Friday, June 3, 2016

Page 69: The Last Projector

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....

In this installment of Page 69, 
we put David James Keaton's The Last Projector to the test!

OK, David, set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read:

So I got curious/carried away, and checked page 69 on the paperback, hardcover, and Kindle editions of The Last Projector. For the Kindle, since there's no actual page numbers, I sat there like an asshole and clicked the button counting to 69. And I was sort of surprised to find sex-related scenes on all three pages. To be fair, the hardcover and paperback were only one page apart, so it was a continuation of the same scene. But the Kindle’s page 69 was way different, and real raunchy. But if this gives the impression that this book is full of sex, that’s both right and wrong. The sex in this book is necessary because of the pornographic subplots, but those moment have a freaky insect-sex sorta vibe to them, hopefully. Which means I’m the only one who still finds them erotic. 

But page 69 of The Last Projector in the physical world (the paperback) turns out to be a scene from a chapter called “Doing Everything But Actually Doing It,” where this kid is trying to impress this girl by planning the murder of a police officer (which then gets downgraded to the kidnapping of the police officer’s dog). He’s not wrong to think the planning of the crime would have similar effects on his courtship as actually committing the crime (she’s impressed!), so he decides to keep planning as long as possible to see how far they'll both take it. But she’s been onto his bullshit from the get-go, so she decides to call his bluff and see if he’ll really do it, kill the cop or kidnap the K-9. But more important than all that, the plotting nets him a goodnight kiss, then later on when they park in the middle of the road, even more than that.

Page 69 in the digital world is a glimpse into the mind of the paramedic turned porno movie director and how frustrated he’s becoming when his “actors” show up on the set with trendy tattoos all over their bodies. It ruins the integrity of the scene, is his point, and I would definitely agree, not just because I wrote it, but because it’s pages like this one that clearly ruin the integrity of this book, as well. Victory!

What is The Last Projector about?

That’s a tough question, so I’ll resort to the publisher’s description, which I came up with anyway (I figure I bought myself a break on this question since I included double the amount of page 69’s, right? Right??). Anyhow, so this paramedic turned porn director (turned pretend paramedic) is uprooted from an ever-shifting '80s fantasy and his on-set tattoo battles with his cast when he discovers evidence of a crime that circles back through time to a far-reaching cover-up in the back of his ambulance. A mystery is revealed, surrounding three generations of women and the one secret they share, while two amateur terrorists’ unlikely love story rushes headlong toward a drive-in apocalypse. A drive-in gets messed up pretty bad, that much is certain. That’s how the book starts, at least. Weirder stuff happens later, like the director seems to be sprouting sexually-transmitted tattoos on his body (S.T.T.'s!), and there’s a serial rapist faking dog attacks to cover up his crimes, I think, who can remember. But that’s it in a nutshell. Lots of movies, lots of jokes, some disturbing set pieces that have brought me hate mail (another victory!), and some deconstructing of the perceived reality of film. Some authority bashing, too, which I’m addicted to.

Do you think these pages give our readers an accurate sense of what The Last Projector is about? Do they align themselves with the book’s overall theme?

Yes. Because of my sad attempt to exploit a loophole in this Page 69 game and get more than one page as a representation, I’d be a fool to deny it was worth doing. Both examples are definitely indicative of the balance between one-upmanship and goofy romance with the teenage characters, and the fevered brain of the porn director guy, whose “real” movie he’s filming on the side with his porn money (a reenactment of his life as a paramedic), eventually dominates the narrative and swallows the book with more and more itchy, infectious crazy as it heads for disaster. I very much hope you enjoy.

PAGE 69:

(paperback edition)

“Planning a crime isn’t a crime, right?” one of them asked.

They had decided to build a neck bomb, just for fun. Just keep working on their scheme as long as they could pay attention. It would be their first secret. 

“Uh, probably,” the other one answered, blowing on a slice of pizza. Then after a second, “No, I think it’s still a crime, dude.” 

“How many times have you started something but never finished that shit?” It was dark in the car, but this was definitely her asking.

“Every single time,” he smiled, teeth shining.

“Why is that such a relief?” she laughed. “We aren’t really going to do anything, are we?” 
He didn’t answer. 

“Hey, what was Bigbeat talking about with your driver's license picture anyway?” he asked. “You never explained that sufficiently.” 

“It's an old trick. You stick your tongue out when they take the picture and it accomplishes two things. First, it’s disrespectful to the cop who's reading it, and second, it makes your features distorted and less likely to be recognized if your records are ever pulled.”

“Do it right now,” he said.

“You do it.” 

He stuck his tongue out and goddamn if she didn't catch the end of it in her teeth like someone had thrown her a grape. Her mouth was salty, delicious. 

“Revenge is a dish best served with extra pepperoni,” she whispered, kissing him some more. Then she bit.


For the first time in his life, Billy stopped his car in the middle of the highway. It was 4:00 a.m., no cars in sight, with his headlights shining on roads stained red forever with the comet trails of roadkill.


(Kindle edition)

Sure, back then there was always that one girl who grew out her bush to mythic proportions and turned it into Willie Nelson’s beard with some ink of him from the nose up, like a beatnik “Kilroy Was Here.” But other than those exceptions, tattoos in porn usually signaled “prison” to the viewer, which was tough on their concentration, as well as blood flow. 

But more ink had started creeping onto his set lately, and no one else seemed to show the slightest concern. Larry was starting to think it was that movie Tattoo with Kinsky and that Bond girl, whatever her name was, that might be to blame. It had just come out on video. Or maybe it was the colorful Ray Bradbury bibliography Carl was carrying on his back in the movie The Illustrated Man. But that flick had been out awhile. Maybe it was all those “Z’s” on Fletcher Christian’s neck in The Bounty? Or that glimpse of “death” on the toes of the Night Rider in Mad Max? And what about the proud eagle adorning Fenix’s chest in the brutal Santa Sangre? Or maybe it was Harry “The Story of Love and Hate” Powell’s knuckles in Night of the Hunter. Maybe Snake Plissken’s cobra in Escape from New York. Maybe it was that leering devil on Lee Umstetter’s groin in Weeds. Maybe it was Woody Woodpecker in Raising Arizona. Maybe it was that little fucker from Fantasy Island. 

Or maybe it had something to do with this line of work.

Maybe that’s what happens on a movie set like this, when you fuck so much without offspring, he wondered, eyes crawling from body to body, crew starting to worry. Rather than fertilize an egg, you’ll just hatch a chopper-riding Grim Reaper on your pectoral muscle instead.

He’d been sorta prepared for the skin doodle apocalypse today, however, because he already knew he’d be dealing with Head Breakfast’s tattoos on this shoot. “H.B.” as they called him was so named because of the Denny’s grand slam breakfast inked across the top of his bald cranium. Hey, what could you do? Motherfucker loved breakfast. His real fake name was Freddy, but how could you call him that when he had goddamn eggs over easy, sausage links, and a side of flapjacks forever staining his dome? And everybody agreed you didn’t bother asking him about it, as Larry made the mistake of doing more than once. Freddy had no explanation, except that he honest to God loved breakfast like no one had before or since.


David James Keaton's work has appeared in over 50 publications. His first collection, FISH BITES COP! Stories to Bash Authorities (Comet Press), was named the 2013 Short Story Collection of the Year by This Is Horror and was a finalist for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award. His second collection of short fiction, Stealing Propeller Hats from the Dead (PMMP), recently received a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly, who said, “Decay, both existential and physical, has never looked so good.” He lives in California near where they filmed The Lost Boys.

No comments:

Post a Comment