Friday, November 4, 2011

"A Corpse’s Nightmare"

Phillip DePoy is the author of a number of mysteries, including the Edgar Award winning play Easy. He has published short fiction, poetry, and criticism in Story, The Southern Poetry Review, Xanadu, and Yankee, among other magazines. As a folklorist, he has worked with Joseph Campbell and John Burrison. Depoy is currently the director of the theatre program at Clayton State University.

DePoy's Fever Devlin novels include The Drifter's Wheel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Corpse’s Nightmare, the latest Fever Devlin novel, and reported the following:
Here’s page 69 from A Corpse’s Nightmare:
A dream is a telegram composed in baffling poetry, I told myself. Decipher the poetry: get the message.

But these dreams were influenced by actual events. They weren’t purely Freudian or Jungian. They were half-remembered stories, dim angles on true history. And how could I decode their message without the attendant facts?

I would have to start by trying to recall the historical data. I pulled the bed sheet up a little, tried to relax and dig into the world’s most uncomfortable exercise: remembering things my mother told me.

The first thing that came to me, oddly, was her indignation at the very word history.

“Why isn’t it herstory in my case? In my personal case? It’s my story and I’m her.”

“If the word history is gender biased,” I had responded, “and maybe it is, then the mere word herstory is not sufficient to balance the long centuries of unfairly-tipped scales concerning the events on our planet—to date.”

“Then I think,” she fired back, “that a person might be forgiven for referring to an account such as mine by using the word mystory.”

“I see what you’re doing,” I told her with a growing ire. “You’ve done it before. I see that that the difference between mystory and mystery is only a single vowel.”

“Ergo,” she would conclude, “my story is in fact, a mystery.”

Difficult as it might have been for most people to believe, my mother and I had indulged in variations of that same dialogue perhaps a hundred times.

Then, for no reason I could discern at that moment, another conversation came back to me.

I remembered sitting in our kitchen eating grits. I couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve. It was early morning, the lights weren’t on, and ambient glow from the rising sun was rosy and gold.
This page is a perfect representation of the book, in part because it begins with one of my editor Keith Kahla’s favorite lines: “A dream is a telegram composed in baffling poetry.” I’m saying that if you like that line, you’ll like the book. If you hate that line, you should probably get something more useful—which is the way Saroyan used to tell people to buy his books only if they had some amount of Armenian blood in their veins. This page also contains the idea that “my story” and “mystery” are only separated by a single vowel, ergo all your stories are mysteries. Plus, the author actually uses the word “Ergo”—which, in itself, is pretty funny. Finally, the page includes a mention of food. For some reason, there are a lot of mentions of food in these books, the whole series. Usually it’s something a bit more entrancing than grits, but, then, grits are, in fact, serious, serious food. So. In this particular case, the Page 69 Test is perfect litmus.
Learn more about the book and author at Phillip DePoy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Drifter's Wheel.

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

--Marshal Zeringue