Monday, January 21, 2008

"At the City's Edge"

Marcus Sakey's first novel, The Blade Itself, was featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR, and chosen both a New York Times Editor's Pick and one of Esquire Magazine's "Top 5 Reads of 2007." Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's production company has bought film rights for Miramax.

Sakey applied the Page 69 Test to his second novel, At the City's Edge, and reported the following:
I break this test.

I did it last year, too, with The Blade Itself, where page 69 turned out to be a half-page of fairly little consequence. Some fun stuff, but not really a window into the soul of the book.

This time around, I felt sure that all the hidden truths of the novel would be revealed when I turned to page 69 of my new one, At the City's Edge. And the timing is certainly good -- it's the first major turning point in the book, when my hero, a discharged soldier returned from Iraq begins to discover a similar war raging in his own neighborhood.

However, it's also right in the midst of action. And by in the midst, I mean smack-dab, dead-center of a chapter of intense action, when my protagonist, Jason Palmer, is trying to protect his nephew from bad men breaking into the house. And quoting it will seem a little flat, I'm afraid.

So fuck it. Forgive me, Marshal, but I'm going to break the rules, and instead excerpt a section that sets up page 69, and which is also one of my personal faves. Rewind the clock twenty minutes and eight pages, and you come to this:
He swallowed until the bottle was empty, and then let it fall numb from his fingers. CNN had switched to talking heads, Rumsfeld spinning vagaries into rhetoric. Jason remembered years ago, shortly after he’d first arrived in country, hearing Rumsfeld’s famous line about known-knowns and known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns and thinking that crazy as it sounded, he got exactly what the guy meant, only it wasn’t the war he was talking about, it was life, at least life the way Jason had always seen and never understood it, and for a while he sat and stared at the television, let the light wash over him without touching him, trying to see a way to make sense of things, to knit the world together.

By the time he gave up, his mouth was dry and he had the beginnings of a head-splitter. The clock on the cable box read two-twelve. He reached for the clicker and fumbled around until the television snapped off. Dropped the remote to the table with a thud. Unlaced his tennis shoes, pulled off his socks. Rack time. For a moment, he thought of going upstairs to his brother’s bedroom.

No. No way.

Jason pulled the blanket off the back of the couch, curled his legs under, and put his head down. A long, terrible day. A day with no sense to be found. Maybe sunlight would make things clearer.

He was almost asleep when he heard glass breaking.
That's better. Some character insight, a little angst, and a cliffhanger.

I guess I'm a page 61-type of guy.
Read an excerpt from At the City's Edge and learn more about the author and his writing at Marcus Sakey's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue