Monday, April 21, 2008

Page 123

Given my rather small circle of friends, I usually avoid having to participate in blogging memes (aka high-tech chain letters), but Declan Burke, the self-proclaimed Grand Vizier at Crime Always Pays, has passed a new one my way. The rules are these:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

1. Hmm. It says “the nearest book,” not the one you happen to be reading right now. So I have to go with This Is San Francisco, a 1948 non-fiction work about California’s wildest city by onetime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Robert O’Brien. It’s sitting on my desk, just to my left.

2-4. The sixth, seventh, and eighth sentences read this way:
By sundown, the town was rocking with celebrating drunks, and one group of revelers staggered along the street kicking in doors and picking up free drinks at each house. In the course of this alcoholic pilgrimage, Big Joe Cannon kicked down the door of the Mexican monte dealer.

When he woke the next day, it didn’t seem so funny to Big Joe, and he went back to apologize to the gambler.
OK, I’m going to cheat here a little, because these sentences taken out of context are pretty darn meaningless. I feel the need to point out that author O’Brien is recalling here some dangerous doings in old Downieville, the county seat of Sierra County, northeast of San Francisco. The story centers on a woman named Juanita, “a lovely, twenty-four-year-old Spanish-Indian with large and shining eyes, long raven hair and an olive skin,” who was also the mistress of the Mexican monte dealer mentioned above.

Big Joe Cannon had come into town from the gold fields to celebrate the Fourth of July, 1851, and had in the course of that gotten drunk. Riotously so. O’Brien goes on to explain that when Cannon went back into Downieville the next day to apologize to that Mexican card sharp, he encountered Juanita. “He said something to her, and, for all anyone knows now, it might have been a couple of four-letter words, or it might have been ‘Good morning,’” O’Brien recalls. “At any rate, whether it was what he said, or simply the sight of him, Juanita’s dark eyes lost their softness. She left the room. She returned with a long knife and with passionate strength drove it through Big Joe’s breastbone and into his heart.” Juanita was subsequently lynched for her crime, allegedly making her the first woman to be executed in California.

Who says history books can’t be engaging?

5. So, who to tag next with this assignment? I’m going to pick my Rap Sheet blogging buddies Anthony Rainone, Linda L. Richards, and Mark Coggins, plus Danny Wagner at The Hungry Detective and Nathan Cain at Independent Crime. Have fun, guys.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I read The Rap Sheet everyday and, for once, I'm actually going to participate. Here are the rules, as posted by The Rap Sheet:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Here are my answers.

1. Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie (Hard Case Crime)
2-4. The chain rattle and the door clunked open. Tina's face was extremely pale. Her eyes were heavy-lidded, vulnerable without their usual protective layer of blue mascara.

(Odd, it actually reads like a horror story when, in fact, it's a crime story. What you do get, however, is a taste, albeit a small one, of the delicate treat it is to read an Allan Guthrie book with the wit he infuses his characters. This is my first Guthrie book...but it won't be my last.)

5. Since I read a lot of blogs but don't necessary have relationships with any but a few bloggers, I'm limiting my tags to three. You can see my other favorite bloggers on the right. Doug Warren, Victoria Graydale, L. L. Park.