Tuesday, February 26, 2008

John Lescroart's "Betrayal"

John Lescroart is the bestselling author of the "Dismas Hardy" thrillers and other works.

He applied
the "Page 99 Test" to Betrayal, the new novel in the series, and reported the following:
From Page 99:

Now Evan and his very disgruntled guys were in a Baghdad neighborhood called Masbah, where Nolan was to meet up and conduct some business with a tribal chief who was a friend of Kuvan. They’d already passed the checkpoint into the wide main thoroughfare that was now choked with traffic. On either side, storefronts gave way to tall buildings. Pedestrians skirted sidewalk vendors who spilled over into the roadway on both sides of the road.

But in contrast to many of their other trips through the city, today they’d encountered quite a bit of low-level hostility. Kids who, even a week before, had run along beside the convoy begging for candy, today hung back and in a few cases pelted the cars with rocks and invective as they drove by. Older “kids,” indistinguishable in many ways from the armed and very dangerous enemy, tended to gather in small groups and watch the passage of the cars in surly silence. The large and ever-growing civilian death toll from quick-triggered convoy machine gunners – in Evan’s view, often justifiable, if tragic – was infecting the general populace. And in a tribal society such as Iraq’s, where the death of a family member must be avenged by the whole tribe, Evan felt that at any time the concentric circles of retribution might extend to them – all politics and military exigencies aside.

Riding along with Nolan on the big gun above him, Evan was more than nervous. He honestly didn’t know his duty. He hadn’t been briefed on this exact situation, and had no ranking officer above him to tell him the rules. Should he have stood up to Nolan and forbade him to man the machine gun, alienating him from his men even more? Could he just continue to let him ride up there and hope the problem would go away? But playing into all of his ruminations was the fact that since the unauthorized raid into the BIAP neighborhood, everything about Nolan had him on edge.

The more Evan reflected on it, the less defensible that attack seemed, the more like some variant of murder. Evan had been a cop long enough in civilian life that he was sensitive to the nuances of homicide and the raid had certainly been at the very least in a dark gray area.

Betrayal tells the story of two men who meet in Iraq, and the woman that both of them love. Evan Scholler is a policeman from Redwood City, California, whose National Guard Unit got called up in the first weeks after the invasion of Iraq. Ron Nolan, by contrast, was a career soldier, a Navy SEAL, and now works as a private contractor for Allstrong Security in the war zone. Evan winds up being assigned to ferry Ron around the wartorn country in his armored convoy.

Meanwhile, Tara Wheatley is a beautiful schoolteacher who breaks up with Evan Scholler because of his involvement in the war. He continues to write to her, hoping to reconcile, but he receives no answer. When Ron Nolan gets sent back to the States for a confidential mission, he tries to hand-deliver a letter to Tara as a favor to Evan. At first, she refuses to accept it, which doesn’t break Ron’s heart, since he’s incredibly attracted to her.

While, unknown to Tara, Evan is severely wounded and expected not to recover from a traumatic brain injury received during an attack on his (and Nolan’s) convoy, Nolan presses his case with Tara, and the two become romantically involved. Evan, however, does recover, and as he tries to reconnect with Tara, the lies that Ron Nolan had told Tara begin to come to light.

When Ron Nolan is killed, Evan Scholler is the main suspect.

Page 99, above, recounts the beginning of the climax scene of the first part of the book, as Evan’s convoy of HUMVEES, charged with protecting Ron Nolan, moves out into a dangerous neighborhood in Baghdad. I don’t think too many people would stop reading after starting on this page, as the tension in the scene is palpable. Even if we don’t know Evan and Ron, it’s clear that Evan is very nervous about both Ron’s place in the convoy and about the neighborhood through which they’re travelling. Clearly, something big and portentous is going to happen, and I can’t imagine not keeping on reading until whatever that is becomes clear.
Read an excerpt from Betrayal, and learn more about the book and its author at John Lescroart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue