Monday, September 14, 2015

Jay Atkinson's "Massacre on the Merrimack"

Jay Atkinson, called “the bard of New England toughness” by Men’s Health magazine, is the author of eight books. Caveman Politics was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program selection and a finalist for the Discover Great New Writers Award; Ice Time was a Publishers Weekly Notable Book of the Year and a New England Bookseller’s Association bestseller; and Legends of Winter Hill spent seven weeks on the Boston Globe hardcover bestseller list. He has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, Portland Oregonian, Men’s Health, Boston Sunday Herald, and Boston Globe magazine, among other publications. Atkinson teaches writing at Boston University and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. He grew up hearing Hannah Duston's story in his hometown of Methuen, Massachusetts, which was part of Haverhill until 1726. He lives in Methuen, Massachusetts.

Atkinson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America, as well as to other books he's published, and reported the following:
As a scientific experiment, aimed at proving Ford’s hypothesis, I have selected one sentence from page 99 of my last four books.

Massacre on the Merrimack:

“Despite frequent bursts of temper, Frontenac had a sharp wit and didn’t always take himself or his office too seriously.”

Memoirs of a Rugby-Playing Man:

“Surf. Wake up,” I said. “The cops.”

Paradise Road:

“All the swimming pools in that part of the country are above ground, for some reason; you can see their shimmering blue orbs dotting the neighborhoods as you fly out of Midway.”

Tauvernier Street:

Then her eyes, heavy with mascara, flickered over Ryan in a quick appraisal. ‘You’re drunk,” she said.

(Okay, I cheated. That’s two sentences).

These five sentences prove….well, I don’t know what they prove. But Ford’s larger point is a good one. If something is well made, it will show in every detail. Flip over a Chippendale armchair and examine the seat backing. Despite the fact that hardly anyone would do such a thing, the simple, direct, clean elements of the craft that went into the underside of the chair will be on display there as much as anywhere else. Similarly, I can pick up, say, Gustave Flaubert’s A Simple Heart or Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, choose a page at random, and within seconds, I will be possessed by the sure and certain knowledge I’m in the presence of a master.

So, yes Mr. Ford. I get it.
Visit Jay Atkinson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Massacre on the Merrimack.

Writers Read: Jay Atkinson.

--Marshal Zeringue