Friday, July 31, 2015

"The Last Pilot"

Benjamin Johncock was born in England in 1978. His short stories have been published by The Fiction Desk and The Junket. He is the recipient of an Arts Council England grant and the American Literary Merit Award, and is a winner of Comma Press's National Short Story Day competition. He also writes for the Guardian. He lives in Norwich, England, with his wife, his daughter, and his son.

Johncock applied the Page 69 Test to The Last Pilot, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Last Pilot is a curious one, as it contains the only flashback of the entire novel. I’m not a fan of flashbacks, hence why this is the only one. Before this, however, we see two characters talking about the aftermath of Sputnik, with one—Reverend Irving—deeply concerned about escalating global events:
This country has always been protected by the vast oceans that surround it. Imagine if that could be breached, at any time, in minutes, by a Sputnik carrying an atomic bomb? What if it could shower us with radiation like a crop-duster as it passes overhead?
Grace isn’t so sure, but Irving is fearful and panicked, much like the Administration:
Only last week the Soviets launched another Sputnik—Mechta, whatever that means—that flew to the moon, then into orbit around the sun. The sun! How are they doing this? How are they doing these things before us? McCormack’s right, you know, we’re facing national extinction if we don’t catch up, and catch up soon. We simply must capture the high ground of space. Our survival— the free world, the church—depends on it.
It’s hard to appreciate now, with Earth orbit like an international freeway, the deep fear that the launch of a mere satellite provoked. Johnson said that control of space meant control of the world: “The power to control the Earth’s weather, to cause drought and flood, to change the tides and raise the levels of the sea, to direct the Gulf Stream and change temperate climates to frigid.”

It was the beginning of the space race.

As Irving says, “It’s a battle, Grace. It’s a battle for the heavens. It’s good versus evil and we’re on the front line.”

Or, as a radio announcer put it, at the time Sputnik was passing overhead, beeping down at the sleeping United States, listen now for the sound that forevermore separates the old from the new.
Visit Benjamin Johncock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"What the Fly Saw"

Frankie Y. Bailey, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY), is the author of mysteries as well as non-fiction titles that explore the intersections of crime, history, and popular culture. She is a Macavity Award-winner and has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha awards.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What the Fly Saw, the second Detective Hannah McCabe mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Baxter waved his hand and the jazz musicians swung into action with “When the Saints Come Marching In”.

“Guy had a sense of humor,” Baxter said, waving his hand again to close the hologram.

“Yes, he did.” Wyatt said. “Shall we sit down?”

They took seats around the small table in the corner. As his secretary had said, Kevin Novak was tidy. Nothing on the table.

“Reverend Wyatt,” McCabe said. “Dr. Burdett was able to give us some sense of what had been troubling Mr. Novak without violating the obligation he felt to preserve doctor-patient confidentiality. We know Mr. Novak felt some guilt about his friend’s death and was depressed. We know you referred Mr. Novak to Dr. Burdett.”

“Yes, I thought Jonathan was better equipped than I was to offer the counseling I sensed Kevin needed.”

“But apparently -- from what his wife said -- he was still troubled. So troubled she was concerned about him.”

“I think Sarah’s perception is probably more accurate than mine, or even Jonathan’s. I’m practically a newlywed compared to her and Kevin, but I have learned it’s much easier to present a brave face to the world than to your spouse.”

“Of course, it seems other people were also concerned about Mr. Novak,” McCabe said, taking the opportunity to go in another direction. “Dr. Burdett showed us a tag Mr. Novak had sent him on Saturday. Apparently, when he was at the celebration for Olive Cooper, she was concerned enough to suggest Mr. Novak attend a séance with a medium.”

Wyatt grimaced. “If she meant that Woodward woman, I hope she was joking.”
Page 69 is representative of the rest of the book in that we see police detectives Hannah McCabe and her partner, Mike Baxter, going about their investigation. The tone here is somber because they are in the home of the victim, funeral director, Kevin Novak. Kevin’s wife, Sarah, has gone upstairs to be alone for a few minutes and think about how she is going to break the news to their daughter, Megan. Megan is on her way home. Her brother has gone to pick her up from a sleepover at a friend’s house.

McCabe and Baxter are using Kevin’s study to interview Reverend Wyatt, the minister of the megachurch to which Kevin belonged. The minister and Dr. Burdett, a psychiatrist and family counselor, were there when the detectives arrived. They questioned Burdett first. Now it is Wyatt’s turn. They are trying to get some sense of who might have wanted Kevin dead. They also want to know more about the minister.

As this scene hints, the styles of the two detectives are different. Baxter, the rookie (who spent some time working Vice) tends to be irreverent. McCabe is more serious. Their different styles actually mesh well together. In this second book in the series, they have been partners for about four months. But there is a thread of tension in their relationship that McCabe becomes aware of again later in the book.

Keep in mind that the year is 2020, the near future, and this Albany, New York exist in an alternative version of our world. But the book itself is a police procedural not science fiction.
Visit Frankie Y. Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Nova"

Margaret Fortune wrote her first story at the age of six and has been writing ever since.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Nova, and reported the following:
I turned to page 69, and I immediately laughed. Every book has a little back story here and there, and what do you know? This is where I put mine!

Nova is the story of Lia Johansen, a genetically engineered human bomb sent to strike a blow in an ongoing galactic war by slipping onto a rival space station and exploding. However, her mission goes awry when her countdown clock freezes two minutes from detonation. Page 69 is where we find out a bit about this war:
By the time the Celestians caught up, Telluria already had a warship in range, ready to blow them out of space if they even attempted to go planetside. Back-up quickly massed for both sides, and the stand-off began. Of course, a battle over the planet itself is out of the question. Can’t risk hurting the very merchandise they’re fighting over. So both sides kept ships stationed around the planet to keep their rival from sending anyone else down, and took their territorial war back into the inhabited universe, each side trying to inflict enough damage to make the other cry uncle. Just business as usual.
Page 69 is half prose and half dialogue, as the characters discuss the war, its causes, and whether they think the current ceasefire will last. Lia is a silent observer, listening as the others debate the war even as she knows the ceasefire is a sham. After all, people who want peace don’t send human bombs to blow up space stations.
“All I’m saying is, maybe the Tellurians are really serious about peace this time. I mean, if they’re willing to free prisoners and open the negotiations over New Earth—”

“Seriously, Michael?” Teal snorts. “That’s what you think is going on? Everyone has decided to play nice?”

“Why not? They’ve made plenty of peace treaties in the past.”

“Yeah, and how long have those ever lasted?”
While this page contains important information, it isn’t particularly representative of the book. Nova is written in first person, present tense, and as such the prose is immediate and intimate, giving the reader a front row seat to Lia’s thoughts and feelings. Yet this page gives us nothing of the main character, instead focusing on back story and the byplay between two side characters. While I stand behind everything I write, if I had to give out one page to a potential reader, this isn’t the one I’d choose. (Maybe page 134...?)
Visit Margaret Fortune's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Scents and Sensibility"

Spencer Quinn is the author of the Chet and Bernie mystery novels: Dog on It, Thereby Hangs a Tail, To Fetch a Thief, The Dog Who Knew Too Much, A Fistful of Collars, The Sound and the Furry, and Paw and Order. He lives on Cape Cod with his dogs Audrey and Pearl. When not keeping them out of mischief, he is hard at work on the next Chet and Bernie mystery.

Quinn applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Scents and Sensibility, the eighth book in the Chet and Bernie series, and reported the following:
Hard to imagine a human story of any kind without conflict, and there's plenty of it on page 69 of Scents and Sensibility. In fact, this conflict - between P.I. Bernie Little and Detective Brick Mickles, former colleagues at Valley PD (all of this seen through the eyes of Chet, Bernie's partner throughout the series) - lies at the heart of the story, although we don't know it yet. Mickles is no cardboard cut-out bad cop - he's smart and funny, and comfortable with words like "nemesis." His understanding of Bernie - "the self-destructive type" - makes a certain amount of sense. The scene on page 69 is all about building tension. On the surface, the two men keep it together, but underneath - well, let's have Chet take it from here, where scents make the most sense.
When two dudes are right on the point of throwing down – meaning two human dudes, although a similar thing happens in my world – you can’t miss a sudden smell that comes rising off both of them, and now we had it big-time. I could feel their muscles loading up – mine, too! – and could also feel their hate for one another, hate being something you hardly ever saw from Bernie. I made sure my weight was nicely balanced, all set for whatever needed doing.
Visit Chet the Dog's blog and Facebook page, and Spencer Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Audrey (September 2011).

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Pearl (August 2012).

Writers Read: Spencer Quinn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Artemis Invaded"

Jane Lindskold is the bestselling author of the Firekeeper series, which began with Through Wolf’s Eyes and concluded with Wolf’s Blood, as well as many other fantasy novels. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Lindskold applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Artemis Invaded, the second book in the Artemis Awakening series, and reported the following:
Starting a page in the middle, not only of a scene, but also of a sentence is a challenge. I’ll admit it.

If I were the person browsing Artemis Invaded in a bookstore, I’d glance back to the previous page. There I’d see a dingbat telling me that the scene started there, so that’s what I’d do, too.

I like the first two sentences: “If there was ever a time Adara was reminded that Griffin had not been born on Artemis, it was when he said something like ‘scout the base of the mountain.’ Clearly, he had no idea how complicated the base of a mountain could be.”

Even for someone who hasn’t glanced at the dust jacket, this tells so much. Griffin is not native to Artemis. Adara is. Adara, however, has come to accept Griffin because she needs to be “reminded” that he isn’t local. This says a lot about both how well Griffin has adapted and Adara’s willingness to accept him as a person, alien or not.

In the next paragraph, Adara provides a swift, vivid description of why mountains are complicated to search, ending with “So it was that Adara did not set out on this very generalized search with a great deal of confidence.”

Searches interest me. They're mysteries in miniature.

Page 69 itself picks up with the search. Almost immediately, there’s conflict.
As they began their search, Sand Shadow was a bit peevish. Explaining to her why they were searching for nothing Adara could precisely define had been difficult. All the puma had gathered was that the end result of their quest would be Griffin’s departure. Since Sand Shadow liked Griffin – she had adopted him as her favorite playmate when they were in Spirit Bay – a search that would end up with her losing her ‘toy’ did not seem worth the effort.
The paragraph pays double because a reader will learn – without having read anything else and without any repetition on my part (as writer) that the goal of the search is something that will take Griffin (not-native) away from Artemis.

So, transportation oriented. Readers who realize that Artemis is a planet will guess that what is being sought is high-tech. If they are familiar with the previous novel, they’ll realize how rare – indeed, how nearly impossible to find – such is on Artemis.

Page 69 ends with a little gem about how Adara and Sand Shadow met – and the nature of their relationship.

So, mystery, conflict, backstory… All in about a page and a half. I’d keep reading!
Visit Jane Lindskold's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Artemis Awakening.

Writers Read: Jane Lindskold.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2015

"The Perfect Son"

Barbara Claypole White writes love stories about damaged people. She grew up in rural England, studied history at York University, and worked in London fashion before marrying an American professor she met at JFK airport. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden and The In-Between Hour.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Perfect Son, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The interstate petered out into a road that bumped over a metal drawbridge and crossed the Intracoastal Waterway. Clouds consumed the Carolina-blue sky, and the world turned gray. He had reached the end.

Felix parked in an empty lot and, tugging up the collar of his donkey jacket, headed toward the roar of the Atlantic Ocean. If Tom were alive, he would applaud.

The beach and pier were deserted but for a handful of spindly-legged birds skittering in and out of the ocean. His Dr. Martens sank into waterlogged sand, and he became a blip—a tiny, colorless ant in a world without horizons. Monstrous gray waves reared up, crashed apart, and re-formed to barrel forward with the force of a marauding army. The sun appeared for a moment and cast his shadow across the sand, creating a distorted Felix with grotesquely long legs. Next to his left foot, the water had regurgitated the rotting carcass of a pelican.

Wind rustled the sea oats with a tinkling like chimes, but the moment he turned and walked away from the pier, it battered his eardrums and stole his breath. His eyes stung as if pelted by Lilliputian spears. Felix trudged across sand the color of wet concrete. With each step, he could have been dragging chains.

He zigzagged onto a thick layer of shells that crunched and splintered under his boots. Walking became easier, and he marched across the flat grayness as if he were the last soldier on a battlefield.

Mad dogs and Englishmen.

Except not even a stray dog was crazy enough to walk on the beach in this weather. There was no one around, just the mad Englishman.
The page 69 test rocks! Yes, the above section is representative of the rest of The Perfect Son. It tells us a great deal about my flawed, conflicted hero, and it showcases my love of setting. With the wind and the waves roaring at each other, a deserted winter beach echoes Felix’s mood.

When we meet Felix Fitzwilliam, he’s a workaholic trapped in rigid, judgmental thinking. More of an antihero, Felix is about order, reserve, control, and perfection. He’s detached from the emotional life of his family and unable to deal with his chaotic son, who has ADHD and Tourette syndrome. Felix survived a dysfunctional childhood in a wealthy English family because his big brother Tom—whose death still haunts him—was his protector. Now Felix is facing the possibility that his wife could die, and he’s terrified. After leaving her hospital room in Raleigh, North Carolina, he drives until the land runs out at Wrightsville Beach.

This scene seems to pit Felix against nature as he stares at the churning Atlantic Ocean and vows to do whatever is necessary to protect his family. The journey he’s about to embark on—as a full-time parent—will push him beyond his comfort zone, opening him up to self-revelation and a sense of community. It will also reveal the truth: Felix is deeply compassionate and deeply loved—despite his flaws.
Learn more about the book and author at Barbara Claypole White's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The In-Between Hour.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"The Flicker Men"

Ted Kosmatka was born and raised in Chesterton, Indiana, and spent more than a decade working in various laboratories where he sometimes used electron microscopes. He is the author of Prophet of Bones and The Games, a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel and one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2012. His short fiction has been nominated for both the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards and has appeared in numerous Year's Best anthologies. He now lives in the Pacific Northwest and works as a writer in the video-game industry.

Kosmatka applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Flicker Men, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Her slender arm curled behind my neck. “Sound can be a flexible too. A catalyst for chemical reaction, or an inhibitor. Start with a maximum frequency density and then carve away those parts that you don’t want to hear. There’s a Mozart concerto hidden in every burst of static.”

Again, I couldn’t tell if she was joking.

I sat up in the lightless room. At that moment, in the dark, we were the same. Only when I turned the lights on would our worlds be different.

“Mornings are hardest,” I told her.

In a few hours the sun would rise. The sickness would come or not come. “It’s time for me to go.”

She ran a hand along my bare spine. She didn’t try to get me to stay.
The top of page 69 in The Flicker Men actually touches upon a theme that threads its way through the rest of the book. What is darkness to one who is blind? The Flicker Men is at least in part an exploration of the ways in which we shape our own realities out of all the potentials around us. Maybe a random burst of static contains every possible sound, just as the waves and particles that impact us and comprise us contain every possible shape of reality. Certain interpretations of quantum mechanics suggest that in some ways, we carve out what we experience and make it real through act of observation. It is not just sound that is a series of waves, after all, but matter itself on some level. Everything. Reality collapses into existence all around us.

Quantum mechanics covers the physics of the very small, but it asks the biggest questions. What is the thread count of reality, and who the weaver, if not us?
Learn more about the book and author at Ted Kosmatka's website.

Writers Read: Ted Kosmatka.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Death and Mr Pickwick"

Stephen Jarvis was born in Essex, England. After dropping out of graduate studies at Oxford University, he quickly tired of his office job and began doing unusual things every weekend and writing about them for The Daily Telegraph. These activities included learning the flying trapeze, walking on red-hot coals, getting hypnotized to revisit past lives, and entering the British Snuff-Taking Championship.

Jarvis applied the Page 69 Test to Death and Mr. Pickwick, his first novel, and reported the following:
I can say, quite definitively, that Page 69 is not typical of my novel Death and Mr Pickwick, and I don’t even have to look at the page to know that. The reason is that there is no typical page in the novel. That was deliberate.

You see, Death and Mr Pickwick tells the story of the creation and subsequent history of Charles Dickens’s first novel, The Pickwick Papers, and one of the reasons why Pickwick itself succeeded was that it took readers on a long, rolling journey, in which they were never quite sure where they would go next. I wanted my novel to parallel Pickwick, so one moment we go down into a basement to encounter a mad clown in a straitjacket, the next moment we are in a debtors’ prison to see a man who has spent thirty-two despairing years within its walls. Oh, and then we witness the bloody slaughter of an elephant.

Nor is the timescale confined to the nineteenth century, when Pickwick was created – one section is set in ancient Celtic Britain, another is set on the day that John Lennon was assassinated in 1980. There is a narrator who is a citizen of the twenty-first century.

Or take characters. There is a huge and diverse cast, as was the case with The Pickwick Papers. The main character is Dickens’s first illustrator, Robert Seymour, who shot himself shortly after starting work on the Pickwick project – and, because Seymour dies, there is a large chunk of the book where the main character does not even appear.

You might ask: “How can such a rambling novel possibly work?” All I can say is that it worked for The Pickwick Papers. Indeed, ‘worked’ doesn’t begin to convey that novel’s success. The Pickwick Papers was, quite simply, the greatest literary phenomenon in history. For almost a century, Pickwick was the most famous novel in the world, with probably only The Bible having a greater circulation. In my view, The Pickwick Papers also has the greatest backstory of any work of literature. A story of colossal success, conspiracy, and suicidal genius.

And page 69? Actually, It tells of a famous actress who caused a stampede to get into the theatre – nearly crushing a painter to death - and of a deluded beggarwoman who claimed to be the actress’s abandoned sister. Typically untypical.
Visit Stephen Jarvis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"Brutality"

Ingrid Thoft was born in Boston and is a graduate of Wellesley College. Her interest in the PI life and her desire to create a believable PI character led her to the certificate program in private investigation at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle with her husband.

Thoft applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Brutality, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“You act like you don’t approve of my methods, but secretly, you think I’m a stellar investigator.”

“Whatever you need to tell yourself,” he said. “See ya.”

He waddled over to the edge of the rink and stepped onto the ice. Fina hightailed it to her car and sat for a moment letting the hot air blow over her, reassessing her earlier conclusion: Even a little bit of Cristian was worth freezing her ass off.

Fina decided to make a stop before heading home and pointed her car toward Newton. The MetroWest suburb was one of the wealthiest in the region, but it also had its share of ranch houses and Cape Cods. Fifty-six Wellspring Street was one of those ranch houses, with a tidy yard and flagpole by the door that always held a season-appropriate flag. Fina pulled over in front of the house and swore at the sight that greeted her.

Once she was out of her car, she hollered at the man in the driveway. “What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Frank Gillis responded.

“It looks like you’re trying to have a heart attack!” Fina went over and took the shovel out of his hand. “First of all, you’re not supposed to be shoveling. Second of all, I don’t even understand what you’re shoveling. This is all going to melt in a day or two.”

“There was a little patch of ice, and I didn’t want the mail carrier to slip.”

“Stop worrying about everyone else.” Fina gently nudged him toward the front door, where she leaned the shovel against the house. “If Peg sees you doing this, she’ll kill you.”

Frank Gillis was the former Ludlow and Associates investigator who’d taught Fina everything she knew—except for the illegal stuff, which she’d learned on her own. Frank was her professional mentor, and he and his wife, Peg, were her second family. They filled the hole in her life created by Carl and Elaine’s lack of parenting skills.
My protagonist, private investigator Fina Ludlow, is independent, brave and doesn’t like to rely on others, but Page 69 in Brutality, the third Fina Ludlow book, illustrates that no man (or woman) is an island. At the top of the page, the reader catches the tail end of a conversation between Fina and Detective Cristian Menendez, her sometimes “friend with benefits.” Fina and Cristian often find themselves at cross purposes when working a case, but there is a deep affection and respect between them that weathers their professional clashes.

After leaving the municipal ice rink where Fina tries to pry information from Cristian, she heads to the home of Frank Gillis, the private investigator who serves as both professional mentor and father figure. Fina’s exasperation with Frank is indicative of her love for him. She prides herself on her resiliency, but knows that if anything were to happen to Frank, her world would be shattered. At the heart of the Fina Ludlow series is a woman in command of her own life, but who has intense connections with a chosen few, including Cristian and Frank. Fina often wrestles with her desire to blaze her own path and her need for meaningful human connections. It’s this juggling act that makes her cases fraught with all kinds of hazards.
Visit Ingrid Thoft's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 16, 2015

"Blood Will Tell"

April Henry is the New York Times-bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels Girl, Stolen; The Night She Disappeared; and The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die; and the thriller Face of Betrayal, coauthored with Lis Wiehl.

Henry applied the Page 69 Test to Blood Will Tell, the second book in her Point Last Seen series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Between Memory and Nightmare
Chapter 18


A screaming siren had torn him from his dreams. Or not dreams,exactly. He had been someplace halfway between memory and nightmare. In a place where she had made that sound, a desperate intake of breath. In a place where his knife flashed silver in the moonlight. In a place where blood steamed in the icy air.

He lay panting on his pillow. It was real. It was real. What would his mother think if she knew?

Another siren. And another and another.

Before he even got out of bed, he called in sick to work. It wasn’t really a lie. He was sick, especially when he thought about what might happen to him.

And then he waited. Waited until there were dozens of people lined up along the crime scene tape. All of them there because of what he had done, but none of them knew.

In his ball cap, he blended in. Just one more gawker. One more lookie-lou. He moved among them, but they did not know him.
Page 69 is from the point of view of the killer. The book was inspired by two real cases.

In one, a fifteen-year-old ending up being the prime suspect in a woman’s murder, and was eventually convicted of it and sent to prison. Even though there was no physical evidence linking them, the prosecutor hammered on the violent drawings the boy liked to doodle. I have seen some of the interrogation footage. He was skinny and his hair hung in his eyes.

The other case was a fascinating one, and I believe I’m the first mystery writer to use it in a book. It involved a millionaire who was tied up and robbed. He ended up smothering on the packing tape used to close his mouth. In the autopsy, the medical examiner swabbed the victim's fingertips and under his fingernails, in case he had fought with his killer. DNA was found, and it perfectly matched a known felon, who was arrested. How that DNA got there is a surprising story.

And this book and it’s sibling, The Body in the Woods, were both inspired by the Multnomah County Sheriffs Office Search and Rescue team, which is made up primarily of teens and routinely does crime scene evidence searches.
Learn more about the book and author at April Henry's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"The Joy of Killing"

Harry MacLean is a lawyer and writer based in Denver, Colorado. He is the author of In Broad Daylight, which won an Edgar Award for Best True Crime and was a New York Times bestseller for twelve weeks; his second book, Once Upon A Time: A True Story of Memory, Murder, and the Law was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and his third book, The Past Is Never Dead: The Trial of James Ford Seale and Mississippi's Search for Redemption was shortlisted for the William Saroyan Award, given by Stanford University.

MacLean applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Joy of Killing, and reported the following:
From page 69:
A cold blast of air swept up from the river. The train jerked back, and then slipped forward, screeching and creaking, wobbling back and forth. I looked around for the girl, but she’d gone back inside. Given up on me, I thought, which was probably just as well. In those few moments I had felt the constraints of the involvement, the pressure in her eyes. Now I could ride with the Ghost Riders across the devil’s endless sky, hook back up with the train bandits in their hideout in a distant canyon. The train began to roll a little faster, and the lights of the little town on the far edge of the river grew brighter, and I wondered how many people in the houses there were eating or watching TV or sleeping. I wondered why I still felt nothing, despite the bitter wind. I stood there until the train was over the bridge and the clickety-clack sound returned to normal.
Our middle-aged, slightly unstable narrator has slipped back into a memory of his train ride back from an eastern prep school when he was fourteen. An intimate encounter with a girl on the train has caused him to flee to the platform on the last car. He understands that the girl is the thread to unraveling the violent mysteries of his life, and because of this he is both drawn to and wary of her. As our narrator uncovers the story of that night on the train he comes to an understanding of the story of his life.
Visit Harry MacLean's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Joy of Killing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 12, 2015

"Let Me Explain You"

Annie Liontas' debut novel, Let Me Explain You, was selected by the ABA as an Indies Introduce Debut and Indies Next. She is the co-editor of the anthology A Manner of Being: Writers on their Mentors and the recipient of a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

Liontas applied the Page 69 Test to Let Me Explain You and reported the following:
From page 69:
“They won’t be able to help themselves,” Stavroula offered, a little breathless. “We’ll sell hundreds.”

Like that time they—she and July—bungled the produce order and got six times the amount of blackberries they should have. What had happened was, she posted a note for blackberries. One of the other cooks posted a note for blackberries. Mr. Asbury posted a note for blackberries. July posted a note for blackberries. Stavroula approved the order for blackberries when she was “multitasking.” Inexplicably, the producer left them two more crates on top of that. By the time they realized, a return was out of the question. They froze some, they unloaded some to other restaurants, they made ice cream and pie, they delegated to glazes and marinades, they served a complimentary compote to guests, they still had a thousand blackberries left, it seemed.

The look July was giving her now didn’t match the delicacy that was July’s July. Rather, it was like the last day of the berries, when she and July surveyed the damage, the hundreds of blackberries overripened into saccharine mud, the dull and damaged skin, the loose, erupting drupelets. The soft, fine-haired mold that spread like a diseased cloth.

That day, it was not exactly disgust that July expressed when she said, “Is it too late for sorbet?” but an exhausted humor that implicated them both. Instead of throwing berries at each other or pushing one another into the sliding, skating fluids of the fruit, as Stavroula fantasized, they used a mop. They took turns wiping and rinsing, even though they could have had one of the boys take care of it. They talked about their fathers.

“Try it,” Stavroula said. She held out a fork. “You don’t like it, I’ll take it off.”
With her fingers, July took a berry with some onion.

“It’s good, right? Take another.”

July slid the menu across the counter. “Change it, Stevie, the whole thing.” She walked off in the white wedges.

Because the entire kitchen was already part of this, and because Stavroula knew it would expose her as much as she had exposed July, Stavroula called after her, “Next week we add Sorbet in Hot July.” It gave the staff permission to laugh.
One thing is clear: if page 1 is the lightning, page 69 is definitely the thunder.

Page 69 showcases the aftermath of what Stavros Stavros Mavrakis, patriarch, sets into motion on page 1 when he sends a scathing email to his daughters and ex-wife. In the letter he urges his eldest daughter Stavroula to grow out her hair—and this is all the push she needs to confess to her boss’ daughter that she’s in love with her. Stavroula, who is a chef, does this by creating a menu entirely inspired by July, whom she’s pined after for years. She attempts to woo her beloved through food (something that would definitely work on me) and begins by serving July the unique dish of onion, blackberries and feta known as July’s July. You can see from the excerpt, though, that, July is not impressed …at least, not yet.
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--Marshal Zeringue