Thursday, June 4, 2020

"Black Sun Rising"

Matthew Carr is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and lifelong Hispanophile. He has written for various publications including the New York Times, the Observer, and the Guardian. His nonfiction is published by The New Press: Fortress Europe; Soldiers, Civilians, and the American Way of War; and The Savage Frontier.

Carr's first novel, the acclaimed The Devils of Cardona (Riverhead), was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.

Carr applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Black Sun Rising, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Black Sun Rising we find the main protagonist of the novel, private investigator Harry Lawton, in a Barcelona mortuary. Lawton is about to examine the corpse of a bomb victim who might be Randolph Foulkes, the man he has come to Barcelona to identify. He is watched by the Catalan pathologist Ferran Quintana and his orderlies, who are curious to observe the methods used by a Scotland Yard detective.

Quintana doesn’t know that Lawton suffers from epilepsy, which has forced him to abandon his career in the police. He is surprised to find that Lawton is unaware of the new blood typologies discovered by Dr Karl Landsteiner at the beginning of the century, and that he has no interest in their usefulness for identification purposes. Like most British detectives in 1909, Lawton is passingly familiar with the nineteenth century French criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne’s work in distinguishing human from animal blood cells, but unlike Quintana, he has not come across Landsteiner’s more recent categorisations of different types of human blood.

Lawton is old school, and relies primarily on fingerprinting and ‘Bertillonage’ measurements and photographs, as he proceeds to examine the horrifically mangled corpse that reminds him of casualties from the Boer War.

Readers who opens the novel at this page will glean some hints into Lawton’s history and character. They will discover that he is a combat veteran and an experienced detective who has seen a lot of corpses. They will not know that this is the first time he has examined a body in years, and they may be puzzled by his self-consciousness and awkwardness at having to perform a routine identification in front of strangers. They will be keen to turn the page and find out what Lawton's examination reveals.

Like Lawton himself, they will encounter the first references to the emerging science of blood categorisations, to which Lawton will later return as he continues his investigation into the last movements of the man on the autopsy table, who might or might not be Randolph William Foulkes.
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--Marshal Zeringue