Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Stealing the Countess"

David Housewright is the Edgar Award and three-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of the Rushmore McKenzie and Holland Taylor novels as well as other tales of murder and mayhem in the Midwest.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Stealing the Countess, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I noticed Philip Speegle standing at the side of the stage. He was attempting to catch my eye without catching the eyes of everyone else. I gave him a head nod.

“I have to go,” I said. “The club owner wants to speak to me.”

“Is she as pretty as I am?”

He most certainly is not, but then who is?”

“Good answer. Call me tomorrow.”

“I will.”
# # #

I slipped past Ellis, telling her I’d be right back, and made my way to the side of the stage. Speegle took my arm and led me down a short corridor to a small office. He shut the door behind us, effectively muffling most of the noise.

“Do you like this music?” he asked.

“If aliens invade the Earth, it won’t be for our technology. They’ll be coming for the blues.”

Speegle wagged his finger at me.

“I like that answer. I don’t believe it, but I like it.”

Are you going to tell him that you stole the line from Wynton Marsalis? my inner voice asked. I didn’t think so.

Speegle moved to a credenza that was shoved against the wall behind his desk. A bottle of Bookers and a stack of glasses were on top of it. He filled two glasses and handed one to me without asking. I said, “Thank you” and took a sip of the Bourbon because I’m nothing if not polite.

“Any progress?” Speegle asked.

“I expect major developments at any moment.”

“That’s what the cops said. I didn’t believe them, either.”

“Give me time, I’ve only been here seven hours.”

“Have you spoken to Heather? What did the Great Lady have to say?”

“I take it you don’t like her much.”

“Truth is I like her very much. Don’t tell her I said that.”
I’m a disciple of the late great Elmore Leonard. (I was allowed to call him “Dutch” because I bought him non-alcoholic beers in a bar in Denver – “If you’re gonna buy me a beer, kid, you got to call me Dutch.” We spent two hours talking about westerns – books and movies; one of the great moments in my life. It broke my heart when he died. Anyway…) He famously said that the secret to good writing is learning to cut out the parts of your book that readers skip and I agree. My own rule - if it doesn’t move the story along or reveal something significant about the main characters, I take it out! That’s what you see here.

At the top of the page we have the conclusion of a cell phone conversation that helps explore the relationship between the chief protagonist – McKenzie – and his club-owning girlfriend Nina.

Next we segue into a conversation between McKenzie and one of the suspects in the theft of a $4 million Stradivarius violin – who seems intent on blaming a woman he’s been lusting after for decades.

Taken out of context, the two scenes might not add up to much, but I think the page serves as a nice advertisement for the book – it gives the reader a sense of pace, intrigue, and humor that I try to maintain throughout.
Learn more about the book and author at David Housewright's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Kind Word.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Kind Word.

--Marshal Zeringue