Saturday, April 21, 2018

"Death Comes in through the Kitchen"

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1966. She earned her BA in English literature and an MA in Spanish literature at the University of Havana, and her PhD in Latin American literature at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of twelve other works of fiction and three plays, and is the winner of the Rincón de la Victoria Award and a finalist for the Herralde Award.

Dovalpage applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Death Comes in through the Kitchen, and reported the following:
On page 69 Matt is talking to Yarmila’s best friend, an enterprising cook named Isabel. Isabel owns a paladar –a small private restaurant located in her house. When she finds out that Matt is looking for a place to stay, she quickly offers him one:
“We have a room,” she explained, turning to Matt. “Small but recently painted and renovated, with its own bathroom and everything. Eh, viejo?” she prompted her husband. “Tell him.”

Despite being called an old man, Luis smiled pleasantly and said, “Yes, it is a penthouse. It has the best views in Havana.”
The page is representative of the book in the sense that Matt, a well-intentioned, naïve American, is led to believe something that turns out to be false. A few paragraphs later, when he gets to see the room, Matt realizes that calling it “a penthouse” is quite an overstatement. This sets the tone for his entire Cuban experience.

On page 69 there is also a mention of food:
Luis and Padrino had begun to discuss food providers. “The pound of pork costs seven CUCs at the Cuatro Caminos Farmers’ Market,” Luis was saying. “But I’d rather buy it from a guy that brings it to us for eight.”
Food is a theme throughout the book, particularly in Yarmila’s blog, which contains authentic Cuban recipes.

If writing this novel didn’t make me a better writer, it did make a me a better cook. I tried all the recipes before including them. Buen provecho!
Visit Teresa Dovalpage's website.

Writers Read: Teresa Dovalpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Cut You Down"

Cut You Down, the latest novel in Sam Wiebe's series featuring Vancouver PI Dave Wakeland, is garnering rave reviews, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He's also the author of Invisible Dead and Last of the Independents, and the editor of the forthcoming Vancouver Noir. Wiebe lives in Vancouver.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Cut You Down and reported the following:
On page 69, Vancouver PI Dave Wakeland and his partner Jeff Chen approach the house of a pair of suburban gangsters, very dangerous men...who live with their parents.
"You bring your gun?"

The question surprised me. Jeff knew I'd bought a pistol last year during another case. He hadn't approved. Our security guards had firearms, and we were both licensed, but guns had never sat easy with Jefferon Chen.

I shook my head and pulled the Maglite out of the passenger's side footwell.

"You gonna swat bullets away with that?"

"We're just asking friendly questions," I told him and myself. "No need for things to escalate."

We stepped onto the ratty welcome mat and I rang the buzzer. Discordant chimes went off inside the house.

Jeff nudged my shoulder and pointed towards his feet. Beneath our shoes the letters on the mat spelled F C RIGH FF. I shifted my right foot and uncovered a K.

"Fuck right off," Jeff said.

The door was opened by an old woman carrying an axe.
Cut You Down involves a search for a college student who disappeared in the midst of a scandal involving millions of dollars. The search takes Wakeland across the Pacific Northwest, encountering people and situations that range from the absurd to the violent. This scene shows both. I'd say Page 69 offers a glimpse at what lies ahead for Wakeland, and represents both his doggedness as a detective, and the case's surprising nature.
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

My Book, The Movie: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Invisible Dead.

Writers Read: Sam Wiebe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Witchy Winter"

D.J. (“Dave”) Butler grew up in swamps, deserts, and mountains. After messing around for years with the practice of law, he finally got serious and turned to his lifelong passion for storytelling. He now writes adventure stories for readers of all ages, plays guitar, and spends as much time as he can with his family.

Butler applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Witchy Winter, book two in the epic fantasy series Witchy Winter, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He didn’t want to kill the gander. But the bird seemed to be begging him. He rode hard, fighting to keep his eyes open against sudden tears that threatened to blind him.

the goose honked one last time—

it turned its neck to thrust its greased head into Nathaniel’s outstretched palm—


Nathaniel slowed and then stopped his horse, looking down in shock at the bird’s head that lay twitching in his cupped hand. “Woden’s beard, I think he did it.” George walked away from Charles toward Nathaniel, reaching up to pull down the other young man’s hand to look inside.

~ thank you.~

“Thank you,” Nathaniel repeated, feeling exhausted.

“Publish the banns.” George snorted as he took the goose’s head. “Jenny’s yours, young Chapel.”

“I guess I’ll be having goose for dinner tomorrow night.” Nathaniel tried to grin big, and a ect the bravado the others seemed to feel. Charles smiled back at him. Nathaniel’s ear tingled, so he rubbed it.

“You know, if you left your ear alone, it might not have swollen up to that ridiculous size,” Landon said.

“It’s not that young Nathaniel’s ear is large.” George grunted, climbing onto his own horse, where he swayed back and forth during the pause in his speech. “It’s that it sticks out sideways. Poor bastard looks like a windmill on his left side.”

“I’d have said an elephant,” Landon suggested.
Page 69 is representative in several ways of the larger book.

We see here the sufferings of Nathaniel, the sick young man who must become a healer if he and his sister are to survive. He is one of the three siblings who are the key characters of the series.

Witchy Winter is a book about America and its peoples, and we see here a couple of features of the Cavalier culture of the Chesapeake: intense pecking order and violent blood sports (this is the climax of a ganderpull).

Magic in the Witchy Winter setting is not some artificial game-influenced system built on colors or metals, but is rooted in real-world magical ideas and practices. Nathaniel's illness is a result of too-much openness to the sounds of the cosmos, including the voices of spirits (which appear in the fragment) and also the music of the spheres (which he hears as cacophony). His healing will ultimately come from shamanic initiation.
Visit D.J. Butler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Whispers of the Dead"

Spencer Kope is the Crime Analyst for the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office. Currently assigned to Detectives Division, he provides case support to detectives and deputies, and is particularly good at identifying possible suspects. In his spare time he developed a database-driven analytical process called Forensic Vehicle Analysis (FVA) used to identify the make, model and year range of vehicles from surveillance photos. It's a tool he's used repeatedly to solve crimes. One of his favorite pastimes is getting lost in a bookstore, and he lives in Washington State.

Kope applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Whispers of the Dead, and reported the following:
Oh, a lot of fun things happen in the first 69 pages of Whispers of the Dead. After solving a brutal murder in the first chapter, the FBI’s elite Special Tracking Unit finds itself in El Paso, Texas, where Special Agent Jimmy Donovan and his partner, Magnus “Steps” Craig, are expected to unravel the story behind a rather peculiar find.

It seems someone doesn’t like Judge Jonathan Ehrlich. This is not surprising to those who know the judge, but then no one has ever expressed their displeasure by leaving a pair of severed feet on the judge’s living room floor. To sort out who might be targeting the judge, Steps and Jimmy must first figure out who the feet belong to.

What they can never reveal, not even to Diane Parker, the team’s top-tier intelligence analyst, is that Steps is a fraud. Oh, he can track like no one else in the world, but he doesn’t use traditional man-tracking methods.

When Steps was eight years old, he got lost in the Cascade Mountains and was clinically dead from hypothermia by the time they found him. After he was revived, he found that his eyes didn’t work like they used to. He could see what some might call the human aura, something he came to call “shine.” The interesting thing about shine is that it’s like DNA or fingerprints: no two are alike. It also attaches itself to everything one touches, which means Steps can walk onto a crime scene and see who walked across the floor, who turned the doorknob, and who held the knife.

The only problem is trying to figure out who the shine belongs to.

By Page 69 of Whispers of the Dead, Steps knows that the suspect, already dubbed the Ice Box Killer, has an ice blue shine. The team is also one computer search away from identifying the first victim ... and that’s about the time the next shoe drops ... so to speak.
Visit Spencer Kope's website.

Writers Read: Spencer Kope.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 16, 2018

"A Death of No Importance"

Mariah Fredericks was born and raised in New York City, where she still lives today with her family. She is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in history. She has written several novels for young adults; her novel Crunch Time was nominated for an Edgar in 2007.

Fredericks applied the Page 69 Test to A Death of No Importance, her first mystery for adults, and reported the following:
“Page 69? That’s kind of random.”

When I first heard of the Page 69 Test, I worried that just picking a page—any page—in the book was going to reveal a stretch where the story has ground to a halt. Characters are wandering around, staring off into space, muttering about the weather. Maybe you can get away with that in other, lesser genres like literary fiction. But not a mystery.

But I steeled myself and opened to page 69 of A Death of No Importance. What I found was an argument between two maids—and a turning point for my narrator.

It is the morning after the murder. The Benchley family has returned from the Newsome Ball shattered because Charlotte Benchley’s fiancé has been found bludgeoned to death. Our narrator, lady’s maid Jane Prescott, is spending a dismal morning caring for distraught Benchleys and she is furious to find that Charlotte’s ball gown is missing. She vents her frustration on a younger maid, only to find that the dress did not come home for a very curious reason. One question leads to the next until Jane realizes that what seemed like negligence on the part of a inexperienced co-worker could be something altogether more sinister.

It’s the first time Jane starts to critically analyze the events of the night of the murder. “If X did Y, that could mean Z is true.” It marks the starting point of her transformation from a servant who performs any task asked of her without complaint to a woman who reserves the right to ask questions and draw conclusions. A woman who feels her analysis and conclusions matter.

In short, she has started to become a detective.
Visit Mariah Fredericks's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl in the Park.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2018

"The Lemon Jell-O Syndrome"

Man Martin writes and teaches in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been twice named Georgia Author of the Year.

Martin applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Lemon Jell-O Syndrome, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“For obvious reasons, I can’t divulge the actual names of my patients. Suffice to say, Y’s problem is very real, and by no means untypical. Y was a successful car salesman, a decent person. Wife and family. Deacon at the Baptist Church. Whole nine yards. Got it?” Bone said he got it. “So anyway, one day Y disappears. Vanishes. They put in a missing-person report, checked the morgue, the hospitals, the works. Nada. No one knows what happened. But then one day, what do you think?” Bone did not know what to think. “Someone recognizes him! He’s living in a different town! He has a different name, a new job, he’s even got himself a girlfriend. So anyway, they tried reuniting him with his family. Y tried. He moved back in with his wife. He slept with her. Helped with the dishes. Called her “Sugar Boo.” But it didn’t come back; he never remembered his old life. His wife says he was like a whole ‘nother person after he returned. It’s like he never really came back at all. The fact is, Y no longer exists. His body is still there, nothing wrong with the body, only now there’s a whole ‘nother person inside it. As far as Y himself is concerned, or the man who used to be Y, there’s no such person as Y. To this day, Y has not come back, and the man who used to be Y will swear on a stack of Bibles he doesn’t know him.”
This passage not only represents the rest of the the book; in a way, it is the book, for it describes the syndrome which gives the book its title. Dr. Limongello, pronounced Lemon Jell-O, tells his patient, Bone King, of a mysterious syndrome which has become increasingly, alarmingly, common, threatening to become an epidemic - a terrifying condition in which the “self,” the soul if you will, dislodges from the reticular formation in the brain and floats away forever.

At this juncture, an eerie “moo-ha-ha” seems called for, so I shall provide one.

Visit Man Martin's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Man Martin and Zoe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"Lord of the Pies"

An avid foodie and writer, Nell Hampton (AKA Nancy J. Parra) decided to finally combine her two loves. She lives in Richmond, VA.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Lord of the Pies, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“But I thought they ate lemon pie,” Agnes scrolled through several pictures. “See? Here’s a lovely piece with sky-high meringue.”

“Wait, yes, that is my pie. There’s two pieces missing out of it.” I frowned. “How was there a whole lemon pie left? I thought it was in one of our pie plates. It looked like my pie. Well, I assumed it was mine since mine were the only pies in the kitchen when I arrived.”

“Do you think someone slipped a poison pie in with yours?”


“Well, if people got sick they would certainly say that on their social media.”

“And everyone would get the impression that I’m a terrible cook,” I said. “If that’s the case, we’re lucky no one else ate that pie.”

“Did you count all the pie plates when you got back?”

“No,” I said. “Why would I? Mine were the only pies served. I didn’t think I needed to check the inventory.”

“You should count them,” she said.

“I’ll do it after lunch service. I have to assume one is missing because CID identified the pie as being in a pie pan from my kitchen.”

Lunch for the family consisted of several courses, to teach the children about official dining. We kept it simple with stuffed mushroom appetizers, potato and chive soup, roasted chicken, and rice pilaf, then pudding for dessert. Well, in England dessert was pudding so they had pudding for pudding. The thought made me smile.

By the time Agnes got back from taking lunch up to the family, I had done a quick inventory of my pie pans. Two seemed to be missing.
Page 69 has our sleuth wondering how one of her pies had become poisoned and why someone might be trying to frame her. It’s a great little peek into daily life and gives a hint of what it’s like for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s children. Carrie Ann is an American in the royal kitchen and takes delight in the things that are different from life as an American chef. Things like pudding for pudding.

That was a fun exercise as I had never looked at a random page to see how it fit into the theme of the book.
Visit Nell Hampton / Nancy J. Parra's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Nancy J. Parra and Little Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Devils Unto Dust"

Emma Berquist grew up in Austin, Texas and sunburns easily. She currently lives in New Zealand and avoids the beach.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Devils Unto Dust, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The heat hits me like a solid wall when I step out into the sunshine. I breathe in the scorching air and the heat sears my lungs, clearing out the smoke and noise from the bar. I don’t know how folk can stand to live in there, crammed together with no space to think.
This is the beginning of a chapter where Willie escapes a crowded bar and starts on her way back home. Growing up in a small town in the middle of a desert, she’s not comfortable being in small spaces with lots of people. (In this instance, her inner monologue would probably match my own thoughts!) It’s not just the crowd that makes her uneasy, though, it’s the fact that Willie has trouble trusting anyone but her closest friends and family. It’s doubly a relief for her to get out of that situation and be alone with the one person she trusts the most.

Page 69 is fairly indicative of the rest of the book; Willie is introspective, and we spend a good amount of time in her head.
Visit Emma Berquist's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Just Between Us"

Rebecca Drake is the author of the novels Don't Be Afraid, The Next Killing, The Dead Place, which was an IMBA bestseller, and Only Ever You, as well as the short story "Loaded," which was featured in Pittsburgh Noir.

Drake applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Just Between Us, and reported the following:
I hadn’t heard of this test before, but it’s interesting, and in this case page 69 is representative of all of Just Between Us and I hope a reader skimming this page would read on. It happens to fall on the opening of a chapter, and right after a big reveal, and it really epitomizes what the book is about—the friendship between four women and their concern for one of them:
There are certain moments in life that you can remember with all the clarity of a photograph—where you were and who were with and how the place looked or sounded or smelled. I can see us just as we were, the four of us sitting in Alison’s living room, Heather hunched over on the sofa, hands cradling her midsection as if holding a child, Julie in the chair closest to her, unconsciously tearing a napkin to shreds in her lap, and Alison, so startled that she’d stopped talking, her mouth falling open. Everyone so shocked by what Heather had revealed that for a long minute the only noise you could hear in the room was the faint hiss and pop of logs burning in the fireplace. These are the things I remember with perfect clarity: The slight smell of woodsmoke, the taste of cabernet, dark and dry, the table lamps casting shadows on the walls. The light from the fire illuminating the wine as I refilled my glass, a gush of liquid splashing, deep red, like blood pouring from a wound.
I wanted to explore female friendship, and how women communicate with and about one another. The book is told in four, first-person POVs, with each of the women—Alison, Julie, Sarah, and Heather—taking turns discussing what happens after they discover that Heather is being abused by her husband. It was challenging to write in four different points-of-view, because I wanted to make each character distinct, but also make sure that they had some shared vocabulary, the way we do with those closest to us. In order to avoid any confusion for readers, I asked my publisher to put the character’s name as a header on each page in their individual chapters. So page 69 falls on the opening of a Sarah chapter, and if readers forget that, they only have to glance up to remember who’s speaking. The unspoken question on this page and throughout the entire book is this: How far would you go to help a friend?
Visit Rebecca Drake's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 9, 2018

"The Magnificent Esme Wells"

Adrienne Sharp is the critically acclaimed author of the story collection White Swan, Black Swan, a Barnes & Noble Discover Book and a national bestseller; and the novels The Sleeping Beauty, named one of Booklist’s ten best first novels of 2005; and The True Memoirs of Little K, which was a finalist for the California Book Award and a Historical Novel Review Editors’ Choice.

Sharp applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Magnificent Esme Wells, and reported the following:
When Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo Club was closed down by order of the mob in early 1947 because it was hemorrhaging money, Meyer Lansky himself came out to Las Vegas to find out what the hell was going on. On page 69, Lansky and a fictional associate I created for him, Nate Stein (handsome, Roman nose, big head of black hair), watch a rehearsal of the floorshow in the shuttered nightclub. No detail of the property or its activities was too small for their inspection. While the Andrews Sisters croon “Near You,” my main character, Esme, fifteen years old and one of the Flamingo dancers in her red high-heeled shoes and pink feathers, finds Nate looking at her, looking away, looking back. He’s fifty. And after rehearsal, at Nate’s instigation, Ben Siegel reluctantly introduces Nate to Esme. She can tell he’s not happy about doing this “because I was Benny’s Baby E and Nate was staring at me in this certain way and Ben could see what lay ahead and he didn’t like it.” Esme shakes Nate’s hand and tells him her name, her stage name, first time she’s used it, Esme Wells. He laughs. “He knew exactly who I was, Esme Silver, fifteen years old, practically unschooled, a nobody, but he understood my affectation, even approved of it. All these men approved of ambition, of reinvention.”

Which is, I suppose, the theme of the book—reinvention. Esme’s mother is girl from Boyle Heights who took a few dance classes at Daddy Mack’s studio and became a Busby Berkeley girl in a blond wig and shoes with satin bows and a chiffon dress. Esme’s father is a bookie who haunts the parking lot of the Hollywood Park race track and now works as a gofer for Mickey Cohen and Ben Siegel. First in Los Angeles and then, later in the book, in Las Vegas. Reinvention. The men who made their money in scrap metal, rags, and nickelodeon houses at the turn of the twentieth century are the men who created Hollywood—Goldwyn, Mayer, Lasky, Fox, Warner. And the men who made their money in the Midwest during Prohibition are the men who opened casinos in Las Vegas in the thirties and forties, places like the Desert Inn, the Dunes, the Stardust, the Flamingo.

The Flamingo itself, like all of those other hotels before their demolition, has been reinvented many times—currently it’s a hodge-podge neon nightmare, but in 1947, it was a beautiful place, a glass-backed bar filled with liquor bottles, the ceiling a pocked gorgeous blue-green like some magnificent moon, and a marble spiral staircase. The casinos back then were small, with a just a few tables and slot machines, and the hotels themselves were long and low, the old school motels where you pulled your car up to your room. The pool out back was spotted with pink-painted fake flamingoes. The real ones Siegel imported had died in the desert heat. So, reinvention with plastic and steel.

Siegel’s reinvention as a casino magnate was short-lived. He was murdered a few months after Lansky’s visit to Vegas.

But for Esme, that visit is the catalyst for her own personal reinvention—with her stage name, with her promotion from cigarette girl to show girl, and with her introduction to Nate Stein. She moves from soundstage rat cloaked in her mother’s jewelry--a little girl so neglected she barely attends school and suffers from impetigo from lack of bathing, a little girl women everywhere take under their wings to wash her face or to comb the snarls from her hair-- is now about to become the mistress of one of the most important men in Las Vegas and through him a headliner on the Strip. But for now she’s dressed “like a piece of candy in a candy-colored costume, my face orange with Pan-Cake and my lashes an elongated black, my hair as long as a child’s.”

Half girl, half woman, and page 69 is her pivot, the moment she makes the transition from one thing to the other, from girlhood to womanhood, from powerlessness to a certain kind of power, adulthood with all its treacherous pleasures. She recognizes this herself. “One day you were a child and then, all at once, you weren’t.”
Learn more about The Magnificent Esme Wells.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 7, 2018

"The Fairies of Sadieville"

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls.

Bledsoe applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Fairies of Sadieville, the sixth book in his Tufa series, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Fairies of Sadieville, our two protagonists, Justin and Veronica, are driving along a winding rural highway on their way to Cloud County in search of the vanished coal town of Sadieville. They pull over so Justin can pee, and while alone in the car, Veronica ponders her concerns about the trip:
The one thing they hadn’t discussed was the obvious: a Latina and her black boyfriend would certainly stand out. They’d both had their share of experiences with racism, but this was the first time, as a couple, they’d ventured into what they believed was the heartland of it.
Any story set in the contemporary American south, if it’s honest, has to deal with race. It doesn’t have to be the focus, which it isn’t here, but to omit it entirely is, quite frankly, cheating. My fictional Tufa people frequently encounter racism outside their community, so their response to other minorities is filtered through that. Similarly, the important and omnipresence of religion has to be acknowledged, since it permeates so many aspects of southern life. Not that it’s all bad, either in real life or my Tufa novels; sure there are hypocrites, but there are also true believers, like recurring character Craig Chess, a Methodist minister. The important thing is to understand race and religion as part of that society’s foundation, because whether you’re a believer or not, a racist or not, they are inevitably there.

Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book? I hope so. It helps create the reality against which the fantasy elements will appear that much more fantastic. Through this book, and the series as a whole, I’ve attempted to achieve that same balance.

And I certainly hope a reader skimming that page would be inclined to read on, because the last line is:
He slammed into the car. “I saw a dinosaur!” he gasped.
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Bledsoe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"The Flicker of Old Dreams"

Susan Henderson is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award. She is the author of the novels Up from the Blue (2010) and The Flicker of Old Dreams (2018).

Henderson applied the Page 69 Test to The Flicker of Old Dreams and reported the following:
From page 69:
My father grows quiet. He tries so hard to keep our business afloat, tries every way he knows to keep our customers and potential customers happy.

“He’s a bad memory for this town,” he says, carefully choosing his words. “I think our neighbors will feel relieved the less involved he is.”

“We have to do what’s right for the customer,” I say.

“We have to do what’s right for the town.”

“I won’t do anything unprofessional, Pop.”

“Let me handle it, then."
This is a scene between father and daughter, funeral director and embalmer. I don't think it's representative of the book because so much of the story is about death--the death of this small town and the death of a way of life, as well as the dead bodies moving in and out of the funeral home. This scene, however, touches on the trouble that's brewing between Mary and her father now that a former and long-hated resident of this small town has come back to bury his mother.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan Henderson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Up From the Blue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Michael Kardos is the author of the novels Bluff, Before He Finds Her, and The Three-Day Affair, an Esquire best book of 2012, as well as the story collection One Last Good Time, which won the Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters Award for fiction, and the textbook The Art and Craft of Fiction: A Writer’s Guide.

Kardos applied the Page 69 Test to Bluff and reported the following:
From page 69:
The air was gustier than it was up north, and I wrapped my arms around myself as Ace and I crossed the street. You couldn’t see inside the bakery because of the shelves of bread blocking the windows. The sign on the door said closed, but the door was unlocked.

Ace gently touched my arm. “If you win a hand, don’t lay your cards down extra slow to rub it in. It’s bad etiquette.”

“Slow rolling. I know.”

“And protect your cards. Not everyone’s as honest as you and me.”

I smiled.

“Let’s go get ’em, tiger,” he said, and we went in.
On page 69 of Bluff, the novel’s protagonist, Natalie Webb, is accompanying a professional card cheat named Ace into an Atlantic City bakery, the setting of the novel’s first of two key poker games. Natalie, a world-class sleight-of-hand magician, is there to observe Ace’s technique: she plans to write a magazine article comparing the techniques and artistry of magicians and cardsharps. But to ensure his cover isn’t blown, Ace has insisted that Natalie can’t simply watch the game and take notes: she must sit at the table, put up her own hard-earned money, and play.

Will everything go as planned? (Spoiler alert: No.)
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Kardos's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"The Italian Party"

Christina Lynch’s picaresque journey includes chapters in Chicago and at Harvard, where she was an editor on the Harvard Lampoon. She was the Milan correspondent for W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and disappeared for four years in Tuscany. In L.A. she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone and Wildfire. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Lynch is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She teaches at College of the Sequoias.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Italian Party, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Wow—it’s kind of crazy how well this works! Page 69 in The Italian Party is a page that might deter some readers, because it’s a Michael page (instead of a section from the point of view of his wife, Scottie) where he’s realizing how much he doesn’t understand about Italian politics, and feeling frustrated about how to even begin the mission he’s been sent to do, to throw an election. (An aside: when I started writing this novel in 2013, no one was talking about throwing elections! I’m amazed that the things I dreamed up for Michael to do are things that people who want to throw elections apparently actually do.) Page 69 is a pivotal page in Michael’s story, and sets up everything that comes later. Michael is trying to figure out how to flip a reporter who is writing negative stories about America, “ridiculing its films as treacle, its products as flimsy and its presence in Europe as imperialist.” He knows he has to get to that guy and get him to change his tune. He’s also thinking about the news that Khrushchev has just denounced Stalin: “What did it mean, the papers kept asking, and everyone had a contradictory answer. Some said it was the beginning of a loosening of Soviet control over the Eastern Bloc. Others said it was a consolidation of power in new hands. Things had begun to shift and change in ways that Michael found unnerving. It felt to him like the entire world was having a migraine.” Michael’s Cold War anxiety is growing, and then at the bottom of the page he gets even more bad news, that the Communist mayor of Siena is predicted to win reelection. That fact is a low point in his story that drives him to take actions that have many repercussions…
Visit Christina Lynch's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Italian Party.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 1, 2018

"High White Sun"

J. Todd Scott was born in rural Kentucky and attended college and law school in Virginia, where he set aside an early ambition to write to pursue a career as a federal agent. His assignments have taken him all over the U.S and the world, but a badge and gun never replaced his passion for books and writing. He now resides in the American Southwest, and when he’s not hunting down very bad men, he’s hard at work on his next book.

His debut novel, The Far Empty, was published in 2016.

Scott applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, High White Sun, and reported the following:
One of the themes of High White Sun, and really, the whole series, is how Sheriff Chris Cherry struggles with the authority and responsibility that’s been thrust upon him. This plays out over page 69, which is the culmination of an on-going argument between Chris and county attorney Royal Moody over Chris’s handling of the murder investigation that kicks off the novel; in fact, it’s emblematic of a deeper disagreement over Chris’s fitness to wear a badge and carry a gun. Chris had zero law enforcement experience before becoming a deputy, and now, sheriff, and if a football injury hadn’t derailed his college plans and possible pro career, he never would have returned home to Murfee, Texas. Living in the shadow of the venerated (but corrupt) former sheriff, Stanford “Judge” Ross, Chris only wants to uphold the law and modernize the Big Bend County Sheriff’s Department. It’s a noble ambition, but with very little support from the community, and threats seemingly everywhere, it’s one he’s afraid he’ll never fully realize.

High White Sun is a big, brawling, violent book, and although this scene is one of the “quieter” ones, it’s powerful because it shows that not all of Chris’s enemies carry guns, and not all of his troubles lurk in the desert surrounding Murfee.
Visit J. Todd Scott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue