Monday, July 27, 2009


Mary Anna Evans is the author of the award-winning Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries: Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, and Floodgates. She's now at work on the sixth in the series, Strangers.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to Floodgates and reported the following:
Any writer posting here who will not confess to feeling a chilly hand on the nape of the neck while scanning page 69 is a bald-faced liar or an egomaniac.

Listen to my thoughts while flipping open Floodgates: "What if I indulged myself in two full manuscript pages of aimless musing? What if my characters are eating breakfast and I spent the entirety of page 69 documenting the crispness of the bacon?"

Imagine my relief at finding that page 69 opens with my protagonists, Faye and Joe, talking with the detective who has hired them as archaeological consultants to an unusual murder case. Joe has just made an excellent point.

True to form, quick-witted Faye has interrupted him in mid-thought. But at least she's self-aware enough to realize that, "...once again, Joe was thinking of people and she was thinking of reasons. She then reflected that if Joe intended to talk at any time, for the rest of his life, then his wife-to-be would be smart to buy herself a muzzle--before he bought one and strapped it on her."

More conversation follows, then all three characters bend over some important evidence, two photographs found folded in the pocket of the victim, Shelly. They are aerial photos of Shelly's New Orleans neighborhood, one taken sometime before Katrina struck and one taken immediately after.

Joe's response to a scene that I describe as "a dark and tragic stain" is the only appropriate one, just a hushed whisper that says, "Look at all that water."

In stark contrast, the older photo shows "regular, everyday, dry city streets full of cars, signifying that day-to-day life was proceeding as usual. There were no tarps on roofs nor any swaths of empty land, where the houses that should have been there had been washed away."

After a moment of staring at the enormity of what happened to New Orleans in 2005, Joe brings the conversation back to the murder but, as Joe always will, he does it in human terms. He wants to know why Shelly was carrying before-and-after photos of Lakeview, when her body was found miles away, in the Lower Ninth Ward.

To tell you more of the story, I'd have to turn to page 70, and that's not what this essay is about. Nevertheless, page 69 holds key fragments of the story I set out to tell in Floodgates. It's the story of real people who love each other and laugh and work hard, but who are completely unable to grasp the full scope of a drowned city ... an American city, a city full of people just like the rest of us.

In Floodgates, I try to show you that immense tragedy but, in the end, it's far easier to feel real, personal grief for a single person. So I've given you Faye and Joe and Jodi and their search for justice for Shelly, a woman who died trying to save people she loved and people she never even met. And all the while, Shelly was carrying a photo of her drowned home in the pocket of her wet blue jeans.
Read an excerpt from Floodgates, and learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue