Monday, September 24, 2018

"River of Secrets"

Roger Johns is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor with law degrees from Louisiana State University and Boston University. During his nearly two decades as a professor, he served on the editorial staffs of several academic publications and he won numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and his scholarly writing. Johns was born and raised in Louisiana. He and his wife Julie now live in Georgia. Dark River Rising is his first novel.

Johns applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, River of Secrets, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. You’ll have whatever and whoever you need to get this done properly. And while I want you to take the time to do it right––meaning zero mistakes––I also want this case out of my hair and out of your hands and on the DA’s desk as soon as is humanly possible.”

“Understood.” Wallace didn’t like the look she saw on the chief’s face. She could tell he felt sorry for her.

“And, even with the advantages of having you as the shot caller on this investigation, we’re still taking a risk.” He walked over and stood by her chair. “I’m going all in with this decision. I’m betting everything on Hartman, to win.”

Wallace opened her mouth to speak, but he waved her off.

“One last thing. Because we have what appears to be very convincing DNA evidence putting Pitkin at the scene of the crime, standing in very close proximity to the victim, pressure is already mounting to close out our part in this investigation. To just put everything in the hands of the prosecutor and let her and her investigators flesh out what’s left of the case.” He pushed the computer to the side and leaned against the edge of the little table. “Think of this as a test question. How long do you think I should resist that pressure, Detective Hartman?”

“As long as there’s a chance that caving in would look like a rush to judgment.” She looked him squarely in the eye.

“I’m counting on you to understand, in very practical terms, the difference between a rush to judgment and a sprint to the truth.”

“I think I’m clear on what you’re telling me, Chief Shannon.”

“I’ll want you to brief me. Directly.” He repeatedly jabbed the first two fingers of his left hand against his chest. “Every evening. I’ll want a recap of the previous twenty-four hours.”

“Yes, sir.”

“What’s your next step?”

“I need to get a warrant from a judge in Pointe Coupee Parish, so I can search Craig Stephens’s lake house on False River.”

“If I’m not mistaken, Burley has been beavering away on that very matter, while you and I have been having our little chat.”
I write the Wallace Hartman mysteries, which are set in Baton Rouge, LA. The second in the series, River of Secrets, came out on August 28, 2018. Wallace is a white female homicide detective and page 69 finds her at the end of conversation with Jack Shannon, the first black chief of police in Baton Rouge. He’s decided to keep her on, as the lead detective in a politically and racially charged case that is sparking waves of violence across the city. Some in the city government feel Wallace is the wrong person to handle the case, but Shannon feels otherwise. This fragment of a scene illustrates the risks Shannon is taking, by keeping Wallace on the case, and how much he is relying on her to get the job done and do the right thing while resisting the political pressure to just rubber-stamp the investigation and do the safe thing. This fragment of a scene highlights the idea that there’s always risk involved when we rely on others to be true to their stated principles when the heat is on, and introduces a couple of related questions that haunt the remainder of the book: (1) Can we ever really know whether another person’s stated principles truly reflect their innermost beliefs, and (2) Is it ever safe to assume that they do?
Visit Roger Johns's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dark River Rising.

My Book, The Movie: River of Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue