Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bob Morris's "Bermuda Schwartz"

A freelance writer and editor, Bob Morris travels widely and contributes to a number of publications, including National Geographic Traveler, Bon Appetit, Islands, Robb Report, Latitudes and Men's Fitness. These travels have inspired his series of mystery novels, each of which takes place on a different Caribbean island. The first one, Bahamarama, was a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Mystery Novel and chosen by the Library Journal as one the year’s Top Five Mysteries. His second novel, Jamaica Me Dead, was a BookSense Pick by the American Booksellers Association.

He put the "Page 99 Test" and the "Page 69 Test" to his third mystery, Bermuda Schwartz, and reported the following:
I applied The Page 99 Test and The Page 69 Test to Bermuda Schwartz. Both were, in their own ways, revealing. On Page 69 we find the hero of the series, Zack Chasteen, standing in a kitchen in a house in Bermuda with his associate, Boggy, a Taino Indian shaman, and Teddy Schwartz, a legendary Bermudian treasure salvor. Boggy has made a batch of his "bush tea," this particular blend good for people who are about to go scuba diving since it reduces the histamines in the inner ear and relieves the pressure. Zack, as always, is skeptical about Boggy's hoodoo, even though it proves to save his butt in the end. The passage ends with Teddy Schwartz saying: "So, who's ready to go diving?" And since the real secrets of Bermuda Schwartz are found underwater, it's an ideal snippet...

As for page 99, there are only eight lines and a whole lotta white space. Just reading this page on its own, it would not seem to reveal much. Zack Chasteen is on the phone with an attorney, Daniel Denton, who is reluctant to help Chasteen with some shady legalwork. Denton takes the high moral road, but Zack offers him a lot of money. And Denton bites. The last line has Zack observing, "You gotta love lawyers." But what's most revealing about this page, I think, is that it's short, very short. A lot like my chapters. Bermuda Schwartz has 80,000 words and 94 chapters. So do the math. Chapters average less than a thousand words. Almost anywhere you open the book, you'll find pages with just a few lines. So Page 99 is revelatory to the max...
Read more about Bermuda Schwartz, including an excerpt, at Bob Morris's website; visit Morris's blog, Surrounded on Three Sides.

--Marshal Zeringue