Friday, January 9, 2015

"Dead is Better"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry. They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dead Is Better, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Detective Lee brought up the possibility that a reward posted by the family, a substantial reward, might help the police in their effort to gain information. Someone who knows something might be incentivized to come forward.”

“What about the gun?” Sheila asks. “Can’t they find fingerprints and other information from the bullets?”

Alan nods but looks at Sheila as if she’s a moron.

“Good question Sheila, but unfortunately, bullets don’t hold prints. I think you mean casings, but the police didn’t find any. Or the gun. The bullets removed from Charles’s body were distorted, but according to Detective Lee’s partner, Detective Sullivan, they came from revolver. A .32. Six shots at close range.”

I hadn’t thought about the holes in my gut until now. Six. That’s overkill, isn’t it? Whoever shot me wanted to make sure I’d never get up again. I study the living faces but their placid self-interested expressions remain opaque.

The dog sails from the table and drifts down onto the lawn like a butterfly or a feather, and then she begins to roll. There is a rustle of papers as the wind and Serena reappear, she with a silver tray holding coffee cups, cream and sugar, the wind with a filthy plastic bag that has risen from the streets far below us and positions itself in the thorny bougainvillea, then flaps around.

“The reward. How much? Five,” my shit brother Mark says. “Five” is statement, not a question.

Alan stands as he gathers the papers into his briefcase. “Fifty. Fifty might shake something loose.”
On page 69 the narrator, a dead man, is observing his relatives meet with his lawyer to discuss his estate. A reader opening this page would learn that the narrator was murdered, that he doesn't know who killed him or why, that the police don't know who killed him either, and that he isn't particularly fond of of his family, especially his brother.

The dog floating around is dead, too. The narrator isn't the only ghost. What page 69 doesn't tell you is that from the moment he finds himself in the afterlife, his companion is a dead dog. This dog is as much a mystery as the narrator is, and just as important to the story. Maybe more important.

The reader might get some faulty impressions, too--that the book is a procedural. It's not. It's a different kind of mystery.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

--Marshal Zeringue