Saturday, September 23, 2023

"Mercy and Grace"

Anoop Judge is the author of The Rummy Club, which won the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award, the 2019 Pushcart Prize nominated The Awakening of Meena Rawat, and No Ordinary Thursday. A recovering litigator, former TV presenter, and blogger, she has had essays and short stories published in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Rigorous, and Scarlet Leaf Review, among others. Born and raised in New Delhi, Judge now resides in California. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College and is the recipient of the 2021–2023 Advisory Board Award and Alumni Scholarship. She is married with two nearly grown and fully admirable children.

Judge applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Mercy and Grace, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"Two-twen'y-five," the operator barked at Gia after she had stood at the entrance to the car for several seconds looking expectantly at him. He flicked his eyes down towards a machine that said "Cash Only" on it. Gia felt about for some money but the smallest she could produce was a five-dollar bill. Which, in and of itself, seemed embarrassing. "No change," he added in the same almost monosyllabic way. Gia gulped as she fed more than twice the cost of the fare into the machine, this whole escapade suddenly feeling extravagant and wrong now that she was wasting so much money to do it.

Another part of her knew that she earned several times that amount each hour at work, that the meal at Pepe's had cost many tens of dollars between them, that everything here in America worked on an entirely different level to what she was used to, yet the panic attack that the whole thing set off inside her still felt right. Reasonable. She did not know when, or even if, the cost of things here would stop shocking her.
I really wanted this test to work for this book but unfortunately, it does not. The page is of course critical to the larger work because it moves the plot forward and tells readers that Gia is new to America, but it conveys nothing of the larger themes of the book: gender, familial bonds, second chances, and the consequences of religious hatred.

A cross between the Amazon TV series Made in Heaven, and Sejal Badani’s The Storyteller’s Secret, this novel explores the lasting impact of families fractured and repaired, with the narratives and protagonist stories playing out against the backdrop of big, fat Indian weddings.

Gia Kumari was an orphan on the edge of destitution in India until Sonia Shah of Golden State Weddings & Events offered the twenty-one-year-old an internship and brought her to San Francisco. Now she is a fish out of water, happily bathing in a world of excess and meeting her only known family—her Uncle Mohammed—for the first time, while also embarking on her first romantic relationship with the dashing yet quirky Adi.

What is described on page 69 is her first ride on a tram—she had spotted the distinctive San Francisco tram—green and cream colored with a red band around the middle—in the previous chapter, and in a mad impulse, decided to hop on it and see where it would lead her. It leads her to the dashing Adi who takes the same tram mid-route, and gets off at the iconic Castro St. . . . but you’ll have to read the novel to find out what happens next.
Visit Anoop Judge's website.

The Page 69 Test: No Ordinary Thursday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 21, 2023

"The Royal Windsor Secret"

Christine Wells is an internationally bestselling author of sixteen historical novels. Her recent novel, Sisters of the Resistance, was a Barnes & Noble and Canadian Globe & Mail bestseller and received mentions in American Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and The Times. As a former corporate lawyer, Wells often features legal themes in her books. She lives in Brisbane and loves sharing her knowledge of the writing craft and the publishing business with other writers through workshops and private mentorships.

Wells applied the Page 69 Test to her newest novel, The Royal Windsor Secret, and reported the following:
Well, what do you know? A little bit of romantic tension on page 69 of The Royal Windsor Secret! The setting is my main character, Cleo’s debut ball, thrown by her wealthy hosts in London. Her best friend, Brodie, whom she hopes will become something more, does not belong to this world, and Cleo begins to see the widening chasm between them.
For the first time, she became acutely aware of the vast difference between them physically. Brodie was a man now, and even the formal dress of a British gentleman could not conceal the raw power of his frame. His hold made her feel delicate and unsure, when she wanted to feel bold and strong. Ugh, what was the matter with her tonight?

As she hesitated, he remarked, “You do know how to dance the foxtrot, don’t you, Cleo? I saw you doing it perfectly well just now.” He knew very well that she could dance. They’d taken an intensive course together with a dancing master Lady Grayson had hired before Brodie left for Oxford.

But the amused mockery in his tone snapped her into action. She put her hand on his shoulder and tried not to think about how solid it felt. Her feet shuffled as he drew her closer and she tried to make herself relax as they began to dance. He’d improved since they’d last danced together. That led her to wonder about his other dancing partners, which put her in a worse mood.

“Happy birthday, princess,” murmured Brodie. His warm breath tickled her ear.

She gave a start and jerked her head back. “Thank you. I, um ... It was good of you to come.”

She’d imagined this moment so often but now she was tongue-tied, behaving like an insipid bore. After a pause, she managed, “How have you been? We never see you anymore.” She hadn’t meant to sound so wistful and wanted to kick herself. Before he could answer, she added, “But I’ve met some lovely people. I’ll introduce you if you like.”

The prospect of Brodie’s meeting her friends made her review them critically, as if through his eyes. They were all rich and rather frivolous. Maybe that wasn’t a good idea.
This page is not terribly representative because the focus of the book is on Cleo’s quest to discover whether she is the daughter of Edward VIII and on her ambition to become a jewellery designer, rather than on her romance with Brodie.
Visit Christine Wells's website.

My Book, The Movie: One Woman's War.

Q&A with Christine Wells.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

"Salthouse Place"

Jamie Lee Sogn is a Filipina American author of adult thriller novels. She grew up in Olympia, Washington, studied Anthropology and Psychology at the University of Washington and received her Juris Doctor from the University of Oregon School of Law.

She is a "recovering attorney" who writes contracts by day and (much more exciting) fiction by night. While she has lived in Los Angeles, New York City, and even Eugene, Oregon, she now lives in Seattle with her husband, son, and Boston Terrier.

Sogn applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Salthouse Place, and reported the following:
Upon turning to page 69 in my book, readers would find a scene where the main character Delia is arriving at her new guesthouse in Salthouse Place, a community on the Oregon Coast.
Petal pointed out the window, which looked like it might provide a view of the water if you pressed your face on the glass hard enough. "Imagine you'll be waking up to this every morning now." She smiled serenely. "Do you love it?"

I didn't know how to answer her or where to begin. Should I tell her I was happier not looking at the ocean on a daily basis?
After this exchange, Delia's new roommates come in and introduce themselves.

I think browsers turning to page 69 in my book would get a poor idea of the whole work by reading this page! They might be intrigued by the last sentence quoted above- Why would this character not want to look at the ocean? That is an odd thing to point out, and indeed, the character has some very specific trauma around water and that does have to do with the whole work and story. But this single page doesn't do a good job of exploring that.

What this page does do is help the browser understand that this character has some secrets (why doesnt she like the ocean...?) and introduces us to the main character's roommates at Salthouse Place, two women who will be massive influences on her during her time spent at the wellness retreat.

It's nice that this page is set at Salthouse Place, also the title of the book, as browsers may wonder about the title of the book itself. The community is called Salthouse Place and the main character finds herself there while searching for her childhood best friend who has sent her a message after a decade of estrangement. She believes this message might have something to do with an unsolved mystery of their third best friend's disappearance. What the main character doesn't know is that the women of Salthouse Place may be hiding secrets of their own.
Visit Jamie Lee Sogn's website.

Q&A with Jamie Lee Sogn.

My Book, The Movie: Salthouse Place.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 17, 2023

"The Interpreter"

Brooke Robinson is professional playwright who has had her work produced at London’s Vault Festival and the Old Vic, among others. She grew up in Sydney, Australia, and has worked as a bookseller, university administrator, and playwright there and in the UK. She started writing The Interpreter, her first novel, when the pandemic ground the theatre world to a halt, and is currently working on her second novel.

Robinson applied the Page 69 Test to The Interpreter and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Interpreter, my protagonist, Revelle, is accompanying a police officer to a nail salon where he's investigating a reported instance of modern slavery. Speaking through Revelle as the interpreter, the nail salon workers won't give up any incriminating evidence about their employer but Revelle suspects this is out of fear and that the women are working under illegal conditions. She toys with the idea of misinterpreting, of giving the police officer the evidence he needs to investigate the situation further. On this page, Revelle is going back and forth about what it is she should do. If she did mistranslate the salon worker's words, would she be helping them or merely interfering? She has the power to make a difference here but can't decide what is the right thing to do. As Revelle says to herself on this page: While at work, I shouldn’t ever be uttering a single word that wasn’t fed to me by someone else.

The interpreter's role is remain neutral, to repeat the words and mimic the emotions of the person they're speaking for, but they must not have a personal opinion, and they certainly shouldn't be judging the guilt or innocence anyone they come into contact with.

The Page 69 Test works exceptionally well for my book. Revelle's inner conflict on this page is indicative of what's to come - soon she will deliberately misinterpret with grave consequences. In a lot of ways, this is a book about doing the wrong thing for the right reason and page 69 really captures that.
Visit Brooke Robinson's website.

Q&A with Brooke Robinson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 14, 2023

"Gideon's Revolution"

Brian Carso, a lawyer and historian, has studied the American Revolution and the life of Benedict Arnold for more than two decades.

Carso applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Gideon's Revolution, and reported the following:
Gideon’s Revolution is a story filled with action: ships at sea, clandestine meetings, soldiers in battle. To the contrary, however, page 69 depicts a quiet conversation between the two main characters while one of them lies flat on his back. Still, the Page 69 Test works, because their brief discussion sheds light on one of the mysteries of the novel—indeed, one of the mysteries of American history.

Page 69 finds General Benedict Arnold, the hero of Saratoga, lying on his back in a hospital bed with his shattered leg encased in a fracture box. Gideon Wheatley, a captain in the Continental Army and the narrator of the novel, has just told Arnold that British General Johnny Burgoyne has surrendered to General Gates. It is a great victory for the Americans, but Arnold is bitter. He describes the surrender ceremony that will occur, and the traditional banquet the officers of both armies will attend. He explains to Wheatley the purpose of the banquet:
“To celebrate valor and courage,” he said, flat on his back, looking upward at the ceiling. “There would be glasses set out, and liquor, probably rum. Burgoyne would offer a toast, maybe to Gates, maybe to General Washington. Gates would return the honor: I imagine he would toast the king’s health. All the officers would commingle: the British and the Germans, talking with the Americans, observing all possible niceties, complimenting the demeanor of their respective armies, outdoing each other in displaying the virtues of gentlemen—gentlemen who go to war, gentlemen who face each other on the battlefield, gentlemen who kill one another—but gentlemen who know that the battlefield is the seedbed of valor, where a man’s soul and his character are on display for the world to witness.”

He turned his head to face me. “You know this, Captain, as well as any: the battlefield is the theater of courage. As much as we fight to vanquish the enemy, we fight to establish our honor.”

Arnold turned his gaze back toward the ceiling. “Mind you, the broth suits me fine. I do not need the fancy meats, nor the pompous conversation.”

His eyes shot around the room, looked at me, then rested back on the ceiling.

“But they should know who led the fight. They should know who beat them.”

A gust of wind blew against the window.

“You did, sir,” I said. But I was only one voice.
Arnold’s quest for honor is central to understanding both his virtuous behavior and the defect of his character. Consider this: While a teenager, Arnold’s once-prosperous family suffered the death of two beloved children, followed by his father’s descent into severe alcoholism, and subsequent financial ruin. Researching this novel, I examined records of the church where Arnold’s mother and father were parishioners. Initially, the Arnold family sat in a box pew at the front of the church, obtained by their generous tithe. Over the course of several years, they forfeited this high-status seat for the regular long pews in the back of the church, which came at a much lower cost, and soon thereafter were relegated to standing in the very back of the church with the poorest families.

When we ask ourselves, why did Arnold—America’s best battlefield general—betray his cause and comrades, we have to consider how Arnold’s passionate quest to redeem his family’s good name and honor motivated his valor and courage. When these virtues went unrecognized, or were flustered by competing political interests, Arnold chose to go elsewhere for the validation he so desperately longed for. Where he went, sadly, was to the British Army.
Visit Brian Carso's website.

Q&A with Brian Carso.

My Book, The Movie: Gideon's Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

"What Kind of Mother"

Clay McLeod Chapman writes novels, comic books, and children's books, as well as for film and TV. He is the author of the horror novels The Remaking, Whisper Down the Lane, and Ghost Eaters. He also co-wrote Quiet Part Loud, a horror podcast produced by Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw for Spotify.

Chapman applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, What Kind of Mother, and reported the following:
So… What Kind of Mother passes The Page 69 Test perfectly. Better than I could have anticipated, actually. First off… it actually uses the title on the page. What kind of mother! If this were a drinking game, you would flip to page 69 and have to take a shot of something.

What Kind of Mother is all about a single mother who is struggling to make ends meet as a palm reader in a small coastal town in the Chesapeake Bay area. Our main protagonist—Madi—is spending an evening with her daughter Kendra along the docks, when she has a spur-of-the-moment urge to hop in the water. Bad call.
All I can make out are the vague shapes of leaves and clusters of kelp. The shadowy outlines of freshwater seaweed. The pressure of the water pushes against my ears. I’m in a saltwater womb, the rush of blood swarming all around me. I wonder what kind of child might gestate in a watery prenatal chamber like this. What kind of mother it’d be.
See? I win!

Once she dives in, she’s immediately met by something… else. Something cold. Something slimy. Here’s a little taste:
“I feel a gentle scrape against the nape of my neck. A soft thread passes over my shoulder. Slick, slippery hair. It could be kelp, I think, just some seaweed—

Something fleshy brushes against my cheek.

Cold skin.

I yank my head back just as the blurred form of a baby floats by.

Only its head.”
Oooh… Want more? Well, I guess you’re just going to have to flip the page to see what happens!
Visit Clay McLeod Chapman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Remaking.

Q&A with Clay McLeod Chapman.

The Page 69 Test: Whisper Down the Lane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 10, 2023

"Dead West"

Linda L. Richards is the award-winning author of over one dozen books. The founder and publisher of January Magazine and a contributing editor to the crime fiction blog The Rap Sheet, she is best known for her strong female protagonists in the thriller genre. Richards is from Vancouver, Canada and currently makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Dead West, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Dead West finds us in transition. There has been some action, but right now there is a pause to catch our breath. Having done the Page 69 Test for other books in the past, I am beginning to understand that this is one of the things that occurs in my writing, though it appears I do it instinctively. About this far in, the reader deserves a break from relentless action. A chance to breathe. And we see that here.

One of the early readers of Dead West called the book a love letter to Arizona. While I think that might be putting too fine a point on it, I get what she meant. In Dead West, setting becomes almost a character. Maybe you see this on Page 69 as much as anywhere.

We’ve only been in the saddle for a few minutes when it becomes apparent—truly—that we are in the desert. With the ranch buildings behind us, we are faced with a definite but beautiful beige. It is the season of dryness and at first everything looks the same. Closer study shows some differences, but you don’t see them at first glance. It occurs to me you have to earn the right to see beauty in the desert. If you are dismissive, it’s possible to miss it altogether, this secret desert. It is possible you might look and see only brown. But there is more here, too.

Page 69 is also where we get a really up-close-and-personal look at horses, which are so important to this book. In this scene, our protagonist is going riding, something we gather she has not often done before.

Horses feature prominently in Dead West. This happened because I was working on a non-fiction book about wild horses and, while I was doing research for that book, I was also working on the next book in the Endings series. Some of the horrifying climate that is wild horses in America today leaked into the fiction. What started as a subplot in Exit Strategy (2022) got pulled out of that book and became the main plot of Dead West. Luckily, this happened over a long enough period that I was able to have sufficient distance from the source material that the things that are compelling about Dead West are thrilling and not at all academic. Well, okay: that is my hope. You’ll tell me if it was successful!
Visit Linda L. Richards's website.

The Page 69 Test: Endings.

Q&A with Linda L. Richards.

The Page 69 Test: Exit Strategy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 8, 2023

"Come With Me"

Erin Flanagan’s new novel is Come With Me. Her novel Deer Season won the 2022 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author and was a finalist for the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery and the Midwest Book Award in Fiction (Literary/Contemporary/Historical). Her second novel, Blackout, was a June 2022 Amazon First Reads pick. She is also the author of two short story collections–The Usual Mistakes and It’s Not Going to Kill You and Other Stories. She has held fellowships to Yaddo, MacDowell, The Sewanee Writers’ Conference, The Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, UCross, and The Vermont Studio Center. She contributes regular book reviews to Publishers Weekly and other venues.

Flanagan lives in Dayton, Ohio with her husband, daughter, two cats and two dogs. She is an English professor at Wright State University and likes all of her colleagues except one.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Come With Me and reported the following:
I don’t know what it is about the magic of page 69, but I’m delighted to report that once again, it captures something important in my latest book.

At the beginning of Come With Me, protagonist Gwen Maner’s husband dies suddenly, leaving Gwen and their daughter penniless. Ten years out of the work force, Gwen contacts an old acquaintance from her intern days, Nicola Kimmel, about a reference, but Nicola does much more than that. She ends up finding Gwen a job, a place to live, and the support she needs now that her husband is gone. But soon that support tightens into a vise.

Throughout the book, there are sporadic chapters from Nicola’s point of view, beginning in childhood and moving through to the present day. Page 69 follows a confrontation Nicola has with a bully on the first day of elementary school. Her older sister, Celeste, has pulled the bully aside to find out why he called Nicola a bad word.

On page 69, Nicola doesn’t speak. It’s all Celeste, cornering the other first-grade boy, and demanding to know why he did it. The fear the boy radiates reminds Nicola of when she and her sister cornered a cat between two wooden panels in the barn.
Keith had the same look of fear in his eyes right now, although he tried to hide it behind a slouch as he kicked his shiny new shoe in the dirt. Nikki was wearing Celeste’s old pair of knockoff Keds from Payless.
I’m hoping here to establish how observant Nicola is, and how aware she is of the things she doesn’t have that others take for granted.

As Celeste continues to intimidate the boy, Nicola begins to see the situation in a new light.
Nikki understood two things at once: she felt an evil glee that Keith was getting his comeuppance after being so awful to her, and simultaneously bad that he was in the position she’d been in, cowed at the hands of someone bigger and stronger. It was, she realized, the most grown-up thought she’d ever had.
So much of Nicola’s chapters are about her growing up and seeing things in this new light.

The cat comes back toward the end of the page as Celeste moves closer to the boy, and Nicola does as well.
She pictured that tabby from the barn, chest heaving as his back arched in the air.
Even though Nicola feels bad for the boy, she can’t help moving in.

This page, I hope, demonstrates where Nicola learns some of her core values as a child that have follow her in to adulthood, both good and bad: the importance of standing up for the people you love, a rigid and perhaps misplaced idea of right and wrong, and also that loving someone means taking charge of a situation at all costs.
Visit Erin Flanagan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blackout.

Q&A with Erin Flanagan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

"Proud Sorrows"

James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II series, historical mysteries set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. The series began with
Billy Boyle
, which takes place in England and Norway in 1942.

Benn applied the Page 69 Test to Proud Sorrows, the eighteenth installment of the series, and reported the following:
Page 69 lands the reader smack dab in the heart of the mystery. We’re in a makeshift morgue in the basement of a POW facility for high-value German officers in Great Britain. The local doctor is examining a corpse in the presence of Billy Boyle, Chief Inspector Gwynne, and Colonel Cheatwood, second-in-command.
“Yes,” Bodkin said, turning the dead man’s head. “You can see where the blow landed.”

“A killing strike,” Gwynne said, squinting as he got closer. So far, the guy seemed to know his way around a corpse. He certainly wasn’t squeamish, which made me wonder how many putrefying bodies he’d run across.

“We checked for identity discs or a wallet, but found nothing,” Cheatwood said.

“Wish you hadn’t,” Gwynne said. “The less interference the better. How many people have touched this man?”
The Page 69 Test works well here on several levels. It gives the reader a clear indication that this is a classic criminal investigation, but also hints at the tension between the parties involved. My protagonist, Bill Boyle, is mainly an observer on this page, but the dialog previews the conflicts to come as the local police attempt to conduct a murder investigation involving a top-secret prisoner interrogation center. Chief Inspector Gwynne is clearly not happy with the supposedly helpful colonel’s interference.

The page concludes with a description of the various characters who were close at hand when the body was discovered, which further angers Gwynne, and he closes with this acidic comment:
“I’m surprised you didn’t sell tickets,” Gwynne said. “Dr. Bodkin, please remain here until the morgue comes for the body.”
The unidentified corpse had appeared in mysterious circumstances, and once his identity is uncovered, the investigation widens into areas none of the original witnesses to its discovery could have imagined.

Except for the killer, of course.
Learn more about the Billy Boyle WWII Mystery Series at James R. Benn's website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Wave.

The Page 69 Test: Evil for Evil.

The Page 69 Test: Rag and Bone.

The Page 69 Test: The White Ghost.

The Page 69 Test: Blue Madonna.

Q&A with James R. Benn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 4, 2023

"Redemption"

Deborah J Ledford is the award-winning author of the Native American Eva “Lightning Dance” Duran Series, and the Smoky Mountain Inquest Series. Part Eastern Band Cherokee, she is an Agatha Award winner, The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, and two-time Anthony Award Finalist for Best Audiobooks Crescendo and Causing Chaos. Ledford lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and an awesome Ausky.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Redemption, Book 1 of the Eva “Lightning Dance” Duran Native American series, and reported the following:
Page 69 hits a lot of the core tribulations for the entire Redemption novel.

The need and desire to be accepted by not only family but an entire tribe of people on the verge of completely releasing two of their members is key on this single page:
“You’re probably right. But why punish Kai? He said he hasn’t been invited here since his dad died.”

“He’s the boy of that Navajo who killed Rufina, Juliani, and Crucita. If Paloma had never met that man—” His words ceased, as if he thought finishing the sentence would take more power away from him.

“Everyone else loved Ahiga. He was a gentle giant . . . Like you in so many ways.”

At that comment, Santiago snorted his disgust.

“Santi, the crash wasn’t his fault.”

“Maybe not.”

Eva puffed out an exasperated breath. “I can’t talk to you anymore.” She stomped away, then changing her mind, strode back to him, hands clenched into fists. She warned herself to wait a beat before she said, “She’s your sister. Kai’s your direct blood. How is it so easy to turn your back? What you’re doing is shameful. Everyone on the rez follows your example. You’re a spokesman for the council... Maybe you’re the one to blame.”

He folded his arms tight across his chest, studied his boots, belligerence in his bearing.

Eva hoped she had embarrassed him. That maybe he realized this too.

“She broke my heart, Lightning Dance. Over and over.”

Eva barely heard the words. Soft, tinged with agony.
The anger and distrust Santiago holds for his sister is a visceral pain, shared by many of the characters, throughout the Redemption journey, as they attempt to redeem past indiscretions in order to be welcomed back by the Taos Pueblo tribe.
Visit Deborah J Ledford's website.

Q&A with Deborah J Ledford.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 1, 2023

"Rusted Souls"

Chris Nickson is the author of eleven Tom Harper mysteries, eight highly acclaimed novels in the Richard Nottingham series, and five Simon Westow mysteries. He is also a well-known music journalist. He lives in his beloved Leeds.

Nickson applied the Page 69 Test to Rusted Souls, the final book in the Tom Harper series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Rusted Souls finds the end of one scene, between Tom Harper and his daughter Mary, who have met for lunch, and what he does afterwards.

While the interaction between Tom and Mary isn’t pivotal to the crime plot, it all becomes part of the change. She lost her fiancĂ© in 1917, in the war, and has been mourning him ever since, dressing black – “widow’s weeds”. Now, 1920, she’s changing. She’s already a successful business owner, running a secretarial agency and school, and she’s going on a tour of the battlefields, organised by a company, to see where everything happened and her fiancĂ© died. She’s bought herself a motor car. In the scene that closes on page 69, she’s unveiling her new wardrobe. More modern, more feminine, not the long Edwardian dresses, but something better for a woman in her 20s and more colourful, in pastels (not a flapper fashion; those hadn’t arrived yet). It’s a shock to her father, who needs to take it in, to accept her change, as he has his own, in the form of retirement. Annabelle, Tom’s wife, Mary’s mother, had seen the new clothes and called her “a right bobby dazzler.” It’s a human interlude, an illustration of the family’s closeness, and Mary now an adult with her own, busy life.

In the second scene Harper is drifting around Leeds city centre, nothing to do for once, and realizing it will soon be that way every day with nothing to occupy his time – although much of it will be taken looking after his ill wife. No chief constable’s car to take him home, and he queues for the tram with everyone else.

They’re scenes of transition and change for both characters, and that sense of change is important for the book. So yes, they serve an important role.
Visit Chris Nickson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Iron Water.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Psalm.

Q&A with Chris Nickson.

The Page 69 Test: The Molten City.

The Page 69 Test: Brass Lives.

The Page 69 Test: The Blood Covenant.

The Page 69 Test: The Dead Will Rise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

"Deep Roots"

Sung J. Woo’s short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, PEN/Guernica, and Vox. He has written four novels, Deep Roots (2023), Skin Deep (2020), Love Love (2015), and Everything Asian (2009), which won the 2010 Asian Pacific American Librarians Association Literature Award. In 2022, his Modern Love essay from The New York Times was adapted by Amazon Studios for episodic television. A graduate of Cornell University with an MFA from New York University, he lives in Washington, New Jersey.

Woo applied the Page 69 Test to Deep Roots and reported the following:
There are eight characters on page 69 of my second Siobhan O'Brien mystery novel: Thomas and William (the footmen), Lady Mary (who hires Siobhan), Duke and Blink (the presumed heir and his friend/lover), Evie (the granddaughter) and her parents Lady Eve and Sir Nicholas. Wait, I forgot -- Siobhan herself is of course present, so that makes it nine characters total. Nine! That's got to be some kind of a record, right, for page 69?

As you can tell from the titles and the professions listed, Deep Roots takes place in the world of the one percent of the one percenters. As an unabashed fan of Downton Abbey, I relished at the prospect of creating my own embarrassingly opulent house and filling it with insufferably privileged inhabitants. Though this page features dinnertime conversation between the Ahn family, the key exchange is the one between Siobhan and Evie:
“So,” the young woman sitting to my left said, “you are the private investigator Grandpapa hired.”

Like the rest of the family, she, too, was on the tall side, and her face was so reminiscent of Phillip Ahn himself, especially her forehead, which was as wide as a billboard, that there was no mistaking her heredity. For someone her age—early twenties, I figured—she was dressed conservatively in a black gown that covered her neck and down to her wrists. If memory served, there was only one granddaughter in the family.

“And you must be Evie.”
This is the first time Siobhan meets Evie, but it certainly isn't the last, and her likeness to her grandfather plays a significant part in the novel. Furthermore, this page is an excellent showcasing of the ritualistic chore the Ahns go through on a daily basis for something as simple as lunch. As an outsider, Siobhan finds herself constantly pushed to her limit: the dress changes, the etiquettes, the mannered formalities. So once again, page 69 comes through.
Learn more about the book and author at Sung J. Woo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Everything Asian.

My Book, The Movie: Skin Deep.

Q&A with Sung J. Woo.

The Page 69 Test: Skin Deep.

My Book, The Movie: Deep Roots.

--Marshal Zeringue