Tuesday, March 7, 2023

"Shadow State"

Frank Sennett has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Montana and a journalism degree from Northwestern University. He has taught creative writing at UCLA Extension and has published nine books. He has served as a senior leader at multiple media outlets, including Time Out Chicago and MTV.com. He also spent one lucky season in the Wrigley Field press box covering the Chicago Cubs.

Sennett applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Shadow State, and reported the following:
Thank you for the opportunity to apply the test to Shadow State. I had not heard this McLuhan observation before. Like most people who have a passing familiarity with him, I do know he coined the phrase "The medium is the message," which became a truism of media studies. It's a slightly hyperbolic way of noting that the medium used to express content--from old-fashioned books to TikTok and beyond--has a significant impact on how we perceive and understand that content.

I bring this up because a sentence of nearly identical construction served as a key inspiration for my thriller and its protagonist. That sentence, which starts the second section of Shadow State: Pain is information.

What kind of character would think something like that in a moment of extreme duress? I asked myself. It would have to be someone both mentally and physically tough, probably someone with elite military training and live combat experience, quite possibly someone who had endured more than his share of physical and emotional trauma. Rafe Hendrix began to take shape.

I'm sorry to report that McLuhan's Page 69 Test is a bit of a bust when applied to Shadow State. Hendrix is a former U.S. Army Ranger and Secret Service agent who has left his old life behind in the wake of a tragic event he triggered that cost his daughter and several other children their lives. On page 69, he is experiencing an interlude of calm and normalcy before he is engulfed by the next storm that will endanger his life and the lives of the people he loves. On page 69, Hendrix is enjoying Sunday brunch with the mother and sisters of his new girlfriend. He has just met the family and they have attended church together. It feels to Hendrix in that moment that perhaps his life may be worth rebuilding after all. But the respite proves cruelly brief. Reading only this page, you'd never know what Hendrix had survived up until this moment and what challenges he is about to face. In context, however, it sets up the emotional stakes that drive the plot to its explosive finish.
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--Marshal Zeringue