Saturday, August 12, 2006

The McLuhan Test

Professor John Sutherland, in an article in the Guardian Review, passes on Marshall McLuhan’s simple but sage advice on how to decide whether or not a novel is worth buying. All you have to do is open the book at page 69 and read it; if you like that page, you’ll like the book.

In that spirit, here’s page 69 from the paperback edition of Mind’s Eye. I hope you like it. (More extracts from Players are in the pipeline, by the way, but I can't guarantee which will contain the material that will appear on page 69 of the finished book. )

5.

Harriet’s instructions took her to the edge of the London A-Z, to Enfield and a small café in the middle of a short row of shops hunched in the thunder and diesel wind of the A10's busy dual carriageway. Her handler, Jack Nicholl, had arranged the meeting with an MI5 agent, Susan Blackmore, and an informer in the Kurdish community. ‘She’ll be very protective of the guy,’ Jack Nicholl had said. ‘If anything looks funny to her, she’ll blow the meet and I won’t be able to fix you up with another. So be cool, and do everything she asks.’

Harriet allowed Susan Blackmore to pat her down in the café’s toilet. The MI5 agent searched Harriet’s handbag and confiscated her mobile phone for the duration.

‘If I see any sign that my man is going to be followed, I’ll call this off at once,’ she said.
‘I understand.’

‘And I’ll also call it off if I think someone is eavesdropping, using a video camera, or taking photographs.’

‘You don’t have to worry -- ’

‘And I will sit in while you talk with him. That’s not negotiable.’

‘Of course.’

Harriet bought two coffees and followed Susan Blackmore to a table outside the café. The MI5 agent was in her late twenties, only a year or two older than Harriet. She wore her mouse-brown hair in a ponytail pulled back

6 Comments:

Anonymous Jay Russell said...

Not a bad suggestion, though it probably is worth remembering that McLuhan was goofy as a box of stale Fruit Loops (and borrowed his best ideas from Harold Innis).

August 12, 2006 7:11 PM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

That's why he was so loveable.

I'm seriously thinking of a page 69 web site where every writer can show what they are made of. All I need is a start-up fund...

August 13, 2006 12:33 PM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

That's why he was so loveable.

I'm seriously thinking of a page 69 web site where every writer can show what they are made of. All I need is a start-up fund...

August 13, 2006 12:34 PM  
Blogger Wayne Blackhurst said...

Yup, I like that, although I still have 'White Devils' to enjoy! Looks like a great read....

August 13, 2006 1:16 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Ah. It would appear that page69.com is already taken. And, um, in use... by... well, numerically speaking it's a bit obvious whn you think about it, really...

August 15, 2006 8:49 PM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Gee, porn gets in *everywhere* doesn't it. Maybe the McLuhan Test isn't taken...

Hmm, strikes me that a certain Alien website might be useful in this regard, mon brave.

August 16, 2006 8:14 PM  

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