Wednesday, March 6, 2013


David Abrams served in the U.S. Army for twenty years, and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 as part of a public affairs team. His stories have appeared in Esquire, Narrative, and other literary magazines.

His debut novel about the Iraq War, Fobbit, was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2012 and a Best Book of 2012 by Paste Magazine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Barnes and Noble. It was also featured as part of B&N's Discover Great New Writers program.

Abrams applied the Page 69 Test to Fobbit and reported the following:
A man is hunched over his keyboard in an office cubicle. Sweat drips from his brow. He types like his life depended on it. His fingers peck furiously at the keys. Peckity-peck-peck, tappity-tap-tap. He is Liberace in his finest hour.

Meet Staff Sergeant Chance Gooding Jr., a public affairs soldier writing a press release in U.S. Army headquarters in Baghdad, circa 2005. He is trying to write the four-paragraph release about a soldier who’d been killed by a bomb while on patrol in a Baghdad neighborhood. Gooding must choose his words carefully, to the exacting standards of his boss, Lieutenant Colonel Harkleroad, who is nervously waiting to take the single sheet of paper upstairs to his boss, the Chief of Staff, for approval. Harkleroad is a perpetual worrier prone to nosebleeds. Gooding, as his name implies, is a do-gooder who only wants to please the Army brass, but he’s frustrated at every turn by red-tape bureaucracy. In this early scene, we watch as Gooding writes the release, Harkleroad edits it in order to better tell “the Army story,” then Gooding retypes it, Harkleroad re-edits it, changing a word here and there before giving it back to Gooding who retypes it, and on and on into the eighth circle of Hell.

Page 69 is about as action-packed as an office-drone thriller can get. There’s sweat! There’s flying fingers! There’s the imminent threat of blood dripping from Harkleroad’s nose!
Harkleroad read the gutted-and-thrashed release twice, thrice, then once more, holding a hand over one eye for a slightly different perspective. “Okay. Looks good. I’ll take it to the Chief.”

Staff Sergeant Gooding collapsed against the doorframe of the PAO’s office, his fingers throbbing, but sweet relief coursing his veins.

Lieutenant Colonel Stacie Harkleroad thanked him again then drew a deep breath and climbed the stairs to the second floor of division headquarters. They were as steep and long as a path up Everest. At the top, the Chief waited, a growing scowl on his face.
I’m glad this is the scene from Fobbit which landed on page 69 because it really does encapsulate a lot of the comedic frustration I was trying to convey in the novel. War sucks, but it’s even suckier when you’ve got nincompoops like Harkleroad telling you how to fight your war on words.
Learn more about the book and author at David Abrams's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue