Today, we are thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for Eric Shonkwiler's Moon Up, Past Full. Eric is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary writers. If you haven't picked up one of his books yet, I strongly encourage that you do.
To get this party started, we've asked Eric to put his collection to the test.
Disclaimer: 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....
Okay, Eric, set up page 69 for us.
This is fairly early on in the longest story of the collection. “GO21” is a novella about three friends who flee their homes in a small city in the wake of a meteoric explosion over Earth, which knocks out communication and causes considerable panic across America. Page 69 finds these friends on the road to a cabin in the woods, where they intend to seek shelter with a doomsday prepper.
What is Moon Up, Past Full about?
Moon Up, Past Full is a large collection of novellas and stories that all tend to focus on blue-collar people having a hell of a time trying to get by. In it are stories of dysfunctional families, war veterans, drug addicts, and a few stranger tales involving a ghost, a witch, and zombies—which brings us back to “GO21.”
Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what this book is about? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?
I would have, at first blush, told you that “GO21” and anything in it aren’t really representative of the collection—“GO” is a bit of a suspenseful thriller, which is odd for me—but I’ve found that page 69 actually contains a goodly part of what this book is all about. There’s the road, bickering, soldiers, and that backcountry feel. Mashed all together, I’d say it’s surprisingly accurate.
MOON UP, PAST FULL
Excerpt from GO21
A school and parking lot passed on the right. There were sheets of paper all over the message board out front. Notes for people out of touch.
After the hundredth round of stations, Thom reached over for the stereo and popped out the faceplate, tossing it to the floor. You’re driving me nuts with that.
You coulda just said so.
Thom stayed facing forward. The road progressed under them, humming. Gibbs pointed him left at an intersection in the middle of nowhere, a giant dead oak towering over the traffic light. They wended up a road to a three-way intersection just outside of a town. There was a warehouse-like garage ahead of them and, hanging from a tree, two carcasses, red and pink and white. Before Abbi could say anything, Gibbs called them as deer.
Are you sure? Abbi said.
You wouldn’t drain a person.
If you were eating them, you would.
If you were on bath salts, you wouldn’t. He rolled his eyes and lifted a tired finger on down the road.
Thom took the turn, and they slowed coming into the town. Rows of train tracks beside an overpass for a state route, gas stations and grain silos. A slab of pavement in every direction but behind them. The town was quiet, one car passing them headed the other way, gas stations already closed up. There was a giant mural on the side of a building, an archway into a summertime scene, a market or festival, and the color was like a hole punched through the drab scenery. They neared a grocery store, and the entrances were blocked with rows of shopping carts. No police around. Gibbs pointed them left again, and they worked their way out of town.
How much farther? I got about seventy miles left in the tank.
We’ll make it, easy. Don’t worry.
They were supposed to turn on at Highway 33, but it was barricaded and even the overpass itself was guarded by two canvas-backed military trucks, a few soldiers with gasmasks loose on their chests and rifles in the air. Thom started to turn them around, and Gibbs held up his hand.
Lemme see what the boys are up to. He pulled his wallet from his pocket and flipped it open for his ID card. He stepped out of the car slowly, holding the ID aloft and his other hand well away from his chest. Two of the nearby soldiers came forward, rifles now pointed toward the Civic, at the ground.
He’s gonna get himself killed, Abbi said.
One of the soldiers stepped wide. The other came forward and took the card from Gibbs, read it, and handed it back. He was smiling. They gestured back and forth, to the overpass and to the highway.