The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....
In this installment of Page 69,
we put R. J. Erbacher's Love Letters and Other Passages of Darkness to the test.
OK, Robert, set up page 69 for us.
Page 69 comes near the end of the story "The House of Flana." Richie, while visiting his Aunt Helen, goes to the abandoned house of a former school friend who moved away quite abruptly leaving an empty house for many years. In the basement he discovers 'something' that he can look at- and through at the same time. He survives the brutal encounter with Flana and while recouping in a bar he debates if it has gone after his Aunt Helen and if he can go back to face it again.
What is Love Letters and Other Passages of Darkness about?
"Love Letters and Other Passages of Darkness" is a collection of stories that finds each character confronted with a dark passage, one they must physically traverse or mentally confront. The landscape is diversified; from a futuristic wasteland to a medieval castle, from an abandoned attic to a downtown shopping mall, from a magical forest to an old fashioned haunted house, with plenty of side trips along the way. You could call it horror but I prefer dark drama; scary dark.
Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the collection is about? Does it align itself the collections’s overall theme?
I feel the excerpt is a microcosm of the story and the whole book. You've got intrigue, a little bit of danger, some interesting character development and just a sampling of one of the dark passages that all the protagonists in the book must go through whether they want to or not. I especially like the novelty of the first paragraph with Richie tossing his could/couldn't ideas back and forth.
LOVE LETTERS AND OTHER PASSAGES OF DARKNESS
I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t face Flana again. I almost didn’t survive the first meeting and in my current state of pain there was no way I wanted to tussle with it again. I couldn’t. I could call the police. I couldn’t tell them why they needed to go there. I could report it anonymously. ‘There’s an old women who’s fallen and can’t get up. You’d better go check on her.’
I was confused and my psyche had been taxed to its limit already. Perplexed, I gravitated to the bar instinctively. Jimmy poured me a glass of Coors Light without me asking. He must have seen the way I looked and thought I really needed one badly.
“What the hell happened to you Richie?”
I held up my palm and shook my head. Jimmy was a great bartender. He would sit and listen to your problems all night long, letting you vent all your frustrations and nod sympathetically, or he would toss out liquor-inspired pearls of wisdom to all sorts of dilemmas that would rival the advice of any $325 an hour psychologist. He also knew when to shut up and leave you alone and let you drink. Without a word he filled a bar towel with ice, slammed it on the counter a few times to break it up and placed it on my eye for me to hold and went to tend other customers. Thank the god of small favors for Jimmy.
Back to Aunt Helen. What was I to do? If I called the police, they would go there and find her contorted, lifeless body in a ransacked room and assume it was a robbery. But when they investigated they would discover that I was the last person to see her and I would have no alibi and no feasible explanation for what had happened.
R. J. Erbacher has been writing for over forty years, mostly for his own satisfaction. He wrote, edited and published “Warrior Poets: The Magazine of Medieval Poetry” in the mid 90’s. His first book “Coffee and Fate” was published in 2010 in limited release and was adorned with unanimous book blogger praise. His new novel “Love Letters and other Passages of Darkness” is a collection of Dark Drama Short Stories. He lives in Long Island, New York with his wife of 33 years and three daughters. Someday he hopes to be a real writer.