Friday, April 21, 2017


Lee Irby teaches history at Eckerd College and lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is the author of the historical mysteries 7,000 Clams and The Up and Up.

Irby applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Unreliable, and reported the following:
How serendipitous a question, in that page 69 lands us squarely in the middle of the one of the more bizarre scenes in the entire book, wherein Edwin and his old school flame, Leigh Rose, have repaired to her mansion to drink and presumably rekindle their long-ended romance. One problem: Edwin has performance issues, and Leigh Rose is chomping at the bit, since she is a widow ready for action. Edwin hopes that somehow his flaccidity will vanish and he can claim his rightful place by Leigh Rose’s side. He isn’t ready for what comes next:
She crawls onto my lap, sits on her haunches, and then leans forward to press her chest against my face, though there is something robotic and perfunctory in this gesture, and just as suddenly as she arrives, she tumbles off of me as if she’d been knocked over by gale-force blast of wind. The horrible thought occurs to me that she’s suffering a heart attack, but then she curls into a ball on the sofa and covers her face with her hands as sobs erupt from her. Her crying makes my throat constrict—and I blame myself for this lamentable outcome. My lack of ardor has hurt her feelings and I curse myself for being such a lying scumbag, because Leigh Rose has done nothing to deserve my lame attempt at romance. Except that I actually do want her. At least I’m pretty sure I do. It’s hard to tell anymore.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, petting her shoulder as softly as I can.

“I’m so sorry,” she sniffles, her face now blotchy and tear-stained, a picture of exquisite agony. “I’m just a total mess and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. It’s not fair to you.”

“What isn’t?”

“You make me feel free, Eddie. But I’ll never be free. I’ll never be the person I was before. That’s impossible.” She sits up and hurriedly begins to pull her clothes back on, now ashamed to be undressed in front of me. Far from being insulted, I feel a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. “I know you think I’m crazy, and it’s not you. It really isn’t. Seeing you today, it sent shock waves through my body. I felt alive for the first time in a long time. But here’s the thing. I’m just going to tell you because I know you won’t judge me and I trust you. The whole idea of sex, it makes me sick. Like physically ill. I want to puke right now.”

“Let me get you some water.”
The big sex scene in the novel involves an impotent man and a frigid woman. So, yes, page 69 is very representative of the book because in Unreliable I tried to subvert convention at every turn, and in some ways Edwin’s relationship with Leigh Rose dominates the entire plot. She could have saved him in innumerable ways, if indeed Edwin even needs saving. This scene also shows that Edwin does have a softer side, that he isn’t a monster, and that Leigh Rose is dealing with residual pain.
Learn more about Unreliable.

My Book, The Movie: Unreliable.

--Marshal Zeringue