Monday, June 17, 2019

"Time’s Demon"

D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of more than twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Demon, is the second volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. Time’s Children is volume one; Jackson is working on the third book, Time’s Assassin.

As D.B. Jackson, he also writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. As David B. Coe, he is the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy; the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood; a contemporary urban fantasy trilogy, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson; and most recently, Knightfall: The Infinite Deep, a tie-in with the History Channel’s Knightfall series.

Coe has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Coe applied the Page 69 Test to Time’s Demon and reported the following::
From page 69:
Bexler wasn’t there, but the tri-sextant sat on his workbench. She guessed that he had already finished it, and was making arrangements for additional materials. His single-mindedness had its advantages...

...Bexler returned nearly two bells later, arriving in an ill temper. Apparently he would have to wait a ha’turn for the first arcs to reach Hayncalde, and another qua’turn after that for enough of them to complete two tri-sextants. In the interim, Gillian knew, he would be impossible to live with: more incentive to ingratiate herself with people in the castle. If she remained in the flat for all that time, her boredom might well prove fatal for at least one of them.

“Is this one finished?” she asked him, interrupting a tirade about the incompetence of ministers, and the value of tri-sextants.

“Yes, it’s ready. I have nothing to do for... for days upon days.”

He flounced to a chair near the hearth and dropped himself into it, a boy in a man’s body.

“Can’t you work on tri-apertures?”

“I suppose, but to what end? They don’t need those.”

“Not now, perhaps. They might before long.”

Bexler nodded. His gaze roamed the chamber, restless. Eventually it settled on her, and his mien shifted in a way she recognized too well.

“You know,” he said, smiling, “as long as we’ve nothing to do–”

“You have nothing to do. I have plenty. I’ll be leaving for the castle before long. In the meantime, I’d suggest you get to work on those apertures. If nothing else, we can sell them for food money, until some other noble has need of our services.”

He frowned, putting her in mind again of a fifteen year-old boy.
The “Page 69 Test” is always a crapshoot, because manuscript pages rarely correspond exactly to book pages. As with Time’s Children, the first book in my time travel/epic fantasy series The Islevale Cycle, page 69 of Time’s Demon, volume two in the series, is not representative of the entire book. It does illustrate, though, an essential truth about big fantasy projects.

On page 69 in Time’s Demon, we encounter Gillian Ainfor, a relatively minor and yet hugely important character in the series. She and her husband, Bexler Filt, have been spies in the court of the ruler who was overthrown and murdered in book I. Their actions helped my “bad guys” succeed in that coup. Now, however, their importance is diminished. Filt is a Binder and creates essential devices for the Windhome-trained Travelers who serve in the various courts. He remains valuable to those in power. Gillian, on the other hand, though smarter and more resourceful than her husband, finds herself feeling superfluous.

In this scene, she seeks to find renewed purpose. She intends to present herself to the new authorities in the city and offer her services as a spy. Anything to get away from her husband. Anything to put herself back at the center of world-shaping events.

Characters like Gillian (and Bexler) are critical to the success of big projects like this one. Epic fantasy works best when it has many plot threads and point of view characters, when readers find themselves in a web of storylines all driving toward a single narrative conclusion. Secondary characters have to feel real, their motivations and emotions need to resonate with readers, just as do the feelings and actions of central characters. As I say, Gillian’s arc is crucial to this novel, despite her being in only a few scenes. She is also a fun character to write, as much for her wit and candor as for her singular role in the story.
Learn more about the book and author at D. B. Jackson's website and blog..

The Page 69 Test: Thieftaker.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Children.

Writers Read: D.B. Jackson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"We Were Killers Once"

Becky Masterman grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and received her MA in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, We Were Killers Once, and reported the following:
"Beaufort's drive took him west on I-10, a straight shot out of the panhandle of Florida..." begins the chapter on page 69 of We Were Killers Once. Someone, maybe Joseph Campbell, once said that every story is either Hero Takes a Journey or Stranger Comes to Town. Jeremiah Beaufort, who has been freed from a long prison conviction, is definitely the stranger on page 69 coming into the lives of Brigid Quinn, a hardened retired FBI agent, and her husband, a mild-mannered ex-priest named Carlo DiForenza who live in Tucson, Arizona. We already know what Jeremiah Beaufort probably did, and why he's coming for Carlo. We know he's a murderer. And we know he's fond of the melody called "Humoresque." What Beaufort doesn't know is that Brigid Quinn was a killer once, too.
Visit Becky Masterman's website.

My Book, The Movie: We Were Killers Once.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 14, 2019

"Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune"

Roselle Lim is a Filipino-Chinese writer living on the north shore of Lake Erie.

She loves to write about food and magic.

When she isn't writing, she is sewing, sketching, or pursuing the next craft project.

Lim applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Nothing made me happier than the act of cooking. My happiest memories were of spending time in the kitchen with Ma-ma as we prepared our meals. The best cooks doubled as magicians, uplifting moods and conjuring memories through the medium of food.
The above opens Chapter Eight, and it captures the soul of the book. Cooking and food play a central role in bringing the characters together, while Natalie’s relationship with Miranda, her mother, is the heart of the novel.

A common thread throughout the story is how kinship are navigated using the language of food. Natalie cooks magical dishes for her neighbors to help them and, in doing so, she begins to understand their hopes, desires, and foibles. She realizes she can no longer keep herself apart from her community.

Natalie’s journey to confront the grief from her mother’s death and to find her own path changes her. Like most mothers-and-daughters, the relationship between Natalie and Miranda is complicated. It is full of love, but not always acceptance or understanding. Natalie’s growth comes from her reconciliation of the past with her desired future.

The page 69 test showcases the two essential themes of the book.
Visit Roselle Lim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"Time After Time"

Lisa Grunwald is the author of the novels The Irresistible Henry House, Whatever Makes You Happy, New Year’s Eve, The Theory of Everything, Summer, and the newly released Time After Time. Along with her husband, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler, she has edited the bestselling anthologies Women’s Letters and Letters of the Century. Grunwald is a former contributing editor to Life and a former features editor of Esquire. She and Adler live in New York City.

Grunwald applied the Page 69 Test to Time After Time and reported the following:
I’m not sure I could have found a less representative page of Time After Time than page 69. My main character (Nora) has gone to visit her father (Frederick) in his hospital room. Nora (and we) will never see this hospital room or Frederick again. In fact, the scene mainly exists in technical service of the plot. Frederick’s illness is the reason Nora comes to New York from Paris; her visit to the hospital is the reason she doesn’t go straight home from the dock where her ship has landed; her heading home after the hospital visit is the reason she winds up in the accident that is the central event of the novel. So, the main setting of the novel (Grand Central Terminal) and the other main character (Joe Reynolds), and the obstacles they face are nowhere present—or even foreshadowed—on page 69.

And yet I think the page does reveal something of Nora’s personality. On page 69, we see her being strong, loving, concerned—and complicit with her father in decrying her mother’s imperious nature. When she tells Frederick that her roommate’s flipped-up haircut makes her look like a playing-card king, we see her levity and her eye for detail. All these elements, but above all the love and determination that have brought Nora to Frederick’s room, will be among the qualities that so attract Joe—and that I hope will endear her to the reader as well.
Visit Lisa Grunwald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 10, 2019

"A Bend In The Stars"

Rachel Barenbaum is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. In a former life she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor, before moving to the New Hampshire woods to write. She has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an AB in Literature and Philosophy from Harvard College.

Barenbaum applied the Page 69 Test to A Bend in the Stars, her first novel, and reported the following:
A Bend In The Stars is set in 1914 Russia. The novel is focused on the brother and sister duo of Miri and Vanya. When the book opens, the two are snared by the Czar’s army as his forces tighten their grip on the local Jewish community in preparation for war with Germany and brother and sister are forced to run for their lives. They should run from Russia, but Vanya refuses to leave the country until he’s snapped a photograph of the total solar eclipse due over Russia– a photograph that will help him prove the theory of relativity and thereby beat Einstein. His stubbornness puts them in extreme danger and it is Miri who saves them. She is the hero.

When readers first meet Miri, she is one of Russia’s first female surgeons. She is already a trailblazer in terms of her career but the personal and the professional are not always aligned, and readers follow her journey as she discovers the depths of her courage and love. She is the character that grows the most, that is tested the most. And she is the character that recognizes her limitations, not because of her abilities but because she is a Jew and because Russia has no tolerance for Jews. We see this transformation beginning on page 69:
(Miri) grabbed the misshapen pot, whipped around meaning to defend them with it, but in that same instant, he (a soldier) took hold of her wrist and the two were locked together. The pot in her fist hung suspended over them. The soldier looked surprised by her strength, by the fact that she didn’t let go or give in. But he was stronger and he seemed to like taunting her, not overpowering her as quickly as he could. She understood that once she stopped fighting, he’d be merciless.
Just as that individual soldier was merciless, so too was the Czar and this is the moment when Miri realizes that her only way forward is to escape because if she stays they will kill her – and it will be brutal. She must find a way out of Russia for her, for her family. What follows is a journey that includes an epic love story twisted into real life history and science as Miri risks everything to save the people she loves most.
Visit Rachel Barenbaum's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Bend in the Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 8, 2019

"The Electric Hotel"

Dominic Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Electric Hotel, and reported the following:
The Electric Hotel takes place in the world of early silent film. It tells the story of a lost silent film that ruined the careers—and to some extent the lives—of the famous French director and actress who made it. We also follow a band of pioneering filmmakers during the rise and fall of a studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey, America’s first movie town and the place that popularized the term cliffhanger (because of the kinds of reels they made out along the Palisades cliff tops).

As it happens, page 69 of the novel is mostly white space, with just six lines of text. In a way, the white space is indicative of a theme and approach to formatting in the novel. As I was writing the book, I was conscious of the way white space is a kind of visual stand-in for silence, using it liberally, and I also wanted to emulate the formatting of early screen photoplays.

But to be fair, if I was picking up the novel in a bookstore and flipping to page 69, I’d probably turn one page over, to page 70, to get a true sense of the world and story. That page features a description of Brooklyn’s first prototype movie house, about to be opened in 1900 by Hal Bender, one of the novel’s primary characters. Early silent films were often shown between live acts on the vaudeville circuit.
Everyone agreed that Hal Bender had brought something beautiful to the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street, even if they didn’t know what to call it. Something between a glorified storefront, a vaudeville theater, and a novelty parlor. The facade was stucco and rusticated imitation stone, but the flourishes—sculpted garlands and goddesses—were molded plaster, painted to a high gloss. From a distance, it looked like a curbside basilica, something hand-chiseled by neighborhood sinners and aspirants, but inside there were eight rows of red-plush opera chairs and the velvet drapes were tied back with golden, tasseled ropes. There was a Kimball pump organ, a mounted screen of white silk, and a stage where vaudeville acts could perform between reels.
Visit Dominic Smith's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre.

The Page 69 Test: Bright and Distant Shores.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 6, 2019

"Like a Love Story"

Abdi Nazemian is a screenwriter, director, and author.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new YA novel, Like a Love Story, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Like a Love Story is the end of one of the most important scenes of the novel. In the scene, Reza - a closeted queer Iranian teen - and Art - the only out and proud kid in their high school - bond as they discuss, what else, Madonna. At the end of the scene, Art realizes that Reza, who lost his father and lived in Iran during the revolution, has suffered loss just as Art himself has as a part of the NYC queer community in the late 1980s. The scene touches on everything the book is about: loss, love, activism, music, and the power of human connection.
Visit Abdi Nazemian's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Authentics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

"Dawson's Fall"

Roxana Robinson is the author of ten books - six novels, three collections of short stories, and the biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were chosen as New York Times Notable Books, two as New York Times Editors’ Choices.

Robinson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dawson's Fall, and reported the following:
Page 69 is taken from Sarah Morgan Dawson’s actual Civil War diary, written in Baton Rouge. It starts off when the town had been taken by Federal troops, quartered on a gunship, lying at anchor in the river. Sarah is at home, with her mother and sisters Lilly and Miriam. Her father and one brother have died; the women are on their own.
May 30, 1862 Wednesday…we rose very early, and had breakfast sooner than usual, it would seem for the express design of becoming famished before dinner. I picked up some of my letters and papers, and set them where I could find them whenever we were ready to go to [the summer cabin] at Greenwell..I was packing up my traveling desk…and saying to myself that my affairs were in such confusion that if obliged to run unexpectedly I would not know what to save, when I heard Lily’s voice down stairs crying as she ran in- she had been out shopping - “Mr. Castle has killed a Federal officer on a ship, and they are going to shell -” Bang! went a cannon at the word, and that was all our warning.

Mother had just come in, and was lying down, but sprang to her feet and added her screams to the general confusion. Miriam…ran up to quiet her, Lilly gathered her children crying hysterically all the time, and ran to the front door with them as they were…I bethought me of my “running” bag which had used on a former case, and in a moment my few precious articles were secured under my hoops, and with a sunbonnet on, stood ready for anything.
The page both is and is not representative - it takes place twenty years earlier than most of the narrative, which is set in 1889. But it’s representative in that it gives an idea of the conditions of her life, during the war, how suddenly things happened, how the fact of uncertainty and anxiety affect people, what it means, as a practical matter to a household, to be under fire. What happens to the women and children, the final targets of war. What the imminent present of death does to the character.
Learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Dawson's Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 3, 2019

"The Prophet of the Termite God"

Clark T. Carlton studied English and Film at Boston University and UCLA and have worked as a screen and television writer, a journalist, and as a producer of reality television in addition to a thousand and one other professions.

Carlton applied the Page 69 Test to his novel, The Prophet of the Termite God, and reported the following:
From page 69:
They entered the weeds to see if they were free of Hulkrites or other human enemies as well as predatory insects, spiders, mites and ticks. As they waited for the scouts to return, Daveena heard the buzz of honeybees and looked up to see some flying overhead. The sacks on their hind legs were not yellow with pollen, but with the dark brown propolis they mixed with their wax to make a glue to build or repair their dwellings. The bees turned south then dropped over what was likely a hive tended by the mysterious Bulkokans.

“Daveena,” shouted Worela, wife of the chieftain, her abundant jewelry shaking like a bead-chain drum as she walked. “You speak the Seed Eaters tongue, yes?”

“I do.”

“Thagdag wants you and the other two-tongued to approach these bee people and see if we can find a common tongue.”

“These are an eastern people. I don’t know that they will know yatchmin,” she said, using the Seed Eaters’ word for their language.

After the sand sleds were set in a circle under the weeds, the clan’s children were gathered in its center. The girls were handed materials for making jewelry and the boys were set to music practice on drums and other instruments. A contingent of men was left behind to guard the children as the roaches were released from the sand sleds’ tethers.

The beehive was approached with the women riding atop the roaches and the men alongside on foot as their protectors. An increasing number of bees, making their way home at the end of the day’s foraging, were a helpful guide. The women steered the roaches through a winding path between towering stalks of dying sun daisies with hairy, brown leaves and limp flowers that resembled murdered spiders at the ends of spikes.
Dead on! The passage represents my world where humans have evolved to the size of insects and intertwined with their world. In order to do so, the humans have to disguise themselves with the scents of the insects they have parasitized. This results in an extreme tribalism since different nations cannot intermingle or speak a common language. Wearing the scent of yellow ants allows a human to exploit them for food and labor but it marks him as someone to kill by the brown ants and their own human parasites.

The one exception in this world to intertribal contact are the Britasytes, a cockroach people whose insects exude a repelling pheromone that allows them to wander unmolested through the different ant lands. The roach clans are the traveling show people/carnies as well as the traders and messengers between rival nations. On page 69, a roach clan is on the dangerous assignment of going into Hulkren, the fallen nation of ghost ant warriors, to liberate the Bulkokans, a captive people who live as the symbionts of bees. The mission portends a future problem as the Bulkokans are convinced of themselves as the Favored Children of their bee goddess — they are no less tribal than anyone else.
Visit Clark Thomas Carlton's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Prophet of the Termite God.

Writers Read: Clark Thomas Carlton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 1, 2019

"One Small Sacrifice"

Hilary Davidson’s debut novel, The Damage Done, won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, and the Crimespree Award for Best First Novel. The second book in the series is The Next One to Fall and the third is Evil in All Its Disguises. Davidson’s first standalone novel, Blood Always Tells, was published by Tor/Forge in April 2014.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, One Small Sacrifice—the first book in a new series—and reported the following:
From page 69:
“This Diana person you met… is there any way you can track her down?”

“I can try. You think she’s important?”

CJ shot him a curious sidelong look. “Emily takes off and a couple days later you’ve got a strange woman in your apartment who claims Emily gave her a key?” He shook his head. “I’m not going to pretend I know what’s going on, but there’s no way I’d write that off as a coincidence.”

Alex opened his mouth to answer, but there was a screech of tires from Second Avenue and the sound of metal crunching against metal. A woman screamed. Every synapse in Alex’s brain was suddenly on fire, all of them transmitting the same message: run. He grabbed CJ’s arm and pulled him off the flagstone and behind a tree.

“What are you doing?” CJ asked, clearly confused.

Alex froze, suddenly remembering where he was: not a war zone, just noisy midtown. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, except for you trying to dislocated my shoulder.”

Alex let go immediately. “I’m sorry.”

There was a siren in the distance. “That sounded like a car accident on Second Avenue,” CJ said. “What did you think it was?”

“I don’t know.” Alex could feel his face flush red. What the hell was wrong with him? Frist the snap’n pops had thrown him into a fugue state; now the sound of a fender bender was shooting him straight into a panic.

“Be honest with me,” CJ said. “Are you having PTSD episodes again?”
It’s interesting how well this scene captures what’s happening in the book. Alex Traynor is a war photographer; his fiancée, Emily Teare, is a doctor who vanished a couple of days earlier. Alex didn’t know Emily was breaking up with him until he found a note in their apartment telling him that it was over. Alex can’t understand what’s happened, and he turns to Emily’s closest friend, CJ Leeward, for answers. CJ can’t provide clarity, but his perspective helps Alex start to question some of the strange events that precipitated—and followed—Emily’s disappearance. CJ is the first person that he tells about a woman who let himself into his apartment with a key she claimed Emily had given her. Alex is certain that woman was lying to him, but he has no idea who she really is or what she wants.

Complicating matters is the fact that Alex suffers from PTSD from his time working in war zones. He’s haunted by memories of people he saw killed in Syria, as well as the death of his close friend Cori Stanton, who fell from the roof of Alex’s building in Hell’s Kitchen a year before One Small Sacrifice begins. The NYPD investigated the matter, but didn’t find enough evidence to indict Alex; however, one of the investigating detectives believes that Alex got away with murder, and when Emily vanishes, the NYPD’s reaction is swift and intense. Alex had believed his PTSD was under control until the past few days; the fact that it’s resurfaced with a vengeance terrifies him.
Learn more about the book and the author at the official Hilary Davidson site.

The Page 69 Test: The Damage Done.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Always Tells.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Jennifer Cody Epstein's books include The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, winner of the 2014 Asian Pacific Association of Librarians Honor award for outstanding fiction, as well as the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai.

Epstein applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Wunderland, and reported the following:
From page 69:

“Can you speed up?” says Ilse. “You’re moving like my grandmother.”

They have just emerged from the Wittenbergerplatz U-Bahn station and are standing on the street by its steps. Rather than speeding up, however, Renate stops altogether. “I’m sorry,” she says, and leans against one of the railings. “I didn’t sleep well last night. I kept worrying about the letter.”

“I keep telling you. They probably won’t even ask for it.”

“But what if they do? And what if they can tell?”

Ilse heaves an exasperated sigh. “All right. Let’s see it, then.”

Renate pulls the envelope from her satchel, then pulls the thrice-folded sheet of paper from the envelope. She hands it over, swallowing her anxiety as Ilse runs a well-chewed fingertip down each carefully typed line:

Dear Fräulein von Schmidt:
Please allow my daughter Renate to register as a Hitlerjugend Jung-mädel and provide her with the appropriate physical exam: she has our full approval on both counts. I apologize that neither my wife nor I could accompany her today, but we’ve had a death in the family and must leave town immediately. Thank you for your consideration.

Heil Hitler! Otto Bauer
This section is in many ways about as representative of Wunderland as you can get, as it marks a very crucial turning point in the two central narratives. Fifteen-year-old Renate Bauer and her best friend Ilse von Fischer are heading in to Hitlerjugen headquarters in 1935 Berlin with the intention of signing Renate up for the highly popular Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female division of the Hitler Youth. Ilse has happily been a member for two years, and since Renate’s parents have forbidden her to join the organization, she has urged Renate to forge a note from her father giving his approval. Bookish and slightly anxious by nature, Renate is worried that this ruse will be discovered and she’ll be refused. As it turns out, though, there are far greater stakes in play than a forged permission slip. For in the scene that follows she is told that under the Nuremberg Laws—which by that point have been in place for two years—she is actually not considered German at all, since (utterly unbeknownst to her) her father was born to formerly Jewish parents who had converted to Lutheranism around the turn of the century. It’s a discovery that will shatter Renate’s world as she knew it, putting her and Ilse on opposite sides of the antisemitic storm sweeping their country, and shaping both their lives in devastating—if very different—ways.
Visit Jennifer Cody Epstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Painter from Shanghai.

The Page 69 Test: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment.

Writers Read: Jennifer Cody Epstein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"Riots I Have Known"

Ryan Chapman is a Sri Lankan-American writer originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. His work has appeared online at The New Yorker, GQ, Bookforum, BOMB, Guernica, and The Believer. He is a recipient of fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the Millay Colony for the Arts. He lives in upstate New York.

Chapman applied the Page 69 Test to Riots I Have Known, his first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Coolhunters and tobacco marketers both know if you’re going to get big, first you have to get the influencers: your Lego architects, your SXSW “experiential leads,” your prop stylists for Japanese workwear zines. I direct new readers to “We Have All Killed the Widows,” a rather thorough listserv of Holding Pen scholarship. The moderators claim with some degree of confidence two distinct and near-simultaneous first sightings of The Holding Pen in the cultural underground.

Last December a restaurant named Napkins opened in the Mission District of San Francisco, the newest addition to celebrity chef Frankie DiCredenza’s growing empire. DiCredenza has the reputation for being as lax with his restaurants’ decor as he is meticulous with his crudo. It would not surprise any of his many loyal fans to learn his first Michelin star (French Stuff, in London’s Gravesend) was awarded only after fierce internal debate whether he even qualified: his plywood tables had been pulled from the refuse pile at a nearby wharf and gave the judges several splinters in their hindquarters. As for Napkins, the chef was dating a homeless teenager he’d found shooting up in the alley behind the restaurant; DiCredenza asked the young man to furnish the place for $800. Destiny pushed the doped-up kid into a nearby dumpster, and two weeks later Napkins opened to rapturous reviews about its duck à l’orange ... and its curiously moving placemats. (That kid’s name? You guessed it already: Grammy-nominee and MTV Music Video Award winner DJ G-G-G-Ghost!!!)
The novel is a book-length, live-blog confession written by a prisoner who has barricaded himself inside the prison’s media lab while a largescale riot rages outside. He’s also the proud editor of house lit journal The Holding Pen, and in these paragraphs he explains how it found mainstream success among the un-incarcerated. You get a sense of the narrator’s desperate need to impress, as well as his desperate need to rush through the details of his life story before discovery and dismemberment. That’s right, it’s a comedy.
Visit Ryan Chapman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue