Sunday, October 3, 2021

"An Empty Grave"

A son of the Finger Lakes in western New York State, Andrew Welsh-Huggins now calls himself a “proud native adopted Ohioan.” By day, he is a reporter for the Associated Press in Columbus. By earlier in the day, he is the author of seven books in the Andy Hayes private eye series, featuring a former Ohio State and Cleveland Browns quarterback turned investigator.

Welsh-Huggins applied the Page 69 Test to the latest novel in the series, An Empty Grave, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the beginning of a new chapter (13), and opens this way:
Instead of driving straight home, I headed back into the Franklinton neighborhood and the direction of Darlene’s apartment. Night was falling and the autumn air was cool. Women stood on almost every street corner as I drove down Sullivant, most of them alone, sometimes in pairs. They stared at me as I slowed for stop signs, making eye contact, sometimes swaying as they did, before turning away as I pulled into the next block.
What’s happening here is that my character, private eye Andy Hayes, is searching for a prostitute named Darlene Hunter whom he and two friends—a prostitute turned social worker named Theresa Sullivan and an Episcopal minister named Roy Roberts—are trying to rescue from the streets. At this moment, Andy’s search is a subplot in the larger story of him looking for a man who shot a police officer forty years earlier in a burglary.

On the one hand, this test works because much of the book is about Andy’s hunt for people who don’t want to be found, explorations that take him into some unsavory places. It also turns out that unbeknownst to Andy at this moment, Darlene Hunter holds clues to solving the larger mystery of the book. On the other hand, the test doesn’t work because it might give people the mistaken impression the book is solely about the search for Darlene Hunter, or more generally is a novel about the underground world of prostitutes in Columbus.

From a craft perspective, page 69 is the beginning of a bridge chapter. In the previous chapter, Andy and his companions encounter Darlene and a pimp named Javon Martinez, and in the process find a clue about Martinez that bears further investigation. That chapter ends with Andy’s failed attempt to enjoy a romantic evening with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, a local judge named Laura Porter, a tryst interrupted by a strange call from his client, the son of the police officer wounded by the burglar. The bridge chapter beginning on page 69 finds Andy worried about Darlene, then returning home and conducting some Internet research into the missing burglar—a man named John Ebersole—and an odd connection between Ebersole and a professor at a small local college. The chapter ends with Andy resolving to pursue that connection the following day, punctuated by receiving a tip that the clue about Martinez may reveal something important.
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

My Book, The Movie: An Empty Grave.

Q&A with Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

--Marshal Zeringue