Saturday, August 8, 2009

Marcus Sakey's "The Amateurs"

Marcus Sakey's first novel, The Blade Itself, was featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR, and chosen both a New York Times Editor's Pick and one of Esquire magazine's "Top 5 Reads of 2007." Ben Affleck's production company bought the film rights for Miramax. The Chicago Tribune called his second novel, At the City's Edge, "nothing short of brilliant." His third book, Good People, came out to wide critical acclaim, with movie rights selling to Tobey Maguire. All three novels underwent “The Page 69 Test.”

Sakey applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new novel, The Amateurs, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford believed that if you "open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." According to Ernest Hemingway, Ford also had really bad breath. I mean, swamp water breath. August corpse breath. Trench foot breath.

The one has nothing to do with the other. I'm just easily amused.

As far as the truth of his statement--Ford's, not Hemingway's--I suppose it depends what he meant by quality. Page 99 of my new book, The Amateurs, is quite short:

Ian leaned forward, picked up the mirror, held it to his nose, sucked in a long rail of white, and then another in the same nostril. His left had started bleeding earlier, and he had a Kleenex twisted into it, the end hanging out like a tail. He wiped the bitter coke residue on gums gone numb, then set the mirror on the coffee table. Beside it, three pistols lay in a neat line, the metal gleaming dull.

Outside the windows, the city burned.

Obviously, such a brief passage can't really reflect the larger arc. And since the book is an ensemble piece about four best friends who become the most dangerous kind of enemies, focusing on just one is a little misleading.

On the other hand, we do have drugs, guns, bad decisions, and the suggestion of worse things to come. All elements the book is rife with. So the statement isn't totally bogus.

That said, having tried both this and the Page 69 test, I don't really buy them. Of course, Ford would probably tell me that my Pages 69 & 99 are lousy. To which I would be forced to haughtily reply:

Read an excerpt from The Amateurs, and learn more about the author and his work at Marcus Sakey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue