Friday, June 24, 2016

"The Tumbling Turner Sisters"

Juliette Fay received a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a master's degree from Harvard University. Her books include Shelter Me, Deep Down True, and The Shortest Way Home.

Fay applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Tumbling Turner Sisters, and reported the following:
An African American tap dancer, an immigrant couple whose trained pigeons tap out songs on bells, and a four-girl acrobatic team are all crammed into a tight backstage area, waiting to perform. It’s page 69 of The Tumbling Turner Sisters, and with the ethnic, racial and gender diversity; competition over placement on the bill; and unlikely friendships forming, it’s a snapshot of small time vaudeville.

Unlike the early 20th Century world in which they lived, women, immigrants, and racial minorities experienced a surprising amount of freedom and upward mobility in vaudeville. There was still plenty of discrimination, but there was an overriding factor that put success uniquely within their grasp: talent. If you could bring the crowds, you were treated well and compensated handsomely, no matter who you were.

On page 69, the lineup has just been changed by the theatre manager, an occupation with enormous power over the performers. Talented black tap dancer Tippety Tap Jones is promoted from closer (the last and worst spot on the bill) to the “deuce” or second spot. The job of the closer, or “chaser” as they were often called, was to be bad enough to “chase” the audience out, so the stage hands could ready the theatre for the next performance. Tip’s rise means the pigeons are demoted to closer, and their handlers are furious.

At the same time, Gert Turner, an acrobat and one of the two narrators of the story, is curious about Tip. In 1919, there is no acceptable way for a white woman to befriend a black man, but Gert is headstrong, attractive and used to getting her way. The fact that Tip isn’t thrilled with her attention is a new experience for her.

Tip is no fool—he knows that as innocent as their conversation may be, he’s courting danger simply by talking to Gert. He plays it cool, which only provokes her determination to learn more about him. It’s the beginning of a friendship that grows progressively more complicated over the course of the novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Juliette Fay's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Down True.

The Page 69 Test: The Shortest Way Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"The Devil's Cold Dish"

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. She lives in New York, received her master’s in Library Science from Columbia University, and is currently the Assistant Director at the Goshen Public Library in Orange County, New York.

Kuhns applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Devil's Cold Dish, and reported the following:
The Page 69 rule works as beautifully on The Devil's Cold Dish as it did on Death in Salem.

Page 69 is the final page of a chapter and ends with a cliffhanger - a fire.
Rees sniffed. "What's burning?" He realized that he had not been aware of the odor for a little while but had not paid attention. The acrid smell was much stronger in the kitchen, but he saw nothing amiss. The fire had been banked and only a few embers remained. He sniffed again and walked to the door. Although the sky was still streaked with light, the ground beneath lay in shadow. A reddish glow tinted the horizon. Lydia came up behind him.

"I smell smoke too," she said."

"Something's on fire," Rees said, descending the steps.

The stink of burning was much stronger outside and now he could see sparks flying in the air. He turned to tell Lydia to stay inside but found she was right behind him, a lighted lantern in her hand. "It's the bees," she said and lunged past him. Rees did not argue. He followed Lydia over the crest of the hill and down the slope.
This scene is an example of the persecution leveled at Rees and his family and speaks to one of the underlying themes: the harm malice, resentment and jealousy can inflict. After researching Death in Salem, and being immersed in the effects of the witch trials (which, of course, were 100 years too early for Rees), I wanted to write about what might happen if such anger were directed at Rees and his family. The question I kept asking myself was 'How could someone ever forgive such a betrayal?' And how would one feel afterwards?
Learn more about the book and author at Eleanor Kuhns's blog and Facebook page.

Coffee with a Canine: Eleanor Kuhns & Shelby.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dyer.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dyer.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Salem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"The Devils of Cardona"

Matthew Carr is a writer and journalist, living in Derbyshire England. He is the author of five non-fiction books: My Father’s House (1997); The Infernal Machine: a History of Terrorism (2007), also published in the UK as The Infernal Machine: an Alternative History of Terrorism (2011); Blood and Faith: the Purging of Muslim Spain (2009, 2010); Sherman’s Ghosts: Soldiers, Civilians, and the American War of War (2015), and Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent, available in the UK as Fortress Europe: Inside the War Against the Immigration (2015).

Carr applied the Page 69 Test to The Devils of Cardona, his first novel, and reported the following:
Readers who skim Page 69 of The Devils of Cardona will find themselves at the end of Chapter Six, so they only have to read half a page. I hope these few paragraphs will induce them to look further, because they will arrive right in the middle of a very grim and dramatic development. My main character Alcalde (Judge) Mendoza is staying at the viceroy of Aragon's palace in Zaragoza with his team.

He's just about to head up into the Pyrenees to investigate the brutal murder of a priest at the village of Belamar - a village populated mostly by Moriscos (Muslim converts to Catholicism), when he sees the viceroy and Mercader, the Inquisitor of Aragon, in urgent conversation with a man who he hasn't met before.

There are already tensions between the careful, dogged criminal judge Mendoza and the ambitious and fanatical Inquisitor. Mercader hates Moriscos and wants the Inquisition to carry out its own investigation at Belamar. The arrival from the countryside only sharpens the differences between the two men:
"Bad news, Mendoza," the viceroy said. "This is Constable Vargas, the chief constable of Jaca. It seems that three brothers have been found murdered near Belamar. All of them are Old Christians."

"One of them was nailed to a cross!" Mercader exclaimed. "With the heads of his brothers arranged next to him!"
The cautious and thorough Mendoza immediately asks the constable if he's seen these bodies with his own eyes. Mercader doesn't need to see them. The Inquisitor already believes what he hears and is outraged and clearly vindicated by the news, which seems to confirm everything he has told Mendoza about Belamar. The ending of the chapter makes these feeling clear:
Mercader's narrow eyes glittered, and his cadaverous features bore an expression of bitter fury as he turned toward Mendoza. "Now do you understand the kind of people we are dealing with, Alcalde?" he said.
Readers and skimmers will have to follow Mendoza into the Pyrenees in order to find out what kind of people he is dealing with, and some may already be wondering on the basis of Page 69 what kind of person Mercader is. They may also want to know who has killed the three Old Christians, and the chapter ending strongly suggests that there may be more mayhem to come.

To those who like this kind of thing, and even to those who don't, all this ought to be enough to give them a reason to turn the page.
Visit Matthew Carr's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 20, 2016

"My Last Continent"

Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and the award-winning short-story collection Forgetting English. Her writing has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.

Raymond applied the Page 69 Test to My Last Continent and reported the following:
At this point in the novel, the reader will be taking a step back from the current narrative to learn what happens when Deb Gardner first meets Keller Sullivan. They are both working at the U.S. Antarctic base McMurdo Station when they fall for each other. Here’s what happens a few sentences into page 69:
Sex at McMurdo happens in stolen moments; it’s furtive and quiet, thanks to too-close living quarters, roommates, thin walls. I don’t know how many days blur together between that first kiss and the first night we spend in my dorm, but finally, after an aeon of helpless and constantly rising desire, we sneak out of an all-staff party and crowd into the narrow bunk in my room, ravishing each other like sex-starved teenagers, which is also typical of McMurdo residents.

Afterwards, as the bass traveling on the wind from a distant building echoes the thumping of our hearts, in the arid heat of the room, sweat evaporating from our skin, it seems we could be anywhere—but at the same time, I realize this is the only place where our sudden relationship could feel as familiar to me as the icy, moonlike terrain surrounding us outside the room’s tiny windows.

In the weeks that follow, we steal time whenever we can—when my roommate is in the field, when Keller’s is at work; it becomes difficult, at other times, to think of anything else. When we come in from the field, we have to peel off so many layers I think we’ll never find skin, until there it is, burning under our hands, dry and hot, two deserts finding water.
While this page isn’t representative of the book as a whole, it offers a good look at Deb and Keller’s relationship. From when they first meet at McMurdo to when they discover themselves on different ships in the Southern Ocean, unable to find their way back to each other, the themes are similar: They never have nearly enough time together, and Antarctica is an inextricable part of their relationship and who they are. And I hope it makes readers curious about what happens to Deb and Keller by the end of the book.
Learn more about the author and her work at Midge Raymond's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"Spells of Blood and Kin"

Claire Humphrey's short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story "Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot" appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story "The Witch Of Tarup" was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden.

Humphrey applied the Page 69 Test to Spells of Blood and Kin, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I don’t feel like sitting still,” Nick said, pacing. He felt like running another 10k and then jerking off again, but a walk sounded okay too, if it was followed by about ten drinks. He jittered back and forth by the door until Jonathan had located his wallet and keys.

“Bye, Hannah,” Nick said, waving his fingers.

“Bring him back in one piece,” Hannah said.

She was muttering something to herself as she got up and stuck her head in the refrigerator, but Nick didn’t want to hear it.

Jonathan had to stop and kiss her, though, and then he kissed her again.

“Bye, Hannah.” Nick pulled Jonathan away by his shirt collar.

“Bye,” Jonathan said softly. “Hang out here as long as you want. I won’t be late.”

“Yes, he will,” Nick called, already dragging Jonathan down the hall.
As you can see, Nick is kind of a jealous friend: he wants Jonathan all to himself. Also, Nick maybe has a drinking problem, and if he does, he doesn’t want to be the only one.

This scene is all about Nick. Nick is the kind of guy who likes having scenes be all about him. You might find him funny for a while, but eventually you’d realize he’s kind of a selfish jerk (and “jerk” is probably not the word you’d use, if you were writing on your own blog rather than guest-blogging!) Hopefully, you’d start to wonder whether Nick was always like this, or whether something sinister was acting on him, making him more of a jerk than he was before. You might start thinking about how the flaws in a person’s nature can be magnified by power.

Or, you might just find Nick to be an annoying character, and never make it to page 70.

This wouldn’t entirely surprise me. Nick really is a jerk. You might feel like you have too many jerks in your real life to be interested in a fictional one. But this isn’t Nick’s story, even though he thinks it is. It’s the story of Maksim, the man who wrecked Nick’s life, and it’s the story of Lissa, the young woman who inherited Maksim and his problems when her grandmother died. Nick, as it happens, is just one of Maksim’s problems.
Visit Claire Humphrey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 17, 2016

"Steeplejack"

A.J. Hartley is the bestselling author of mystery/thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult novels.

He was born in northern England, but has lived in many places including Japan, and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he specializes in the performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama, and works as a director and dramaturg.

Hartley applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Steeplejack, and reported the following:
Page 69 finds our hero, Anglet Sutonga, a 17 year old steeplejack—the only young woman to be so in the city of Bar-Selehm—has been abducted and is being interrogated by a suave young man who seems to have considerable wealth and status:
“I . . . I lost my job,” I said, looking down.
“By choice?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that. “Morlak wasn’t happy with my work.” I spoke as carefully as he did.
 The young man nodded. His fingers, which he had steepled together, were long, the nails manicured.

“So unhappy, in fact,” he said, “that he sent people to kill you, yes?”

There was no point denying it. His men—the phrase was odd, considering they all seemed older than he was—had obviously seen as much.

I nodded once.

“That’s a curious development, wouldn’t you say? You must have upset Mr. Morlak a great deal.”
The scene is pivotal in the book because it’s the moment in which Anglet, who is on the run from her former employer, is given a new job and identity, becoming effectively a private detective or spy. It’s a tense scene, because Anglet doesn’t know what’s going on and she is out of her element. Till now she has been, in truth, one of the lowest of the low socially speaking, and she is not comfortable in this mysterious young man’s luxurious home. She would rather be at work, doing what she does better than anyone else: scaling the city’s tallest spires and chimneys with her satchel of tools. She’ll end this encounter with a new sense of purpose and a full purse, but she’ll still be dependent on her wits and her climbing skills if she’s to figure out the strange and deadly events which have begun to overtake the city.
Visit A. J. Hartley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Die Of Shame"

Mark Billingham has twice won the Theakston's Old Peculier Award for Best Crime Novel and also won the Sherlock Award for the best detective created by a British writer. His books have been translated into twenty-five languages and were made into a hit TV series starring David Morrissey as Tom Thorne.

Billingham applied the Page 69 Test to his new stand-alone novel, Die of Shame, and reported the following:
Simply put, page 69 of Die Of Shame is very untypical of the book as a whole. The novel centres around a group of recovering addicts and their weekly meetings with therapist Tony De Silva and this page happens to be one of four in the book which are transcripts of Tony’s notes, recapping the sessions which we have seen in the preceding chapter. These sections – always one page long – are nevertheless hugely important in that the reader gets to see what Tony really thinks of what his clients have been saying and doing in the sessions. He strongly believes that shame is at the heart of many of his clients’ problems with addiction and in these sections we see how this particular brand of therapy is yielding results. As the story unfolds, the reader begins to realise that Tony has unwittingly lifted the lid on a very disturbing Pandora’s box and that something has been revealed that is shameful enough to cost somebody their life…
Learn more about the book and author at Mark Billingham's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bones Beneath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"The Vagrant"

Peter Newman lives in Somerset with his wife and son. Growing up in and around London, Peter studied Drama and Education at the Central School of Speech and Drama, going on to work as a secondary school drama teacher. He now works as a trainer and Firewalking Instructor. He sometimes pretends to be a butler for the Tea and Jeopardy podcast, which he co-writes, and which has been shortlisted for a Hugo Award.

Newman applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Vagrant, and reported the following:
The Vagrant is a hero’s journey set against a bleak, far future, post apocalyptic backdrop. It also features knights, demons, and singing swords. Page 69 is set during one of the flashbacks that sets up the story and it gives a flavour of the prose, and the mood of the book.

From page 69:
The young men do not move. They glance at each other then up at the knight, chanting as one:

‘We invoke the the rite of mercy. Save us, protect us, deliver us.’

After a quick curse at the sky, the knight invites them in.

A few miles past the village, the metal snake belches black smoke and dies. The flanks hiss as they cool; a last impression of living.

The Knight Commander calls his last follower and the fresh recruits. The day’s travel has taken its toll, he knows he has reached the limits of his strength, inside he is crumbling, broken.

‘There is only one order,’ he tells the three of them, return the cargo to the Shining City whatever the cost. Failure is unacceptable, everything else permissible. That is all.’ The three digest the news. Even together they barely add up to one man. ‘From now on Sir Attica is in charge, you take your instructions from him.’

With effort the younger knight marshals his face to calm. ‘What about you, Commander?’

‘I’m not in the mood for running today, Attica, but I am in the mood to shoot something. Carry me up to the turret and you can be on your way.’

The youths have grown up with hard labour and make short work of moving the older man, armour and all, into the raised diamond on the snake’s back.

Attica straps his superior into place. Plastic loops take the strain where muscles cannot. Words fumble out. ‘Commander, I’m not sure I can do this.’
Here we get a hint at the main quest, and we learn that the heroes of the world are already dead and dying (the Knight Commander is one of the last). We also get a suggestion that the people left behind to complete their work are somewhat lacking.

What we don’t get here is much of the main characters. There’s no baby, no goat, no Malice, and the Vagrant hasn’t even become the Vagrant yet. The other thing that’s missing (and this may have some relation to the above characters not being present), are the touches of humour and hope that sometimes shine through.
Visit Peter Newman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Vagrant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"Rocks Fall Everyone Dies"

Lindsay Ribar is a literary agent by day and a concert fanatic by night. She is the author of The Art of Wishing and The Fourth Wish.

Ribar applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Rocks Fall Everyone Dies, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I told you, call me Natty,” she said. “And this must be Brandy and Ashton.”

“Aspen.” She looked over at me when I spoke—and instantly I could see why Theo was into her. She had these bright blue eyes that reminded me of ... well, of Brandy, actually. “Aspen Quick.”

“That’s a weird name,” she said, nodding, like she approved.

“I know, right?” I said. This was why I’d ditched my real first name, Jeremy, back in third grade. I liked being the guy with the weird name.
The page 69 test actually works surprisingly well here! Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies is a book about family and weird small-town magic and privilege and toxic masculinity and thievery and… well, about a billion other things. But mostly, it’s a book about identity.

Narrator Aspen has grown up in a family with a unique magical ability, and Aspen himself has never questioned either the source of this ability or the amount of power it gives him over others. He’s never questioned it because, well, he’s never had a reason to. Until the events of Rocks Fall, that is. All of that comes later in the book, when Bad Things start adding up to something that Aspen can no longer ignore—but here, on page 69, we get the very first glimpse of who Aspen is.

He’s a guy who isn’t just unafraid of being different from everyone else; he actually values being different. Being his own person. Being kind of a weirdo. And by the end of the story, that part of his personality, that stubborn individualistic streak, might just be the thing that saves him from himself.
Visit Lindsay Ribar's website.

Writers Read: Lindsay Ribar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 12, 2016

"The Singer from Memphis"

Gary Corby is the author of the Athenian Mystery series, starring Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating twelve year old brother Socrates. The latest book in the series is The Singer from Memphis.

Corby lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife, two daughters, two ducks, two budgerigars, and a brush turkey that is almost as irritating as Socrates.

Corby applied the Page 69 Test to The Singer from Memphis and reported the following:
Our book today is The Singer From Memphis. No, that's not Memphis, Tennessee. It's Memphis, Egypt, and the date is 455BC.

Page 69 sees our heroes meet a barbarian who is about to become very important in their lives. His name is Maxyates. He is tall. The hair on one side of his head descends to his waist. The hair on the other side is shorn to the scalp. He dyes his skin bright red. Max has an interesting origin.
“You may call me Max,” the red man said.

“That’s your name?”

“My name is Maxyates. But all my friends call me Max. I choose to call you friends, despite the terrible war of aggression your people perpetrated against mine.”

“Your people?” I said, perplexed. I couldn’t recall Athens attacking any bright red people with only half their hair.

“My tribe are the descendants of Troy. After you Hellenes did your best to wipe out my ancestors, the few survivors made their way to Libya, where they started again. I am proud to call myself a child of Hector.”

If this man was a Trojan then I was the King of Persia. But there was no doubting that he was civilized.
Oddly enough, everything the strange red man says is well documented. The story of Max's people is told by Herodotus, the world's first and greatest historian. There really was a people who looked like Max, who believed they were descended from the survivors of Troy, centuries before.

It just so happens that Herodotus is one of the characters in this book, and Herodotus is present in the room when Max says the lines above.

This is a huge part of the premise of the whole book. Herodotus has hired my heroes Nico and the intelligent and charming Diotima to escort him around Egypt. During which time we watch as Herodotus goes about his business, and also as Nico goes about his business, which involves battling secret agents, fighting off pirates, wrestling crocodiles, and dealing with his most dangerous foe of all: the Public Service of Egypt.

Whether our party of adventurers manage to survive all that is what you will discover when you read The Singer From Memphis.
Visit Gary Corby's blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Singer from Memphis.

Writers Read: Gary Corby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 11, 2016

"Dead Is Best"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry. They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Dead is Best, and reported the following:
My page 69 has only two sentences which end a scene in which my ghostly protagonist and the ghost dog observe a family meeting with the dead man's lawyer to go over his will.

Anyone opening the book to this page (and the one that precedes it) would learn that the dead man was murdered and that he doesn't know who killed him or why; that his murder was overkill--six gunshots; and that the police have no idea who killed him. Also that his family isn't as crushed by his murder as they might be and that he hates his brother.

The reader would also see how the dead dog enjoys exploring the world of the living now that she is freed from its constraints.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"Seven Days Dead"

John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, who has written numerous novels and plays, all to extraordinary acclaim. His Émile Cinq-Mars crime series has been published around the world and cited by Booklist as "one the best series in crime fiction today", while Die Zeit in Germany suggested that it might be the best series ever.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Seven Days Dead, the newest novel in the Émile Cinq-Mars series, and reported the following:
Rather neatly, page 69 of Seven Days Dead provides a major clue to the novel’s title. I’ve replaced the name of the character in this excerpt to avoid a spoiler for readers.
The stark eyes, the flat hair, the slack jaw—it’s as though he’s not looking at the man he knew as Character’s Name, or even at his corpse. For some reason, out here on the edge of this field, it feels as though he’s looking at his skeletal remains. At his skull. As though the man’s been dead for a week. The pestering birds may have created that effect, but hanging on a tree trunk that way, he more closely resembles a scarecrow than a man. A thought that both creeps the officer out and causes him to feel particularly unnerved.
Seven Days Dead. “…dead for a week.” There’s that. More importantly, two characters are out on a cliff that is known to have the oldest exposed rock on the planet, and so has been named Seven Days Work. The condition of the corpse ravaged by birds and animals, combined with the name of the precipice, gave me the title.

One of two men in the scene is Wade Louwagie, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who suffers from a serious case of PTSD. He has more or less been banished to a remote island in the Gulf of Maine known as Grand Manan. The other man with him where a body has been located is Aaron Roadcap, a killer’s son, someone who lives off the grid, and who, despite alerting the police to the victim, is a suspect in the murder. On this page, Louwagie must request his suspect’s cooperation, which creates an unusual dynamic. He needs him to intercept those who are on their way to help, then guide them to the scene of the crime, while the officer stays behind to protect the corpse from further carnage. The two have a verbal joust over whether this cooperation is indicative of a man’s innocence or guilt, and the mutual distrust between the accused and the accuser is on display.

Naturally, I hope that any reader skimming the page will read on. The dynamic between the pair is an interesting one, and the eviscerated corpse is indicative of dire straits. The novel’s hero is not on the page, but the book depends significantly on island characters and their histories, and on how they get along, which is touched upon here.
Visit Trevor Ferguson's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue