He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest novel, Pelham Fell Here, and reported the following:
From Page 99:Read an excerpt from Pelham Fell Here, and learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website.
He’d overshot the farmhouse driveway. I screeched, waved, and fumbled in my small steps down the driveway. The woods at the landfill from which I was supposed to emerge attracted Chet’s attention. Frantic, I pumped the sawed-off and reeled off three salvos, but hurting too much I couldn’t manage a fourth.
My aggressive stunt did the trick. I saw no K-9 dogs, but Chet’s brake lights flared on. The Barracuda notched a U-turn to fly back and scream up the driveway. I flipped out the Barracuda’s door and eased my bones down into the black velour upholstery. I shut the car door. The wiry, short Chet toed the gas and shot me a glance.
“Does the other dude look as bad?”
I took a moment to quiet my tremors. “I just got my bell rung. Was anybody else on the road?”
“Just some fool in an orange car. Is that a rat? My dad won’t like rat shit soiling these new seat covers.”
“Mr. Bojangles is a ferret.”
“What are you doing with a ferret, Frank?”
“I found him at the farmhouse. He’s the only good thing in there.”
“Okay, but where were you?”
“I was right here. Mr. Van Dotson was supposed to tell you we’d meet at the old landfill.”
“He did. He also said you tore off. What’s up, dawg?”
Ford Madox Ford, a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creating the great detective Sherlock Holmes, may’ve been on to something about page 99 in a novel. Page 99 in my newest P.I. Frank Johnson mystery, Pelham Fell Here, finds Frank, a little battered and bruised, having just escaped from a jam. He’s linked up with his trusty, young sidekick, Chet Peyton, and they’re beginning to map out what next moves to take.
This opening scene in Chapter 21 strikes me as a pivotal one where Frank’s quest has been pretty much set. He’s gotten his reinforcements in Chet, and their chase is now joined after the bad guys, a neo-Nazi sect he’s managed to antagonize. It’s a duel to the death.
One further detail arises on page 99. Mr. Bojangles, the ferret Frank has rescued from the neo-Nazis, offers a bit of comedic relief. Well, he’s supposed to lighten up the mood in an otherwise dark chronicle. I went back and forth on whether to include a pet. In the final manuscript’s shakedown, Mr. Bojangles was a keeper. Frank deserved the pet to help keep his sanity and humanity intact.
Frank isn’t yet committed to working as a private detective (this is really the first book in the series). On page 99, he’s taking the steps to investigate the murder of his cousin Cody Chapman if only because Frank is made the prime suspect. He has to prove his innocence before he’s arrested.
Ed Lynskey's The Blue Cheer, the movie.
The Page 69 Test: The Dirt-Brown Derby.