Spinelli applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Painted Gun, and reported the following:
“…when this whole thing started that sooner or later I’d be sitting in a police station lying my ass off.”Visit Bradley Spinelli's website.
Page 69 of The Painted Gun is representative of the whole, right off the tip of that cold-open line. We immediately know that the speaker has a problem with authority, is mixed up in something he can’t quite explain, and has a bad attitude. That last bit may be the key: we’ve already got a sense of the narrator’s voice, and that proves to be the timbre of the book.
The narrator is David “Itchy” Crane, hired to find a missing girl and quickly caught up in a series of murders. On page 69, we find him being interrogated by two San Francisco police inspectors, who allude to not one but two murders, telling us the bodies are piling up—you’re in a noir. The cutting, merciless descriptions of the cops lend that theory credence.
Itchy goes on: “The lying took up most of the afternoon. I wish they’d give cops secretaries; I’ve never seen a slower one-finger typist. Willits paced and fidgeted with a coffee cup like an ex-smoker; Berrera hunted, pecked, and gave me Cro-Magnon stares.”
It tells us something about the cops, but even more about Itchy: the attitude is firmly in place, like gum under the desk.
Predating Marshall McLuhan’s “page 69” book-browsing suggestion is the obvious “69” schoolyard slang. The usage dates back to 1888—from the French, naturally—old enough to wonder if McLuhan was just messing with us. Regardless, it’s fitting that page 69 of The Painted Gun contains a blatant sexual reference, an explicit query from the cops that prompts Itchy to think: “Perverts. I never met a cop who wasn’t.”
Finishing the page, one of the inspectors suggests that two different murders might be connected, and asks, “What do you think about that?”
Itchy responds: “Was that a question, inspector?”
Like gum under a desk.