Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gary McKinney's "Slipknot"

Gary McKinney is a technical writer, rock 'n roll musician, and the author of Slipknot.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to the novel and reported the following:
Reading page 99 of a book will reveal the quality of its whole? Bulls*it! How could it possibly? But I read page 99 of Slipknot anyway and found the statement to be more true than I would have expected. Slipknot is a mystery novel whose main character is both the county sheriff and a Deadhead. As a genre piece, there are certain expectations a writer must meet: a strong furtherance of plot, the creation of tension, and the revealing of character. All these points are found on page 99, where Sheriff Gavin Pruitt finds himself in the midst of a plot development (pressure to solve the crime); tension (a friend's betrayal); and character development (Pruitt's feelings expressed).

So, yes, to some extent the quality of Slipknot can be gleaned from page 99. What a reader will not find is any sense of setting. The forests and farmlands, salt and fresh water, mountains and beaches are missing completely. Missing, too, is the heart of the book: Sheriff Pruitt's reliance on the lyrics and social perspectives of the Grateful Dead to make meaning of both his personal and professional life.

Nevertheless, the page 99 test appears to have some validity -- if not also a degree of glibness. For instance, if page 100 were read, the quality of writing would also be revealed, with the focus shifting to the elements of place and setting. If page 101 were read, the quality would again be revealed, with the focus this time on the Grateful Dead aspect of the book. Nonetheless, Ford's idea is not as much bulls*it as one might think. Page 99 may or may not be the fulcrum of a book, but it certainly should stand up to a close reading.
Read an excerpt from Slipknot and learn more about the novel at the Kearney Street Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue