Friday, May 5, 2017

"The Baker's Secret"

As a journalist and novelist, Stephen P. Kiernan has published nearly four million words. His newspaper work has garnered more than forty awards — including the George Polk Award and the Scripps Howard Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment.

Kiernan applied the Page 69 Test to his newly released novel, The Baker's Secret, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The horse whimpered and shook. DuFour marched off, stopping a few hundred steps away before returning to stand beside Neptune. She had closed her eyes, holding her broken leg bent at the knee.

As the sun set, still DuFour had not acted. When night fell and no one could see, he took his broken umbrella and went home, returning at dawn to find the horse still there, of course, still suffering, of course. Traffic along that hedgerow was nil, such that no one came along to share DuFour's hesitation, to buck up his courage or help him to do the job.

Neptune had drawn up within herself, silent and unmoving, as fixed as a commandment, and DuFour began to hate the horse for its predicament. The torment continued for two full days, the veterinarian's assistant keeping vigil without taking action, until the blue bicycle returned.

"Where have you been?" DuFour demanded as the veterinarian pedaled up the lane. "It has been an agony here."

"Did I not leave you with my gun?" Guillaume replied.

"Here it is, the vile thing." DuFour held out the pistol. "I did not know what to do. You told me not to treat anything."

Guillaume ran his gaze along the horse, her lowered head, the broken leg now drawn high against her haunch. He murmured to her, then turned to speak through clenched teeth. "You are no longer my apprentice."

He took the satchel of medicines away from DuFour's feet. "Your empathy for a creature in pain should have overcome my orders."

"I did what you told me. I did what you said."

"Neptune," Guillaume called loudly, the huge horse lifting her head out of a fog of pain. "I am sorry you suffered so long."

He pressed the pistol to the horse's ear and fired. She collapsed knees-first, then fell on her side with a sigh. DuFour stood there, not making a sound.

"You are in exile from me," Guillaume said, pressing two fingers under Neptune's jaw to confirm that there was no pulse. "Never come near me, never speak to me." He stood to his full height. "You have one last task, though. Go fetch Odette, and tell her to bring butchering tools. We shall all have meat tonight."
This passage on page 69 establishes an animosity between these men that will have much larger implications later. The voice is true to the rest of the narrative. And the hunger of the people -- severe enough that they would eat horse meat -- is symbolic of other hungers they will experience. Not all of them will be physical, but again Guillaume will work to keep them fed.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Kiernan's website.

Writers Read: Stephen P. Kiernan.

My Book, The Movie: The Baker's Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue