Saturday, August 29, 2020

"Love and Theft"

Stan Parish is the former editor-in-chief of The Future of Everything at The Wall Street Journal and the author of the novel Down the Shore. His writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, Surface, The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. He holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and lives in Los Angeles.

Parish applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Love and Theft, and reported the following:
Page 69 is part of a flashback in which we understand how Alex Cassidy—the novel’s protagonist and leader of a world-class armed robbery crew—went from burglary to much bigger things. A nineteen-year-old Alex and his best friend, Clay, have just broken into a penthouse hotel suite in Atlantic City, but the couple they came to rob is being held hostage—not part of the plan. After jumping the hostage-takers, Clay and Alex are questioned by the wife, who remarks on Alex’s uncanny calm. Here’s the top of the page:
Alex shrugged again. He hadn’t felt calm, even if he’d looked it. His father, the reason Alex and his mother fled Miami, was a tall Italian restaurateur with a deep sadistic streak and a love of white linen suits and cocaine. He beat his girlfriend and son, but was especially cruel to Alex, whose fear he could sense. When Alex acted scared, he got hit, and the more afraid he seemed, the worse the beatings got. Alex learned to fake calm when his heart was racing, and eventually to exude calm in the face of violence.

Roberto emerged from the bathroom and shut the door gently behind him.

“Are you looking for work?” Maricel asked.

“What?” Clay said through a laugh.

“We’re about to begin operating through a small airport not far from here. We’ll need some hands there in the coming weeks. If you’re interested, of course. Our thanks come with no strings attached, no expectations.”

“You’re offering us jobs?”

“I need drivers who can handle themselves but not attract attention. Handsome young gringos would be ideal.”

“Drivers?” Alex asked. “What happens at the airport?”
What happens at the airport is large-scale international drug trafficking; Clay and Alex just saved the power couple behind a powerful cartel. Spoiler alert: The boys take the job.

In his offer to participate in this cool experiment, the author of this blog asks for a response to the Page 69 Test ranging from "Does not work at all" to "Uncannily, of the hundreds of pages in my book, page 69 is the very best single page to introduce a browser to what the book is about." I’m close to the latter camp. The page explains one of Alex Cassidy’s defining characteristics—he’s uncommonly cool under fire—and the dialogue that follows details the job offer that redirects and reshapes his life. It’s a weird, intimate moment in the aftermath of violence, which the book is full of. As a representative sample, you could do worse.

Love and Theft is a love story and a crime story. It’s also about the illusion of control and how our best-laid plans and intentions are null and void in the face of whatever fate, karma, the universe, etc. has in store. Alex Cassidy is good at his job because he’s a control freak who’s learned to suppress his adrenaline response, planning every job down to the smallest detail and executing without error. Eventually, like all of us, he’s forced to confront the limit of his powers, which is foreshadowed on page 69.
Visit Stan Parish's website.

--Marshal Zeringue