Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Anarchy and Old Dogs"

Colin Cotterill is the author of The Coroner’s Lunch, Thirty-Three Teeth, and Disco for the Departed -- all featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun -- and other works.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the new "Dr. Siri" novel, Anarchy and Old Dogs, and reported the following:
There had been others. They arrived on my computer, sent by people with nothing better to do. “If you stare at this icon for eleven minutes your left eye will drop out,” “scroll down, answer the questions, and discover that your IQ is less than that of a toenail.” But the ‘Page 69 Test’ was something else. What magic would page 69 of the latest Dr. Siri novel weave? Would the entire novel be encapsulated there rendering the remainder of the book superfluous? Would we see a publishing revolution, entire bookshops restocked with nicely bound page 69s? I nervously thumbed to the sixty-ninth and this is what I found:

…was perhaps why the Vietnamese revolution had taken shape so efficiently and why Civilai had aged rapidly over the years. The rain shower had exhausted itself even before the baguettes. They’d finished their lunch, these purveyors of frustrating politics, and sat still and silent on their log. Crumbs lay at their feet like wood shavings around a completed carving. Neither wanted to voice his feelings but Siri could tell what his friend was thinking. Avoiding a well organized coup at this juncture in history could very well prove impossible. If that weren’t the case, he knew Civilai would have headed straight off to his office to set wheels in motion. Instead he stared dully at the river.

“I’m off to Pakse this evening,” Siri said.


“Some fool electrocuted himself in the bath.”

“Hmm. Well worth traveling four hundred miles to see, I’d say.”

“Two birds, one stone.”

“The dentist’s letter?”

“It was postmarked Pakse.”

“You want to get your hands on the Devil’s Vagina.”

“Who wouldn’t?”

“You’re interfering in something that could get you killed, you know?”

“I’ve dodged bullets, escaped exploding buildings. I’ve even eaten in the hospital canteen for over a year. If I can survive that, I can get through anything. I’m starting to believe I’m invincible.”

“You’re not.”

“Then I’ll go down kicking and screaming. One day, during this or the next junta reign, they’ll remember me as…

My God, it was absolutely true. The whole book was there; the tender relationship between the protagonists, the political intrigue, the red herring simmering away in its bath water, the heroic background, the wry, quaintly British humour and the teasers at beginning and end. My word, even the DV was there making an appearance. The DV that had caused so much angst and grief. The DV that was banned from Canada on moral grounds and had caused a hairline fracture in the relationship with one's publisher. You see, Anarchy and Old Dogs was originally titled The DV (I am still loath to write it in full for fear of causing more misery to the ‘good’ people out there). For the full story you may refer to my banished blog, but suffice it to remark how fitting it should be that our cheeky little DV sits here unashamedly on page 69.

Once again I have caused shame to myself and my family by perverting a perfectly fine academic exercise into a quagmire of smut and irreverence. And for that I apologize to Mr. Zeringue and all the fine writers who have applied ‘the test’. There is, of course, more to The Dev … sorry, to Anarchy and Old Dogs than meets our eye on page 69. There is, for example, a transvestite fortune teller who predicts the coming of the cell phone, a blind dentist who receives coded messages at the post office, there is even, dare I say it, carnal knowledge, albeit of a muted, Lao variety. For those of you not interested in s*x there are betrayals, spies, horrible deaths, people over seventy who aren’t typecast into Zimmer frames, and love. A little something for everybody.

Caught up in the fun, I started to apply the 69 test to other pages to see whether I slipped out of my genre. It became an obsession. I have since gone back over all the books in the series and scarred the pages with my edit pen. What would readers think of me if they were only allowed access to, say, page forty four? Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write again as I am now fixated on making every page representative and rich. I could use counseling.

You may turn to page eleven of my website to get an overall sense of what kind of person I am.
Visit Colin Cotterill's website and his Crimespace page, and learn more about the "Dr. Siri" novels at the Soho Press.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue