Monday, May 24, 2010

"The Singer’s Gun"

Emily St. John Mandel was born on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.

Her first novel, Last Night in Montreal, was a June 2009 Indie Next pick and is a finalist for ForeWord Magazine's 2009 Book of the Year.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Singer's Gun, and reported the following:
The Singer’s Gun concerns a man named Anton Waker, who’s trying to lead a more honorable life. Everyone he grew up with is corrupt—his parents are dealers in stolen goods, and his first career was a partnership venture with his cousin Aria, selling social security cards and forged passports to illegal aliens in New York.

As the novel opens, the tenuous life he’s built for himself in the legitimate world is beginning to come undone. The process begins on the day his secretary Elena disappears. Elena is Canadian by birth, but has lived and worked in the United States for a number of years; she has secrets of her own, and she’s being pressed into service by a State Department agent named Alexandra Broden. Page 69 marks the beginning of Elena’s entrapment. On that page, Broden is interviewing Elena for the first time.

Page 69:
Broden looked at her for a moment, and then smiled. Elena shivered.


“A little. The air conditioning in this building …”

“It is a little cool in here,” Broden said. “I’d just like to go through your background one more time. Just to clarify a few points, and I believe that will bring us naturally back to the question at hand. After you graduated high school, you moved to the United States to go to college.”

“Exactly. Yes.”

“You were eighteen?”


“You had a scholarship to Columbia?”

“And an offer of one at MIT. But I wanted to live in New York.”

“Quite an accomplishment,” Broden said. “Did you work while you were in school?”

“No. I worked after I left school,” Elena said.

“Tell me about that time,” said Broden. “After you left school.”

“Well, there’s not much to tell. I was washing dishes at a restaurant. Then I was a photographer’s model, and then I came here.”

“Uh- huh. Let’s go back a step. The time when you were posing for the photographer. What made you start doing that?”

“The posing? I don’t know, it’s hard to find a decent job without a bachelor’s degree. I didn’t make a lot of money at the restaurant. It was just extra income.”

“I understand,” Broden said. “It was something you could do without being legal in the United States.”
Learn more about the author and her work at Emily St. John Mandel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Night in Montreal.

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

--Marshal Zeringue