Sunday, January 19, 2014

"He Drank, and Saw the Spider"

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls.

Bledsoe applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, He Drank, and Saw the Spider, and reported the following:
Page 69 of the fifth Eddie LaCrosse novel, He Drank, and Saw the Spider, features the introduction of one of the novel’s most enigmatic characters: the sorceress Opulora. Eddie and his girlfriend Liz, having just delivered a wagonload of place settings (it makes sense in context), are forced by politeness into a private audience with King Gerald, a.k.a. Crazy Jerry, ruler of Mahnoma. Despite their worries, it seems to be going well. And then:
A tall woman with short gray hair appeared in the room. And by “appeared,” I mean just that. One moment she wasn’t there, and the next she was. No door had opened, no tapestry rippled to reveal a hidden passage. And I was almost positive she hadn’t been there when we’d all entered.

“Bloody hell!” Gerald yelped, which actually startled me more than the woman’s sudden appearance. “Don’t do that!”
Until now, Gerald--whose reputation as a king who’d gone mad has been totally belied by his civil and reasonable behavior--has been gracious, generous and even witty. Liz, nervous at meeting royalty in general and possibly insane royalty even more so, has even begun to relax. But with Opulora’s appearance everything shifts, as Eddie notes toward the bottom of the page:
I was more fascinated by the change in the unspoken power dynamic. Gerald might be king, but Opulora was definitely in charge.
On the one hand, this is an example of the kind of courtly intrigue Eddie always finds amongst royalty, so he’s not that surprised. But this is his first encounter with a sorceress functioning as part of a royal court (he’s met my Merlin figure, Cameron Kern, in Dark Jenny, but only after the wizard had retired to exile). He has an iffy relationship with magic, and seeing a practitioner so close to the throne makes him understandably suspicious, especially since at that moment, they’re basically trapped.

It’s also a possible hint that Gerald isn’t as stable as he puts on, that perhaps Crazy Jerry still lurks beneath the good manners. In contrast, Opulora is perfectly polite and seemingly open about her presence and role.

This intrigue contrasts with subsequent chapters set in a small village, where there are secrets, but also a wide-open sense of fun and camaraderie totally absent from the castles. When those two worlds are drawn together, the crash and boom is loud, boisterous and unexpected--and hopefully, a lot of fun to read about.
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Bledsoe's website and blog.

Writers Read: Alex Bledsoe.

My Book, The Movie: He Drank, and Saw the Spider.

--Marshal Zeringue