Sunday, July 18, 2010

"The Amateur Historian"

Julian Cole is a journalist and columnist with The Evening Press. He spent three years writing and researching The Amateur Historian, his first novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
What an intriguing exercise. The unearthed snapshot takes the form of a colour scene of York in the year 1901, one of two chosen periods for my crime novel with an historical twist. To prĂ©cis the plot, a girl is kidnapped in modern-day York and the clues to her disappearance and her hoped-for rescue from peril lie in the fate of another girl who lived in poverty in the city a century beforehand. A theme of the novel is the idea of events rubbing across the grain of time, and page 69 takes the young girl, Esme Percy, on a reluctant tour round York with her wastrel father, Thomas. She is bewitched by the shops and market stalls in York, and the scenes of plenty they afford – “Esme stared through the painted glass to pink people whose skin was stretched with pleasure to accommodate what they ate now and had eaten before.” Her impatient father hurries her onwards to the banks of the River Ouse, where a sinister deal is to be struck with a mysterious stranger. A sense of unease is created by the river “wide and powerful, a sweeping force beyond anything Esme knew, the water deep and fast and terrible”.

Confronted by this test for my novel, I discover that the allotted page paints a vivid picture of the past, while offering no hint of the present, or indeed of the heroes of my series, the squabbling Rounder brothers, one a policeman, the other a private eye, who between them strive to discover and save the girl kidnapped in modern-day York.

It is to be hoped that it suggests the simmering menace I intended, but this random dip captures none of the personal history of the modern characters. Perhaps that is the price to be paid for weaving an intricate plot across the span of a century. A pot shot will by its very nature only ‘hit’ one period.
Learn more about The Amateur Historian at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue