Sunday, September 6, 2015

"The White Ghost"

James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II series, historical mysteries set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. The series began with Billy Boyle, which takes place in England and Norway in 1942.

Benn applied the Page 69 Test to The White Ghost, the tenth installment of the series, and reported the following:
The Page 69 test for The White Ghost neatly highlights one of the tricky things about making an historical character part of a fictional story. I’ve incorporated real figures from history quite often in the Billy Boyle books, but usually in brief cameo roles. In The White Ghost, Jack Kennedy is a central character—and a murder suspect to boot.

John F. Kennedy was a complex guy with a family background that can be best described as dysfunctional with a strong, corrupt, power-hungry patriarch at the helm. Jack possessed character traits that were often contradictory, as shown in this passage from page 69. Here, Billy and his Polish partner Kaz are speaking with Kennedy in a naval hospital as he’s recovering from the sinking of PT 109.
He winced as he moved to a chair and motioned for Kaz to join him. He walked gingerly on the heels of his feet, which obviously were not fully healed. He shifted a few times in his seat, getting his back as straight as he could. His back was always giving him fits, and being run over by a Jap destroyer couldn’t have helped much.

After a deep breath, Jack began asking Kaz questions about Poland and the Polish Government in Exile. What was their position regarding the Soviets? Post-war borders and the British government? It was like watching a sponge absorb water. Jack had a way of taking all the intelligence you had to offer and giving little in return except his undivided attention. It was charming and callous at the same time.
This scene gave me the opportunity to lay out two of those character traits; an allusion to his chronically bad back (and by inference his dogged determination not to let on he was in pain) along with his ability to focus totally on the person he was speaking with. Several biographers had mentioned this ability to take in everything while giving nothing back except undivided attention. This drew some people permanently into the Kennedy orbit; but it was always an orbit, with the Kennedys at the center.
Learn more about the Billy Boyle WWII Mystery Series at James R. Benn's website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Wave.

The Page 69 Test: Evil for Evil.

The Page 69 Test: Rag and Bone.

My Book, The Movie: Death's Door.

Writers Read: James R. Benn.

--Marshal Zeringue