Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Hard Man"

Allan Guthrie's first novel, Two-Way Split, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger. His second novel, Kiss Her Goodbye, was nominated for Edgar, Anthony and Gumshoe awards.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new novel, Hard Man, and reported the following:
Unfortunately, Hard Man fails the page 69 test, that page consisting solely of the section header GHOST DOG.

So let’s take a look at page 68 instead.

It starts:

“Wallace?” he said, then asked the craziest question: “Did you just shoot me?”

A little backstory to put this into context: The man who’s possibly just been shot is Roger Baxter, a young guy who’s ill-equipped for the situation life’s thrown at him. He’s big and muscular enough, but he’s not got a lot of bottle. Unlike his brother, Flash, who has a lot of bottle, but is a scrawny wee runt. Between them and their old dad, Jacob, they’re doing their best to keep their sister’s husband, Wallace, from harming her.

Wallace, you see, has a well-documented propensity for violence. He’s already beheaded the family dog. And threatened the Baxters with similar acts of violence. All because his wife is pregnant, and he’s not the father (I guess some people react badly to that kind of thing).

So we enter the scene on page 68 with Roger waking at two in the morning thinking he’s heard a noise in the kitchen. He checks it out. Finding no sign of an intruder, he pours himself a glass of water, and gets blindsided.

And that’s where we come in.

In fact, Roger hasn’t been shot. Not yet. That happens halfway down the page.

When the pain came, it was like nothing he’d ever experienced. At the same instant, a hundred mallets slammed into his kneecap. Pulverised it.

And then when it can’t get any worse, it does.

The second explosion followed quickly. The same blinding pain. This time, the other knee. Through the pain, the thought that he’d never walk again. Not caring, if only he could stop the pain.

Hard Man is a violent book. And this sums up the approach I’ve taken to it. Throughout, the violence is written primarily from the point of view of the victim, so, yep, there’s a lot of pain. Has to be said, if you’d rather your on-page violence doesn’t hurt, this probably isn’t the book for you.

Although there’s a lot of humour. Very black. And if anything’s atypical about this page, is that there’s not a laugh in sight.

But looking ahead, I see the next page makes up for that. I should have chosen page 70. Damn.
Visit Allan Guthrie's Noir Originals Website and the Hard Man blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue