Saturday, April 30, 2016

"Design for Dying"

Renee Patrick is the pseudonym of married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, Design for Dying, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Time to test Edith Head’s advice. I let my tan sweater hang over the matching knit skirt, cinching it with a narrow belt. In my own biased opinion, I looked pretty good. But my ego demanded unsolicited compliments. Any more than the usual number – zero – and I’d declare victory.
“Pardon me,” I said. “Are you done with that paper?”

“I could be, for a smile.”

Despite the ungodly hour I gave him his money’s worth, teeth included at no extra charge.

“Take it and maybe I’ll see you again sometime.” He winked, which I credited to Edith’s fashion tip.
It’s uncanny how page 69 cuts right to the heart of the dynamic that animates Design for Dying, our mystery novel set during the Golden Age of Hollywood. By this point our unlikely detectives have met. Lillian Frost, once-aspiring actress turned sensible shopgirl, recognizes that the gown worn by her murdered former roommate was wardrobe stolen from Paramount Pictures. Lillian’s eye for detail impresses Edith Head, who runs the studio’s costume department in all but name and fears a scandal will jeopardize her hard-won position.

Naturally, they become a sleuthing duo, with Edith as armchair detective and Lillian as leg woman. Those roles are mirrored in their personal relationship. Edith sees in Lillian a smart, resourceful younger woman who has taken some steps on her own but doesn’t yet know which way to go. Lillian immediately views Edith as a role model, an independent spirit blazing her own trail.

How else would a costume designer begin the mentoring process than through clothes? Edith offers Lillian a simple tip to better showcase her appearance. Lillian not only puts it into practice but allows it to work a modest transformation, the good Catholic girl flirting with a stranger on the streetcar to acquire his newspaper – which, unbeknownst to her, contains a valuable piece of information. It’s on page 69 that Lillian truly becomes Edith’s student, embracing the teacher’s oft-quoted lesson: “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”
Visit Renee Patrick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue