He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new novel, The Children of Black Valley, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford makes an interesting point. I have to admit to some initial skepticism that the whole of a novel can be encapsulated on its ninety-ninth page, but I think the guy may be onto something.Read an excerpt from The Children of Black Valley, and learn more about the book and author at Evan Kilgore's website.
On page 99 of The Children of Black Valley, things are really beginning to heat up. Sam, our dutiful hero, is about to go looking for a professional colleague who is in danger because he has been helping Sam to search for answers about his missing son. But there is a lot more going on, even just on page 99, than a frantic manhunt. Sam and his erstwhile wife, Ann, are grappling with a renewed tragedy, and it’s tearing them apart. Sam borrows Ann’s car, and the mere act of stepping into something so familiar – her threadbare seats, her CDs, their son’s toys – reawakens a thrashing sea of emotions, old arguments, promises, losses, the shattered shell of a broken marriage. It captures a number of the elemental plot and character relationship components that come to define their journeys over the rest of the story.
That’s probably not true for absolutely every page of the book, but I think that’s also part of the genius of Ford’s choice. By page 99, most novels are free of the early, foundational groundwork that takes place in their opening chapters. We are past the point of discovering bodies on carpets or watching would-be heroines get hacked to pieces in cabins. There has been time to get acquainted with the characters, yet by page 99, most novels have not yet come to those moments of darkness or despair that put their them to the ultimate test – nor the wild celebration that follows, in victory, at the end.
No, page 99 teeters on the brink of a unique precipice, having traveled just far enough to glimpse the valley of the rest of the story spreading out below without yet understanding what demons may lurk in the craggy nooks and crannies it still harbors in shadow.
I won’t give anything away about the plot of my book, but needless to say, the are a number of demons in Black Valley, and the darkness and the frantic urgency and also the glimmer of hope that appear on page 99 are but glimpses of what lies ahead.