Monday, December 18, 2017

"Desert Remains"

Steven Cooper is a former investigative reporter. His work has earned him multiple Emmy Awards and nominations, as well as a national Edward R. Murrow award, and numerous honors from the Associated Press. He taught for five years in the English department at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Cooper has lived a bit like a nomad, working TV gigs in New England, Arizona and Florida, and following stories around the globe.

Cooper applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Desert Remains, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Gus follows the detective to the trailhead. A soft wind is stirring. Tumbleweeds, like visitors from an old cartoon, blow across the path and scatter. The sky is a simple blue shield, with no emblem but the sun. But as bold as it may be up there, it’s aloof today, keeping the desert mild, temperatures in the midseventies. They walk silently, Gus scanning every few feet in front of him for critters. Gus has been stung by a scorpion once, and it felt like a fiery cattle prod had been soldered to his foot, only to be followed by an injection of battery acid, but it happened in his bathroom, not on a hike.

Alex leads him off the path toward a cave. Gus kicks a few rocks out of his path. “Someone vomited here,” Gus says.

“That’s the first vision you’re getting?” Alex asks incredulously.

“If by vision you mean I can see the vomit, then yes, Alex.” Gus indicates the splatter on the ground outside of the cave.

“Right,” the detective says. “That came from the guy who discovered the body. A jogger.”

Gus shakes his head. “He’s not a suspect.”

“So far you’re batting a thousand. We checked him out. Looks like he has an alibi through noontime yesterday.”

“And I’m guessing the body was here before that.”

“Safe to say.”

“The jogger was looking for something when he left the trail.”

“Is that a question?”

“No,” Gus says. “That’s what I sense.”

“He told us he went off the trail in search of the petroglyph around back.” Alex removes a flashlight, shines it into the cave. He brings the sphere of light to the wall. “He found this instead.”

The two of them stand there on the fringe of the cave looking at the carving.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” the detective asks.

No, Gus has never seen anything quite like this. Nor anything like the visions that come at him now at shutter speed. He begins to hum softly to balance himself, to find his center of gravity.
On page 69, readers see, for the very first time, the psychic Gus Parker accompanying homicide detective Alex Mills to a crime scene. This truly sets the stage for how Gus and Alex work together. It’s uncanny how the first scene of them working together in the field falls on page 69. What readers experience here is absolutely representative of the rest of the book to the extent that it reveals the chemistry between the men; it’s their chemistry as buddies with a shared objective that keeps the story moving along. On page 69 and the pages that immediately follow, readers see their humor, their brotherly affection, and their mutual respect. The page, itself, is not a dramatic representation of plot, necessarily, but it takes the characters, together, from preliminary action and setup to primary action and momentum, all against the third great character in the novel, the desert.
Visit Steven Cooper's website.

My Book, The Movie: Desert Remains.

Writers Read: Steven Cooper.

--Marshal Zeringue