Thursday, March 16, 2023

"Bert and Mamie Take a Cruise"

John Keyse-Walker practiced law for 30 years, representing business and individual clients, educational institutions and government entities. He is an avid salt- and freshwater angler, a tennis player, kayaker and an accomplished cook. He lives in Ohio and Florida with his wife.

Keyse-Walker applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Bert and Mamie Take a Cruise, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Heissemeyer spoke to the crowd in a general way. ‘The captain, bring Captain Dane here this minute.’ No one moved except Davey Jones, who placed a firm hand on the major’s arm just above the elbow. Jones’s companion on the other side did the same. In one swift movement Major Heissemeyer was lifted off his feet and carried forward to be deposited before Neptune as if he had flown there on the wings of a school of flying fish.

‘Ach, I thought this was a polliwog,’ said Neptune. ‘But it turns out it is a shrimp.’ The gathering, both polliwogs and shellbacks, roared with laughter.

The joke by the chief fireman, maybe intended as rough humor or, more likely, as a taunt by the old navy man against the tin-pot soldier, didn’t help the situation.

‘In the name of the SS, I order you to unhand me and stop this nonsense.’ Heissemeyer’s face turned an ugly shade of purple as he said this.

No one moved to the major’s aid, not even his own aide- de-camp who was, I noticed, watching impassively from the back of the crowd.

‘Neptune takes orders from no man, not shellback, nor polliwog, nor shrimp. Nor the SS,’ Neptune thundered. ‘If you will not bow before me, you shall at least acknowledge the rightful heir to my watery throne. You, shrimp, shall kiss my beautiful baby’s belly.’

The beer-gutted baby Triton wobbled forward from beside Neptune’s throne and protruded his white hairy belly in the major’s direction. Davey Jones placed a hand on Major Heissemeyer’s neck and shoved forward. The major went pale white and, with an adrenaline-fueled burst of strength, twisted away from his captors and sprinted from the deck and down the stairs.

Both crew and passengers again burst out laughing, willing to enjoy themselves at the expense of the threatening prig, I suspect, because of the way we had all seen him treat others since the beginning of the voyage.
The Page 69 Test works well for Bert and Mamie Take a Cruise. Of course, it doesn’t capture the entire book in a single page but it does give a snapshot of elements of the book which follow throughout. There is mild humor as the crew of veteran German merchant sailors have some sport tweaking the sanctimonious SS Major Heissemeyer, who is attempting to disrupt the enjoyment of the ship’s passengers and crew during a light-hearted equator-crossing ceremony. There is the flavor of what it was like to go on a sixty-three day voyage to the continent of Africa during the golden age of pre-World War II passenger ship travel. And there is a taste of the tension between the universally-disliked Major Heissemeyer and the rest of the passengers and ship’s crew, which ultimately results in a murder taking place aboard ship. Taken as a whole, page 69 is a good sample of the book and delivers to the reader exactly what I was hoping for as a writer - a fun read taking place in an exotic and romantic location during a time most of us are too young to have experienced, with a spicy murder tossed into the mix.

Alas, though, one part of the fun of both writing and reading Bert and Mamie is completely missing from page 69. You’ll note that neither one of the protagonist couple are mentioned. Flipping through the other pages of the book reminded me that this is a rarity; almost every other page contains the viewpoint of one or the other, or action involving them, or, my favorite, a bit of witty repartee between them. I guess the only way for the reader to enjoy this component of the book is to get a copy and read the rest of the pages!
Visit John Keyse-Walker's website.

The Page 69 Test: Palms, Paradise, Poison.

Q&A with John Keyse-Walker.

--Marshal Zeringue