Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"The Plunder Room"

John Jeter is a former editor and reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, San Antonio Express-News and St. Petersburg Times, with a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He is also co-owner and founder of The Handlebar, an award-winning concert venue in Greenville, South Carolina.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Plunder Room, his debut novel, and reported the following:
I heard about Page 69 Test from Joshilyn Jackson and a few other big names during several writers workshops. And, yes, the litmus test works really well. A similar one: At the Algonkian Novel Workshop with Michael Neff, he refers to Scene 12; he has plotted each scene of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and Scene 12 is the scene when McMurphy learns that he’s screwed and will likely lose his gamble against The Combine – what we in the newspaper biz call the Nut Graf, usually the third paragraph: “what we’re doing in this story.”

This passage is from Page 69 of The Plunder Room: it’s my Scene 12 and speaks volumes:

“No need to apologize for anything in this house, General.” I paraphrase a Faulkner quote to fit the moment, “In the South, the past is not dead, it’s not even the past.”

“Well, I joined the Army to get out of the fields and the mills and see the world. Your grandfather was in the Cavalry then, and we, the troops of color, were horse soldiers. That was shorthand for grooming the officers’ mounts and mucking out the stalls.” His chuckle returns. “Funny thing about the colonel, who was still a captain then, he treated us like men, even though, like I said, in civilian white society we weren’t people.”

Listening to the general is like watching PBS tape a documentary. I can’t move. I can’t move half of me anyway, but now the top half is transfixed.

“I owe my confidence, in those early years, to him. That’s why I’m here.”

Volusia stands up to leave, her coffee cup rattling on the fine china saucer. “Ollie,” she says in her big, gregarious voice, “you shouldn’t stay away ’til we all dead.”

He apologizes and puts his hand on her forearm, then pecks her on the cheek. “You’re still as beautiful...” He stops and a blush tinges his leathery face.

“I remember when he bought this house, he was so proud,” General Barrows looks around. “Bought the place for twenty-six-five, if memory serves. I imagine he paid that off years ago.”
View the video trailer and read more about The Plunder Room at the publisher's website and John Jeter's blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue