Tuesday, September 18, 2007

James R. Benn's "The First Wave"

James R. Benn is the author of Billy Boyle and its recently-released sequel The First Wave.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to the new novel and reported the following:
Page 99 finds military detective Billy Boyle studying a murder scene and trying to reconstruct the events that occurred there. A supply sergeant in an army hospital has been found in a supply room with his throat slit, and a valuable supply of penicillin is missing.

What does this reveal about the book and the character? Obviously, that it’s a mystery, and that Billy has his suspicions about exactly what happened. He has a way of seeing beyond the obvious, as he reconstructs the murder with another officer who attacks him with a pencil standing in for the knife. Comparing those moves with the defensive wounds found on the victim, he determines there were two assailants.

“Who else held Casselli’s right arm so Mathenet could make a clean cut? One on one, Casselli was holding him off.”

I try in my writing to bring out the sensations, tastes, smells and feelings Billy experiences, as well as the effect these events have on him. A good example is in the middle of this page.

Harding thought for a minute, then lit a cigarette, the blue smoke helping to cover up the coppery smell of dried blood and the fouler odors of the shit and piss Casselli had let go when his lights went out. I looked down at the supply sergeant and wondered at the struggle he had put up. The dead eyes looked up at me, pupils wide in amazement, as if the thought of death had never occurred to him.

Finally, Billy’s thoughts go to his British girlfriend, a British agent, who has been kidnapped by renegade Vichy French police, and at a niggling thought about those dead eyes, which contain a clue he can’t quite dredge up from the recesses of his mind – yet.

I don’t know if I could have packed more about character or plot onto page 99 if I had tried!
Learn more about the Billy Boyle WWII Mystery Series at James R. Benn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue