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About two years ago WordPress asked us to pick a book at random from our bookshelves, take the second sentence of the second paragraph of the second page, and use it as the basis of a story.

As I reported at the time I got a children’s book called “Gail of the Whales” and the prescribed sentence read “she wondered how big a horse would have to be to have a horn that long” (the previous sentence was about unicorns, by the way), so needless to say the story did not happen.

Last night I decided to try my own version of the plan. In the library of the Writers Centre I went to the second shelf, picked the second book, turned to the second page of the second chapter and read the second sentence of the second paragraph.

The book was The Janissary Tree, by Jason Goodwin. On the cover Kate Mosse says it has “everything you could want from a novel”, so presumably it contains romance, beauty, tragedy, laughter, heartbreak, a ring to bind them all and a really good car-chase.

What it definitely contains, as I have discovered, is the sentence “He’d done it before, dashing all the hopes and ambitions of the lovely gödze, the girl selected to share his bed that night”.

I have no idea what a gödze is (actually, I have no idea what a janissary is either) but the context makes the meaning pretty clear. And I’m guessing that “he” has some embarrassing problem, unless the hopes and ambitions of gödzes involve pillow-fights.

Perhaps he should read “Gail of the Whales”.

Anyway, this morning I had one last go. In the dim of our early-morning sitting-room I went to the second shelf of the bookcase and pulled out the second book.

It was The Daily Telegraph Big Book Of Cryptic Crosswords. I’m giving up.

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