Friday, September 10, 2010

"The Gendarme"

Mark Mustian, an author, attorney and city commissioner, lives in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife and three children.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel The Gendarme, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Gendarme finds the main character, Emmett Conn (Ahmet Khan), in the midst of a series of dreams. Emmett, 92 years old, is a Turkish émigré who fought for the Ottomans in World War I, lost much of his memory, and only later in life begins to recall, through repetitive visions, some of the things that happened at the beginning of the war. He served as a gendarme in 1915, escorting Armenian women and children on the long, dusty trek out of Turkey. During the trip he becomes enamored with one of the deportees, a young woman named Araxie. On this particular page, she has disappeared, and he can’t find her.
Perhaps she has left with the others, although I am relatively certain she has no valuables. She spoke little at the boardinghouse, nodding or shaking her head at questions, eating almost nothing. She went with me to the pit each day, to the stares and knowing looks of my fellow gendarmes (including, one day, a black-faced Mustafa), to the sneers of her fellow deportees. Boz, some called her. Whore. Dönme. Turncoat. She did not shrink from them, or hang her head, but instead seemed to look through them, as if they no longer existed, as if she, or they, were now dead. After one such visit she spoke to me, one of the few direct exchanges during our days there together.

‘Do something,’ she said.

But I was at a loss as to what to do.
Ahmet’s infatuation with Araxie brings him both peril and a manner of redemption. Through his attraction he comes to sympathize with her plight, and that of her fellow deportees, to the point he seeks to protect rather than harm them. But what I like about the passage on page 69 is the focus on her, on the bravery she shows when almost all options are negative. Her fellow deportees shun her, the other guards label her an infidel, and yet still she seeks mercy, but for others, not herself--it’s one of the reasons Ahmet is so attracted to her, and why we as readers are, too. The Americanized Emmett Conn is a fascinating character, what with his guilt and anguish and memories and passion. But I find her equally compelling, if not even more so—a young woman chained to history, beaten and bowed but still fighting, still strong.
Read the backstory to The Gendarme, and view the video trailer.

Visit Mark T. Mustian's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue