Monday, January 11, 2010

"Gutshot Straight"

Lou Berney has written feature screenplays and created TV pilots for, among others, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Focus Features, ABC, and Fox. He is the author of The Road to Bobby Joe and Other Stories, and his short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, New England Review, and in the Pushcart Prize anthology. He has taught at the University of Oklahoma; the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and Saint Mary's College in California.

Gutshot Straight, his first novel, was written during the 2007–08 film and TV Writers Guild strike.

Berney applied the Page 69 Test to Gutshot Straight and reported the following:
I love the idea of the Page 69 Test, but – I’ll be honest – I also thought it was pretty much pure hokum. But then I applied to to my novel, Gutshot Straight, and, holy shit! I was actually kind of spooked how well that one page represents my novel as a whole, and the characters in it.

What’s happening on page 69 of Gutshot Straight is that one of the main characters, Gina, is trying to find a buyer in Las Vegas for some valuable postage stamps (at least that’s what she thinks they are at this point in the novel). To do so, though, she’ll have to elude the very bad guys who are after her and the stamps.
She drove back to the Strip. She slipped through the lobby of the Venetian in her cap and sunglasses. Without, she hoped, being spotted. She put down a couple of bills for a room, went upstairs, then came back down to complain about the smell of puke in the room. The room didn’t really smell like puke, but it was such a plausible lie the desk clerk didn’t blink. He switched her information in the computer and gave her a key card for a new room two floors up.

Gina had no intention of using the new room. She hurried back to the old room, where she’d left the door propped open with the brass security claw.

If someone had spotted her, or if the desk clerk ratted, Gina didn’t intend to make it easy for them.
Many of the characters in my novel are very good liars, and they often operate at a high level of craftiness. It – lying, craftiness – is what they’re naturally gifted at, like math. But the characters are human and they don’t ALWAYS operate at a high level of craftiness. What fun would that be, right? So page 69 ends this way:
She raided the minibar for a protein bar and a miniature bottle of vodka. She dragged the yellow pages out from beneath the nightstand and flopped them open on the bed.

She leafed to the “S”s.

Stamps and Coins, Rare – Dealers.

That was easy. Gina finished the vodka and protein bar and realized how sleepy she was. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept, not counting maybe an hour or two in the suffocating trunk of the Town Car that left her more tired than when she started.

She tore the page out of the phone book and decided to take a nap.
Taking a nap is probably not the safest, smartest decision Gina could make right now, given the circumstances (bad guys scouring Vegas for her). But that’s kind of what Gutshot Straight is about – how hard it is to be anything but human.
Read an excerpt from Gutshot Straight, and learn more about the book and author at Lou Berney's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue