Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Ann Cummins is the author of Red Ant House, a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and Best Book of the Year. She has had her stories published in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Quarterly West, and the Sonora Review, among other publications, as well as The Best American Short Stories 2002.

Her new novel is Yellowcake, to which she applied the "page 69 test" and discovered the following:
Page 69 may be the single page in Yellowcake that most aptly represents the book’s underbelly — the nightmare. The dreamer struggling to wake is Ryland Mahoney. Once a foreman at a uranium mill on the Navajo reservation, he’s now sick. While awake he doesn’t blame radiation poisoning for his ill health, but when his guard is down, fear and guilt creep in. Other characters in the novel have their own dark nights. Twenty-five year old Becky Atcitty, a Navajo woman who lost her father to the mill, struggles with rage at his murderers; her cousin, Delmar, a man of appetites, struggles with his own libido; Delmar’s father, Sam, struggles with his obsession for Delmar’s mother, while Lily, Sam’s former wife, can’t get over her philandering ex-husband.

Set in the high desert of northern New Mexico and the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, the land has a subterranean pulse that radiates through its inhabitants, channeling the phantom past, connecting them all in an atomic present.

But in small ways, all of the characters change the chemistry, finding stability on dangerous ground. During his dark night, twenty-five year old Delmar is running on empty down a desert road. He starts playing chicken with another car and finds a winning defense against hidden cops up ahead.

“Delmar watches his speedometer climb to seventy-five. Eighty. He closes in, breathing down the Mazda’s neck, a one-car length. ‘Go, baby go.’ And the yellow gas light stops blinking, starts shining. Ninety. Fast little Mazda. Rocketing along the straight and narrow.

“‘Call you Zoom,’ he says, taking his foot off the pedal, shifting to neutral, and dropping back just before they enter Bloomfield’s speed-trap zone, while the Mazda jets ahead, a decoy should anybody be out there watching. Delmar knows this country. He’s been busted here. This country he knows well.
Read a brief description of Yellowcake and an excerpt.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.

--Marshal Zeringue