Monday, March 19, 2007


Jon Clinch applied the "page 69 test" to Finn, his highly-acclaimed debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Finn marks the start of one of two places where my novel and Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn directly cross paths.

The boy is asleep in the cabin one night when his father arrives and labors for much longer than usual at the business of opening the lock. His efforts are so futile and frantic that the boy, roused only halfway from his sleep, takes him for a raccoon until the cursing begins.

"Pap!" from a spot directly behind the door. Considering his father's condition he knows that he would be better advised to play possum as he has done so many times before, but he has been alone for the better part of three days now and this sudden commotion at the door has about it some of the qualities of the resurrection.


"You got a light out there?"

"Come on give your old pap a hand."

"I can't. You got a light?"

"Bestir yourself." Hammering on the door, the lock jumping in counterpoint to his blows.

"You locked me in."

"Don't blame me."

The scene that follows shows Finn nearly at his worst: Drunk and furious and absolutely out of control, venting his pent-up rage upon his son in a way that Twain dared not show. (Remember, after all, that late in his life Twain would write that if he were to tell the entire brutal truth about mankind he would require "a pen warmed-up in Hell.")

Not that you need to have read Huckleberry Finn to appreciate my novel -- it's by no means a requirement -- but in Finn, this attack upon Huck takes on new and far more complex shades of meaning than it had in Twain's. For Pap Finn's rage in the original was directed largely at blacks; and in my novel, his own son is bi-racial -- the offspring of a forbidden relationship that fairly drives him mad with guilt.

One secret of my novel lies in my effort humanize the monstrous Finn himself, to find a heart somewhere within his black and tainted soul. And, as is so often the case in real life, the answer lies in giving him someone to love.

Huck's mother.

Unknown and unseen in Twain's novel, and the very heart of mine.
Visit the official Finn website and read Jon Clinch's blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue