Here is the entry at the Page 69 Test for his new novel, Afraid:
My name is JA Konrath, and I'm known for writing a series of comedic thriller novels about a cop named Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels. All of the books are named after drinks. The newest, Cherry Bomb, comes out this July.Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.
But today I want to talk about another book, written under my pseudonym, Jack Kilborn. It's called Afraid.
Afraid doesn't have any humor in it. From the first page, to the last, it's sole purpose is to shock and terrify.
In this excerpt, taking from page 69 of the UK edition, a very bad man broke into a house to abduct a child. The child is trying to escape...
Bernie howled, falling onto his butt, and Duncan ran for the front door with Woof on his heels. The night was cold and dark. Duncan knew to go to his neighbor, Mrs. Teller, for help when Mom wasn’t home, but Mrs. Teller’s lights weren’t on. In fact, no one on the block had their lights on. Duncan figured the electricity was out all over. He and Woof ran to Mrs. Teller’s front door and he banged on it with both hands.
Something glowed behind him. Duncan turned around and saw orange fire flickering through the windows of his house. Bernie appeared in the doorway, lighter raised above his head, and spotted Duncan. He began to limp after him.
“Mrs. Teller!” Duncan banged harder on the door. “It’s Duncan!”
Woof began to bark like crazy. Bernie got closer, close enough for Duncan to hear his manic giggling. Behind Bernie, the fire had spread throughout Duncan’s house. He could now see flames in all four front windows, and smoke rose from the roof.
Bernie’s face stretched out in a grotesque smile. He came closer, and closer, and got within fifteen feet when Mrs. Teller’s door finally opened.
“Stop!” she commanded. Duncan looked at her. Mrs. Teller was close to eighty years old, and her back bent in the shape of a question mark, and Duncan had to help her open jars. But she looked totally scary standing there with Mr. Teller’s old shotgun.
Bernie must have thought so too, because he didn’t come any closer.
“Shoot him!” Duncan cried. “He broke into my house and burned it down and hurt Woof and wants to kill me!”
Bernie giggled. “I saw the house on fire, and tried to help.”
“He’s lying, Mrs. Teller!”
“The boy, the boy is obviously upset and confused. I saved his life.”
“You’re not from around here,” Mrs. Teller said.
“I was passing through. Good thing, good thing I did, or else he’d—the boy—would be dead.”
“Where’s your car?”
Bernie’s grin faltered. “What? Oh, there, on the street.”
“That’s the Chavez’s car,” Mrs. Teller said, and then aimed and pulled the trigger.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Teller isn't able to stop Bernie. But you probably expected that, since this is page 69, and there are 250 more pages to read.
While I wouldn't call this scene a good representation of the entirety of Afraid--Duncan is only one of seven main characters, and Bernie is only one of five psychopaths that have come to this sleepy little Midwestern town--it does represent the pace and ongoing sense of menace that pervades the book.
Scary books tend to have a cumulative effect. Building atmosphere, and drawing out suspense, adds to reader anxiety. For a longer look at Afraid, visit www.JackKilborn.com and you can read the first forty pages for free.
I recommend leaving the lights on while you do...
The Page 99 Test: Afraid.