Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pg. 69: "Lights Out"

Jason Starr is "a leader of a new noir movement" (George Pelecanos), "the real deal in a world where a lot of people are faking it" (Laura Lippman), and "the first writer of his generation to convincingly update the modern crime novel" (Bret Easton Ellis).

His books include Twisted City, Tough Luck, Hard Feelings, Fake ID, Nothing Personal, Cold Caller and, the latest, Lights Out.

Jason put Lights Out to the "page 69 test" and reported back:
I can't say this page truly represents the novel because I tell this story from several different points of view and this page only concerns two of the characters--Jake and Christina. However, I think this page does give an overall sense of the novel's tone.

At this point in the story, Jake Thomas, a baseball superstar, has returned home to Brooklyn for a weekend to propose to Christina, his high school sweetheart and fiancee of five years. But Jake has a hidden M.O.. During a night of partying on the road in San Diego he had sex with a fourteen-year-old girl and the girl's parents are about to go public with the story. Jake hopes his wedding news will mask the sex scandal that's about to break. But what Jake doesn't know is that Christina has been dating high school rival of Jake's, Ryan Rossetti, whose own dreams of going to the Major Leagues went bust after a devastating arm injury. Meanwhile, in another part of Brooklyn, a gang conflict is brewing, and Ryan and Jake will eventually get sucked into it with tragic consequences.

OK, now back to P.69. It's a pivotal moment in the first part of the book. Jake has finally gotten Jake alone and wants to unveil his big wedding plans, but he keeps getting interrupted by phone calls. Jake, who has an over-inflated ego, tries to explain to Christina why he's barely stayed in touch with here:

"Come on, baby, try to understand--I'm not just a baseball player; I'm a celebrity. I'd love to spend an hour on the phone with you every day, but I've got people on my back twenty-four, seven." Jake's cell phone started making a farting sound, the ring tone he'd set for calls from his agent. "See what I mean?"

Although the novel touches on some real issues such as alcoholism, father-son relationships, the struggle for survival in a tough neighborhood--above all the book is a satire. I'm sending up these characters, having fun with them, and I think Jake's attitude here represents the attitude of the entire novel. Jake especially was a blast to write because I never knew what would come out of his mouth next.
Many thanks to Jason for the input.

An excerpt from Lights Out is available as a PDF and in text format.

Among the reviews and endorsements for Lights Out:
"'Lights Out' has the New York sound, the energy, dialog that's on the beat...Read it and you'll go hunting for Jason Starr's other books, I promise."
--Elmore Leonard

"Lights Out is a fast, furious page-turner from the git-go. Starr's got a hip style and an ear for crackling dialogue. And he offers up characters that are so real we're sure we know them. This book is a huge treat."
--Jeffery Deaver

Click here to read a Q & A with Jason about crime writing and Hollywood. There is another interview here.

Jason wrote a valentine to Black Lizard books--about which I feel much the same: click here to read it.

Tis the season: click here to read Jason's short story, "The Christmas Card." His story "Bianca's Wallet" is also available online here.

Jason wrote Bust with Ken Bruen, which has been praised all over the place.

For more about Jason and his books, stories, and scriptwriting, visit his official website.

Previous "page 69 tests":
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue