Tuesday, April 28, 2020

"Death of an American Beauty"

Mariah Fredericks was born and raised in New York City, where she still lives today with her family. She is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in history.

Fredericks applied the Page 69 Test to Death of an American Beauty, the third Jane Prescott mystery, and reported the following:
I love the page 69 challenge. It’s always fascinating to open your own book and assess it from a single page. It forces you to confront: did I make the best use of this space in the narrative that I could?

The action of page 69 in Death of an American Beauty is chaotic. Jane Prescott, lady’s maid, has been dragged into rehearsals for a society pageant called “Stirring Scenes of the Emancipation,” a display meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lincoln’s proclamation. In one page, she corrals a gaggle of disgruntled ladies, starts mending their costumes, critiques Julia Ward Howe’s lyrics for the Battle Hymn of the Republic…and meets Leo Hirschfeld.

Leo Hirschfeld is a new character in the Jane Prescott series. When he’s not playing piano for the pageant, he has any number of jobs including singing waiter and pianist at the Union Square nickelodeon. He is brash, ambitious, and buoyantly optimistic, predicting that one day, “All Broadway will be one big Leo Hirschfeld production.”

On page 69, all we see Leo do is play the piano and react to the terrible singing around him. Jane notices that he is about her age and physically attractive—first things first. But she also notices how he absorbs the moods and rhythms around him. “…he seemed to let it run right through him—the tension, the comedy, the embarrassment…” On the next page, he starts turning the ladies’ arguments into music. Jane decides he is a “human commutator,” someone capable of taking various energies and channeling them into something harmonious and wonderful.

The vision of someone able to almost unconsciously conduct our emotional energy into music originally occurred to me when I listened to such extraordinary songwriters as Bob Dylan or Irving Berlin, musicians who create songs so elemental it seems strange to think of them as being written. Not being musical in the slightest, the creation of melodic sound is a miracle to me, and it was nice to find that image for the young composer. Whatever is happening around him, Leo responds: emotion, sound…and especially, women.
Visit Mariah Fredericks's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl in the Park.

The Page 69 Test: A Death of No Importance.

My Book, The Movie: Death of an American Beauty.

--Marshal Zeringue