Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blaize Clement's "Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof"

Blaize Clement is the author of the Dixie Hemingway mysteries: Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund, and Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new novel, Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, and reported the following:
I'm not sure why, but stories printed in book format have a slightly different quality than they do when they've been spit out by a printer on eight-by-eleven paper. The difference is even greater between printed books and pages read on a computer screen, and different in another way when they're narrated by a disembodied voice on a CD. It's as if each medium contributes something of itself to the story, so the story changes slightly according to how we receive it.

Take page 99 of Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, for example. I've seen those words a zillion times. On the screen when I wrote them, again and again as I reviewed and edited them, finally in hard copy, then in the publisher's "first pass pages." Today I read them in the final publication to see if Ford Madox Ford was right when he said that page 99 of any book reveals the quality of the entire book.

I recognized the page immediately. It's when Dixie is talking to Sergeant Owens, her former commanding officer, who is quizzing her about a murdered woman. The passage reads:

Owens deliberated a moment. "You know anybody else who could identify her?"

"Besides me?"

"I think it would be better if it was somebody else, Dixie. You don't need to see that."

My heart quivered. Morgan had upchucked at seeing Laura's body, and now Owens wanted to protect me from seeing it.

"It's that bad?"

"It's about as bad as it can get, Dixie."

It's funny how your mind can split at times like that. One side of my brain recoiled from what was happening around me. The other side was cool as grass. The cool side knew investigators would look through Laura's address books looking for names and numbers for her relatives. The cool side knew calls would be made, awful truths said, grim arrangements made.

The cool side said, "I'll take care of Leo until the house is cleaned up."


"Laura's cat."

And there it is -- the quality of the book as a whole. The writing style, the way a woman's murder is handled, the fact that a pet is left and that Dixie assumes responsibility for it. Page 99 even explains why my mysteries are so often called "dark," even though they're also described as "laugh-out-loud funny." Dixie is often funny, but murder never is. And Dixie is the kind of person who takes care of pets who get left behind when their humans die. So from my perspective, Ford Madox Ford was right. Page 99 really does reveal the quality of the whole of Cat Sitter On A Hot Tin Roof.
Learn more about the book and author at Blaize Clement's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue