Sunday, 2 September 2012

Do I pass the Page 99 Test?

The English poet, novelist and critic Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939) once said ...

"Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

It's an interesting idea and one that's been taken up and developed by Marshal Zeringue on his excellent The Page 99 Test blog. I guess that what Ford was saying is that if an author can maintain a level of quality throughout a book, then Page 99 should be as good as any other. If it seems sluggish or lazy or mere filler, it's an indication that the writer couldn't sustain the pace.

So, I wondered, how do my books shape up? Here's Page 99 of Joined-Up Thinking:

'... before his death. However, an autopsy was not performed on him because of family objections to the procedure. Consequently, the medical examiner conducted only an external exam and a review of Atkins' hospital records.

So we’ll have to chalk this one up as a ‘maybe’.

Autopsies are a great way of debunking urban myths. Among the more well-known examples are the story that singer Mama Cass died by choking on a ham sandwich (autopsy showed she died of heart failure); that Catharine the Great died while having sex with a horse (actually, a cerebral haemorrhage); and that John Wayne died from having 40lbs of impacted faecal matter in his intestine (cancer, sorry). Wayne didn’t have an autopsy as his aggressive terminal cancer was a matter of proven fact, but I had to mention it as the story is so patently absurd.

There are real medical cases of people suffering extreme abdominal pain from just 1lb of impacted faeces. So 40lbs is ridiculous. Even more silly is the story that Elvis Presley was found to have 60lbs of the same. It’s just another ridiculous urban myth. Ridiculous stories about unfeasible amounts of impacted faecal matter are often used as ‘proof’ that Man is not meant to be a carnivore (Sorry Dr Atkins) ...'

What do you reckon? Do I pass?

Now, I don't quite know what Page 99 of Constable Colgan's Connectoscope will be because the book hasn't been typeset yet. However, Page 99 of my original manuscript says this:

' ... stabbed more than 60 times using knives from their own kitchen. The suspect arrested for the offence was one George Whitmore Jr, an unemployed 19 year old black man of below average intelligence. He was incarcerated for 1,216 days on a confession gained under duress and some very shaky evidence. A separate investigation eventually exonerated him completely and, in 1965, a man called Richard Robles was arrested and convicted of the murders.

Whitmore’s case was cited by the Supreme Court while they were reviewing the case of Miranda vs Arizona, where labourer Ernesto Arturo Miranda had been convicted solely upon his confession and had not received legal advice. The review led to the introduction of the so-called Miranda Rights, whereby anyone arrested must now be informed of their right to remain silent and to have legal representation before anything they say becomes admissable in law.

The Marcus-Nelson Murders featured a tough and incorruptible New York Detective Lieutenant called Theodopolous Kojack, played by Savalas. The character proved so interesting that a TV series was developed. Kojak, with its new spelling, went on to become one of the most popular and iconic cop shows of the 1970s. With his catchphrase of ‘Who loves ya baby?’ and his trademark lollipops (Savalas used them to help him quit smoking), Theo Kojak made a star of Savalas. The detective’s other notable feature was his bald head. Savalas had shaved it in 1965 to play Pontius Pilate in the movie The Greatest Story Ever Told and liked it so much he kept it ...'

So, if you reckon that I pass and you fancy reading any more, you can still get Joined-Up Thinking here. Or check out the first two chapters of Constable Colgan's Connectoscope for free here. If you like it, visit unbound.co.uk and pledge on the book here.

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