Thursday, November 1, 2007


Mark Coggins, who lives in San Francisco, writes the August Riordan mystery series, including the novels Immortal Game, Vulture Capital, and Candy from Strangers.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Runoff, the latest August Riordan mystery, and reported the following:
Runoff is about a mayoral election in San Francisco where it appears as if the results have been altered by someone hacking the city’s newly installed touch-screen voting machines. Jazz bass-playing PI August Riordan is hired by Leonora Lee, the most powerful woman in Chinatown, to find out why her hand-picked candidate failed to carry even the predominantly Chinese districts in the city — and to prevent further election tampering in the upcoming runoff between the two remaining candidates.

Page 69 falls on the last page of a chapter called “How Now?,” which is the name of a bar Riordan visits to decompress after being questioned by police for the second time in two days. This time the questioning comes as a result of his shooting and killing the chief engineer of the city’s voting machine vendor after the engineer went “postal” and attempted to kill the president of the firm with a shotgun.

Riordan’s communion with a bourbon bottle is interrupted when he receives a call on his cell phone from Leonora Lee. Riordan explains what happened at the voting machine company, and as they are wrapping up their conversation on page 69, Lee puts in:

“Very good. My daughter has a question for you.”

“She does?”

“She asks if you’re still planning to perform at Shanghai 1930 this evening?”

“Yes — yes I am.”

“I never understood my late husband’s fascination with jazz — and I understand Lisa’s even less. But it seems to have worked in your favor, Mr. Riordan. I’ve asked Lisa to give you something. Remind her if she forgets.”

“Sure,” I said, but she’d already hung up.

I pushed the rest of the bourbon aside and stood. The bartender looked up from his racing form and mumbled something about “freaking cell phones.” I put what I owed him on the bar and then snapped an extra ten under his nose. “Let me see you smile,” I said. He obliged me. He had beautiful teeth, but they weren’t indigenous to his mouth — which put him in company with me. I dropped the bill on top of the racing form and sauntered out of there. My world seemed a much better place now that Lisa had confirmed a return visit.

I think the selection on page 69 gives the reader a hint of Riordan’s interest in jazz, his interest in Lee’s beautiful daughter and, with the comment about the bartender’s and his own teeth, insight into Riordan’s wiseacre personality and the fact that he’s rough and tumble enough to have lost a few of his own pearly whites.
Read an excerpt from Runoff and learn more about the novel at Coggins' website and his blog, Riordan's Desk.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue