Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"Into The Night"

Sarah Bailey lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons and one very old cat. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Bailey applied the Page 69 Test to Into The Night, her second novel, and reported the following:
It’s over two years since we met DS Gemma Woodstock in The Dark Lake and now she is back, navigating an unfamiliar city and tackling the most complicated homicide investigation of her career.

Two murders have occurred by the time we hit page 69 of Into The Night, and they couldn’t be more different. Walter Miller, a homeless man, was found stabbed to death in the middle of the night in an isolated area of the city. There are no suspects in his murder. A few days later Sterling Wade, a young up-and-coming Hollywood star, is stabbed on the set of his new movie.

There were hundreds of witnesses present when Sterling was attacked but due to the costumes and the chaos, no one saw what happened. Gemma and her new detective partner Nick Fleet are immediately thrust into the star’s glamorous world, the death of the homeless man all but forgotten.

They meet his beautiful co-star, the movie producer, his actress girlfriend, his best friend and agent – and it turns out they all have something to hide. Sterling Wade’s family is also a mystery, his homely country parents seem completely lost in the celebrity scene, and his brother and sister harbour a lot of jealousy about the way their sibling’s life turned out.

In this particular scene, Gemma and Fleet are interviewing Sterling’s bewildered parents who have arrived in Melbourne from their rural property. A media storm is brewing and they have been accosted by journalists while trying to come to terms with the death of their high-profile son.
April’s mouth tugs into a reflexive smile before she remembers what has happened. I can see a hint of Sterling’s famous face across her cheekbones. ‘Yes. He used to tell us that everyone thought he’d changed his name, you know, to be more memorable for TV or something. But Sterling is actually an old family name.’
The more Gemma and Fleet speak to Sterling’s parents the more they start to suspect that there might be a rift in the family that they are trying to conceal. They reveal that when Sterling was younger he moved to the city and stayed with a foster family while he was pursuing his acting career.
‘Did Sterling still see the Beaufords?’ I press, noticing the slump to their postures.

‘I think so,’ says Matthew. ‘Sterling used to talk about them quite a bit and they live in Melbourne so it’s easier for them to see him.’

There’s a mild bitterness to Matthew’s tone and it prompts me to imagine what I would feel like if Ben replaced me with another parent, for him to slot so neatly into a new family.
At page 69 of Into The Night the case is certainly in full swing and the clues are starting to form in Gemma’s mind. Little does she know that there are plenty of twists and turns around the corner.
Visit Sarah Bailey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Lake.

My Book, The Movie: The Dark Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 10, 2018

"Storm Rising"

Sara Driscoll is the joint pseudonym of Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan.

They applied the Page 69 Test to Storm Rising, the third book in their FBI K-9s mysteries series--starring search-and-resuce team Meg Jennings and her black lab, Hawk--and reported the following:
From page 69:
Sunday, July 23, 6:27 AM
I-64
Chesapeake, Virginia

Webb whistled along with the radio while he stared out the window as the countryside flashed by. When they drove away from the coast, they left the worst of the devastation behind them, so while this inland portion of the county showed the lashings of a powerful storm, it had suffered significantly less flooding. Now the eerily denuded trees gave glimpses of the white statuary of the Roosevelt Memorial Park cemetery through Webb’s window.

Meg slid him a dark, sideways glance. “You seem pretty chipper.”

“It’s a beautiful day. I enjoyed a cozy night with a beautiful woman in my ... uh ... bed”—Webb playfully waggled his eyebrows at her, cheerfully exaggerating a too short interlude that involved nothing more than unconsciousness—“and I’m headed out to do some good in the world. Why not be chipper?”
Page 69 of Storm Rising is a brief period of ease for FBI K-9 handler Meg Jennings and Washington DC Fire and Emergency Services Lieutenant Todd Webb on the morning following a horrific day rescuing victims—both living and dead—from the devastation of a catastrophic hurricane in Virginia. This moment is a short respite for the weary first responders just before they stumble on several new victims and become entangled in the horrific world of juvenile sex trafficking.

Storm Rising takes Meg and her search-and-rescue black Lab, Hawk, into the heart of a community devastated by a Category Three hurricane. While Todd and his fellow paramedics struggle to move stranded hospital patients to safety, Meg and the rest of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team go in search of the missing and the lost, trying to find those who didn’t, or couldn’t, get out of the path of a killer storm. But it’s Meg and Todd’s discovery of victimized children that directs their path for the rest of the tale. When the ever-deepening layers of the trafficking ring point to some of the community’s most prominent leaders, it will take all the team’s efforts to bring down the powerful and save the helpless.
Learn more about Storm Rising: An FBI K-9 Novel.

Coffee with a Canine: M. Ann Vanderlaan & her dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 8, 2018

"The Pint of No Return"

Ellie Alexander (also known as Kate Dyer-Seeley) is a Pacific Northwest native. Her love for the Pacific Northwest runs deep. Hence why all of her books (whether she’s writing as Ellie or Kate) are set there. From the Shakespearean hamlet of Ashland, Oregon to the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, Washington to the hipster mecca of Portland, Oregon and a variety of other stunning outdoor locales, the Pacific Northwest is a backdrop for every book and almost becomes another character in each series.

Alexander applied the Page 69 Test to The Pint of No Return, her second Sloan Krause mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I looked away. The thought of touching Mitchell’s dead body a few minutes ago made my stomach queasy. “Okay, so you came downtown to meet Mitchell. Then what happened?”

“I got here and I couldn’t find him. He was supposed to be at some pub around the corner, but they were already closed.” Her voice was shrill. She rocked back and forth onto the tip of her toes. Her feet must be freezing in flip flops, I thought, rubbing my arms. Had the temp started to drop or was I feeling the effects of shock?

I figured she was talking about Nitro.

“This is my first time in Leavenworth so I went around to every place that was open to try and find him. The bartender in the bar across the street told me that he had seen Mitchell heading for the tent so I tried there next.”

“Is that when you saw Lisa?”

She shook her head. “No. I looked everywhere in the tents, but he wasn’t there. I tried calling and texting but he didn’t respond. I wasn’t sure what to do next. Then I heard him yelling at someone so I ran out here. It all happened so fast. There was the sound of shattering glass. The next thing I knew I saw that woman over there.” She caught her breath and pointed at Lisa. “Running away from Mitchell’s body and Mitchell lying dead on the ground. He didn’t collapse. She killed him, and she was fleeing the scene,” she repeated.
On page 69 we find Sloan Krause, a craft brewer turned amateur sleuth on the scene of a murder in her beloved Bavarian village of Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is tucked into the northern Cascade Mountains and is designed to resemble a charming German alpine village. It’s Oktoberfest which means that Front Street is filled with the lively sounds of oompah bands, the sight of lederhosen, and the smells of fresh baked pretzels and schnitzel. The annual beer bash brings in travelers from every corner of the globe. It’s the next best thing to being in Munich for Oktoberfest. Sloan has been brewing up batches of her signature Cherry Wizen for the celebration. As revelers pour into the streets to do the polka and chicken dance and the kegs get tapped, things take a darker turn. Mitchell Morgan, who is in town to film a documentary Wish You Were Beer, about Leavenworth’s rich beer culture turns up dead. To make matters worse, he was last seen chugging pints of Sloan’s Cherry Wizen. Sloan wants to protect her reputation as Leavenworth’s favorite brewmistress and restore normalcy to her brew mecca.

Prost!
Visit Ellie Alexander's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 6, 2018

"Strange Days"

Constantine Singer grew up in Seattle and earned his BA from Earlham College and his Masters from Seattle University. He currently lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his family and teaches history at a high school in South LA.

Singer applied the Page 69 Test to Strange Days, his debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I don’t understand what she just said, but I take the paper she’s pushing at me. It’s another letter. This one’s not in an envelope, it’s just folded up. It’s short:

Hey Alex,
This is Corina. She was sent here to get you.
She’s cool. Go with her.
—Plugzer


It’s in my handwriting again. I look up at her and she nods like she understands. “It’s a lot to deal with, but it’ll all make sense when we get to the compound.”

“Compound?” I ask, because even though I want to know how she has a letter from me telling me to go with her when I know for a fact that I have never written one—or been to Seattle—plus I don’t know her, I can’t get the words out.

She sighs. “Just come with me, Alex.” She picks up the note and points to the last part. “‘She’s cool,’” she reads. “‘Go with her.’”
Alex not sure what to do? Check.

Befuddling Time Travel element? Check.

Snappy exasperation from Corina? Check.

It turns out that page 69 of Strange Days is a fairly representative sample, save for the fact that it is a moment of rest in the action. One of my favorite pieces of plotting advice goes something like this: A plot should have five “Oh Nos” for every 2 “Oh phews.” Otherwise it’s too much or too easy. This is an “Oh Phew” moment, which are outnumbered approximately 5:2 in the book.

On a personal note, I really like this moment because it was while writing it that I really discovered who Corina was going to be. The eventual centrality of her character wasn’t part of my original design, but when I started writing her she convinced me that she needed a starring role.
Visit Constantine J. Singer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

"Murder in Her Stocking"

Since publication of her first novel in 1986, Sonja Massie has authored more than 60 published works, including the highly popular and critically acclaimed Savannah Reid Mysteries under the pseudonym G.A. McKevett.

The author applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder in Her Stocking, and reported the following:
Page 69 contains one of the most critical scenes in the book, as Stella holds the dying murder victim in her arms and tries to comfort her, while attempting to find out the killer’s identity. The elements of this scene that I believe are representative of the rest of the book are Stella’s compassion, courage, and her passion for justice.

Stella is risking her life, remaining in a dark, lonely alley where this young woman was viciously attacked only moments before. But Stella’s only concern is for Priscilla. She treats Prissy, the town’s notorious “fallen woman” with the same kindness she would show anyone else. She displays a high degree of tolerance, even respect, for the dying Priscilla that’s rare in their little town, where everyone knows everybody and harbors a strong opinion about everything they do.

Not only is Stella eager to offer gentle assistance as Prissy slips from this life into the next, but she’s trying to give Prissy one other gift that she feels is precious. Justice. For reasons that will be revealed in the next book of the Granny Reid Mysteries, Stella has a keen desire for and appreciation of justice. Having had her own life torn apart by a terrible act of murder, Stella knows all too well the value of justice and the pain caused by not receiving it in the face of great loss. For the remainder of the story, in spite of her own personal, family problems and challenges, Stella searches for Prissy’s killer, committed to bringing them to account for the life they took.
Visit G.A. McKevett's website.

My Book, The Movie: Murder in Her Stocking.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 2, 2018

"The Heirs"

Fran Hawthorne spent more than three decades as a reporter and editor (on staff at Fortune and BusinessWeek; as a regular contributor to The New York Times and many other publications), and as the author of award-winning nonfiction books, before finally returning to her childhood dream: writing fiction.

Her debut novel The Heirs was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in May 2018 and sold out its first printing within two months. It’s a story of second-generation Holocaust guilt among soccer families in suburban New Jersey in 1999.

Hawthorne applied the Page 69 Test to The Heirs and reported the following:
Here’s how page 69(which also happens to be the start of Chapter Ten) begins:
Chapter Ten

“Hi!” Ben’s dad was abruptly next to her on the grass by the soccer field. “I remember you from the second game. You wanted to know about that Polish kid Ted.”

“Yes. Tad.”

Adam was somewhere in the middle of the field but not playing goalie. So Mark had kept his promise; Adam was as safe as he could be, for now. The other team’s uniforms were gray and dark blue, which was way too similar to the Hornets’ white and royal blue. How would the players tell each other apart? That would be an interesting question to ask a coach. Especially a coach who was also an artist, who understood colors.

“Remember that stock I told you about?” – and now Ben’s dad slapped his palms together –“Drugtrials-dot-com. It’s the company that runs a database that tracks all the trials for new drugs in the U.S. It closed yesterday at twenty-six and one-eighth. That’s more than a dollar above when we talked.”

“Oh. Is that good, a dollar?”

“Good? It’s great! If you’d bought fifty shares, you’d have made more than fifty bucks. You can check for yourself. Do you know how to find the stock listings in the newspaper? Or on the Web?”

Eleanor simply needed this drug company’s particular abbreviation, which was DRTR. And then, any time she wanted, she could show DRTR’s latest ever-rising number in The New York Times to Nick and say triumphantly: “Remember that stock you didn’t want to buy?”
Page 69 is not one of the most dramatic pages in The Heirs. In one way, though, it’s typical: It takes place on the suburban New Jersey soccer field where most of the key characters frequently meet and subtly clash (while their kids’ team usually loses):

Eleanor, the protagonist, a high school French teacher and mom, whose mother has suddenly started talking Polish – after refusing for 50 years to discuss how she survived the Holocaust in Poland; whose husband, Nick, insists he must work 24/7 to prevent Y2K computer crashes; whose 9-year-old son is a team misfit because he messed up as goalie; and whose rebellious 12-year-old daughter wants to pierce her nose and does not want a bat mitzvah.

Mark, the sexy, divorced soccer coach and art teacher (enough said).

Janek and Maria Wysocki, a Polish-Catholic immigrant couple who Eleanor becomes increasingly obsessed with, as she imagines whether their parents crossed paths with Eleanor’s mother in Holocaust Poland – or worse.

Eleanor’s son, Adam.

The Wysockis’ son, Tad – who happens to be the team’s star striker.

And a more minor player, the pushy stockbroker known as Ben's dad, who’s trying to entice Eleanor to buy his favorite dotcom stock – despite the angry objections of Nick, her husband. (Yes, this is autumn 1999, and we readers know what will happen to that stock in March 2000.)
Visit Fran Hawthorne's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Heirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 30, 2018

"Bleak Harbor"

Bryan Gruley is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of the new novel Bleak Harbor, which Gillian Flynn calls “an electric bolt of suspense.” Two-time Edgar Award winner Steve Hamilton says Bleak Harbor is “unlike any other crime book I’ve ever read.”

Gruley also wrote the Starvation Lake trilogy: Starvation Lake, The Hanging Tree, and The Skeleton Box. Starvation Lake was an Edgar Finalist and won Anthony, Barry, and Strand awards. The Hanging Tree was a #1 Indie Next pick, a Michigan Notable Book, and a Kirkus Best Mystery of 2010. Reviewers have compared Gruley favorably to novelists Dennis Lehane and Richard Russo.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Bleak Harbor and reported the following:
Page 69 of Bleak Harbor is blank but for one word in all caps: FRIDAY.

Like the weekday itself, this page marks a transition, one that goes to the heart of what the novel is about.

On page 68, Pete Peters, stepfather of autistic, 15-year-old Danny Peters, is in the office of his medical marijuana shop in downtown Bleak Harbor, Michigan. After being summoned there late Thursday night by an alarm service, he has just viewed a frightening image on his computer. He calls his wife, Danny’s mother. “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus,” he says. “Somebody has Danny. Somebody has our boy.”

On the other side of page 69, we find Danny himself, sleeping in a hot, dark, stuffy room. He is wondering whether he’ll see his parents again, and dreaming about dragonflies: “The dragonflies are bigger than gulls. They are blacker than crows. They hover and glide, skitter and dart. Their shadows darken the water.”

Danny is obsessed with dragonflies. He appreciates their beauty as well as their status as one of the most efficient killers in the animal kingdom. The dichotomy is a running theme throughout the novel, encapsulating tensions at the core of how and why Danny has been kidnapped.
Learn more about the book and author at Bryan Gruley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Starvation Lake.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Tree.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"The Subjugate"

Amanda Bridgeman is an Aurealis Award finalist and author of several science fiction novels, including the best-selling space opera Aurora series, alien contact drama The Time of the Stripes, and sci-fi crime thriller The Subjugate. Born in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, she moved to Perth (Western Australia) to study film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University, earning her a BA in Communication Studies. Perth has been her home ever since, aside from a nineteen-month stint in London (England) where she dabbled in Film & TV ‘Extra’ work.

Bridgeman applied the Page 69 Test to The Subjugate and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Subjugate is a perfect taster for potential readers of the book. It features the key detectives, Salvi Brentt and Mitch Grenville, as they discuss their case and the behaviours of some of their suspects from the religious community of Bountiful. It also serves to highlight the relationship between Brentt and Grenville, and in particular the tension between them, as Mitch antagonizes Salvi.
“It’s odd that he hadn’t seen her for a few days,” Salvi said. “One minute they’re spending all this time together, enough to make her fight with Ellie, then suddenly their contact stops.”

“Maybe the fight with Ellie triggered Sharon to stop seeing him.”

“But even after she hadn’t seen him for a few days, she still wasn’t talking to Ellie. No, something else happened.”

“Between Tobias and Sharon?” Mitch shrugged. “Maybe the Children of Christ weren’t so chaste after all.”

“Maybe,” Salvi said. “Or maybe they’d agreed to spend time apart so as not to risk their vows.”

Mitch chuckled. “Innocent until proven guilty, huh?”

“Yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to go,” she said.

“Except with the preacher.” He smiled, eyes twinkling.

Salvi gave him a blank stare.

Mitch looked back at the road. “Well, you know, you just be might be in luck, Salvi. Both the Children of Christ church and hall have BioLume products, as does the house of the good preacher.” He glanced back at her. “What do you say, would you like to poke around the preacher’s bedroom?”
Page 69 certainly touches on two important elements of the book: religion and sex, however it doesn’t touch on the Solme Complex, the high-tech prison, situated outside of the religious community, which could possibly house the killer they’re looking for. The Solme Complex ultimately represents the two other main elements of the book: technology and violence. All four elements are woven in one way or another through both the religious community and the prison - The yin and yang of society. And it’s the detectives’ job to find out just where the blurred line between man and monster truly lies...
Visit Amanda Bridgeman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Alice Payne Arrives"

Kate Heartfield is the author of the historical fantasy novel Armed in Her Fashion and two time-travel novellas from Tor.com Publishing, beginning with Alice Payne Arrives. She has also published several dozen short stories and an interactive novel for Choice of Games. A former journalist, she lives in Ottawa.

Heartfield applied the Page 69 Test to Alice Payne Arrives and reported the following:
From page 69:
"Look!" Alice cries out, and points to the floor, where three drops of liquid have fallen. "Is it rain? I believe it is. If it's taken our mouse, it's given us rain. I can smell it. Is it some sort of window?"
Page 69 of Alice Payne Arrives is fairly representative of the whole novella, it turns out. It brings us to a cluttered scientist's study in England in 1788. It's the page where highwaywoman Alice and her scientist lover, Jane, start to figure out that a device they found creates portals in time and space. The reader already knows this, because the reader has also been following the storyline of Prudence, a time traveler from the 22nd century.

But the opening of a portal in Jane's 18th century study gives us a chance to see how Alice and Jane each respond to this revelation, and it reveals the differences between them. Those differences are among the reasons Alice and Jane are attracted to each other, but they will also test their relationship:
"But no device can bring a person from one place to another with no connexion in between," protests Jane.

"No device you've seen, but this mechanism is entirely new and mysterious to you. You've said so."

Alice stands and walks around the disc of shimmering air, looking at it from one side and the other.

Jane kneels and puts her finger to the damp spot on the floor, sniffs it.

Alice says, "I'll have to go through."

"Alice! Didn't you see what happened to my mouse?"
We never do meet that mouse (he's named Cicero) again, but perhaps one day I'll write his story. He's doing fine.
Visit Kate Heartfield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 24, 2018

"Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets"

Rosemary Simpson is the author of two previous historical novels, The Seven Hills of Paradise and Dreams and Shadows, and two previous Gilded Age Mysteries, What the Dead Leave Behind and Lies that Comfort and Betray. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. Educated in France and the United States, she now lives near Tucson, Arizona.

Simpson applied the Page 69 Test to her newest Gilded Age Mystery, Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets, and reported the following:
If there was ever a temptation to cheat, this is it! But I won't. Below is the entire text of page 69 of Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets.
on Josiah's desk, one by one, each more graphic and disturbing than the last.

"I don't think there can be any doubt about it," she said when the last photograph had joined the others. "This was murder. Someone tried to kill our client."
This is the hook at the end of Chapter 7 that should make it difficult for the reader to do anything but turn to the next page, no matter how late it is or how early she has to get up in the morning. The protagonist, Prudence MacKenzie, has stolen photographic plates (we're in 1889!) from the studio/gallery of a photographer who specializes in postmortem studies, and sent them off to be developed, hoping to find clues to what might have caused the unexpected deaths of a beautiful young mother and her child, a new client's sister and infant niece. In the meantime, she and her partner, Geoffrey Hunter, begin to examine photographs of a terrible accident that took place the day before on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. A sandbag fell from the flies, crushing the head of one of the singers who was standing just inches away from their client. Coincidence? Not once a photograph reveals that the frayed end of the sandbag's hemp rope has also been cut. Prudence's conclusion that what was intended to be deemed an accident was really murder sets the two investigators off on a determined and complex quest to solve an old killing and prevent future deaths.
Visit Rosemary Simpson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"The Arrival of Missives"

Aliya Whiteley writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in The Guardian, Interzone, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as Fox Spirit's European Monsters. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, and won the Drabblecast People's Choice Award in 2007. Her writing is often violent, tender, terrifying and funny. It has garnered much critical praise and provoked discussion.

Whiteley Gardner applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, The Arrival of Missives, and reported the following:
From page 69:
My parents, knowing that we have reached the date of the meeting in Taunton, watch me over breakfast with intensity, but we do not speak of it. I am so meek and mild with my newfound ability to dissemble that I give them no reason to be mistrustful. If I place a foot wrong my father would lock me in my bedroom today, but he cannot play that role unless I give him cause.

I see now that this is a lesson all women must learn, and my mother is an adept. I had never noticed her performance before. She handles my father with her downcast eyes and serene expression. She skips over the obstacles he lays for her with deceptive ease, so when he complains about the stale bread she takes it away and presents a fresh loaf without a word. When he asks why she is silent, she says cheerfully of how she was just thinking of a funny thing Mrs Barbery said to her in the village, and relates a piece of tattle with such charm that my father forgets that he was looking for a fight at all.

Then she looks away and I see the pretence fall, and I know she is hiding all her thoughts and feelings in order to pander to him. He is an enormous tyrant baby to whom she will be forever bound.
This is a flash of realisation for my narrator that I really like, because it begins a series of revelations about the village where she lives and the people that surround her. She begins to examine the balance of power, and at how her mother has to placate her father, who is a tyrant in many ways.

My narrator, Shirley, is sixteen years old and has a zealous naiveté at the start of the book. She sees everything in terms of black and white, including her romantic feelings for her schoolteacher. Then the teacher involves her in a far-reaching plan, and the novel takes a leap into a very different kind of story that forces her to question everything she thought she knew.

This page contains a moment of clarity. Shirley has grown up just enough to re-evaluate her parents’ relationship. I think maybe that comes to us all at some point; I loved getting a chance to write about it here as part of a larger science-fiction storyline. It seems to me sci-fi is often at its best when it manages to include delicate details of emotional and personal discovery within its big ideas.
Visit Aliya Whiteley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded"

James Alan Gardner is a 1989 graduate of the Clarion West Science Fiction Writers Workshop, and has had several science fiction stories and novellas appear in publications such as Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Amazing Stories, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He is the author of Expendable, Commitment Hour, Vigilant, Hunted, Ascending, Trapped, and Radiant. He was the grand prize winner of the 1989 Writers of the Future contest, has won the Aurora Award, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

Gardner applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded, and reported the following:
I’m happy to say that page 69 of They Promised Me The Gun Wasn’t Loaded is actually a pivotal moment in the book.

Quick background: Gun’s protagonist is a university student named Jools. She and her roommates gained superpowers in the first book of the series (All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault). Jools is now “human-best” in everything. For example, she doesn’t have superhuman strength but she’s as strong as the strongest human weightlifter. She’s also as fast as the fastest human runner, as agile as the best human gymnast, and as knowledgeable as the best human surgeon, physicist, historian, etc.

In other words, she has a huge breadth of knowledge. This lets her see cross-connections between disciplines that no one else is aware of. If she’s not careful, her mind fills with brilliant new inventions that combine principles from many different fields.

But does that breadth add up to super-intelligence? The question matters because on this particular version of Earth, people with super-intelligence tend to become Mad Geniuses: supervillains of the sort who create hordes of zombie dinosaurs or fire-breathing robots in order to conquer the world.

Is Jools in danger of going mad and becoming a supervillain? Or is she simply a very smart person who’s unlikely go maniacal?

Page 69 starts addressing this question. Jools and her teammates have got their hands on what looks like a super-gun made by a known Mad Genius. They don’t want to pull the trigger; for all they know, the weapon shoots nuclear bombs or lethal plague germs. But Jools wants to see if she can understand what the gun does and how it was made. Without admitting it out loud, she wants to know how smart she is. Is she just a clever human, or might she be a dangerous super-genius?

On page 69, Jools and her friends set out to break into a lab and analyze the gun. The page starts a scene in which a great many secrets begin to be revealed.

So hurray for page 69! It advances both the plot and Jools’s character development. Pretty good for just one page.
Visit James Alan Gardner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue