Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"The Labrador Pact"

Matt Haig’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Independent, and the Sydney Morning Herald. Last year he contributed Page 69 Test and My Book, The Movie entries for The Dead Fathers Club, his American debut novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Labrador Pact , and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Labrador Pact is, I suppose, pretty representative though it might confuse people who haven’t read the 68 pages before it.

The page in question is the point in the novel where Prince, the Labrador who narrates the story, smells something rather suspicious in the air after his lesson in the park with his mentor, the former police dog Henry.

It’s the end of a chapter, too, so it’s not particularly long. Here it is:

‘We will continue our lesson tomorrow,’ said Henry, completely unruffled by the whole Rottweiler experience.

‘OK,‘ I said, as Adam took hold of my collar. ‘I’ll see you.’

And on the walk home, I was already thinking of it, my next lesson. I breathed in the morning air – car fumes, chip papers, cat shit – and tried to make sense of it. I breathed in further. I could pick out Henry, Lear, Joyce – their scents all still evident in the morning air. As we turned the final corner, I could still identify other park smells. They stayed with me, as strong as ever. Ugly, putrid smells. Squirrel Blood, human vomit, and something else. Dank and heavy. Something I didn’t recognise. And yet, I couldn’t help thinking that this unidentified smell was the key.

This was the thought that kept with me all day.

If I could work it out I could predict the future.

I could stop the bad things.

I could protect the Family.

I try and always think of my novels having five acts, because it helps me think about the structure. Page 69 of The Labrador Pact comes right at the end of the first act, as it were, with the central storyline – of the pet Labrador trying in vain to stop the human family he lives with from falling apart, through the usual human problems – sex, lies, money, and the rest of it. By this point I’d also laid down the premise for the sub-plots about the loyal, duty-bound Labradors and their Pact, versus hedonistic sniffaholics such as Springer Spaniels and the possibility of something, or someone being buried in the park. And page 69 has a whiff of all this so hopefully it passes the test.
Read an excerpt from The Labrador Pact, and learn more about the book and author at The Labrador Pact website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue