Monday, January 29, 2007

Pg. 69: "Four Kinds of Rain"

Robert Ward is a novelist and screenwriter. His first novel was the critically acclaimed Shedding Skin, which won the National Endowment of the Arts award for first novel of exceptional merit. He has since written seven more novels, including Red Baker, which won the PEN West prize for Best Novel of 1985.

His latest novel is Four Kinds of Rain, which he was kind enough to put to the "page 69 test." Here is what he found:
I took a look at page 69, and it turns out it's one of my favorite parts of the book. My hero Bob Wells has decided to steal a valuable, ancient mask, The Mask of Utu, and then resell it...but since he's not a crook, and has no experience in stealing anything, he has not a clue as to the worth of the mask. All he knows is that the mask is considered "priceless"...but what does "priceless" mean? Bob thinks of old movies, in which shady art dealers (the kind always played by Clifton Webb) say ancient objects are "priceless" but in those movies the crooked dealer always knows what the term means. Bob, however, doesn't know anything at all...until he learns on page 69 that Utu was once sold for between 9 and 10 million dollars. This fact stuns him. Can he walk up to a crooked art dealer, Colin Edwards, a guy who is ruthless and probably a killer, and demand between 9 and 10 million bucks for The Mask of Utu? Certainly not. The guy will either laugh at him or shoot him in the head.

This leads Bob to start thinking about the mask in another way. Maybe he shouldn't consider how much Utu is worth on the black market but how much he needs. This is almost a Marxist notion. "Each according to his needs." By page 70 Bob is thinking about the mask in this new way. Does he need two million, three, four? Pages 70 and 71 are an extended comic meditation on how much he thinks he needs. And, of course, the more he thinks, the more he thinks he has to have. He has started on his downward spiral into greed, madness and eventually murder. Right here on page 69.

So, yes, page 69 is very representative of the book, in that much of the novel is about Bob's rationalizations for his evil actions. Which is what I believe good crime writing is all about. Not so much about the crimes committed but the reasons and psychology of the criminals and the cops who apprehend them.

Thanks for being interested in my novel. Hope this helps explain what I am attempting to do in Four Kinds of Rain.
Thanks to Robert for the input.

Read an excerpt from Four Kinds of Rain.

The novel was one of Sarah Weinman's "Picks of the Week"--she called it "one of the most plausible noir novels I've read in some time." David J. Montgomery wrote, "Four Kinds of Rain is as black as a chain smoker's lungs, but it's also deviously funny, as Ward takes us into the mind of this very human, but very messed-up man. The plot is twisted and suspenseful, but it's the wonderfully original characters that really bring it all to life."

Veronique De Turenne reviewed Four Kinds of Rain for NPR's Day to Day.

Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times called the novel "Fiercely sharp and nasty as a paper cut."

Praise from Ward's peers includes:
"Four Kinds of Rain is a great read. Robert Ward has created a darkly comic masterpiece that keeps you thinking long after the last page is turned."
-- Michael Connelly

"Four Kinds of Rain is feverish and funny, an end-of-the-dream novel that could only have come from the very talented, slightly twisted mind of Robert Ward."
-- George Pelecanos

"Noir for the lost. Heartbreaking, hilarious and oh so beautifully written. A renegade prose poem to the loss and regret we carry like the best rock 'n roll music, full of beauty and despair with the gonzo gift of sheer immediacy."
-- Ken Bruen
Read Robert's Q & A with Publishers Weekly.

Along with Bill Crider and charter member Kevin Guilfoile, Robert is a member of the blog's The Moviegoer fan club.

His TV and film experience includes work on "Hill Street Blues," "Miami Vice," and other productions.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Tim Harford, The Undercover Economist
William Landay, The Strangler
Kate Holden, In My Skin
Brian Wansick, Mindless Eating
Noria Jablonski, Human Oddities
Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity
Neal Pollack, Alternadad
Bella DePaulo, Singled Out
Steve Hamilton, A Stolen Season
Eric Klinenberg, Fighting for Air
Donna Moore, ...Go to Helena Handbasket
Louis Bayard, The Pale Blue Eye
Neal Thompson, Riding with the Devil
Sherry Argov, Why Men Marry Bitches
P.J. Parrish, An Unquiet Grave
Tyler Knox, Kockroach
Andrew Rehfeld, The Concept of Constituency
Laura Wiess, Such a Pretty Girl
Jeremy Blachman, Anonymous Lawyer
Andrew Pyper, The Wildfire Season
Wendy Werris, An Alphabetical Life
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know
Meghan Daum, The Quality of Life Report
Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin' Man
Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
Paul Collins, The Trouble With Tom
John McFetridge, Dirty Sweet
Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero
Bill Crider, Murder Among the OWLS
Zachary Shore, Breeding Bin Ladens
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club
Lawrence Light, Fear & Greed
Simon Read, In The Dark
Sandra Ruttan, Suspicious Circumstances
Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography
Alison Gaylin, You Kill Me
Gayle Lynds, The Last Spymaster
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
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