The Page 99 Test – applied to ‘The Way of the Gun’
A few weeks ago, I was approached by a man called Marshal Zeringue (a great name). He runs a blog that is, in essence, based on an observation once made by Ford Madox Ford. Namely: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.”
As Marshal writes in his blog: ‘For the Page 99 Test, I hope to have authors comment on whether Page 99 reveals “the quality of the whole” about their books. We’ll try the test on new books, contemporary classics, and a few time-honored books, with recognized experts applying the test to the text.’
So I applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Way of the Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of Firearms, and reported the following. I hope you enjoy the concept and the post.
On page 99 of The Way of the Gun, the reader will read the following:
I’ve been held up at gunpoint three times in my life. I’ve also been shot at twice. The reasons I was shot at were indiscriminate, so I didn’t take those times personally; I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being held up at gunpoint, though, was intimate. Those moments of rushed demands and ugly threats have stayed with me longer and touched me more deeply than most of the horrors I’ve seen. Something in me broke a little.
In many ways, this paragraph holds true to Ford Madox Ford’s litmus test. The heart of the book is summed up.
The Way of the Gun is a work of non-fiction that takes the reader deep into the world of firearms and those communities affected by them. It is a passage through a host of realities moulded by the gun. With almost a billion firearms on the planet and 12 billion bullets produced every year, it is a world defined by power and pain, and underpinned by profit.
Over half a million people die every year from gunshot, and this paragraph on page 99 sums up how I was almost one of them on a number of occasions. It also sums up how this is not an academic book into the gun – it is one where I write about intensely lived personal experiences, seeing the horrors wrought by the gun up close. From warzones in Iraq to gun markets in Somalia, ganglands in Central America to emergency rooms in South Africa, this is a book that reveals the true impact of the gun on the world.
On Page 99 I write that – like countless others – I have been the victim of gun violence. I write about being help up at gunpoint in Papua New Guinea, in the Netherlands and in Ecuador. And I write about fear and trauma, power and powerlessness.
This is a book, then, where my words are rooted in a hard-lived reality. The subtitle of the book says that this is a ‘bloody journey into the world of firearms’, and this page shows that that blood was almost mine.
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