He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his first novel Rules for Old Men Waiting, and reported the following:
I quite like my page 99, on which my bluff Scottish hero MacIver tells his painter-wife Margaret a bed-time story about another young woman painter who rescues a sailor from his wrecked yacht in a storm, in the cove she is painting. Page 99 slides slipperily past the rescue to a small erotic completion in a snug cottage out of the wind, which then MacIver and Margaret re-enact, to their joint satisfaction. Quite apart from the fact that MacIver is the sort of man who can barely open his mouth without telling a story, the point of the small episode is to show, in fairly concrete terms, the kind of tension between imagination and memory in a man trying to make sense of his life and his world. He is a Professor of History (especially of World War I) with a lot of anger, even violence in his makeup, but he brings himself, in his last reclusive weeks, past grief and rage to peace at the end.Read an excerpt from Rules for Old Men Waiting and learn more about the novel at the Random House website.