Tuesday, January 3, 2023

"Picture in the Sand"

Peter Blauner is an Edgar-winning, New York Times bestselling author of several other novels, including Slow Motion Riot, The Intruder, and Sunrise Highway. His books have been translated into twenty languages.

Blauner's new novel, Picture in the Sand, is the culmination of two decades of writing and research that took him from Brooklyn to Cairo a half-dozen times.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Picture in the Sand and reported the following:
Page 69 marks a time of transition for Picture in the Sand. The protagonist of this historical y, a young Egyptian movie fan named Ali Hassan, has landed what first seems to be his dream job: as driver for the legendary film director Cecil B. DeMille on his most famous film The Ten Commandments. But that dream quickly turns into something more closely resembling a nightmare when Ali and DeMille find their car surrounded by an angry mob on the streets of Cairo and in making their escape, Ali accidentally strikes and kills a cleric held in high regard by religious extremists.

On page 69, Ali is driving through the desert to the first filming location. His passengers include DeMille,Charlton Heston and the woman Ali is in love with. Ali's role in the cleric's death has not yet become public knowledge, but he fears its discovery. On page 69, Ali considers the consequences and punishment he could receive while his passengers prattle on about show business and a sandstorm rages around them.

If it was my choice, I'd rather readers start with Page 68, which opens with this paragraph, which is Ali relating the tale to his wayward grandson Alex many years later:
In our religion, Alex, there is a story that two recording angels will come to your graveside on the day of your death: Munkar and Nakir. Before you are laid to your rest, they ask you a series of questions to determine your final destination. One is “Who is your Lord?” Another is “What is your religion?” And the last is “Who is the one true messenger?” If you answer correctly, you will eventually pass into Paradise, aljana, with its green fields and waterfalls. If you don’t, you will be squeezed until your ribs interlock and your insides ooze out through the gaps, until the Final Day when you are cast into hell, where your body will burn for eternity.

I pictured the recording angels seated right behind me as we rumbled along.

In reality, it was Henry Wilcoxon and “Chuck” Heston squeezed between Mr. DeMille and Mona, the four of them somehow not throwing up as we swerved and skidded.
That more accurately captures the spirit and tone I was trying for in the book.
Visit Peter Blauner's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sunrise Highway.

Writers Read: Peter Blauner (December 2022).

--Marshal Zeringue