Monday, July 20, 2009

"Personal Effects"

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning novelist best known for his 7th Son technothriller trilogy, which he released as free serialized audiobooks from 2006-07. With approximately 100,000 downloads of his episodic fiction still occurring each month, 7th Son is the most popular “podcast novel” series in history.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to Personal Effects: Dark Art, his debut in a new supernatural thriller series, and reported the following:
In one key way, page 69 of Personal Effects: Dark Art is very representative of the novel -- it features a nearly full-page watercolor illustration, one of dozens featured throughout the book. What little copy accompanies the illustration focuses on the family life of the book's protagonist, Zach Taylor.

But page 69 [at left, click to enlarge] is a relatively calm moment in the spooky stuff that unfolds in the supernatural thriller. Zach is an artist (the illustration on page 69 was painted by him), and an art therapist at Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital, a hopeless mental institution with a bloody history. He's an optimistic dude, and very gifted at gleaning meaning behind his patients' artwork and therapy sessions ... until he meets his latest patient, Martin Grace.

Grace is a suspected serial killer, is psychosomatically blind, and doesn't want to be treated. In fact, he says a demonic entity called The Dark Man is responsible for the murders he's accused of committing. As the story progresses, Zach uses Grace's personal effects -- the items that were cataloged during Grace's processing into Brinkvale -- to sidestep his patient's belligerence and learn more about his past. In the process, he discovers some terrifying secrets about Martin Grace, excavates a government cover-up ... and learns that The Dark Man may be real, and may now be hunting the Zach himself.

In a groundbreaking twist, those "personal effects" that Zach collects actually come with the book. Photos, IDs, business cards, legal documents, artwork ... every item that Zach discovers during the course of the novel comes in a pocket on the book's inside cover. Combining clues in the book's text with clues found in those tangible, absolutely authentic-looking personal effects, readers are sent into a story-enhancing narrative that unfolds via phone messages and websites. The coolest part: this narrative information is stuff our hero Zach may never discover himself, making the reader not only an active participant in the story, but wiser than the book's protagonist. It's pretty spiffy stuff; Publishers Weekly recently gave it a starred review.

So, while page 69 of Personal Effects: Dark Art certainly evokes some of the creativity of the book's hero, I'd recommend flipping a few pages earlier -- and certainly later -- into the story for the real thrills and chills...
Watch the Personal Effects: Dark Art book trailer series and learn more about the book at the official website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue