Thursday, June 27, 2024

Page 69 Test: Flat

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 Neal Rabin's Flat to the test. 

Set up page 69 for us.

When I first looked back at page 69, I thought it was a very random passing page in the novel. But upon forced reflection, and happily for the writer, not so!


There we were in sunny southern Spain at the tail end of the brutal Spanish Inquisition. As two of the primary protagonists, Lanning Delaford and Ignatius Loyola (yes, that Loyola), both in their mid-twenties were on their way to the King’s summer palace, they happened upon a gathering of locals at Speaker’s Corner in Algeciras Spain. Historically, Speaker’s Corners often played host to an assortment of eclectic, random nut cases, gripers seeking retribution, anarchists, and more. In this instance, an elderly woman was about to reveal breaking news to the marginally hostile, mostly bored, lunchtime crowd: the Earth was NOT FLAT, but in actuality – ROUND!


It will land with a pronounced, obliviously disinterested, thud. 


What is the book about?

FLAT centers around that brief moment in history when some people believed we’d either fall off the edge of the known world into the cosmic abyss or find our way around the great unknown to a new paradise, and naturally, riches beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.


How do we deal with our fears? When we reach our own metaphorical edge, does it stop us, or are we curious enough to take that next step forward?


FLAT embarks on a swashbuckling adventure in the year 1519. History goes into a blender at the final breath of the Spanish Inquisition and Magellan’s epic voyage. The story follows the fictional Captain Lanning Delaford, who is torn from his typical routine in 16th Century Spain by a series of comically unfortunate events and forced into an impromptu swashbuckling adventure.


Lanning, plus an eclectic cast of characters including Loyola, Magellan, mostly evil pirates, a Portuguese butcher, an alluring, bad-ass courtesan, and a peregrine falcon named Doug, traverse southern Europe and the unknown Great Sea on an unintended journey to the edge. Oh yes— there are sea battles, swordplay, betrayal, and romance, plus a healthy dose of satire and Renaissance humor.


Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the novel is about? Does it align itself with the novel’s theme?"

Well, this is not your History teacher’s rundown of the particular moment in the 16th Century I’ve chosen to depict. However, the scene on the page does represent one of the central themes of the novel. How do we respond when confronted with fear provoking challenges – chaos in politics, religion, social structure, or even a restaurant we don’t want to go to? Where do we allow a fear of change, fear of stagnancy, or any other flavor of personal fear stop us?

Deploying hopeful hindsight, we’d likely all predict our responses would be governed by open-minded curiosity and thoughtful, rational acceptance. By studying history, I have learned that regardless of the time period, we are all human. In short, not so fast, friends! I believe that humor combined with a nice touch of magical realism is one of the most powerful pathways into the human heart. That, plus pirates, of course!


“Rosario? You lazy bastard. Why aren’t you at work?” scolded his wife.

“Quiet! Rude townsfolk!! Let her speak,” Loyola roared with a commanding voice from the back of the gathering.

After a thankful nod tilted Loyola’s way, the woman continued. Lanning slapped his forehead in disbelief. “Ssshhh,” he muttered to Loyola, who ignored him.

“My friends, the powers that be…” Her eyes, along with a double head bob, pointed up towards the palace. “Are keeping all of US locked out! Locked out of opportunity, locked out of freedom, locked out of independence. We remain locked out of the bountiful future WE have a God-given right to seek!”

“She ain’t from around here, or she’d be more careful, even at Speaker’s Corner!” cautioned the Squirrel & Mutton’s lone representative Doris. “We shouldn’t be listening to this,” she declared to no one in particular while symbolically wiping her hands on her squirrel-stained burlap dress.

“I ain’t seekin’ much except a free ale or two and some decent mutton from you know where!”

Lanning couldn’t tell where the comedian was standing, but joined everyone else in laughing.

“Laugh if you want. I bring news that is far from a laughing matter. I bring liberation, I bring a reconstruction of the known universe. It will change, shudder, and collapse the very ground beneath our feet.”

“Are you a woman of the enigmatic arts perhaps?” chimed in Loyola again despite Lanning’s disapproval.

“What the heck does that mean?” asked Rosario.

“He wants to know if she’s a witch,” answered Elyse.

At this point the Bichon freed itself from the sleeping midget’s


Neal Rabin is a UCLA graduate who worked for Club Med as a tennis and surf instructor on Reunion Island off the coast of Madagascar. He stocked refrigerators, xeroxed scripts, and served as a 'fetch' for Time Life Films. Neal cofounded and spent fifteen years as CEO of the Santa Barbara based global software company, Miramar Systems. He continues to live in Santa Barbara with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, multiple guitars, his piano, and a flock of chickens. Neal is an instrument pilot and has an active lifestyle that includes surfing, volleyball, yoga, and tennis.

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