Monday, September 15, 2014

"Six Feet Over It"

Jennifer Longo holds an M.F.A. in Writing for Theater from Humboldt State University. She credits her lifelong flair for drama to parents who did things like buy the town graveyard and put their kids to work in it-because how hilarious would that be? Turns out, pretty hilarious. Longo lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and daughter.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Six Feet Over It, her debut novel, and reported the following:
This must be some whacky party game the kids are playing at slumber parties that freaks everyone out because it is so accurate! Page 69 of Six Feet Over It completely encapsulates Leigh’s (the main character) conflict in a nutshell!

A girl called Elanor, who wants to be Leigh’s friend, is giving Leigh the inside scoop about an apparent romance blossoming between Elanor’s brother, and Leigh’s sister. All the while Elanor is talking Leigh’s in her head thinking This girl is so nice I wish I could be friends with her but then I am toxic and if she was friends with me she would probably die, and I am so happy for my sister but also I am so jealous why can’t I have fun and have a boyfriend and now I feel terrible for being jealous I am circling the drain here seriously, this Elanor person is so nice I want a friend so badly what the cripes is going on….

That’s not a quote, that’s all badly paraphrased but you get it…Wow! I am going to read page 69 of every book I pick up in the store from now on, and if I think it’s compelling I’ll buy it. Delightful! Thank you so much, and remember – badly paraphrased. The actual prose in Six Feet Over It is so much better than that. I swear. Kirkus gave it a star, I’m not kidding.
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Longo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon"

David Barnett is an award-winning journalist, currently multimedia content manager of the Telegraph & Argus, cultural reviewer for The Guardian and the Independent on Sunday, and he has done features for The Independent and Wired. He is the author of Angelglass (described by The Guardian as “stunning”), Hinterland, and popCULT!

Barnett applied the Page 69 Test to Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, the second Gideon Smith novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Lyle moved on. “And then we have Texas. It was always wild country down there. The warlords started off as British governors, but a few of them got together after the Wall was built, decided they didn’t want to pay their taxes and didn’t want to be beholden to a London that had cut them off with the Confederacy and French Louisiana. Neither did they like being told they couldn’t keep slaves. They didn’t want any part of the Confederacy, though; they wanted to live their own way. They’re godless, violent slavers, Mr. Smith, who will stop at nothing to ensure their anarchic, lawless way of life is preserved. They’re killers, ravishers. They make their own rules, and they aren’t the rules of civilized men. They take what they want and murder anyone who tries to stop them.”

Lyle fell silent, and Gideon asked, “Mr. Lyle, how much do you know about our mission?”

Lyle looked around the table. “You all have the necessary clearances?”

“Of course. You can speak freely here. I would trust Mr. Bent and Rowena with my life. Have done, many times.”

Lyle nodded, though he still seemed cautious. “I received a full briefing, of course, about what you’re doing here. From the highest authority.”

“Oh, get on with it, Lyle,” said Bent. “You can say his name. He won’t magically appear behind you. Walsingham gave you the full rundown, did he?”

Lyle appeared to relax. “Yes, Mr. Walsingham. He told me that you had secured from Egypt an ancient weapon, a fabulous brass dragon that flies and shoots fireballs, powered by unknown machinery.” Lyle shook his head. “What a marvel. What a thing. Imagine what uses such an infernal device could be put to.”

“That’s the problem, Mr. Lyle,” said Gideon. “We do imagine what it could be used for. That’s why we have to get it back.”
How strange, that page 69 pretty sums up the entire plot. Gideon Smith and his cohorts are in America to track down the stolen brass dragon, Apep (as detailed in the first book, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl), and the Governor of New York, Edward Lyle, is appraising them of the situation in the America of this alternate-timeline. To wit, the American revolution never happened. The British control the East Coast, the breakaway Japanese faction known as the Californian Meiji is on the West, and in what we know as Mexico – New Spain in this world – the Spanish still hold sway. Gideon is inevitably bound for Texas, a lawless former British colony now run by warlords, chief among them the half-man, half-machine Thaddeus Pinch, ruler of what used to be called San Antonio, but is now just “Steamtown”.

Would this make you want to read the whole book? I hope so. It gives a flavour of the alternate-history of Gideon’s world, and features three of the main characters of the entire series – Gideon, the journalist Aloysius Bent, and the airship pilot Rowena Fanshawe. I’ll be keeping a close eye on my page 69s in future!
Visit David Barnett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 12, 2014

"The Sheltering"

Mark Powell's novels include Prodigals (nominated for the Cabell First Novelist Award), Blood Kin (winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel), and The Dark Corner. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Breadloaf Writers' Conference. In 2009 he received the Chaffin Award for contributions to Appalachian literature. Powell holds degrees from Yale Divinity School, the University of South Carolina, and the Citadel. He is an associate professor of English at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and for three years taught a fiction workshop at Lawtey Correctional Institute, a level II prison in Raiford, Florida.

Powell applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Sheltering, and reported the following:
Amazingly—because who knew such a thing could be done?—The Sheltering fails the page 69 test. Or perhaps it passes with such blinding fury and speed that—nah, it doesn’t. No Spoiler Alert here: page 69 reads PART THREE. (In its defense, the letters are large and the font is elegant.) But maybe this is the key to the book after all. The Sheltering follows two slowly, but inevitably connecting plotlines and what could be more representative than balancing between the two? In the first, Luther Redding flies a drone over Afghanistan from the bowels of a Tampa Air Force Base. When he dies in a car wreck, erased as quick as a far-away target, his wife and two daughters are left with little more than the aftershocks. In the second plotline, two brothers (one home from Iraq, the other released from prison) set off on a drug-fueled road trip. One narrative is about absence, about the way in which our American lives are so often lived by proxy. The other is about the visceral nature of being alive, how, despite our best efforts, we still live in bodies. Our lives seem to float between the two—our hallucinatory swipe-screen personas versus the hunger of flesh—so perhaps it’s fitting that page 69 does the same?
Learn more about The Sheltering at the University of South Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Don't Let Go"

Michelle Gagnon has been a modern dancer, a dog walker, a bartender, a freelance journalist, a personal trainer, and a model. Her bestselling thrillers for adults have been published in numerous countries and include The Tunnels, Boneyard, The Gatekeeper, and Kidnap & Ransom. Don't Turn Around and Don't Look Now are her first two novels for young adults.

Gagnon applied the Page 69 Test to Don't Let Go, the third book in the Don't Turn Around series, and reported the following:
I’ve done this test a number of times now, and this is by far the best page 69 I’ve encountered!

Ok, here’s why:
“That’s what your friends said.” Loki shook his head. “No one moves. Now who the hell are you, really?”

Daisy clung to Teo, both arms tight around his waist. He clasped her hands, cursing himself for listening to Peter. They should have left last night; he should have trusted his gut. After everything they’d been through, he and Daisy might be shot in the middle of nowhere by some freak.

“I contacted you on The Quad last October,” Peter piped up. “When I was going to brick Pike & Dolan’s servers.”

“A lot of people know about that,” Loki said. “Doesn’t prove anything.”

Peter and Noa exchanged an uncertain look, and Teo’s heart sank. Was it possible they’d never even met this guy before? And what was up with the fake names?

“The pedophile case in Greenwich,” Noa finally said. “We worked together on that.”

Loki tilted his head and said, “Tell me how.”

“How what?” Peter asked.

“How did we get him?” Loki snarled.

“I posed as a twelve-year-old girl and chatted with him while you sent his jpgs to the local cops,” Noa said. “Anything else you want to know?”

The shotgun lowered a fraction of an inch. Loki stared at them for a beat, considering. Finally, he said, “So you are who you say you are. Doesn’t matter. How the hell did you find me?”

“I, uh . . . tracked your IP address,” Peter said. “Sorry.”

Teo held his breath, braced for another gunshot. Based on Noa’s reaction earlier, this wasn’t something hackers took well.

“You what?” Loki sounded genuinely perplexed. “Seriously? Not cool, Vallas.”
So in this scene we’re meeting Loki for the first time in person (as opposed to the offscreen presence he had in Don't Turn Around). Loki easily became my favorite character in this book, and possibly in the entire trilogy. He’s a hacker/survivalist who is big and brash and charming (and maybe just a wee bit unbalanced and paranoid). I don’t want to spill any spoilers, but thanks to Loki’s security measures, Noa and Peter’s next escape from the folks at Big Evil is truly epic.

He also manages to inject a considerable amount of humor into the story, which is critical in a thriller; otherwise reading it starts to feel a bit relentless. Just because I can’t resist (Loki!), here’s another of my favorite exchanges with him:
“Got it!” Noa said triumphantly.

The pressure abruptly eased, replaced by a dull throbbing. “Let me see it,” Peter gasped.

She lowered a pair of tweezers down in front of his eyes. Peter frowned: They were clamped around something way too tiny to have caused so much pain. “That’s it?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“You’d think it would have ten fingers and ten toes, the amount of noise you made,” Loki grunted. “No wonder women have the babies.”
Classic Loki. I promise he won’t disappoint.
Learn more about the book and author at Michelle Gagnon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Turn Around.

My Book, The Movie: Don't Turn Around.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life"

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 40 nonfiction books, including many highly acclaimed biographies for young people. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Reef applied the Page 69 Test to Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, her new young adult biography exploring the tumultuous lives, marriage, and work of the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and reported the following:
Frida & Diego is subtitled Art, Love, Life. Many of its pages look at the subjects as artists, but page 69 finds them enmeshed in “love” and “life.”

The marriage of Frida and Diego was battered and damaged by the infidelity of both spouses. On page 69 Frida is reeling from the worst blow Diego inflicts on her, his affair with her sister Cristina. It is summer 1935, and she has left Mexico to stay in New York with friends.
Observing her life from this great distance, Frida understood that she still loved Diego and he loved her. The affair with Cristina would end, and he would have others; he was never going to change. “I cannot love him for what he is not,” she concluded. So she forgave both Diego and Cristina, although the affair had not yet waned, and when fall came, she went back to San Ángel. She returned stronger, more independent, and vowing to live a meaningful life on her own terms.
Rivera also engages in introspection—a thing unusual for him—and he acknowledges a side of himself that is less than admirable, the satisfaction he takes in hurting women he loves. “Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait,” he admits.

But what happens after Frida gets home? Leon Trotsky enters the story. The old freedom fighter and his wife have been living under a death sentence after being expelled from the Soviet Communist Party by a pathologically suspicious Joseph Stalin.
Anyone who spoke out against Stalin or his policies would be sent to a gulag (forced-labor camp), where starvation and brutality were the way of life, or exiled to Siberia, or killed. Terrified of enemies real or imagined, Stalin had millions of Soviet citizens put to death. In 1929 Trotsky was forced to flee. In his absence the Soviet government staged a series of trials that were rigged to frame him for plotting from abroad to assassinate Stalin.
Like vagabonds, the Trotskys have bounced from Turkey to France and Norway, never permitted to settle permanently.
Anytime, anywhere, Stalin’s supporters might track him down and execute him.
As we reach the bottom of page 69, Rivera receives a letter from a friend in the United States, asking if Mexico might give the Trotskys asylum. Rivera was a communist who opposed Stalin’s policies, and he was prominent and politically active, so for him to receive this request made sense. But we must turn the page to learn that he then appeals to President Lázaro Cárdenas, who welcomes the Trotskys into the country, setting the stage for further betrayal.
Visit Catherine Reef's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Rainey Royal"

Dylan Landis is the author of a debut novel, Rainey Royal, and a linked story collection, Normal People Don't Live Like This. Her work has appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories 2014, the New York Times, Tin House, BOMB and elsewhere. She lives in New York.

Landis applied the Page 69 Test to Rainey Royal and reported the following:
My page 69 opens in a high school art class, where a tall, shy girl named Leah—the unnamed giraffe, below—is being bullied by two lionesses: the troubled and talented Rainey Royal, and Rainey's best friend Tina. But Rainey's mind is wandering. She's thinking about her father, Howard, a brilliant slimeball jazz musician who has been giving Tina clarinet lessons, and maybe some other kinds of lessons, on the side.

Rainey loves Howard, and she loves Tina, but the combination of the two is more than she can stand.
Mr. Knecht, oblivious to the hazards of placing two lionesses with a giraffe, has seated her with Rainey and Tina. Tina can't draw well either, but she has the advantage of not giving a fuck. Also, she has the advantage of Rainey, who leans over when Mr. Knecht isn't looking and lightly chisels Tina's linoleum, adding gesture and grace.

Every time Rainey starts to ask Tina to come over, she hesitates; she envisions Howard giving her breathing lessons from behind, breathing being a big deal for musicians. Breathe from here, she imagines him saying, his hands over Tina's lower abdomen where—as she conceives the body—clothes tumble round in a hot dryer, and then, sliding one hand up to her breastbone, not from here, he would say, and it would be pure Howard to do this, and it makes Rainey sick.
Page 69 is pure Rainey, and pure Howard. He has no boundaries, and I loved writing him. It was cathartic—for reasons having nothing to do with my own wonderful family—and it let me be outrageous in ways that felt peculiar to New York in the 1970s. That was an era when I felt intensely alive, as teenagers do: every nerve ending awake. But I was as interested in writing the small, revealing details as in the in-your-face sex and drugs of the time.
She wonders if she can tell Tina to leave the goddamn clarinet at home. She is afraid that Tina might bring the loaner, swing it insouciantly, like a purse.
I loved writing Rainey. What I shared with her personally were my troubles and my fears, and the intensity of my female friendships. But she was the artist and the rebel I longed to be.
Visit Dylan Landis's website.

Writers Read: Dylan Landis (November 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 8, 2014

"The Badger Knight"

Kathryn Erskine is the acclaimed author of many distinguished novels for young readers, including Mockingbird, winner of the National Book Award; The Absolute Value of Mike, an Amazon Best Book and ALA Notable Book; and Quaking, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Badger Knight, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When Father sees me, he calls out, “Adrian! Do you know where Hugh is?”

I walk toward him and call back, “No.” It’s an honest statement. He’s on the road somewhere, heading northwest, but I don’t know exactly where he is.

“Did he tell you where he was going?”

“To weed the fields.” That also is true.

Father cocks his head at me, narrowing his eyes.

I try to appear as innocent as a babe. “Look!” I say, now standing in front of him, holding up the rabbit. “We’ll have a fine supper!”

“Aren’t you worried about your friend?”

I wonder if I’m playing my role right. “Hugh is well, I am sure.”

“Well on his way to battle, is that it?”

I let the rabbit dangle in the dirt and sigh. It’s no use pretending. I can only try to make him see reason. “Hugh wants to help his father—”

“Even though his father forbade it? You’re his best friend. Couldn’t you stop him?”

I shake my head. Indeed, I didn’t even try. It was me who put the idea in his head. But he would’ve gone, anyway, I’m sure of it.

Father sighs. “I must try to stop him.”

“What? Father, he left many hours ago. You’ll never catch up with him.”

“Stupid fool!” Good Aunt shrieks from behind me.

I cower, expecting a thrashing for something I’ve done or not done, I don’t know which.
Because of their great archery skills, Adrian has encouraged his friend, Hugh, who is almost of age, to sneak off to battle. Even though Adrian is two years young, he plans to do the same thing in order to prove he's a man and counter the negative opinions of him resulting from his albinism, small stature, and asthma. It would also be nice to get away from his awful aunt.

Page 69 is representative in that Adrian follows his urge to do what's right, yet struggles with deception, throughout his adventure. Although he's scared, he's determined. And he's a loyal friend -- even when it goes against social norms.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Play Me Backwards"

Adam Selzer was born in Des Moines and now lives in Chicago, where he writes humorous books by day and researches history, ghost stories and naughty playground rhymes by night. After eleven published books, including the acclaimed Smart Aleck's Guide to American History and I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, not to mention How To Get Suspended and Influence People (which people try to ban now and then), he is just famous enough to have a page on wikipedia. He has been described as "subversive, but in a fun way....like the offspring of Bob Dylan and some Muppet."

Selzer applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Play Me Backwards, and reported the following:
On Page 69, we find our hero, Leon, contemplating whether or not Stan, his best friend (and manager at his job) could possibly really be the devil, as he’s claimed to be since the age of 9.

Leon considers the old story that you can hear Satanic messages in rock songs by playing them backwards, and gives a few famous examples. He’s heard samples of them online, and notes that to him, they never sound like they’re saying “Satan.” It always sounds more like “Stan” to him.

This is something I noticed years ago, and is the exact reason why Stan has the name that he does (despite the fact that you practically never meet a “Stan” under 50). When I was in high school, I stumbled across a terrifically ridiculous book called The Devil’s Disciples: The Truth about Rock at a used book store. I used to find books like that quite a bit - I remember reading one thing claiming that rock bands hired witches to write their lyrics, then took their melodies from ancient Druidic manuscripts. Where they were getting all these manuscripts wasn’t specified.

Anyway, Devil’s Disciples had a whole section exposing the “backmasking,” and I wanted to hear it for myself. Leon can easily hear samples online, but I happened to be a teenager in the era when it was hardest to hear things played backwards. It’s not so hard with a vinyl album or an mp3, but CDs can’t be played backwards easily. I had to copy the section I wanted to hear onto a tape, snip the section of tape out, then tape it back in upside-down. I wrecked several blank tapes trying to get it right.

Most of the time, I felt like it took a lot of imagination to hear any sort of messages in the garbled sounds of a song being played backwards. Now and then, though, there’d be a real message that was clearly intentional - you could tell because it sounded like gibberish played forwards, but was perfectly intelligible reversed. 90% of the time, it was the artist playing a joke. There was one song - I think it was the J Geils Band - that, when played backwards, clearly stated that “you don’t have to be a genius to know chicken shit from chicken salad.”

My two favorite examples came from Weird Al Yankovic, who has, to my knowledge, two intentional backwards messages. In “I Remember Larry,” there’s a garbled section that, when reversed, says “You must have a lot of time on your hands.” In his early classic “Nature Trail to Hell,” a backwards playing reveals Al saying “Satan eats Cheez Whiz.”

In the draft of what became page 69, I contemplated including Al’s line about Cheez Whiz, if only to explain the fact that Stan is seen eating Cheez Whiz right from the can in several scenes throughout the book, but decided to just leave it as one of those “let’s see who notices” jokes.
Visit Adam Selzer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 6, 2014

"The Furies"

Natalie Haynes is a graduate of Cambridge University and an award-winning comedian, journalist, and broadcaster. She judged the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and was a judge for the final Orange Prize in 2012. Natalie is a regular panelist on BBC2’s Newsnight Review, Radio 4’s Saturday Review, and the long-running arts show, Front Row. She is a guest columnist for The Independent and The Guardian.

Haynes applied the Page 69 Test to The Furies, her first novel, and reported the following:
There are two narrators in The Furies: Alex, who is telling us what happened a year ago, at the same time as we are following her through the fall-out in the present day. And her story is intercut with a diary, written by one of the troubled students she teaches. Page 69 is a diary entry, and it is very representative of the book.

Firstly, we get a sense of the increasing obsession of the diary-writer, who is beginning to fixate on Alex: on where she is when she’s not in the classroom, and what the rest of her life is like. That’s a theme of the book: it is all about obsession and how that kind of monomania can lead us inexorably to all-out madness.

We get a sense that the diary-writer knows what she is doing is wrong – she makes excuses for the fact that she has been riffling through Alex’s desk to try and find out more about her. When you are making excuses to a diary, you know you’re heading down a dark path. But she’s not lost to us. She knows what she’s doing is wrong, and she tells us that she feels guilty: guilt and blame are also key themes of The Furies.

Here’s (some of) page 69, to prove it:
Yes, you read that right: I feel guilty. Because we gave our work in on Thursday morning. And I asked her when we would get it back. No-one else seemed interested, but I wanted to know. And Alex said she’d try to read them that evening and we could pick them up from her classroom the next day, even though we didn’t have a lesson.

So I thought she must be coming in on Fridays now. I figured whatever it was she used to do on Fridays was done, and now she would be at Rankeillor Street every day like the rest of us are.And so me and Carly went down to her room on the Friday – even though Carly had skipped the last lesson so didn’t have any work to get back – and she wasn’t there. It was weird being in there without her, actually. It looks exactly like it did last term. I mean, exactly: Alex hasn’t put up any posters or pictures, or anything. She doesn’t even have stuff on the desk or in the drawers or anything. Maybe I shouldn’t have been looking. But we wanted to know
Visit Natalie Haynes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Neverhome"

Laird Hunt is the award-winning author of a book of short stories, mock parables and histories, The Paris Stories (2000), and five novels from Coffee House Press: The Impossibly (2001), Indiana, Indiana (2003), The Exquisite (2006) Ray of the Star (2009) and Kind One (2012), which was a finalist for both the 2013 Pen/Faulkner award and the 2013 Pen USA Literary Award in Fiction and the winner of a 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction.

Hunt applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Neverhome, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Neverhome my protagonist, Ash Thompson, and two of her comrades known only as “the Akron boys”, find themselves attending a strange ceremony in a town hard hit by the Civil War, in which locals clearly suffering a collective trauma are taking turns sitting in a chair and speaking some kind of truth to their fellows. As Ash and the Akron boys watch, a woman named Annie takes her place. She is by her own account not well thought of by the town but she has a secret: “I know how to find the places where the world won’t ever see me. I can walk in the shadow and I can walk in the light.” The Akron boys think she and the rest of the town are drunk, but Ash wants to listen. No doubt, she recognizes something of herself in this woman who has a secret (Ash after all is disguised as a man). In a way, this moment is a microcosm of the whole novel, which is narrated in the first person by Ash, and involves her telling her own deepest secrets. In a sense, she too can walk without being seen in shadow and walk without being seen in light. Of less generalized import but no less worth observing about this page 69 is that we are treated to a little of Ash’s colorful turn of phrase about a third of the way down. She says of Annie’s small voice that it is “About the size of a popcorn kernel only got heated halfway at the bottom of the pot.” Ash’s world is built up out of compressed but colorful sentences like that one.
Visit Laird Hunt's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"The Spirit and the Skull"

J. M. “Mike” Hayes was born and raised on the flat earth of Central Kansas. He studied anthropology at Wichita State University and the University of Arizona and lives in Tucson with his wife and a small herd of German Shepherds.

Hayes applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Spirit and the Skull, and reported the following:
The Spirit and the Skull's page 69 describes my Paleolithic hero's encounter with a Great Bear, Ursus arctodus simus. One of the largest terrestrial mammalian carnivores to ever live, it might stand six feet tall at the shoulder and weigh a ton. Upright on its rear legs, it towered to twelve feet in height.

Raven, my hero/narrator, is escaping an awkward situation with Down, the daughter of his band's leader. Running seems better than explaining until the two of them slip through a thick grove of willows and Raven finds himself nose to nose with the monster he fears more than any other. With good reason, as the flashback at the bottom of the page begins to explain.

It's representative of the book because Raven's life has suddenly turned very complicated. Concerned because of his advanced age (just over 40) that he's at risk of losing his place in the band of immigrants he's entering the New World with, Raven has begun searching for ways to make himself useful. He scouted for the path to lead the band from the tundra to the Earth Mother's promised land. He found a mammoth they might kill, big enough to feed them for weeks. But his band has also suffered a murder—something unthinkable. It must be solved and dealt with. Raven volunteered for that job, too. His problem is the girl he's with seems his most likely suspect, though he's falling in love with her. So it's not like Raven lacks for problems without meeting a Great Bear. Raven, the band's Spirit Man, suddenly wishes he believed in those spirits because he can't imagine how he's going to survive without divine intervention. His situation is a little like you or I taking a short-cut through a tunnel and discovering the light at the end is an oncoming train—the kind of thing that can ruin your whole day.
Learn more about the book and author at The Words & Worlds of J.M. Hayes website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Designated Daughters"

Margaret Maron grew up on a farm near Raleigh and lived in Brooklyn for many years. Returning to her North Carolina roots prompted Maron to write a series based on her own background, the first of which, Bootlegger's Daughter, was a Washington Post bestseller and swept the major mystery awards for 1993.

Maron applied the Page 69 Test to Designated Daughters, the nineteenth book in the acclaimed Deborah Knott series, and reported the following:
In Designated Daughters, Judge Deborah Knott's aunt has been smothered on her deathbed, so the question is why kill a dying woman? The DDs of the title are a support group of caregivers with all that this implies, but the book has flashes of humor, too. On page 69, Deborah's husband Dwight, a sheriff's deputy, has asked Deborah's cousin Sally to come over and watch a DVD they've put together of the many people who were in and out of the room right before the murder. Sally and Buzz own a nearby campground on a lake.
"Mr. Kezzie and Miss Sister are coming over to our house tomorrow to watch with us. Why don't y'all come, too? Around 2 o'clock?"

"That'll work for [my brother] and me, but Buzz can't come. He's giving a waterskiing class then."

"Still a little chilly for that, isn't it?" Dwight asked.

"Oh, you know Buzz. He's well insulated and we've got wet suits if someone wants them."

Like [my brother] Haywood, Buzz must weigh close to two-seventy, so yes, he's very well insulated. I spent a moment trying to imagine him on water skis in a Speedo and then I spent another few minutes trying to get that image out of my head.
Learn more about the book and author at Margaret Maron's website.

My Book, The Movie: Designated Daughters.

--Marshal Zeringue