Page 99 Test

Marshal Zeringue has an intriguing literary idea. Taking Ford Maddox Ford’s statement that you can take any book and “open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you,” he asks authors to look at their own page ninety-nine and see if Ford was right.

Marshal has invited me to take the test with previous Dixie Hemingway mysteries, and he invited me again this year with Cat Sitter On A Hot Tin Roof.

Every time I’ve done this test, I have opened the book at page ninety-nine with a bit of apprehension. I know you can open a book at any page and get a sense of the quality of the author’s writing style, but it’s a stretch to think that one page would illustrate the entire story. But it has always worked. It’s a little bit uncanny, really. I looked at some other pages and they weren’t nearly as indicative of the whole as my page ninety-nine.

I don’t know if Ford Maddox Ford had some incredibly keen insight, or if it has been just coincidence that his page ninety-nine test has proven right in my books. At any rate, if you’d like to read about my page ninety-nine test of Cat Sitter On A Hot Tin Roof, it’s at Marshall’s site.

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