Thursday, March 22, 2018

"City of Sharks"

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Stanley applied the Page 69 Test to her new Miranda Corbie Mystery, City of Sharks, and reported the following:
I love the Page 69 test, but this time I’m afraid I’ve flunked it. Page 69 in the hardcover of City of Sharks is actually the division page for Act Two of the novel!

Here’s what it says:
Act Two: The Plot

“The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.”

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, scene i
It’s also got a very nice decorative scroll element at the top, thanks to the awesome production designer of the book.

Now, while you won’t get any clues about Miranda’s state of mind, her investigation of Alcatraz, or her vacillating physical and emotional feelings for Gonzales, you can glean from this page that City of Sharks is essentially about writing.

And writers.

And publishers.

And the many crimes that occur in the creation of crime stories.

Like most writers, I’ve spent a good amount of time not just thinking about the process of creativity, especially in regard to the written word, but about what happens to creativity when it is commodified … about what happens in that dance between the subconscious talent and the conscious craft when it’s forced to march rather than to waltz.

There’s a lot of San Francisco history in City of Sharks—famed columnist Herb Caen steals every scene he’s in, and backdrops include Playland-at-the-Beach and Alcatraz. There’s also a thorny mystery, some ethical questions to ponder about crime and punishment and, as always, social and political commentary.

But don’t overlook the writing/publishing theme. As page 69 tells you, it’s the structure the story’s built upon.
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"If I Die Tonight"

USA Today and international best-selling author Alison Gaylin has been nominated for the Edgar three times. (Most recently, What Remains of Me was nominated in the best novel category.)

Gaylin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, If I Die Tonight, and reported the following:
On page 69 of If I Die Tonight, Jackie, the concerned mother of outcast teen Wade Reed, finds herself in a rare moment of calm. It is the morning, and as she makes coffee in silence, Jackie reflects on the unusually pleasant dinner she shared with her two sons the night before – a rarity, especially now that high school football star Liam Miller is on life support, the victim of a late night hit-and-run that many in their small town suspect Wade of having committed. As she readies herself to do the laundry, Jackie realizes the main reason why she and her children shared such a stress-free evening: they’d all avoided the news, the phone, and, most importantly of all, social media – perhaps the most formidable villain in the book. It’s a moment of calm before a storm that proves more devastating than Jackie could ever imagine at this point. It highlights the true danger of the outside world by showing how much safer everything feels in its absence.
Learn more about the book and author at Alison Gaylin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2018

"Head Wounds"

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author of Writing From the Inside Out. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime. His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.

Palumbo applied the Page 69 Test to Head Wounds and reported the following:
In the hardcover edition of Head Wounds, a reader opening the novel to Page 69 would be thrown immediately into the heart of a scene as harrowing as it is puzzling. Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, bound and helpless, has just witnessed a horrific crime, whose perpetrator is now gloating about it. The scene reveals both the stunned reaction of our psychologist hero and his defiance in the face of a brilliant though obsessed killer. It also displays Rinaldi’s empathy and concern for crime victims, even when in jeopardy himself. According to his friends and colleagues, this trait is a misbegotten “hero complex,” the result of his survival guilt for having lived through a deadly mugging years ago that took the life of his wife. Though by the end of Page 69 he’ll be released from his bonds, there’s the sure knowledge of more murders to come that keeps the tension simmering. As with all my Rinaldi novels, I strive in this scene for both well-rounded characterizations and edge-of-your-seat suspense. I hope that’s what this page delivers.
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Palumbo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"The Hunger"

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, she had a long career in intelligence, working for several US agencies and a think tank. She currently is a consultant on emerging technologies.

Katsu applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Hunger, and reported the following:
The Hunger, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist, is told from multiple POVs. Necessary, because there were a lot of people involved in that original tragedy (and they share the blame, too, for what happened) but because of this, it’s hard for any excerpt to be representative of the entire book. Page 69 does give a nice window into what you can expect. This chapter is from the POV of James Reed, an Irish immigrant and self-made man who becomes the de facto leader of the wagon party when George Donner cracks under pressure. In real life, James Reed was not well-liked; the working-class families that largely made up the party thought him arrogant and condescending. The James Reed in my novel is that, too, but he also harbors a secret that drives his self-destructive tendencies.

Here, Reed is worrying that the wagon party is falling behind schedule, and that his fellow travelers don’t seem concerned about their dwindling supplies. In the midst of his ruminations, two boys crawl out from under a wagon, puking up liquor and when he tries to find out where the boys got it, he draws an unwelcome crowd:
“You ain’t the boys’ father.” This from another of the Donners’ men, Samuel Shoemaker.

“Their father’s probably lying facedown in a ditch himself.” The words came out before Reed could stop himself. He cursed his sharp tongue. He could imagine how he must sound to this crowd, many of them hungover themselves from dancing half the night away. His palms started to tingle. He could feel dirt gathering in his eardrums, in his nostrils, beneath his fingernails. He needed to bathe. “Look, I’m only trying to find out where the boys got the alcohol.”

“Are you saying it’s our fault the boys got themselves drunk?” Elliott said, raising an eyebrow.

“No. I’m just saying we must do a better job keeping track of all our supplies.” He shook his head. He would try again. “We might want to lock up our spirits, for example—”

Tall and angular, always hovering like an ominous scarecrow, Lewis Keseberg pushed his way through the crowd. Reed could’ve predicted it: Keseberg always seemed to be spoiling for a fight. “You’d like to take our liquor away, wouldn’t you? You’d probably chuck it in the Little Sandy when nobody was looking, every drop of it.” He jabbed a finger into Reed’s chest. “If you try to lay so much as one finger on any of my bottles, so help me God—”
If you know the story of the Donner Party, the appearance of Lewis Keseberg should send shivers down your spine. By the way, even if you’re familiar with the Donner Party, I think you’ll find The Hunger will still surprise you. It definitely looks at the famous tragedy in a new light.
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2018

"Memento Mori"

Ruth Downie is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Roman Army medic and reluctant sleuth, Gaius Petreius Ruso: Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona Non Grata, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, Tabula Rasa, Vita Brevis, and the newly released Memento Mori.

Downie applied the Page 69 Test to Memento Mori and reported the following:
Memento Mori is set in the town the Romans called Aquae Sulis – “aquae” because of the natural hot springs that rise there, and “Sulis” because that was the name of the local goddess who supplied them. One of the springs was adapted by the occupying Roman authorities, who poured money into the building of a large temple and bathing complex around it. In the novel I’ve invented some entrepreneurs who have made a disastrous attempt to build over one of the others.

On page 69 my lead character Ruso has just tried to rescue a naked man from drowning in the one remaining “unimproved” spring. This has not gone down well with the man, who was in fact happily communing with his native goddess. Fortunately Ruso, who is married to a Briton – albeit one from a distant tribe – is able to speak to the man in his own language.
…the native said, “At my age I might have died of shock.”

“You might,” Ruso agreed, wondering if this was the prelude to a demand for compensation.

But instead the native busied himself rubbing a graze on his elbow and observed, “A Roman with the voice of a Brigante, eh? We don’t get a lot like you around here.”

“Nor anywhere else,” Ruso told him. “Sorry about dragging you out.” He nodded toward the water, which was now swirling with mud. “Is it good?”

“Your lot haven’t ruined this one yet, but give them time.”

“What’s going on with the one behind the fence?”

The man’s face creased into a grin. “They were told not to interfere with that spring. I told them, my sister told them, their own people told them, but they knew better. Till Sulis gave them a bloody nose.”

“What happened?”

“You can’t disrespect our goddess and get away with it.”
This small scene captures some of the tensions of the story: between the natives and the Romans, and between the religious (who see any misfortune as a sign of the goddess’s anger) and those who consider themselves more rational. Ruso’s British wife has an unshakeable belief in the supernatural, which leaves Ruso himself caught squarely in the middle – a place that’s always interesting to write about, and hopefully to read about, too.
Learn more about the book and author at Ruth Downie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caveat Emptor.

The Page 69 Test: Tabula Rasa.

The Page 69 Test: Vita Brevis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"The Third Victim"

Phillip Margolin has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases. Margolin lives in Portland, Oregon.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Third Victim, and reported the following:
Is page 69 of The Third Victim representative of the book?: Yes. Robin Lockwood is a new lawyer whose idol is Regina Barrister, Oregon’s top criminal defense attorney. Soon after Regina hires Robin, Regina is retained by Alex Mason, the defendant in a death penalty case. The police believe that Mason, a wealthy attorney, is a serial killer, but he claims he is innocent. The case is complex and Regina must be at the top of her game to win it, but she starts acting strangely and Robin – who has no medical training and has never been in a courtroom - begins to suspect that Regina may be experiencing the onset of dementia. If she is wrong and she confronts her boss she might be fired from her dream job. If she doesn’t do something and she is right, their client could die.

On page 69, Regina wakes up in her house but her bedroom seems strange to her. She has to get to the jail to talk to her client but she can’t find her keys. She panics and this is the first time that the reader realizes that something is terribly wrong with this brilliant attorney.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Phillip Margolin.

My Book, The Movie: The Third Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"In Sight of Stars"

Gae Polisner's books include The Memory of Things, The Summer of Letting Go, and The Pull of Gravity. Her new novel is In Sight of Stars.

A family law attorney and mediator by trade, but a writer by calling, she lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional-looking small dog she swore she’d never own. When she’s not writing, she can be found in a pool, or better yet, in the open waters of the Long Island Sound where she swims upwards of two miles most days.

Polisner applied the Page 69 Test to In Sight of Stars and reported the following:
On page 69, my MC Klee (pronounced “Clay”), who is at the beginning of a two-week stay at an inpatient adolescent psychiatric center after an act of self harm, is lost in telling his therapist about his first real date with Sarah, the girl in his new high school who was the first person to take his mind off all the horrible stuff that has happened to him recently.

At the bottom of the page, he stops, mid-story, remembering Dr. Alvarez is in the room:
Dr. Alvarez has put her pen down. Her eyes are closed, and for a second I wonder if she’s sleeping. I can’t believe I’m telling her all this stupid stuff anyway. The small things. The private things. What do they even matter now?

She shifts her feet under the table, opens her eyes, and studies me. “I love Central Park,” she says. “And don’t be fooled by my eyes,” she adds, closing them again. “Sometimes I just listen best this way.”
I love this moment from page 69 because it shows you the skill Dr. Alvarez possesses to bring Klee to her and allow him to trust her, and in fact, shows you the moment he begins to do just that, trust her, which is, of course, key to his healing.
Visit Gae Polisner's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Summer of Letting Go.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory of Things.

Writers Read: Gae Polisner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 12, 2018

"The One"

John Marrs is a freelance journalist based in London, England, who has spent the last twenty years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines. His novels include The Wronged Sons, Welcome To Wherever You Are, and, newly released in the US, The One.

Marrs applied the Page 69 Test to The One and reported the following:
By the time you reach page 69 of The One, you will have met each of my five main characters, whose stories are contained within their own chapters. The book concentrates on five men and women who for one reason or another, have chosen science over fate to try and find their soul mates. Set in a time when a DNA test is all it takes to find The One you are guaranteed to fall in love with, it’s Nick who comes into focus on page 69. He’s a little different to some of the others as he already has a fiancĂ©e, Sally. She is pushing them both to take the test just to make sure they are definitely suited. However when Nick gets his results back, he learns he is actually Matched with a man. Page 69 finds him coming to terms with that revelation and he is in complete denial. He had his life planned out before him – he was to marry Sally and they’d spend the rest of their lives together. But now he’s supposedly destined to be with someone of the same sex, where does that leave him? Will curiosity get the better of him and will he meet his Match? How can you fall in love with a gender you aren’t attracted to?

Page 69 is quite indicative of the rest of The One. I have tried to create a novel full of twists and turns as each character comes to terms with their differing futures. Hopefully such predicament, like those on that particular page, will make the reader question what they might do if they were faced with my characters’ dilemmas.
Learn more about The One, visit John Marrs's website, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Writers Read: John Marrs.

My Book, The Movie: The One.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"The Vain Conversation"

Anthony Grooms is the author of Bombingham: A Novel and Trouble No More: Stories, both winners of the Lillian Smith Book Award for fiction. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, he has taught writing and American literature at universities in Ghana and Sweden and, since 1994, at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Grooms applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Vain Conversation, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Vain Conversation, the protagonist Lonnie Henson, a 10 year old at the time, is involved in a knotty conversation with the philandering Vernon Venable, a local planter in 1946 Georgia. Venable, under the guise of teasing is trying to gain leverage on Lonnie who has recently stumbled upon him having sex in the woods with a prostitute. The conversation seesaws between gentle teasing and subtle threats. It confuses Lonnie, who is not sophisticated enough to follow Venable’s double entendres. Not only is this scene representative of the twisting uncertainty that entangles Lonnie morally and socially, but it is a pivotal scene. It drives the actions of the first part of the story, nags at Lonnie through for the next two decades, and returns to accuse him at the end.
Visit Anthony Grooms's website.

Writers Read: Anthony Grooms.

My Book, The Movie: The Vain Conversation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 8, 2018

"The Bad Daughter"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Someone Is Watching, Now You See Her, Still Life, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels.

Fielding applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Bad Daughter, and reported the following:
I think this page is quite representative of the book as a whole in that it involves a fair degree of suspense and underlines the relationship between Robin and her sister, Melanie. It also points to Melanie’s son, Landon, as a character to watch and be concerned about. Robin’s relationship with her sister is key to the book, and in this page, the reader can see the push-pull between the characters and understand Robin’s ambivalence toward Melanie and why they’ve barely spoken in years. I think - hope - that readers skimming the book and stopping on this page would be most anxious to read on and see what happens.
Visit Joy Fielding's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Bad Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"The Ghost Notebooks"

Ben Dolnick is the author of four novels: Zoology, You Know Who You Are, At the Bottom of Everything, and The Ghost Notebooks. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, and on NPR. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Dolnick applied the Page 69 Test to The Ghost Notebooks and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Ghost Notebooks is actually a bit unusual. The book is told in the first-person -- a continuous narrative by a man who goes through some painful and scary stuff -- but throughout there's a lot of interstitial material: scraps of other peoples' diary entries, newspaper articles, Q&A's. So page 69 is one of those interstitials -- specifically, it's an excerpt from a book by the mysterious and possibly insane old writer in whose house the novel takes place.

All while I was writing my novel I envisioned it as something like a physical notebook in which someone had handwritten his story -- and I imagined that this notebook, like my notebooks, would be stuffed with all sorts of scraps and lists and handouts. So that's how this unusual shape came to be, and I hope that a reader doing the page 69 test would be sufficiently intrigued to flip directly back to page 1.
Visit Ben Dolnick's website.

The Page 69 Test: Zoology.

The Page 69 Test: You Know Who You Are.

The Page 69 Test: At the Bottom of Everything.

Writers Read: Ben Dolnick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 4, 2018

"Winter Sisters"

Robin Oliveira is the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter and I Always Loved You. She holds a BA in Russian and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow. She received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is also a registered nurse, specializing in critical care.

Oliveira applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Winter Sisters, and reported the following:
In Winter Sisters, page 69 consists of a verbal clash between Dr. Mary Sutter, the protagonist of my first novel, My Name is Mary Sutter, and Gerritt Van der Veer, a wealthy lumber baron in Albany, N.Y. Set in 1879, Winter Sisters follows the fate of two little girls who are lost in a devastating blizzard.

That verbal clash between the formidable Mary Sutter and the powerful Gerritt Van der Veer is couched in courtesy and seemingly like-minded values, but it portends one of the central conflicts of the novel: what degree of agency can women and girls forge for themselves, and to what dangers—personal and public—are they then subjected as a result? But Winter Sisters is threaded with many conflicts woven into more than a few subplots surrounding the girls’ mysterious disappearance, among them the rights of children, widespread corruption, the abuse of personal, intimate, and universal power, and that terrifying 19th century law. In that century’s last decades, women were campaigning for the vote, fighting for changes for protection inside the law, even as they were seeking to protect themselves in a world that paid lip service to their status while undermining them at every turn. The entire city of Albany will be engulfed by the tragedy of the ‘winter sisters’’ fate, requiring Mary Sutter to force a confrontation that is as contemporary as it is historic.

I confess that I love Mary Sutter. I love that she never stays quiet in the face of injustice, no matter the consequences men mete out in their inability to control her. She says exactly what needs to be said at the time it needs to be said and it is always the truth. I was thrilled to spend time with her again.
Learn more about the book and author at Robin Oliveira's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Name Is Mary Sutter.

--Marshal Zeringue