Monday, September 8, 2008

Jeremy Mercer's "When the Guillotine Fell"

Jeremy Mercer is a former writer for the Ottawa Citizen and the author of Time Was Soft There and two crime books.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, When the Guillotine Fell: The Bloody Beginning and Horrifying End to France's River of Blood, 1791-1977, and reported the following:
A Bible lay among the books on my desk when I was contacted about the Ford Madox Ford experiment and I couldn't help but be curious. In my copy (a Cambridge University Press edition of the King James), page 99 includes this particular statement from Exodus:

"The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."

Wow. That's quality, that's the kind of God I want to love, that's everything the Bible is and should be. So, if The Page 99 test works on the Bible, I figured I might as well try it on my latest book, When the Guillotine Fell.

And guess what? Bingo! Page 99 covers the very moment in 1789 when Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin announces his plans for a humane new invention that will painlessly decapitate prisoners.

"The mechanism falls like thunder - the head flies - the blood spurts - the man is no more," Dr. Guillotin boasts to the National Assembly.

Considering my book is about the history of the guillotine and the philosophy of executions, you couldn't ask for a more representative page. Of course, The Page 99 test fails to illustrate my cunning narrative structure (I interlaced the history sections with the grisly true crime story of the last man guillotined in France); but, hey, that would have been really too much to ask.

So, I toast thee Ford Madox Ford, even if you were a bit of a cad to Jean Rhys.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeremy Mercer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue