There’s a blog called The Page 99 Test. Its mission is summed up by a quote from Ford Madox Ford: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.”
Okay, I’m game. Here’s the text of The First Assassin, page 99. It begins in the middle of a conversation between Col. Charles Rook (our hero), Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, and Col. Samuel Locke. The scene takes place in the Winder Building, a structure that still stands in Washington, D.C., on Seventeenth Street, close to the White House. The date is Thursday, April 18, 1861. Then there’s a section break and we catch a glimpse of a man who goes by a provocative alias:
“It will be able to accept prisoners any day now.”
“Excellent. Now, tell me about the arrangements for the new soldiers from Pennsylvania.”
There was a shortage of places to put the troops–the government had mustered several federal buildings into service. The Pennsylvania soldiers would stay in the Capitol. The Patent Office and the Treasury were also available.
“I presume that putting soldiers at the Treasury won’t interfere with our other plans for that building,” said Scott.
“That’s correct,” said Rook. “The Treasury remains the place where we’ll send the president and his cabinet in the event of an attack on Washington. It’s quite a large structure. The basement has enormous storage capacity.”
“I wish we didn’t have to use the Capitol.”
“I agree, general. But you know we don’t have many locations to put soldiers on such short notice. I’m intending to put Jim Lane’s men at the White House when they arrive.”
“Very well. That ought to ease some of your concerns about security.”
“I certainly don’t think we will go the way of General Winder, sir. Our vulnerabilities are elsewhere.”
“Not this subject again,” sputtered Locke.
Scott held up his hand to silence Locke. “Colonel Rook, let me make myself perfectly clear: I do not want to discuss you conspiracy theories any more. Do not raise them with me again.”
* * * * *
The man who called himself Jeff Davis looked groggy when he finally arrived in the lobby at Brown’s. It appeared as though he had just gotten up, run a comb through his hair, and stumbled downstairs. Although it was the middle of the afternoon, none of his companions was around. He took a table away from the hotel’s front door, in a corner.
If you want to read pages 1-98 and 100-376, you’ll just have to buy the book.