Monday, January 28, 2019

"The Smoke"

Simon Ings is the author of novels (some science fiction, some not) and non-fiction, including the Baillie Gifford longlisted Stalin and The Scientists. His debut novel Hot Head was widely acclaimed. He is the arts editor of New Scientist magazine and can often be found writing in possibly the coldest flat in London.

Ings applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, The Smoke, and reported the following:
I edit the books pages of New Scientist magazine in London and use the Page 69 test ruthlessly, so it was with some trepidation that I turned the pages of Titan's lovely US edition of The Smoke upon myself.

Page 69 as mad as a bag of cats.

Our hero, Stuart, is in a pub, trying to ignore the TV above the bar, which is regurgitating yet another uninformative bulletin regarding the ever-postponed British Atom-ship launch. "The only distraction to hand is a tin dish crammed with ketchups… Why on earth didn't you bring a book?"

A couple of things here. I wanted to write from a point-of-view which finds this made-up world of mine normal, from first to last. Who needs blades under their fingernails when there are dinky sachets of Heinz ketchup (never quite enough for one serving) to write about? Second, in the writing of The Smoke, I found myself screwing around with differently-personed voices. It scares people to death to learn that some of this story is in second-person, but so far readers are saying I got away with it. Anyway, there's a big pay-off for your trouble.

Next, "The door opens, admitting a man wearing a pork pie hat, and a chickie on a lead… Its feet are laced up in strappy black high-heeled sandals. Its toes are long and delicate and end in thick nails, lacquered a glossy black."

It would be a pity here to give away what chickies are, suffice to say I had a great deal of fun with them.
Visit Simon Ings's website.

--Marshal Zeringue