Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dara Horn's "All Other Nights"

Dara Horn, author of the award-winning novels The World to Come and In the Image, is one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new novel, All Other Nights, and reported the following:
From Page 99 of All Other Nights:

Her face lit up. "Do you know General Jackson?" she asked. "He was William's contact."

Stonewall Jackson! Now Jacob was frightened. He had pictured her passing minor messages to some twenty-year-old sergeant who took the credit for himself. He had never imagined her doing anything at that high a level. How many people had died because of what she had done?

"No, but I know one of his deputies," he lied, praying that she wouldn't ask him to name anyone. She didn't. Instead she listened. "I could explain the situation to him, and pass the messages along for you."

She looked back at him, and suddenly smiled. Her face glowed. "Thank you, Jacob," she whispered.

Her torn wedding dress was gleaming in the lamplight, darkness luring him beneath her ripped skirt. He reached behind her curls to her neck and back, tracing her skin with his finger, following the line of her spine down to the buttons of her dress. She kissed him, and pulled him down with her onto the flowers her sisters had picked for them. For the rest of that evening, Jacob was able to forget his first war.


My third novel, All Other Nights, is a Civil War espionage story of an unusual sort. The main character, Jacob Rappaport, is a Jewish soldier in the Union army whose commanders discover that he has relatives in New Orleans—including an uncle who is involved in a plot to assassinate Lincoln. Jacob is then sent down to New Orleans on Passover, in order to murder his own uncle at the holiday table before the plot can progress. After this harrowing mission, his superiors offer him another "opportunity," this time involving a Confederate spy named Jeannie Levy, the daughter of a Virginia family friend. But this time, his assignment isn't to murder her, but to marry her—and then turn her in. Suffice it to say that this marriage doesn't turn out the way anyone expected.

Page 99 takes place on Jacob and Jeannie's wedding night—shortly after a shootout at their wedding reception, and right after Jeannie has revealed to her new husband that she is a spy. All Other Nights is an adventure story with all kinds of twists and betrayals along the way, as Page 99 makes clear. But it is really a story about loyalty, about how we decide who deserves our devotion, and why. I wanted to write about the Civil War because of how polarized America is now, how impossible it has become even to talk to those who disagree with us. Underneath the action-adventure plot, the book ultimately suggests the possibility of reconciliation that I hope awaits our country too. Page 99 might not offer any hint of that, but hopefully it will at least make you want to read on!
Read the first chapter of All Other Nights and learn more about the author and her work at Dara Horn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue