Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"The Most Dangerous Thing"

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Most Dangerous Thing, and reported the following:
Page 69 in this book is not exactly representative of the book, but it's key, a scene that will become pivotal in hindsight. And it's one of the chapters written in the plural first-person, a risk that may or may be rewarded, depending on the reader. I believed it was key to the novel and I stand by it, but it's hard to talk about without being a bit of a spoiler. Besides, I'd prefer for readers to decide on their own the "why" behind the decision. At any rate, it centers on the first encounter between five children and a man who lives in a shack in the woods.
He had grown tired of the conversation, or tired of us. He bent down and pulled the guitar out from under the bed. We were kids then, all adults were old to us, but Chicken George, as would come to call him, was especially confounding. You could have told us he was fifty, not that much older than Tim is now, or you could have told us ninety, and we wouldn't have argued. He was old, someone who had seen a lot and knew a lot.
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Lippman's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"The Twelfth Enchantment"

David Liss is the author of The Whiskey Rebels, The Ethical Assassin, A Spectacle of Corruption, The Coffee Trader, and A Conspiracy of Paper. He is also winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Twelfth Enchantment, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the 7th best page in the first third of The Twelfth Enchantment. I am almost sure of it.

Beyond any other sort of ranking I might apply, I do think that page 69 provides a decent snapshot of the interests of the novel as well as the character of the its protagonist, Lucy Derrick. The book is set in England in 1812, and as we open, the 20-year-old orphaned Lucy is on the cusp of accepting a marriage proposal from a man she does not especially like, so desperate is she to escape her uncle’s tyrannical house. The offer of marriage comes from Walter Olson, owner of a local mill – the vernacular for a factory – that produces cheap stockings on machines manned by unskilled laborers. These mills have been springing up all over the country, and putting artisans out of work, and these stocking-weavers have begun to strike back in what has become known as the Luddite uprising. In the novel’s opening scene, Lucy and her uncle meet with Mr. Olson in order to make wedding plans when suddenly there is a knock at the door. A disheveled (but super hot) stranger demands Lucy not marry Mr. Olson and that she “gather the leaves.” It turns out the stranger, a local Baron called Lord Byron, has been afflicted by a curse.

Lucy helps liberate Lord Byron from his curse with the aid of a local gentlewoman who is something of an expert on magic – and the magic of this novel is the actual magic that historical people practiced and believed worked. In this novel it actually does work, but I stick to the facts. There are no fireballs shooting out of wands. For most of recorded history, ordinary people believed they could use some things in the natural world to affect other things in the natural world, and Lucy discovers she is very good at doing so. She also discovers that there are some very powerful people who seem to take an interest in her life, and who will do almost anything to make certain she marries Mr. Olson.

On page 69, Lucy has been made to visit Mr. Olson at his mill, and while she’s there, the workers all cease their labors and repeat what Byron has already said: “Gather the leaves.” Lucy doesn’t know what this means, but she does the sensible things and gets the hell out of there.
Lucy began to walk from the mill. She was afraid, but also curious, and so she swallowed her fear and circled around to the still-open front door. As she grew closer, once more she could hear the mumbled chanting, the rustling non-sound of the creatures’ frenzied circling.

Frightened, but too curious to turn away, Lucy approached the front of the mill. The dirt and dead leaves and twigs crunched under her feet. She heard the distant hooting of an owl. The overlapping voices repeated their refrain until she was no more than twenty feet from the open door, and then, all at once, the chant stopped. For a moment there was only silence, and then came the clacking of a single loom, joined by another and then a loud cough, and the busy thrum of a fully functioning mill. Lucy had the strange idea that if she were to step only a little closer the work would cease once more, the chanting would resume…..

A hundred feet up the path, with the declining sun now in her eyes, Lucy saw a figure – still and straight and tall with wide shoulders…. She could see almost nothing of him, and put a hand to her forehead in an effort to shield her eyes from the sun’s glare, but it did little good.

“Good afternoon,” she said cautiously....
As happens many times in the early part of this book, Lucy encounters something extraordinary where she expects only the ordinary. In this case, a mill full of laborers who chant a secret message Lucy knows is meant for her, but which she does not understand. And then there’s this mysterious stranger in the road. Who is he? What does he have to do with anything? Lucy doesn’t know, but she knows she has a choice to move forward into the unknown or retreat to what she loathes, and so she does what she regards as the most sensible thing in the world. She says hello to the stranger, and soon her whole life will change dramatically.
Learn more about the book and author at David Liss's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Christine Cody is the author of the new postapocalyptic supernatural Western Bloodlands series. The first book, Bloodlands,  launched July 26 and will be followed by Blood Rules (August 30) and In Blood We Trust (September 27).

She applied the Page 69 Test to Bloodlands and reported the following:
I would call Bloodlands a paranormal Shane meets Mad Max. At first, we meet Gabriel, a drifter who is looking for his lover—a woman who mysteriously deserted him and fled to the New Badlands, which is a desolate place where people have gone to hide from the terrible events of this new world. He finds trouble there, along with a group of survivalist types who take him in when he’s injured. He’s like a Western movie gunslinger in that he has lost his soul—but this is literal for Gabriel because he’s a vampire. Eventually, a monster hunter appears in the New Badlands, and Gabriel and his protectors need to decide whether it’s worth “outing” him to save the settlers’ lives; Gabriel even wonders if giving himself up is his path to regaining what he remembers of his humanity.

Page 69 is a pretty good place to test out this story, because we meet some members of the survivalist community and get to the bottom of why they won’t face up to a major problem that’s been dogging them—the harassment they’re undergoing from the employees of their new neighbor out in the New Badlands. The page also gives a sense that the protagonist, Gabriel, is hiding his vampirism and has left the urban hubs for more than just a visit to “the nowheres.” It also shows a little that he’s not entirely confident in his vampire skills yet….
Zel’s tone hardened. “Stamp’s presence really brings a crowd together.”

The oldster stepped away from the rooted wall, and from his loose walk, Gabriel could fully see now that he was nothing more than scrawny elbows and knees contained in denim.

“Good neighbors don’t force introductions,” he said. “Stamp’s boys don’t seem to understand that. They’re tone-deaf as to what was happening in the hubs, with the bad-guy raids and the attacks coming from every which way.”

Zel took up where he left off. “Too true—Stamp’s gotta get a grasp on his men. Those fools seem to have no restraint, and it’s going to amount to a terrible something.”

Gabriel could read it in them--these were people who’d retreated more than any of the sanctuary-bound ones in the hubs. A lot of good citizens had done the same. It was much easier to keep to yourself than to put yourself out there.

He knew that more than anyone.

The old guy came to stand a few unsteady feet away from the table, and Gabriel wondered if there was some turtlegrape alcohol in that canteen. He couldn’t smell it on him though.

“We could take Stamp on,” the oldster said. “Him and his guys.”

“Smart,” Zel said, engaging the old man, who seemed to have been waiting for just such an interaction. “While we’re at it, let’s just kill him. Let’s ignore that he might even have connections in the world and his death could spark off a thousand shit scenarios that’d bury us under more than dirt.”

“Aw, we’ve suffered worse before with terrorists and the like. Zel—you could bust them up all by yourself. You and Mariah, with all those weapons her dad collected before he--”

The oldster stopped when he saw Sammy glaring at him. Even Chaplin kept quiet.

This would be a good time to look into someone’s eyes and scan his or her thoughts, if Gabriel had more confidence in doing it.
Learn more about the book and author at the Bloodlands wesbite and on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Bloodlands.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Thirteen Million Dollar Pop"

David Levien, author of Where the Dead Lay and City of the Sun, has been nominated for the Edgar, Hammett, and Shamus awards, and is also a screenwriter and director (including co-director of Solitary Man (2009) starring Michael Douglas). He lives in Connecticut.

He applied the Page 69 Test to 13 Million Dollar Pop, his third Frank Behr novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 in my book is all about the villain, professional killer and dirty-work contractor from Wales, Waddy Dwyer. As he sits surveillance on his target’s house, assessing how best to kill him, he briefly muses over past actions. It gives a glimpse into his former life in the military and then British intelligence service. In the present day scene, he shows some skill and competence along with a general level of malevolence. Not the character’s introduction, but a good snapshot into the opponent Frank Behr is dealing with in this book.
Learn more about the book and author at David Levien's website.

Writers Read: David Levien.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Madame Bovary's Daughter"

Linda Urbach is a published author and screenwriter. Her third novel, Madame Bovary’s Daughter, addresses the question: Whatever happened to the only daughter of the scandalous Madame Bovary, literature’s greatest adulteress and worst mother?

Urbach applied the Page 69 Test to Madame Bovary's Daughter and reported the following:
Just to set the scene, Jean-François Millet, the famous painter has been using our heroine Berthe Bovary as a model. He then decides to paint her grandmother and her grandmother’s best friend. Both women assume they will be painted in their best finery. Little do they know that Millet specialized in “the common folk” and that they are to be the subjects of his famous painting entitled “Washerwomen”.
“I cannot speak for Madame Leaumont, but I’m sure she will consent. And I myself would be honored.” Berthe fumed. She had never seen her grandmother so excited. “What should we wear?” she asked, smoothing stray hairs back into her tight bun.

“Just wear your plainest, most comfortable clothes,” he answered. “You will speak to Madame Leaumont for me?” He picked up his painting materials.

“Of course.”

“Shall we say the day after tomorrow?” He tipped the brim of his straw hat.

“As you wish, Monsieur,” she said making a small curtsy. Berthe had to turn away. She found it painful to witness her grandmother’s newly discovered coquettish ways.

Two days later her grandmother and Madame Leaumont stood in the farmyard awaiting the arrival of Monsieur Millet. They were dressed in their very finest clothing.

Madame Leaumont wore a blue satin dress with a very tight bodice and sleeves and a matching bonnet trimmed in black velvet with a jaunty black plume affixed to the side.

Berthe’s Grandmother was wearing what looked to be a crimson ball gown. It had a huge hoop skirt that was decorated with jet beads and scallops of black lace. The bodice was so tight she seemed to have difficulty taking a deep breath. Instead of a hat she wore a feather headdress with a curled upsweep. She donned black lace gloves and kept her skirts slightly lifted to avoid the manure and soiled hay that covered the ground.

“Berthe, fetch a broom and clean this up,” she said, indicating the area where she stood. She opened her mouth to say something but thought better of it. What was she going to say? This was her grandmother’s house, her grandmother’s world for that matter. And now this vain silly woman had stolen her granddaughter’s only pleasure.

“Isn’t this exciting?” enthused Madame Leaumont. “We’re going to be in a famous painting.”
Learn more about the book and author at Linda Urbach's website and blog.

Writers Read: Linda Urbach.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 22, 2011

"The Nightmare Thief"

Meg Gardiner was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford law school. She practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Gardiner now lives with her family near London.

China Lake, one of her Evan Delaney novels, won the 2009 Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Paperback Original.

The Dirty Secrets Club, featuring Jo Beckett, won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of 2008.

Gardiner applied the Page 69 Test to The Nightmare Thief, her ninth novel, and reported the following:
In The Nightmare Thief, an “urban reality game” goes wrong and traps a group of college students in the Sierra Nevada wilderness, fighting for survival along with series heroine Jo Beckett. The novel’s a thriller: it features action, life-and-death danger, and relentless killers hunting down injured innocents.

And that’s what you’ll find on Page 69.

Autumn Reiniger’s twenty-first birthday “mock crime spree” is supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. It’s a high priced version of cops and robbers, played with fast cars and fake guns on the streets of San Francisco. Edge Adventures alerts the SFPD ahead of time, so the cops can ignore the game—and any 911 calls.

And that’s exactly what some very bad people are waiting for. A criminal gang hijacks the game and grabs Autumn and her friends. They want $20 million from her wealthy father. And they’ve timed it so that the police will never suspect that the kidnapping is for real.

But their plan goes awry in a remote part of the Sierras. And when they cross paths with forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett and her boyfriend, combat medic Gabe Quintana, the game turns deadly.

Page 69 depicts the moment when the birthday dream weekend becomes a nightmare. At gunpoint the kidnappers force Jo, Gabe, and Autumn’s group into a Hummer and take off at high speed.
Von held the gun steady. “Everybody lock your hands behind your head.”

They cinched their fingers behind them. The narrow road rose up the mountainside. Friedrich accelerated. The Hummer had power, but in the altitude the engine labored. The trees whipped past. Von wiped his hand under his nose.

He gestured to Jo and Gabe. “Pockets. Empty ’em.”

They threw their phones across the limo. Von scooped them up.

He nodded at Gabe. “Back pocket too, hombre.”

Reluctantly Gabe took out his folded buck knife and slid it across the carpet to him.

“Nobody move. Not a muscle.” Von climbed over the bench seat into the driver’s compartment.

Peyton’s sobs subsided to whimpers. Autumn was shaking. “Grier.” She turned to Dustin, buried her face against his shoulder, and cried. He whispered in her ear, “Quiet.”

In the driver’s compartment, Friedrich shot Von a crazed look. “What do we do?”

“We keep driving. We get there, and then we deal with it.”

“You know that Dane’s gonna flip,” Friedrich said.

“Shut up.”

“And Sabine’s gonna have your balls for breakfast.”

Jo’s stomach was cramping. Von, Friedrich, Dane, Sabine. They were being kidnapped by the damned Trapp Family Singers.
Danger, action, a hint that under pressure Jo’s calm and possesses gallows humor—Page 69 presents a clear snapshot of what the book’s about. I certainly hope it would entice people to read on. Because a minute later a fight erupts. The Hummer wrecks. Jo, Gabe, and the kids end up trapped at the bottom of a gorge. Nobody knows where they are. They have no way to call for help. Some of the kids are badly injured. And killers are closing in on them.

And then… you have to turn the page.
Learn more about the author and her work at Meg Gardiner's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Dirty Secrets Club.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Collector.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Evan Delaney series.

Writers Read: Meg Gardiner.

The Page 69 Test: The Liar's Lullaby.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Jo Beckett series.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"In Malice, Quite Close"

Brandi Lynn Ryder lives in the heart of Napa Valley.

She applied the Page 69 Test to In Malice, Quite Close, her first novel, and reported the following:
Pg. 69:
“Come in.” Crisp and clean, the words. Very like Tristan.

Luke went in.

“Ah. Luke. Comment vas-tu?” There was a little more silver in Tristan’s blond hair, or maybe it was only that the tan he’d brought back from Paris accentuated it. His pale blue eyes were paler. He looked well. Luke stepped into the vast, opulent room and shut the door behind him. The builder, prompted presumably by the reclusive Bryan Prescott, had made the doors and walls heavy enough to keep out invading armies. A small comfort when the enemy was in the same room.

Tristan smiled warmly. “I hear I am to congratulate you, mon fils. You must show me these paintings of yours. Then we will go into town and celebrate.”

Luke stared. He wasn’t sure what he had expected, but it wasn’t a celebratory dinner.

Tristan went on, “You’ve chosen an eccentric place to paint, n’est- ce pas? In the cellar?”

Luke braced himself by studying his father-in-law’s dress socks in detail. Paisley print, monochromatic gray. He cleared his throat. “Why don’t you tell me, Tristan?”

Tristan simply gazed at Luke in his aristocratic, unruffled way, but the eyes behind the wire rims receded. “Excuse me?”

“The room in the wine cellar. It’s your art studio, not mine.”

Tristan’s voice remained cool. “Well, I suppose the room is technically mine, mon fils, but you’ve never concerned yourself before with such things.” Funny, the way he said it, it didn’t even seem an insult. “You might have taken any number of rooms for a studio, Luke. We would have respected your privacy. I am a firm believer in privacy.”

The evasion was so perfectly executed that Luke was taken aback. Tristan must have rehearsed it on the plane. “Nicola found me in there. Otherwise I’d never— ” He floundered. “She just assumed I’d done them and was set on telling Gisèle.” An expression crossed Tristan’s face that Luke couldn’t decipher. Shrewd. Something more. “Ella believes it, too. And it’s better for everyone if she doesn’t find out that your concern isn’t exactly fatherly— ”

*Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder. Copyright © 2011 by Brandi Lynn Ryder
I love the premise of this experiment – it echoes the philosophical notion that to truly understand anything, is to understand everything… This page is representative of the whole in certain thematic respects—identity, obsession, truth and illusion— though it contains only one of the four points of view in the novel.

The thread running through In Malice, Quite Close is the confession of French ex-pat Tristan Mourault: his seduction and subsequent abduction of 15-year-old Karen Miller (whom he christens “Gisèle”) from San Francisco in 1979, and their odyssey over fifteen years. The relationship is not what one might expect and surrounding (and embellishing) Tristan’s journal entries are three different perspectives of his present-day world. Gisèle, whom he has passed off as his daughter, is now thirty years old. She still lives with him but has married Luke Farrell, a weak man clinging to the façade of a happy family, the leisure of wealth and a deep-rooted need to belong. Accompanying his narrative is that of Gisèle’s daughter, Nicola, whom Luke doubts is his own, as well as Karen/Gisele’s sister, Amanda, who never accepted that her beloved sister died fifteen years before.

When a collection of nude paintings of Gisèle surfaces, it incites Amanda to search for the woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to her sister, and Tristan’s carefully cultivated world begins to collapse.

This scene takes place shortly after the discovery of the paintings. Luke, an aspiring but unoriginal artist, has claimed the unsigned nudes as his own— yet suspects the true artist is his “father-in-law,” Tristan and the paintings therefore evidence of incest or, at least, incestuous desire. Here he confronts Tristan, yet like many of Luke’s endeavors the effort is ineffectual. They fence with words and evasions on the frail landscape of their illusions. Clearly, this is a world in which nothing is as it seems…
Learn more about the book and author at Brandi Lynn Ryder's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"The Good Thief's Guide to Venice"

Chris Ewan’s debut novel, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, won the Long Barn Books First Novel Competition and was shortlisted for the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award.

It was followed by The Good Thief's Guide to Paris (book 2 in the Charlie Howard series) and The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas (book 3).

Ewan applied the Page 69 Test to the latest novel in the series, The Good Thief's Guide to Venice, and reported the following:
Wouldn’t you know it, Page 69 falls at a crucial juncture for my lead character, Charlie Howard, globetrotting mystery author and professional thief-for-hire. In just a short half-page, he makes a fateful decision and agrees to do the bidding of a glamorous female cat burglar named Graziella. Mind you, Charlie doesn’t have a lot of choice. Graziella is blackmailing him – she’s stolen his most prized possession (a signed first edition of The Maltese Falcon) and she’s refusing to return it unless Charlie breaks into a Venetian palazzo on her behalf. Page 69 comes shortly after Graziella has lured Charlie to a lonely moonlit balcony, and explained her dastardly plan. Her scheme is so exhaustive she even hands him a sheaf of papers.
The sheets had been torn from a spiral-bound pad and they were covered in detailed notes and haphazard sketches. The package would take some studying, but at first glance, it looked like a comprehensive breakdown of everything I was likely to come up against.

Stuffing the pages back inside the envelope, I bent down for the briefcase, then stood in my winter coat, the case in one hand and the envelope in the other, looking, I imagine, a lot like a businessman about to set out for a day at the office. ‘Be sure and look after my book,’ I told her, turning to open the doors to the empty apartment.

‘Then do not look inside the case.’

‘Wouldn’t dream of it,’ I called over my shoulder.

But not for the first time that night, I turned out to be wrong.
What page 69 doesn’t give you, is a sense of the attraction and conflict at the heart of the twisted relationship Charlie and Graziella have found themselves engaged in. Yes, Graziella is blackmailing Charlie, and sure, she’s stolen from him, but the truth is he doesn’t altogether mind. Graziella intrigues him. She excites him. And since he’s been spending most of his time in Venice trying to ignore the itch in his felonious fingers, so as to concentrate on writing his latest book, he’s not exactly upset to have a reason to step out on the prowl yet again.

I like the last line of the extract, though. It gives some sense of the trouble that’s shortly to come Charlie’s way. Because, naturally, Graziella’s request is not as simple as it might first appear. And it goes without saying that telling a born thief not to look inside a locked case is only going to result in one (very explosive) outcome…
Learn more about Chris Ewan and his work at his website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Paris.

Writers Read: Chris Ewan.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot"

Jodi Compton is the author of the acclaimed novels Hailey’s War, The 37th Hour, and Sympathy Between Humans.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot, and reported the following:
Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot is an identity-theft novel with a hard gangland edge, meaning it’s not about Internet-based identity theft, but the kind done with stolen ID cards and other documents, which are then sold on the black market. This is how Hailey Cain, my protagonist, is framed. On my website, you can read an excerpt that sets up the situation -- Hailey’s just found out someone committed two murders while using her identity. (To read this scene, just follow the link on the site’s home page).

On Page 69, we join Hailey and her ally, the mobster’s daughter Tess D’Agostino, at Tess’s home in Los Angeles. Hailey’s taken refuge there to figure out how it could be that her name and picture are all over the news as a murderer of two people -- one an off-duty cop -- in San Francisco, a city Hailey left at New Year’s and hasn’t returned to since. Essentially, this is where the plot gets rolling after an introductory segment called “A Day in the Life,” which is a “typical” day for the aimless, lawless Hailey Cain, who’s been working as a second-in-command to Serena “Warchild” Delgadillo, a rising Latina gangster Hailey knows from their youth in rural Southern California.

Tess and Hailey are just starting to unravel the theft of Hailey’s name and identity. The news from up north is all about the two shocking murders; so far, there’s been no mention of a financial crime. Tess, a businesswoman, raises that possibility:
“Well, this woman’s motives, when they come out, will be financial,” Tess said. It wasn’t a question.... “Within a day or two, the papers will be reporting irregularities in (the victim’s) accounts, check forgeries or large-amount withdrawals.”

“That’d be my guess.”

“Hmmm. ... The question is, why you? How did she choose you to impersonate?”
The why comes out of the plot of Hailey’s War, the preceding book, and Hailey begins to suspect as much not long after her conversation with Tess. From there, a hunt begins that concludes at high speeds on the highways of L.A. County, with Hailey literally chasing down the woman who stole the one thing Hailey still values: her good name.
Learn more about the book and author at Jodi Compton's website.

Writers Read: Jodi Compton.

The Page 69 Test: Hailey's War.

My Book, The Movie: Hailey's War.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Death and the Maiden"

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, and the newly released Death and the Maiden.

Elias applied the Page 69 Test to Death and the Maiden and reported the following:
Where the hell is Kortovsky? Is he dead or alive? In hiding or just being his usual arrogant, manipulative self? Those are some of the maddening, exasperating, frustrating questions that hound Daniel Jacobus and his cohorts throughout Death and the Maiden. With an unlikely alliance between our hero, the blind, cantankerous, over-the-hill violin teacher, Daniel Jacobus, and the flamboyant police chief of Lima, Peru—Espartaco Asuncion Ochoa Romero, aka Oro—the manhunt for Aaron Kortovsky, narcissistic first violinist of the world-renowned but dysfunctional New Magini String Quartet, leads them to the back stage of Carnegie Hall and a back alley of Lima.

Page 69 of Death and the Maiden touches upon these central themes and characters. Jacobus, an ardent admirer of Beethoven and the idealism of his music, takes exception to Oro’s preference for Mozart. Oro, who Jacobus considers a mere dilettante, says, “For me, the heroism of Beethoven’s music tells us what humanity should be, which no doubt is wonderful but un poco utopian for me. That is why I prefer Mozart, because he tells us the way humanity really is.” As their investigation continues, and body parts begin to show up in violin cases with disconcerting frequency, we see a side of humanity that Mozart could only have dreamed about in his worst nightmares.
Learn more about the book and author at Gerald Elias's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Devil's Trill.

The Page 69 Test: Danse Macabre.

My Book, The Movie: Devil's Trill and Danse Macabre.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Kathleen George, author of police thrillers, was an Edgar finalist for best novel for The Odds. A trade edition of The Odds was released last month.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Hideout, the sequel to The Odds, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Let’s start with the window sill in the bathroom. See how it goes.” She came down the stairs a bit more. She was dressed up, possibly going somewhere and didn’t want him to know. She was saying, “Last night, I put everything in the hallway outside the bathroom, so I’d be ready for today.” She ushered him up the steps ahead of her.

He saw things on a tray: paint, the brushes, a scraper, some sandpaper, a scrub brush. She said, “If there’s paint that’s chipping but won’t come off, you use this. Then you sand it all down smooth. Then use the brush to get all the dust off.”

“Where do I dump it?”

“Waste basket. Call me when you’ve finished this one. We’ll see where to go from there.”

He watched her go downstairs. The tools were lined up and they looked simple enough. He had to try. Soon he heard a radio playing. The idea that the accident might still be on the news sent a shiver though him. Gray truck, gray truck, he told himself. He heard pots and pans clattering. Ten dollars an hour. He could drag it out. Enough for food if nothing else. It would take a couple of days of work, more, to fix the truck.

He concentrated on the job at hand. He spent twenty minutes working on the bathroom sill. When it looked smooth, he decided to start on places on the outside part of the windowsill that were down to raw splintered wood. The woman hadn’t asked for it, but it would buy him time. Once he got started, he began to notice places on the upper window frame that needed work. Weather, years of weather. When people lived in rural places, they left their windows open.

A sugary smell made its way up the steps from the kitchen, making his stomach gnaw itself.

Some minutes later, she came up the steps to check on him. “Still on the same sill?”
What does my page 69 of Hideout show me--or any skimmer/browser leafing through the book? It shows me Jack Rutter and Addie Ward on the same page—uncomfortable both. She’s trying to show him work that needs to be done at her summerhouse. He’s looking at possible weapons and remembering what his brother wants him to do--hit the old lady, incapacitate her, steal something of value.

Only forty-eight hours ago, Jack was checking out this area up at Sugar Lake, two hours from Pittsburgh. He got the idea from their friend Chester about finding a place to squat for a while and Chester said country homes were good for that. Jack knew of a place all right. His mother had rented the Jensen summer house when he and his brother Ryan were little boys. It was the only vacation of their lives and it went sour when they got kicked out for trashing the place. While Chester and Ryan were in Pittsburgh terrorizing old ladies for money, Jack drove up to look at the Jensen place, but he didn’t break in. He planned to take the idea back to Ryan who was always urging him to do something to support them. A place to stay was something. After all, they had no money and they lived in their truck. Still, he wanted to take back more. So, that same day Jack drove down the road to explore another place, but that one turned out to be occupied. Addie Ward, an eighty-two year old woman, was in Sugar Lake early for the season. She answered her door and he had to pass himself off as a worker looking for odd jobs. He got back to Pittsburgh with a little money. His brother Ryan snatched the money and it went immediately for drugs.

Then a little over twenty-four hours ago before the scene that happens on p. 69, Jack Rutter and his brother Ryan were driving wild and crazy in the middle of the night on Pittsburgh’s Northside streets. Jack was woozy with alcohol, Ryan high on crack and behind the wheel. Jack felt the danger but he couldn’t stop Ryan who purposely drove at, hit, and killed a young mother walking to her job at the hospital. Jack took over at the wheel and got them out of town and to the Jensen place. They found beds there. A little booze. Hardly any food. And still they had no money. For one thing they had to get the truck fixed. A crackly radio told them the young woman was dead and the police were searching.

So on p. 69 Jack has once again entered the remote vacation home owned by octogenarian Addie Ward.

This time, when Jack enters, half announcing himself, also scoping the place out, Addie Ward is descending the steps from the second floor. She’s hard of hearing--he knows that from their first meeting. He finds himself studying her. He is aware that she’s a natural beauty and she doesn’t dress like most old ladies. She wears a gauzy skirt and a colored top and earrings, as if she’s going out.

He could easily overpower her.

She smiles and greets him. She thinks about what work she can give him. Will she offer him food again?

What I’ve tried to do in Hideout, is to tell a tale of old against young, steady against dangerous, innocent against guilty. I like the remote setting—Sugar Lake, pre-season, two hours from Pittsburgh. I had to plump up Sugar Lake to bigger than it actually is, but I was able to use the surrounding towns, like Cochranton. My cast of detectives have to track clues in the ‘burgh before they know enough to travel to Sugar Lake and Cochranton and eventually Meadville.

I remember being enchanted by Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton—it featured an old woman and a young man. I remember, too, being terrified by Edna O’Brien’s House of Splendid Isolation which uses the same conflict configuration. I wanted to write my own story of an old woman and a young man. Hate, love, suspicion, violence, the whole ball of wax.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Odds.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Stealing Mona Lisa"

Carson Morton was born in London, England and moved with his family to the United States when he was eleven. He worked as a professional musician for many years, making an album for United Artists Records with his group Razmataz, and playing with the likes of John Sebastian, Billy Preston, and many others. He is a screenwriter and published playwright, and has worked in television as a consultant and composer.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Stealing Mona Lisa, his first novel, and reported the following:
What an interesting idea. On page 69 of Stealing Mona Lisa, the mysterious Marquis de Valfierno, the mastermind behind the theft of the world’s most famous painting, remembers back to how he met Émile, his young protégé. Émile will soon play a vital part in the scheme to steal the painting and sell six copies to six unsuspecting American Robber Barons. But Valfierno first encountered Émile when he was a small boy, a street urchin, in a small alleyway in Paris. Valfierno has been set upon by street thugs, so called Apaches, intent on beating him to death:
As Valfierno lay on the rough cobblestones trying to protect himself from the flying boots and clubs, he had all but given up any hope of survival when the punishment suddenly stopped. He heard the Apaches murmuring to each other and risked opening his eyes. Their attention was riveted on the slight figure of a young boy standing on the other side of Valfierno’s prostrate figure.

“And what do you think you’re doing?” the leader demanded, appraising the boy. “Allé, gamin! Off with you before you get a boot up your ass!”

But the boy didn’t move. He just stood there observing the scene with an expression of almost innocent curiosity. One of the young Apaches stepped over Valfierno and raised his club as if to hit the boy. The boy flinched instinctively but held his ground.

The Apache with the club turned to the leader and shrugged.

“Go on,” said the leader. “Clobber the little bastard if he won’t move.”

The Apache turned back to the boy, brandishing his club once again. The boy just looked at him.

“Ah, to hell with it,” the Apache said lowering his weapon and returning to the group. “There’s no fun in this. It’s too easy. You clobber him if you want to.”

Merde,” the leader said, “we’ve done enough for one night anyway. We’ve given this Dandy a lesson he’ll not soon forget.” The others agreed and, with a few parting kicks for good measure, the Apaches melted away into the shadows.

Valfierno looked up at the boy through swollen eyelids. “What’s your name?” he asked.

The boy hesitated for a moment before he replied.


“Well, thank you, Émile. I was beginning to get the distinct impression that they didn’t like me. Are you hungry, Émile?”

It was weeks later, after the boy had been cleaned up and moved into the attic bedroom of the house Valfierno rented on rue de Edouard VII that Valfierno casually asked him why he hadn’t run away that night.

Émile gave Valfierno a puzzled look. Hadn’t it been obvious?

“You were lying in my spot.”
A writer must be careful when it comes to “flashbacks” (a Hollywood wit once dismissed them as “a thing of the past”) but I thought it was a dramatic enough scene to deepen the back-story of the relationship between teacher and student. Plus, the motivation behind the assault and the circumstances that led to Émile becoming a street urchin in the first place dovetails nicely into the plot later on…
Learn more about the book and author at Carson Morton's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"The Beginners"

Rebecca Wolff is an award-winning poet and founding editor of Fence and Fence Books. She received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and is the author of three books of poems; her work has appeared in The Nation, The Paris Review, and A Public Space.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Beginners, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Beginners puts the reader in the middle of an appropriately dirty scene. We find Ginger Pritt, our fifteen-year-old narrator and heroine, catching her first earful of the living adult world of nitty-gritty sexuality into which she is going to be plunged, or seduced, or coerced, in the course of the novel. Previously she has only encountered it in her fervid readings of the pornographic magazines in her employer’s stash. Ginger has slipped out of her house after dinner, and taken a creeped-out bike ride through the dark. On this ride she feels that her “back, as she rode away from the house felt larger than my whole body, like a target, with the raw, unprotected feeling of full exposure, total vulnerability to whatever forces might alight.” She rides to her new friends’ house, the Motherwells, and then standing at the screen door, then inside the door, in the hallway, eavesdrops on a particularly talkative, linguistically charged incidence of coitus on the kitchen table. She is caught, unable to move backward or forward for fear that they will understand that she is there and listening (though there is always a suspicion, with the Motherwells, that they are all too aware of who is observing them and when—that they set these traps for Ginger). Here’s a little of what she hears:
She sipped some liquid. The glass came down on the table with a resonant ping. “Because when I think of a phrase like ‘dewy p-ssy,’ it is actually my own ... that is referred to, and what is exciting to me is the idea that my p-ssy could be, and probably will be, referred to by someone in the future—near or far—as ‘dewy.’ And this excitement in turn actually produces in my body the phenomenon, or state, if you will, of ‘dewy p-ssy.’

This time she allowed the two words to issue silkily from between her lips, to be drawn out like a shining ribbon.

Theo’s voice was a little lowered. I had to strain to hear him. “Keep talking—”
This page is an interesting slice of the book in that it lands directly on something that reviewers and interviewers have almost all been shy of addressing: the not copious but quite pointed and integral instances of frank sexual content in the narrative. The sex is, on the other hand, something that those who have read the book for pleasure have, well, noted with pleasure. It’s not always good sex, but it’s sex that is quite visceral and that the reader tends to have some strong feelings about.
Learn more about the book and author at Rebecca Wolff's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Killed at the Whim of a Hat"

Born in London, Colin Cotterill has worked as teacher in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan before he started training teachers in Thailand. Cotterill and his wife live in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Siam in Southern Thailand. He’s won the Dilys and a CWA Dagger, and has been a finalist for several other awards.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Killed at the Whim of a Hat, and reported the following:
The only problem I have with page 69 of the English version of Killed at the Whim of a Hat (They still haven’t sent me a copy of the US version) is that it isn’t funny. It astounded me that I’d be able to write an entire page and not have one joke. It usually only takes me a paragraph to get bored and feel the need to be wry. But here on page 69 there is nerry a chuckle. Not so much as a muffled guffaw.

It does however have a mystery which is always a good thing for a mystery novel. It makes you want to hurry on to page 70. Our protagonist, Jimm, is in a temple trying to squeeze some information out of a nun and a monk. They’re being very cagy and Jimm is obviously uncomfortable in that setting:
…I’d always been uncomfortably aware of rituals and unwritten rites in temples. I seemed to be the only one who didn’t know the secrets. As children, Mair had always hurried us in and out of ceremonies as if some spell might infect us if we lingered too long. Consequently, I always felt like a foreigner with only a basic grasp of the language.
And will the nun spill the beans?
‘So?’ I pushed.

We were behind the half-painted wall. The nun’s voice dropped to a hush no louder than the swish her robe.
Still plagued by this lack of humour, I would like all of you folks in North America to rush out and by a copy of the Minotaur version of KWH and see what’s happening on page 69 there. If it isn’t that funny I’m obviously turning into a serious writer. Heaven forbid.
Learn more about the book and author at Colin Cotterill's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"The Inverted Forest"

John Dalton is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. His first novel, Heaven Lake, won the Barnes and Noble 2004 Discover Award in fiction and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Heaven Lake was listed as a best book of the year by Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Dalton is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently a member of the English faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he teaches in their MFA Writing Program.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Inverted Forest, and reported the following:
My feeling is that page 69 is representative of The Inverted Forest as a whole. It certainly captures the primary dilemma of the first 100 pages.

The novel begins with fussy, judgmental Schuller Kindermann, founder of Kindermann Forest Summer Camp, going for a late night stroll and discovering his entire staff of counselors partying and swimming naked at the camp pool. The first camp session is set to start in just two days. Another camp director might sigh wearily and lecture his truant counselors about responsibility and professional behavior. Schuller chooses to fire all of them. He must then rehire an entire staff of counselors in 48 hours.

What he fails to tell the new arrivals is that for the first two weeks of camp they will be taking care of mentally disabled adults from the state hospital. The newly arrived counselors are shocked by the news and then overwhelmed by the demands of attending to a large group of disabled adults. Some of the state hospital campers have faces and bodies that, because of their varied conditions, are distorted or grotesque. Others exhibit odd, willful, even dangerous behavior. At the mess hall that evening, the new counselors and staff feel overrun by the 104 state hospital campers. Stunned, they sit at their mess hall dinner tables and try to take it all in.

From page 69:
But there were far stranger happenings unfolding at other tables. There were men and women from the state hospital whose diseases left them in states so pitiful and rare that they could not, on first glance, be believed: a man whose tumored head had doubled in size and whose face had begun to sag and droop as if it were made of melting wax; several creatures, perhaps women, who were small, pale, nearly hairless, and darted about with the energy and nimbleness of monkeys. By far the most striking, or rather the most horrendous, were two elderly twins, the Mulcrone sisters, whose malformation was so astounding it could not be stared at directly or even properly acknowledged. The new counselors of Kindermann Forest, Wyatt included, looked at the sisters and turned away. Later, maybe, he and the other counselors would come to believe and accept. But for now it was better to think that what they saw must be a trick of the sisters’ intense homeliness and the hall’s bad lighting.

Of course they were not all monstrous. Among the campers were scores of men and women whose syndromes and conditions had rendered them childlike in appearance, and a dozen others who could pass as normal until they drew near and one could see a troubling unevenness in their gaze.

To be sure, though, they were all of one tribe. There were many of them and few
Learn more about the book and author at John Dalton's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"This Shared Dream"

Kathleen Ann Goonan's first novel, Queen City Jazz (the start of her Nanotech Quartet), was a New York Times Notable book. The Bones of Time, her acclaimed second novel, was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2000. Crescent City Rhapsody (third in the Quartet) was a Nebula nominee, and Light Music, also a Nebula finalist, was described by Booklist as the "brilliant conclusion to a tetralogy as consequential in sf as Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy."

Goonan won the John W. Campbell Award for her novel In War Times.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, This Shared Dream, and reported the following:
Page 69 of This Shared Dream:
She made herself take a breath. “Please don’t come down here unless I’m outside. I already told you.”

He turned his blond-tufted head and stared at her, but didn’t say anything. He turned his attention back to pebble-plucking. Then he stood, hoisted a big rock with both hands and smashed it down hard so that it splashed them both.

“Come on, then, we have to get dressed.”

He said, “I’m looking for a pink rock.”

She grabbed him around the waist, hoisted him onto her hip, and strode toward the house. “I have to go to work, and you have to go to school and then spend three days with Daddy.”

“No!” He flailed his arms and kicked. “That Lavender Lady hugs me and squishes me and her perfume makes me sneeze.”

Jill set him down on the steps. “Her name is Tracy, honey. I don’t think she should lock you out of Daddy’s room. I’ll talk to Daddy about it tonight, okay? But he might not change his mind. If you’re afraid at night, you call me on the phone. There’s not anything to be afraid of there.”

“There might be ghosts there too,” he said darkly. “Bad ghosts.”

“Get moving! The van will be here in five minutes.”


May 7

In her little garret at the very top of Halcyon House, Bette opened her eyes and stretched. God, but she was stiff!

She sat up in her nest of sheet and blanket and looked out the small window right next to her.

It really was a lovely view. Thirty-five feet below was the roof of the grotto Sam had built for them, and the rushing creek. She was at treetop-level, and the oak leaves fluttering in the crisp morning breeze partially veiled the window, which was good. In the woods beyond the yard, spring-green treetops glittered, catching the early sunlight. Her grandson, wearing a long white t-shirt, thumped down the dewy back stairs and ran down the broad stone stairway to the creek.

Kneeling, he reached into the water, and stood, examining something in his hand. Dropping it, he commenced picking up stones and tossing them into the water.

Bette heard Jill, several floors down and therefore very faint, yelling “Stephen!”—her voice distant and irritated. Is that how I used to sound? Bette wondered.
Page 69 of This Shared Dream turns out to be a multi-generational snapshot sharing one focal character, a five-year-old boy who has chosen to call himself Whens, and two viewpoint characters--his mother, Jill, and his grandmother, Bette.

This novel is an exploration of the multiply-wrapped emotional object we call memory, and about time as it unfolds and casts new perspective on the past. Understanding that past is the first step toward making better choices, but there are as many pasts as there are individuals—hence, the title. Throughout the novel, I try to grab hold of the shimmering threads that splay out from each myth a family claims as truth and show how ephemeral, and yet how powerful and affective, such gestalts can be.

On page 69, Whens, his mother Jill, and his grandmother Bette have moved into the long-abandoned family home in downtown Washington, D.C, an overgrown mansion that neighborhood children believe is haunted.

When Jill wakes, Whens is not in his room, and her initial irritation at the possibility of being late to work gives way to panic. At the top of page 69, Jill has just found Whens outside, throwing rocks in a stream. Jill is angry, relieved, and too much in a hurry to deal with his anger at his changing emotional landscape, which is how most of us end up dealing with our own lives.

Mid-page, we see the same scene from the POV of Bette, Jill’s mother, who is much like a ghost in the house of her daughter. Jill does not know that her mother is there, but Bette does reveal herself to Whens soon after this scene.

Although all of us do exist in the current of family and the past, it is always surprising when they suddenly pick up energy and turn the placid, sunny excursion we thought we’d paid for into the kind of storm that sinks ships and dashes us on the rocks.

So I find that the page 69 test works quite well for this book—it is a microcosm of the energies that unfold and move the Dance family through uncharted waters of memory, time, and love.
Learn more about the author and her work at Kathleen Ann Goonan's website.

The Page 99 Test: In War Times.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Absolute Zero Cool"

Declan Burke is the author of Eightball Boogie (2003) and The Big O (2007). He is the editor of Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (Liberties Press, 2011), and hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction called Crime Always Pays.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Absolute Zero Cool, and reported the following:
Absolute Zero Cool is a blackly comic tale about a writer who finds himself confronted by a character from a long-abandoned novel, which was provisionally titled The Baby Killers. The character is a hospital porter called Billy Karlsson, a borderline sociopath who occasionally engaged in euthanasia in assisting old people who wished to die.

Unfortunately, Billy simply isn’t murderous enough to cut the mustard in today’s crowded market for serial killers. Stuck in the half-life limbo of an unpublished novel, Billy has a proposal for his creator: that they collaborate on a redraft which ups the ante and makes a fully fledged sociopath of Billy. As his contribution, Billy will give the new version added oomph by blowing up the hospital where he works. ‘Publish,’ says Billy, ‘or I’m damned.’

Thus Absolute Zero Cool incorporates a story-within-a-story, as the narrative veers between the process of redrafting the novel and the constant updating of the original material.

In that context, Page 69 is fairly representative of Absolute Zero Cool, in that it’s almost entirely given over to a redrafted excerpt from The Baby Killers. Here Billy Karlsson, aka K, is in a coffee shop with his long-suffering girlfriend Cassie, who wants Billy to settle down and have a baby. Billy, as is his Walter Mitty-ish wont, drifts away from the conversation to indulge in one of his favourite fantasies, in this case the destruction of the iconic Temple of Diana in 365 BCE by the infamous arsonist, Herostratus:
Page 69:

‘I know you probably won’t be interested in this,’ Cassie says, ‘but …’

We are in Zanzibar, a coffee bar on Old Market Street, seated at a counter beside the plate-glass window looking out at the pigeon-soiled statue of Lady Erin. While Cassie tells me what it is she thinks I won’t be interested in, I ponder on how women start out trying to fuck their fathers and wind up fending off their prepubescent sons.

I wonder if the waitress, who is Polish, might inadvertently yelp something containing guttural vowels at her moment of climax.

I despair at how a woman’s sexual peak arrives just as her visible feminine attributes begin to sag, expand, wrinkle and dissipate.

Lady Erin was erected to commemorate the insurgents who rose against British rule in 1798. Over the years, the descendants of said insurgents have repeatedly vandalised Lady Erin, breaking off her upright arm.

I sympathise with her, as I sympathise with Diana, who still peers down horrified from Olympus as Herostratus burns her temple to the ground in order that posterity might afford him a footnote.

I think about how women who are enlightened enough to realise that men probably won’t be interested in what they have to say have mined a nugget akin to a glass diamond.

‘So what do you think?’ Cassie says.

‘About what?’

‘You weren’t listening, were you?’

‘Not to you, no.’

‘Who then?’


She blinks, then cocks an ear to the stereo. ‘Diana Ross?’

‘Diana. The goddess who had her temple burned down by a man who wanted to be remembered.’

‘What has that to do with anything?’

‘Isn’t that why we’re together? So I can eventually destroy your temple and be remembered?’

‘What’re you talking about, temples?’

‘The body is a temple, Cass. A child’s passage through the vaginal canal is an act of destruction. Hips crack, abdominal plates split. There is sundry ripping and tearing. All so my name can percolate down through the generations.’

I use the word ‘percolate’ because we are in a coffee shop.

Cassie stares at me for a long time, then turns away to gaze out at Lady Erin. She spoons the cream in her cappuccino and says, ‘K, how come you have to make everything more difficult than it really is?’

‘Nothing’s more difficult than it really is, Cass. The myth that something can be easier than it really is was invented by Hoover salesmen.’

‘You know your problem?’ She shakes her head despairingly. ‘You don’t have the imagination to see how things can be better.’

Cassie’s problem is that she thinks I only have one problem.

My line for today comes courtesy of Dame Iris Murdoch: You can live or tell; not both at once.
Learn more about the book and author at the Crime Always Pays blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Dead Man's Switch"

Before trying her hand at fiction, Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate hospitality introduced her to the racing world, which inspired the first Kate Reilly racing mystery. Kaehler works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Dead Man’s Switch, the debut Kate Reilly racing mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69 represents the whole of Dead Man’s Switch quite well, as it puts the reader behind the wheel of a Corvette racecar for the first time with my racecar-driver protagonist, Kate Reilly. At the start of the book, Kate’s looking for her first job in a top-tier racing series when she stumbles over a dead driver. She takes his job just hours later, and suspicion in his murder (naturally) falls on her as a major beneficiary of his death. In addition to having to solve the murder to maintain her good name, she has to prepare to race a car she’s only slightly familiar with on a track she doesn’t know at all … with only 30 minutes track time to get literally up to speed before the green flag falls.

On page 69, Kate completes her first and second laps of the Lime Rock Park racetrack. It’s a good example of the racing scenes in the book, as well as of the balance I tried to strike between the experience of being in Kate’s head and body (Dead Man’s Switch is told in the first-person) and the technical details of racing and racecars. There’s even a hint of the danger Kate will face, both on- and off-track….
130 this time. Getting closer to Mike’s estimates. Then I took the final turn—shit! The car wiggled as I hit the bump Mike had warned me about. I didn’t react fast enough and the car swung to the left. Left wheels running in the dirt and grass. Tire barrier on my left, angling in as the grass verge narrowed. Closer. I eased right with the wheel, trying not to brake too hard, let off the throttle too suddenly, or jerk to the right. Easy. More throttle, ease right. Wheels back on track. Shift to sixth. Main straight. Speed: 148. Flying now. Bumpy. Breathe, Kate.
Learn more about the book and author at Tammy Kaehler's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue