Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Hatred Ridicule & Contempt: the Ford 99 Test

So what exactly, in the world of novel writing, is a Ford 99? The answer, a test for a new book devised by novelist Ford Madox Ford – read page 99 and let that be the guide to whether you wish to read more.

The Orangeberry Summer Splash has taken this a step further, inviting its author entrants to dissect page 99 of their books in pursuit of a positive answer to the question. Very ingenious. Here goes.
To have described Thursday 11th March as simply One Of Those Days for solicitor Alex Harris would have been a woeful understatement.
With his newspaper clients’ libel trial only days away, he realises just how dirty a fight his opponents intend to contest, as they pull a last minute rabbit out of the hat in the form of printed apologies to past libel victims that Bill Holroyd, the editor, had been compelled to publish in days gone by. Apologies that are now to feature in the documents bundle that will be placed before the judge and jury, in the hope of poisoning their minds against the editor, regardless of the fact that he was then in charge of a downmarket tabloid, not the same newspaper that is now on trial.
Thinking on his feet, Alex finds a counter-measure to demonstrate that whenever Holroyd decided in his past editorial role to stand firm against a libel allegation and go to trial, he was never defeated. Little did Alex know that this would not be the last dirty trick…
But the clients’ problems and Alex’s fightback on their behalf almost pale into insignificance alongside a sudden escalation of his firm’s internal political struggle. Breaking into his working day, by way of direct response to his defiance of a recent personal affront, a decision from the Management Committee to spark off a formal process that will put his status and his livelihood on the line. And all because of what?
Just at the wrong moment, in comes Stewart Robbins, Alex’s head of department, for a private word, evidently knowing about the Management Committee’s intentions and looking to play the part of some kind of honest broker. If ever a man was in the wrong place at the wrong time…
Page 99 is where what had been a steady build up of tension in Alex’s working life becomes a virtual torrent. There is no turning back. From this point onwards, it is evident that neither the libel trial nor the partnership conflict stand any chance of striking a happy medium and reaching an outcome where everyone involved can make a concession or two, resolve the disputes and feel that they have achieved something. They will both move remorselessly towards an outcome where there can only be one winner. And one loser.

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