Thursday, November 8, 2007

Jamie Malanowski's "The Coup"

Jamie Malanowski is the managing editor of Playboy. He is the author of the novel Mr. Stupid Goes to Washington; co-author with Kurt Andersen and Lisa Birnbach of the play and book Loose Lips; co-author, with Martyn Burke, of the HBO movie Pentagon Wars; and co-author, with Susan Morrison, of the humor book Spy High.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his latest novel The Coup, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford's stated "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

Do I agree?

Mmmh. The answer is "I suppose so," although it would be true mostly in the way a look at the care and material used in wiring and plumbing reveals the quality of a whole house. I believe Norman Mailer once said something to the effect that the difficulty in writing a novel is getting people in and out of rooms, and something like that is happening on page 99 of The Coup, except that my main character, Vice President Godwin Pope, is already in a very big and crowded room, and he is moving his attention from one character (the President) to another (reporter Maggie Newbold, to whom he is mightily attracted.) So page 99 is where I make this transition. I like how economically I accomplished this move. I wanted the pacing here to feel natural, not rushed or contrived, but at the same time smooth and compact, so the reader wouldn't get bored. In that way, page 99 represents the good quality of the writing in the book. However, there's not a lot of humor going on here, nor are the major characters doing much that interesting, so in that way it's not representative of the whole. Had Ford advised looking on page 98, we would see the president giving an after-dinner speech, where he is charming and humble and acts in a way that might make the reader think very differently about him. Or if we look at page 100, we would see the beginning of a several page-long sequence in which Godwin and Maggie continue their seduction dance, a scene which is witty and even romantic, something pretty delightful, given what a pair of ambitious vipers these two are. On such pages would you find more of the energy and sharp humor that readers have liked about The Coup.
Read an excerpt from The Coup, and learn more about the book and author at Jamie Malanowski's website and his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue