. “That’s wrong.”

“He’s working inside your head, Tita. Knows you care about right and wrong. Buggah like him, right and wrong don’t mean nothing.”

“If he really is stalking me, sooner or later he’ll make a mistake I can take to the police.”

“Thinking too much, Tita. Keep a simple thought. You see him, you pop him, yeah? You carrying a gun?”

“In the apartment.”

“I’m taking you back.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Yeah. Be glad you don’t have to. Watch your back. You need me, I’m with you.”
Visit Mark Troy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue