Saturday, December 8, 2012
Jack Partridge: Why Pool?
Indeed, Sarah Partridge had a copy of QUEENS NOIR, hot off the presses that January. We were inseparable after that. I came to learn that Jack was a partner in a good-sized corporate law firm in Providence, Rhode Island, where they lived. All I knew about Providence then was that its Mayor had been convicted of Bribe Receiving after trial and went to State Prison but upon his release was reelected to another term as Mayor:, and that the Presiding Justice of Rhode Island’s highest court had recently been indicted (for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” I presumed). I soon learned that Jack Partridge wrote crime novels set in Providence (where else?) and the game of pool figured large in both mysteries, CAROM SHOT and STRAIGHT POOL, so, curious, I asked: Why pool?
When Algy Temple, my pool playing sleuth, becomes involved in murder, his object may be detection and resolution, fingering the criminal, but he is faced with safety shots, spins, errant shots, and misdirection, before the end of the game. Will he strike it home? Will moral ambiguity force him into unexpected results?
When the first Algy Temple mystery was conceived, I knew that Algy would be a Waspish character, the scion of Yankee nobility, rich but independent, proud of and burdened by that ancestry, not able to remove himself from his traditions, thoughtfully discerning as to today's morals, judgments, and political and academic worlds. At an early age, Algy becomes a pool – not billiards – player with buddies he has picked up in school, begins to understand class distinctions, associates with kids from varied economic and social and ethnic backgrounds, and finds his own path. Two friends, Tony Tramonti ( to become Providence's Police Commissioner and later Mayor of Providence) and Young Jimmy Hannigan (a pool wizard, hustler , and club owner) are important characters in the series.
" ... an Ivy League campus is ... populated with concentrations of the politically correct and cultural war militants...with sensitive, micro thin skins and memories like elephants" and the job as being "... the Attorney General in a mini-state inhabited exclusively by the smart, the opinionated. and the stubborn, surrounded by antagonists who would like nothing better than rubbing (the University's administrators) faces in the merde."
Much of this brought into focus by his fiancee and lover, Nadie Winokur, a popular prof at Carter University, who is chic, willful, kind and a feminist to her bones.
Pool, and the characters that live in that démodé of skill, chance, and gambling, provide opportunity for brushes with death as does the academic life.
And Providence? Is there a murkier place in America? Chicago takes lessons on chicanery from Providence. My Sonny Russo character as the mayor of Providence captures the too often corrupt, nudge-nudge life of our city government. You have to love a place where mayors sometimes serve 5 years away as a guest of the government – Rhode Island governors just plead guilty – and how do you get anything done in a city where scandal is a way of life. Well, you try.
In CAROM SHOT, it is a serial rapist on campus who incites racial tension (it is always there) and the death of a student and a conservative and controversial prof that are the vehicles for investigation; in STRAIGHT POOL, it is the death of a Native American in a fire at a new and exclusive country club; in SCRATCHED, the body of a prominent professor is found in the Providence River during one our famous WaterFire events.
The third in the Algy series, SCRATCHED, hopefully will be out in 2013.
Love to hear from mystery readers. Please check out my blog at www.jjpartridge.com.
J. J. Partridge