Saturday, May 7, 2016

"A Front Page Affair"

Radha Vatsal is a writer based in New York City. She was born in Mumbai, India and has a Ph.D. from the English Department at Duke University.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, A Front Page Affair, and reported the following:
When I heard about this post I was quite eager to see what was on Page 69 of A Front Page Affair. I hadn’t received finished copies and I think I had every author’s worst nightmare that I opened the book to page 69 and found someone else’s words there. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Page 69 features a conversation between the novel’s protagonist, nineteen year-old Capability “Kitty” Weeks, and her father, Julian Weeks. They discuss the fate of the man who shot J.P. Morgan on July 3rd, 1915—a real historical incident that takes place right before the story begins.

It turns out that Morgan’s attacker committed suicide while in jail. The man had a history of mental problems, and Kitty tells her father that the papers reported that he had tried to kill himself earlier that week “by digging into his wrist with a jagged blade he made from the mental eraser holder of the pencil.” She goes on to say that the constable in charge walked away from the jail cell for a few minutes. And Julian Weeks asks, “Why did the constable walk away, Capability? That’s the real question.”

It’s a significant moment because it forces Kitty to think about the very real political forces at play in the country. When he was arrested, Morgan’s attacker had been found carrying a press clipping announcing the Morgan Bank’s recent flotation of a hundred-million-dollar war bond on behalf of the British government. In 1915, the US was neutral and wasn’t taking sides in the war between Germany and Britain. Thinking about Morgan’s attacker is Kitty’s first realization that things might not be as uncomplicated as they appear on the surface.
Visit Radha Vatsal's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue