Friday, May 19, 2023

"Murder for Liar"

Verlin Darrow is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Darrow is a former professional volleyball player (in Italy), unsuccessful country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign spiritual organization. Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Darrow ran a punch press in a sheetmetal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood flooring. He missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens by ten minutes, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake (8 on the Richter scale), and (so far) has successfully weathered his own internal disasters.

Darrow applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Murder for Liar, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Desdemona, but my friends call me Dizzy.”

“If I save Brenda, I’ll probably get to call you Dizzy, right?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I was flirting. In the midst of this absurd situation, in front of virtual strangers, I was actually flirting.

“That’s right,” she answered, smiling again.

“Pardon my curiosity, but aren’t you Black anyway?” I asked. “I mean under the shoe polish or whatever.”


“Never mind.” I paused and thought a moment. “What are the other alternatives?” The wind kicked up right then, whistling in my ears. I zipped my nylon jacket and turned up the collar.

“We can’t leave her,” the man said.

“And we’re not about to call 911,” Dizzy added.

“Jail isn’t an alternative,” Zig-Zag agreed. “Brenda’s wanted as it is. She’d probably get two or three years.”

“Why? Did she blow something up? Two or three years seems rather extreme for criminal trespass.”

Everyone looked at everyone else.

“Maybe,” the large girl replied.

“Great. Is there a bomb up on the tower?”

“No,” the man answered. “We had other plans, but they’ve been scuttled.”

“So will you do it?” Dizzy asked.

Obviously, the sane choice was to drive home immediately and go back to sleep. But I found I didn’t want to do that. What I wanted to do was concoct convincing reasons to myself to stay and help. I tried for a while, but I couldn’t think of any, so I just said yes,
I think the page is representative of my writing. There's looming action, breezy dialogue, a glimpse into the head of the psychotherapist protagonist, and the passage introduces one of the novel's main characters. If someone hated this page, they probably wouldn't enjoy my book.

It's unfortunate that it isn't until a good way into the text that a reader who limits herself to this one page finds out that the characters are discussing a protester who's scared and frozen on a power tower.

I can see how some other pages would misrepresent my book. There's a major twist that leads the reader astray for a time. And Tom the protagonist goes through a transformative process in order to cope with various extraordinary events--including murders. A random page might merely represent a stage in Tom's process as opposed to defining his character. For that matter, when bizarre things happen with no context, they might mislead the reader into thinking the book is a fantasy or even a horror novel, which it is not. All is eventually explained in a satisfying denouement.

I like the page 69 concept. As a therapist, I wonder about the choice of the number 69. What would Freud say about Marshall McLuhan's psyche?
Visit Verlin Darrow's website.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow.

My Book, The Movie: Murder for Liar.

--Marshal Zeringue