Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Cheating for the Chicken Man"

Priscilla Cummings’s books include the highly acclaimed The Red Kayak and The Journey Back.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Cheating for the Chicken Man, and reported the following:
Thirteen-year-old Kate Tyler is not one to get riled too easily. But she’s fed up, and she’s desperate. The boy who bullied her brother in middle school has started it again in high school by stringing up a banner in the hallway that reads, “The Chicken Man Returns.” It’s a cruel reference to Kate’s brother, J.T., who lives on a Maryland chicken farm and has just returned after a year in juvenile detention eager to put the past behind and make a fresh start. Kate has torn the banner off the hallway walls and stormed into the school office to report the bully’s cruel act, determined to get immediate action. But instead of asking for the bully’s name, the secretary hands Kate a form to fill out.

On Page 69 Kate is furious:
“But you have to do something now!”

The secretary held up both hands. “Take your time. Fill out the form and bring it back. That is the protocol. We need the form.”

Protocol. That word again: the rules of appropriate behavior. “But this boy –“

“Look,” the secretary’s voice was firm when she cut Kate off. “Give us the information we need, and we’ll follow up on it.”

“What about the banner?” Kate asked, gently lifting the pile of papers.

But the secretary had moved on down the counter to the next student, who couldn’t’ get his locker open.

Kate was a mix of anger, frustration, and now, disappointment. Pressed together, her lips made a tight line....
This excerpt from Page 69 is a crucial turning point in the story because Kate realizes the establishment is not going to do anything to protect her brother. She will need to do it herself. And it won't be easy. She’ll have to set aside cherished principles and put her own future on the line.
Visit Priscilla Cummings's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2015

"Darkness the Color of Snow"

Thomas Cobb is the author of Crazy Heart, which was adapted into a 2009 Academy Award-winning film starring Jeff Bridges, and Shavetail, among other books.

Cobb applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Darkness the Color of Snow, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Darkness the Color of Snow is the end of the chapter in which patrolman Ronald Forbert of the Lydell Police Department writes his report on the traffic stop two nights before in which his ex friend was killed in a horrific accident. Or was it an accident?

Two of the other major characters—Police Chief Gordon Hawkins and Sergeant Pete Mancuso discuss the effect of the accident on Forbert, who is a young, relatively inexperienced policeman. They worry that perhaps Forbert will take too much blame for the event onto himself, which, of course, he will. The Chief responds that Forbert has a “good head and a good heart,” which is true, but raises questions about how much stress a “good head” and a “good heart” are capable of handling. And that’s one of the main issues that Darkness deals with.
Learn more about the author and his work at Thomas Cobb's website.

The Page 69 Test: Shavetail.

My Book, The Movie: Crazy Heart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"From Where I Watch You"

Shannon Grogan is a 2nd grade teacher who writes at night, and at Starbucks or the library while her kids are at ballet and baseball, in a tiny logging town east of Seattle, WA. She holds degrees in education and graphic design/illustration. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she likes baking (gluten-free), shopping at Target, losing to her kids at Skip Bo or Apples to Apples, camping, or wishing she was on a beach. But usually she’s reading, or watching scary movies like Jaws, or reality TV like Cake Boss or Long Island Medium.

Grogan applied the Page 69 Test to her new YA thriller, From Where I Watch You, and reported the following:
Page 69 absolutely is representative of the whole book! Phew!

My main character Kara is sitting with Charlie (her lifetime crush, who is back in town with secrets of his own) at El Diablo coffee shop in Seattle, arguing about Kara’s plans for the future, which includes her plan to ‘run away’ to San Francisco to enter a national baking contest in the hopes of earning a scholarship to pastry school.

Page 69 not only reminds the reader of Kara’s plans to escape her collapsed family life, but it also reminds us that she has a stalker, and a love interest building.

I’ll insert one quote from the page, which is a thought Kara is having while Charlie prods about her plan:

The “alone” in his sentence makes me think of the notes, and I wonder if whoever wrote them is watching us right now.
Visit Shannon Grogan's website.

My Book, The Movie: From Where I Watch You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"The Einstein Prophecy"

Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, television writer (Charmed, Sliders, Poltergeist: the Legacy) and the bestselling author of many novels and nonfiction books, including Blood and Ice, The Medusa Amulet, and The Romanov Cross. His most recent supernatural thriller, The Einstein Prophecy, occupied the # 1 slot in the Amazon Kindle story for much of July. He lives and works in Santa Monica, CA.

Masello applied the Page 69 Test to The Einstein Prophecy and reported the following:
Page 69, in this instance, is pretty short, as it contain only the last words of the chapter. But I think it’s still enough to offer a glimpse into the book.

We find ourselves in the Princeton University Art Museum, where the custodian, working late at night to clean up the conservation room after the installation of a mysterious and ancient sarcophagus, is suddenly attacked by a swarm of bats flying through a broken window. He flees outside, but the bats relentlessly follow.
The bats came down on him like a hard brown rain, wings spread, claws distended, tiny fangs shining . . . Minutes later, their work done, they rose again, and spun off above the treetops of the garden, toward the gleaming white belfry of Nassau Hall, over the top of FitzRandolph Gate, and then down the moonlit, sleeping streets of the town, like heralds proclaiming the arrival of their king.
However short, the page still touches on many of the book’s most significant elements. The story takes place in 1944, when the sarcophagus (or ossuary) is sent to Princeton by the OSS for intense and urgent study. As it happens, Albert Einstein, who fled the Nazis years before, is a resident of the town. At the time, he was on the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study there. How the sarcophagus wound up in Princeton, and what it contains, is at the core of the book, which revolves around the creation of the atomic bomb on one level, and the unending war between good and evil on another. It’s a mix of physics and theology, quantum mechanics and Middle Eastern archaeology, and, I hope, it tells an entertaining (and scary) story at the same time that it touches on some larger questions of morality and the ultimate destiny of humankind.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Masello's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blood and Ice.

The Page 69 Test: The Medusa Amulet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"The Wolf Wilder"

Katherine Rundell is the author of Rooftoppers, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms (a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner), and The Wolf Wilder. She grew up in Zimbabwe, Brussels, and London, and is currently a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. She begins each day with a cartwheel and believes that reading is almost exactly the same as cartwheeling: it turns the world upside down and leaves you breathless. In her spare time, she enjoys walking on tightropes and trespassing on the rooftops of Oxford colleges.

Rundell applied the Page 69 Test to The Wolf Wilder and reported the following:
From page 69:
Feo wasn’t sure what to say. The boy wasn’t looking at her. He was looking at the pup, who was accidentally tasting snow for the first time. The pup sneezed: tiny, doll-sized sneezes.

She said, ‘I’m Feo, actually. Not Feodora.’

‘Feo. Can I touch it, Feo?’

‘Him. He’s a boy. It’s really up to Tenderfoot, not me.’

But Ilya’s face was so hopeful it hurt her chest to look at him, and she shrugged.

‘If you make sure she can always see your hands, she won’t bite. They get nervous when they can’t see both your hands.’

He quivered from boots to cap as he stroked the wolf. Feo watched him. His eyelashes were so blond they were almost invisible, and they were covered in snow. There was a scar on one eyelid.
The Wolf Wilder is about bravery, and about love and, most of all, about wolves, so page 69 is pretty representative: it describes the birth of a newborn wolf pup. Feodora lives alone with her mother in the Russian wilderness, and when the world intrudes on their peace in the form of the Imperial Army and a General with a vendetta against them, she has to decide who to trust, and learn how to make her way in the world alone. I wanted the book to be about where bravery comes from, and about the animal core in all of us, and why it might be worth in always staying a little wild. I spent some time with wolves in researching the book, and they're electric - they have muscles like no other creature I've encountered, and, as it says in the book - they're beautiful, unpredictable creatures: the witches of the animal world.
Visit Katherine Rundell's Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"The Flying Circus"

Susan Crandall is a critically acclaimed author of women’s fiction, romance, and suspense. She has written several award-winning novels including her first book, Back Roads, which won the RITA award for best first book, as well as Whistling Past the Graveyard, which won the SIBA 2014 Book Award for Fiction.

Crandall applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Flying Circus, and reported the following:
I was quite intrigued by this idea, the litmus test of a particular page representing the whole of the book. So take a read and then I’ll give you my assessment of “The Page 69 Test” in the case of The Flying Circus:
He got up and walked around.

He looked in the little copse of trees. No Cora. No Mercury.

Standing by the Jenny, he heard something. A soft, piglike snuffle.

He climbed up on the wing. Cora was asleep in the cockpit, Mercury curled on her lap. Cora was doing the snoring. The dog looked up and cocked his head.

“Bet you need to visit the doggie outhouse,” he whispered as he lifted the dog from her lap. There, under the dog, clenched in her hand was the hammer they used to drive the stakes. Maybe she wasn’t as brave…or as foolish…as Henry had thought.

He climbed quietly back down and set the dog off to take care of his business and went to take care of a little of his own. When he came back out of the trees, Cora was standing next to Gil, who seemed to be ignoring her as if she had really succumbed to Henry’s will and disappeared in the night.

“Well, are we entertaining here today, or moving on?” she asked brightly. “I personally think we should move on. Get a nice early start. Maybe head to Lafayette. You know those engineering students at Purdue will be wild for a plane ride.”

With a cigarette in dangling from the corner of his mouth, Gil kept his eyes on the newspaper. “I am an aviator. I do not ‘entertain.’”

Entertainment, excitement, spectacle—call it what you will—was exactly what Gil sold. Henry’s short acquaintance with Gil had given him enough insight into the man that he understood Gil viewed selling rides as a means to an end. That end was simple, to keep his plane filled with fuel and his feet off the ground. Regular meals resided as a distant third.

And Purdue? Cora clearly wasn’t using good logic. Plenty of towns were closer that would require less fuel to reach and still had more than enough people for a good crowd. And those university kids—Henry didn’t feel at all good about going and mixing with them. Farm folk he understood. Of course, he kept all of these thoughts tight inside. His only concern now was making sure he was in the cockpit of that Jenny when it left here.
Surprisingly to me, it does give a nice slice of the whole. Although only it only scratches the surface, of course, as any single page can.

This book is about three misfits on the run in 1923. Mutual need bands them together in a traveling daredevil act while their conflicting goals and deeply concealed secrets threaten to tear them apart. This story is about the cobbling together of a family from lives demolished by circumstance. It’s a deeper examination of the times; anti-German sentiment bred by the Great War, women’s rights, union strikes, and the damaged returning war veterans. All of this is filtered through the adventure of a lifetime as these three (and a stray mutt) barnstorm their way across the heartland. In this adventure of aerial stunts and daredevil dangers, they discover that the truth can be the most dangerous thing of all.
Visit Susan Crandall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2015


Nicole Galland's novels include The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago; and Godiva. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.

Galland applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Stepdog, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…I realized with a sinking feeling I’d be earning the green card by spending much of the coming dark New England winter being stalked by a dog in someone else’s small apartment.

Sara greenlighted me on adding a sports package to the cable so I could at least catch some footy and watch Manchester United trounce Liverpool. It took the dog awhile to get used to my shouting at the telly and dancing a jig when United beat Liverpool…. John Henry, Mr. Owner of the Red Sox, put me in a difficult position when he bought Liverpool F.C. – the playoffs were beginning and although Sara was not into sports, everyone in Boston is into the Red Sox. There’s a rule or something. We agreed not to discuss it. But under my guidance, the dog developed a healthy respect for Man United. Not that I talked to her about it; only Americans and Brits discuss sports with their dogs. I talked directly to the television, loudly, and was gratified that she was interested in what I had to say to it.

Rain finally stopped. And after what felt like an eternity, the sun came out… A gorgeous autumn was unfurling in New England. One benefit of being at Sara’s was its proximity to Arnold Arboretum. Imagine all the best parks in all the British Isles got dumped together into one place on the outskirts of Boston – and we lived walking distance from the front gate. I went back to walking there every day. The colors were starting, the air was loaded with cool autumn scents and full of thriving birdlife, almost like the rurals in Ireland.

But the days were getting shorter, and that led to a new canine-related tension…
Stepdog’s page 69 contains no actual scene, and in fact, if I were to single out any one passage to create the wrong impression of the narrator, this would be it. The whole page functions as a cross-fade from the relationship's summer “honeymoon phase" into its autumnal "sophomore slump." The premise of the story – based on our real-life marriage! – is that Rory (an Irish actor) falls precipitously in love with his friend Sara just as his performance visa runs out. They have an impulsive, secret marriage-of-convenience so he can get a green card… and remarkably, the only source of tension in their marriage is her over–attachment to her dog.

On page 69, Rory has just moved into Sara’s apartment, but can’t legally work, so he’s home all day with the dog. Thus he’s newly at loose ends and fairly pathetic – it’s the only moment in the book where he displays the slightest interest in what’s on television, and as you can see in the excerpt, he’s completely preoccupied with it. It’s in sharp contrast to how he is throughout the rest of the book, where he’s generally a playful smart–ass, an extrovert who loves to stay engaged with the world around him. So I wouldn’t recommend page 69 as representative of the story. I would, rather, recommend anything a few pages later, once Rory (more characteristically) stops whining and comes up with some creative solutions to his woes.

Solutions which, it turns out, cause the crisis that is the second half of the story.
Visit Nicole Galland's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Gone Cold"

Douglas Corleone is the author of contemporary crime novels and international thrillers. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.

Corleone’s highly acclaimed international thriller Good As Gone introduced former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk, and was followed by Payoff, which Booklist called “a lean, mean, pedal-to-the-metal thriller.”

Corleone applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Gone Cold, and reported the following:
Happy to report that Gone Cold passes the Page 69 Test. In the third Simon Fisk thriller, the former US Marshal has recommitted himself to learning what happened to his daughter Hailey after she was abducted twelve long years ago. After receiving a grainy image of a young woman wanted for murder in Ireland, Simon sets off again for Europe in the hopes of finding that young woman, who may or may not be Hailey Fisk. Page 69 finds Simon in a Glasgow pub with Zoey Carlyle, another woman from Simon’s sordid past. To avoid spoilers, I won’t reveal her identity, but suffice it to say, Simon Fisk learns more about his past – particularly his distant past – than he bargained for when he initially boarded that plane from DC to Dublin to find his daughter.
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website.

The Page 69 Test: Good as Gone.

My Book, The Movie: Payoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Bright Lights, Dark Nights"

Stephen Emond is the creator of the Emo Boy comic series, two illustrated young adult novels, Happyface and Winter Town, and Steverino, a comic strip that ran in his local Connecticut newspaper.

Emond applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Bright Lights, Dark Nights, and reported the following:
Page 69 is an excellent representation of Bright Lights, Dark Nights! It’s a scene of Walter and Naomi dancing at a Foo Fighters concert, before the concert ends and the arena is “all theirs.” While a lot of the press on the book has been about the larger issues of race and police in urban communities, the book to me is mostly about first loves and meeting that special person who makes you someone new. The first half of the book especially has a lot of scenes like this, of Walter and Naomi discovering themselves and each other, before heavier themes introduce themselves toward the mid-way point.
Visit Stephen Emond's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Between the Living and the Dead"

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

Crider applied the Page 69 Test to Between the Living and the Dead, the 22nd Dan Rhodes Mystery, and reported the following:
Once again I have failed to provide an explosion or even a shooting on page 69 of my new book. When will I learn? However, this time page 69 does happen to be the beginning of a chapter (Chapter 7, to be precise), so at least it’s not the middle of something. Here are the opening lines:
Vicki’s eyes widened at Rhodes’s words. “Neil’s dead?”

Rhodes nodded. Vicki didn’t seem to be unhappy about it.

“Who did it?” she asked after a second or two.

“I was hoping you might be able to help me with that,” Rhodes said. “Maybe you know someone who might want to kill him.”

“I didn’t go out with him that much,” Vicki said. “Just a few times. You know what he did to me. If I could’ve killed him then, I might’ve done it myself, but I’m over that now.”
For those with short memories or who (heaven forfend!) haven’t kept up with the books in the Sheriff Rhodes series, Vicki was left naked and afraid on the side of a road in a previous book by a drug­-dealing charmer. Now he’s a murder victim, so the sheriff, who gallantly rescued Vicki from her roadside contretemps, now has to question her about the killing.

So while there’s no explosion, there’s suspicion, a bit of suspense, and a potential suspect. Did she or didn’t she? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Compound Murder, and Half in Love with Artful Death.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes and Seepy Benton on the big screen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 17, 2015


Naomi J. Williams was born in Japan and spoke no English until she was six years old. Her debut novel, Landfalls, is a fictionalized account of the 18th-century Lapérouse expedition that left Brest in 1785 with two frigates, more than two hundred men, and overblown Enlightenment ideals and expectations, in a brave attempt to circumnavigate the globe for science and the glory of France.

Williams applied the Page 69 Test to Landfalls and reported the following:
Every chapter of Landfalls has a different narrator and different style, so any given page might only be representative of that section. Given that, page 69 comes in the middle of the longest chapter in the book, a chapter that could almost stand alone as a novella. It’s called “Concepción” and re-imagines the three weeks that the Lapérouse expedition spent in Chile in 1786.

This particular page does seem fairly representative of “Concepción,” in that you’ve got the expedition’s two captains talking (they interact with each other more in this chapter than in any other part of the book). And I’d hope readers who randomly dropped in here would be inspired to read on. We’ve got a crewmember being confined to his quarters for 48 hours and another crewmember taken seriously ill and the page concluding on the verge of a revelation about yet another problem on board.

Perhaps my favorite line on this page is where one captain says, of the sick man, “Let’s hope it’s our first and only death.” That line will quickly come to seem ironic and sad.
Visit Naomi J. Williams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"The Eternal World"

Christopher Farnsworth is the author of the bestselling Nathaniel Cade series, about a vampire who works for the President of the United States. Called “the best debut vampire novel in many years” and “dazzlingly clever” by critics, the books have been optioned by producer Lucas Foster (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Man on Fire, Law-Abiding Citizen) and have been translated into nine languages and published in over a dozen countries. His latest book is The Eternal World, about the Fountain of Youth.

Farnsworth applied the Page 69 Test to The Eternal World and reported the following:
I got lucky with this one. Page 69 of The Eternal World is the end of a conversation between Simon, the conquistador who discovered the Fountain of Youth over 500 years ago, and his trusted lieutenant, Max. Today, as far as the world knows, they are corporate executives. But in private, they can drop all pretense and speak openly. They’re arguing, as they often have in their long lives, over Shako, the Native American woman who is the sole survivor of the tribe that the conquistadors slaughtered to gain control of the Fountain. She has her own supply of the Fountain’s youth-restoring water, and she’s been hunting them for centuries in her quest for revenge. She’s also Simon’s former lover.

From Page 69:
“You think I haven’t tried to kill her?”

Max weighed his next words carefully. “I don’t think you’re displeased that she is still breathing.”

“Perhaps I simply find her useful.”

“My friend, she will bury us all if she gets the chance.”

Simon made a dismissive noise. “You have always been too afraid of her.”

Max seemed tired as he shook his head at Simon. “How many times do I have to say this? She is not the woman you knew all those years ago. She has had a long time to become someone else entirely. We all have. You want to remember the girl she was, and you forget everything she’s done since. For your sake, I hope she is as sentimental as you the next time she has your head in her sights. At your age, nostalgia can be fatal.”

“Well,” Simon said, “no one lives forever.”
This short passage sums up much of the conflict in the book. These men have done extraordinary things and committed terrible crimes. They have lived for centuries and seen history unfold as eyewitnesses. And now that they are running out of the Fountain’s water, and Shako is closer than ever to killing them, they are facing the prospect of true death.

And yet, Simon still cannot think of himself as truly mortal. He still has more he wants to do. He can’t bring himself to believe his long, unnatural life will ever end.

Max knows better. The past catches up to everyone eventually. And they both have so much of it, ready to devour them if they ever stop running.
Learn more about the book and author at Christopher Farnsworth's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Oath.

--Marshal Zeringue