Monday, April 30, 2007


Robert J. Sawyer, winner of the two top awards in the science-fiction field, the Hugo and Nebula Awards, applied the "page 69 test" to his new novel, Rollback.

Here is an excerpt from page 69, followed by Sawyer's analysis:
"... Okay, fine. I'm -- what? -- I suppose I look about seventy now, right? Just stop the rollback here." He pointed his index finger straight down, as if marking a spot. Seventy he could live with; that wouldn't be so bad, wouldn't be an insurmountable gulf. Why, old Ivan Krehmer, he was married to a woman fifteen years younger than himself. Offhand, Don couldn't think of a case in their social circle where the woman was a decade and a half older than the man, but surely these days that was common, too.

"There's no way to stop it early," said Petra. "We hard-coded into the gene therapy how far back the rollback will go. It's inexorable once begun. Each time your cells divide, you'll get physically younger and more robust until the target is reached."

"Do another round of gene therapy, then," Don said. "You know, to countermand--"

"We've tried that with lab animals," Petra said, "just to see what happens."


She shrugged her shoulders. "It kills them. Cell division comes to a complete halt. No, you have to let the rollback play out. Oh, we could cancel the planned follow-up surgeries -- fixing your teeth, your knee joints, getting you that new kidney once you're strong enough to stand going under the knife. But what would be the point of that?"

Don felt his pulse racing. "So I'm still going to end up physically twenty-five?"

Petra nodded. "It'll take a couple of months for the rejuvenation to finish, but when it does, that'll be your biological age, and then you'll start aging forward again from that point, at the normal rate."

"Jesus," he said. Twenty-five. With Sarah staying eighty-seven. "Good Jesus Christ."


Well, whadayaknow! Page 69 of Rollback happens to land us right on the book's core idea. The novel is indeed about rejuvenation. Sarah and Don Halifax, each 87 years old, have been married for 60 years, when a rich benefactor offers Sarah a rollback -- a new and hugely expensive rejuvenation procedure. Sarah refuses to accept unless the benefactor offers the same gift to her beloved husband Don. The benefactor agrees -- but, tragically, the procedure works for Don, but fails for Sarah: by page 69, he's on a collision course with physically being 25 again, while his wife is left at her natural age.

H.G. Wells used to call each of his novels "a scientific romance" -- "romance" in that context being an old-fashioned word for "novel" (Wells wrote his major works long before Hugo Gernsback coined the term science fiction in the 1920s). But I like to think of Rollback as a true scientific romance, in the modern sense of the word: it's a love story that, thanks to scientific developments that I'm sure we will see in the next few decades, tries to tells us something new about the human heart.

A lot of people who don't read science fiction think of it as a cold, clinical genre, but that's not true, at least in my case. I strive to combine the grandly cosmic with the intimately human, and I think Rollback is my most successful melding of that to date (and -- cough, cough -- Publishers Weekly agrees, saying, in its starred review, denoting a book of exceptional merit, that "Sawyer, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards, may well win another major SF award with this superior effort.").

Many people have favorably compared Rollback to Audrey Niffenegger's wonderful The Time Traveler's Wife, which absolutely is a science-fiction novel, even though it's not labeled as such on the spine. But, then again, as I said, neither were H.G. Wells's works originally, and I hope you'll give the other 319 pages of my scientific romance a try!
Visit Robert Sawyer's website and blog, and read an excerpt from Rollback.

See the entry for Rollback at "My Book, The Movie."

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"The Fellowship"

John Gribbin is a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex, and is best known for his book In Search of Schrodinger's Cat.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his book The Fellowship: Gilbert, Bacon, Harvey, Wren, Newton, and the Story of the Scientific Revolution, and reported the following:
I would not recommend page 69 as a good place to dip in to The Fellowship. The book deals with the scientific revolution in England in the seventeenth century, and the men behind that revolution. My story had to include Francis Bacon, because he is widely regarded as a founder of the scientific method -- but he was actually the least scientific and least revolutionary of those scientific revolutionaries, and page 69 happens to deal with part of his life that had nothing to do with science -- his part as prosecutor in the trial of Robert, Earl of Essex, for treason against the queen, Elizabeth I. But the page does also cover the death of Elizabeth in 1603, and she was succeeded by the first of the Stuarts, James VI of Scotland and I of England; since it was under the Stuarts that the scientific revolution occurred and under the patronage of Charles II, grandson of James I, that the Royal Society was founded, the page is not entirely atypical. Nevertheless, it does nothing to lure the reader in to the excitement of the lives pf people like William Harvey, who discovered the circulation of the blood, Robert Hooke, who laid the foundation for Isaac Newton to build on, or Edmond Halley, the inventor, sailor, spy and scientist whose life reads like a combination of Jack Aubrey and James Bond, with a dash of Richard Feynman. Try page 269 instead!
Visit John Gribbin's website, and learn more about The Fellowship.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"The Making of an Economist, Redux"

David Colander has been the Christian A Johnson Distinguished Professor of Economics at Middlebury College since 1982. He has authored, co-authored, or edited over 80 articles and over 30 books, including The Making of an Economist, Redux.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his book and reported the following:
The Making of an Economist, Redux is about graduate economics education and what it means to be an economist. Page 69 is part of a table that characterizes the likes of students. The real meat of the book is to be found in the introduction and chapters 1, 2 and 4, the interviews, and the three chapters at the end reflecting on the meaning of the survey results and the interviews. What students like about their graduate education, which is what is presented on page 69, plays a small role in the book, but I suspect most readers will be interested in the broader issues discussed -- such as the change in economic education over the last 20 years, and the student interviews which give the reader a good sense of the way economists think.
Learn more about The Making of an Economist, Redux at the Princeton University Press website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 27, 2007

"The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner"

Patricia Vigderman, author of The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner, applied the "page 69 test" to her book and reported the following:
The book begins “I know a few things about Isabella Stewart Gardner, but it’s hard to feel really close to her.” It’s about a famous place -- the Boston museum she built (practically with her own hands), filled with personally selected artworks, and decreed could never be altered. It’s about my quest to feel at ease with imperious Isabella -- to let her live in imagination. It became a kind of anti-biography, tracking down Mrs. Gardner in Gilded Age Boston and in her museum.

Page 69 finds me entangled with a less conspicuous figure in her social world: William Sturgis Bigelow (Boston Brahmins generally seem to have had three names). What struck me was his long relationship with Japan, with Japanese art and spiritual life. In the decades after the Civil War, despite the remarkable discomforts of travel, wealthy Bostonians packed their flea powder, endured horrible seasickness, and went off to be dazzled and enlightened and entertained by the foreign world of the Far East. And they brought stuff back: in Bigelow’s case, thousands of objects for the newly established Museum of Fine Arts.

In fact Bigelow and Isabella Gardner had a terrible falling out over how people are supposed to look at art, so since he turns up on page 69 I’ll say that the question of what exactly we are doing when we look at art is perplexing and compelling to me. Art comes to us out of the foreign world of the vanished past as if time and change were meaningless. In the book I keep wandering through the museum, rediscovering it over and over. I look at how some contemporary artists have responded to its unchanging vision, and finally (despite Isabella’s decree) I arrange it for myself, in language.

...the contrast between Fenollosa's escape from Mrs. Gardner's Boston and his friend Bigelow's choice not to suggests how the chill of tradition discouraged alternatives... He was Clover Adams's favorite cousin, although (once again) there are no letters between them left for our curious eyes. The letters of his that do remain show him as playful and self-assured; his favorite expression when declining an invitation was "my heart is a handful of dust." He studied medicine at Harvard and in Paris, but did not follow the medical profession, as his father (himself a prominent physician, and, in fact, the Gardners's family doctor) desired. With his considerable fortune he supported a well-known Wagnerian opera star, but never married her. (“…please report me of sound & disposing mind to my father, if you see him,” he wrote to Phillips Brooks in 1889. “He does not take any stock in Buddhism, & thinks that I am hovering on the verge of lunacy, because I do not come home & get up some grandchildren for him, like a well-regulated Bostonian.”)

In Japan he was not only an adherent of Esoteric Buddhism; he provided financial assistance to impoverished artists, gave $10,000 toward the establishment of the Fine Arts Academy in Japan, and made donations for the repair and conservation of temples. His own collection ran to 4,000 paintings and 50,000 prints and drawings. I think he was an idealist and an aesthete, and also a pure product of his city and class. Henry Adams described him to a friend as mistakenly seeking Paradise rather than the Fireside, although as things fell out, when his father died in 1890 he inherited a couple of firesides -- two fine houses, plus an island off Nantucket -- as well as trusteeships of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

The point I go on to make is that Bigelow’s adventurousness and gaiety hardened in the end -- he became the old guard -- while Isabella’s did not. Into old age she remained lively and slightly scandalous.
Patricia Vigderman's recent writing has appeared in The Georgia Review, Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, Northwest Review, Raritan, Seneca Review, and Southwest Review. She divides her year between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Gambier, Ohio, where she teaches in the English department at Kenyon College.

Learn more about The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner, and read an excerpt, at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"The Declaration of Independence"

David Armitage is Professor of History at Harvard University.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his most recent book, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History, and reported the following:
The Declaration of Independence: A Global History takes a very familiar document, the American Declaration of 1776, and asks three less familiar questions about it: What were the international pressures that forced a Declaration in 1776? What did people outside the United States make of it after 1776? And what impact has it had on other declarations of independence around the world since 1776?

Pg. 69 is right at the heart of this short book. It moves from answering the first question to tackling the second. It notes that major changes in ideas about international relations and international law were taking place right around 1776 -- indeed, the very word "international" was only coined in 1780 -- and that these changes decisively shaped the way the Declaration was read at the time. It also starts telling how quickly the Declaration travelled from America to Europe in the summer of 1776: news of independence had reached Warsaw barely two months after July 4th. The page therefore nicely illustrates up two major concerns of the book: to show that this very American document was in fact quite cosmopolitan, and to follow its remarkable fortunes outside America over the past two centuries.
Learn more about The Declaration of Independence: A Global History and read an excerpt.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"The Invisible Cure"

Helen Epstein writes frequently on public health for various publications, including The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Magazine. She is currently a visiting research scholar at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University.

She applied the "page 69 test" to her new book, The Invisible Cure: Africa, The West and the Fight Against AIDS, and reported the following:
The HIV epidemic in East and Southern Africa is uniquely severe. Half of all new cases of HIV occur in this region, home to less then 3% of the world’s population. The Invisible Cure: Africa, The West and the Fight Against AIDS suggests that this probably has something to do with sexual behavior. It is not that African people have so many sexual partners, but that they are more likely than people in other world regions to have more than one — perhaps two or three — ongoing sexual relationships at a time. Epidemiologists have shown that this pattern of behavior gives rise to a network of sexual partnerships that serves as a “superhighway” for HIV.

In the pages preceding page 69, I learn from a group of young Maasai men that this pattern of behavior has a powerful social, economic and historical basis, not only for the Maasai, but, as I will learn later on, for other groups as well. On page 69, I am asking the Maasai youths about abstinence and fidelity and then I prepare to conduct a condom demonstration for them. However, their responses make it clear why these behavioral changes are difficult for them. The book then goes on to discuss what kinds of HIV prevention programs have been attempted in Africa. I find that where HIV prevention has worked, the success depended crucially upon something for which the field of public health currently has no name or program. It is best described as a social movement, based on a sense of solidarity, compassion or mutual aid that is impossible to quantify or measure.
Learn more about The Invisible Cure at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Grammar Lessons"

Michele Morano is an assistant professor of English at DePaul University and the author of essays that have appeared in journals and anthologies that include Best American Essays 2006, the Georgia Review, the Missouri Review, Under the Sun, and The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction.

Her new book, Grammar Lessons: Translating a Life in Spain, was published last month.

She applied the "page 69 test" to it and reported the following:
I’ll admit I was skeptical of the Page 69 Test, especially since it takes me to an essay called “On Climbing Peña Ubiña,” which I don’t think of as representative of the collection as a whole. And yet, when I look more carefully at what’s happening on that page, I have to admit that it does contain a lot of the thematic and emotional elements of the rest of the book. The scene is this: during a year when I was living and teaching in Spain, I went on a mountain climbing trip with a university group. The climb was much more difficult – and dangerous – than anyone expected, and it took twice as long as we’d planned. So on our way back down the mountain, we decided to save time by “sledding” on our backs:

Two by two, people line up and take off until everyone has gone except Jose and me. “This will be great,” we reassure each other, waiting until the people below us are clear of our path. I’m trying to summon my courage, to lie down and let gravity take me where it wishes. I want to prove to myself that I’m as brave as I’d like to be, as fearless and secure as I was just three weeks ago. And Jose may be trying to do the same, to let go of what he suspects and I’ll soon learn: that Yolanda’s trip to England is the beginning of the end for them. Like me, Jose may be taking deep breaths and trying to keep the panic at bay, reconciling himself to a future in which he might have only himself to rely on.

We lie down at the same time and shove off. It’s a great ride, although my cloth jacket slows me some, and when I finally reach the bottom, my clothes – right down to the underwear – are soaked through. But I feel exhilarated. We all do. We’re wet but not too cold, and we start talking about the bottles of bourbon back at the lodge and the sidra, hard cider, waiting at the bar in the town below. We hurry through the long, sloping meadows, egging each other on until someone suggests that we try running downhill, leaning back to maintain our center of gravity. What’s the worst that can happen? someone shouts, and now it’s Enrique who cautions us to slow down and be careful.

This scene laces the seductive pleasure of living in Spain with the underlying sorrows that, for me at least, often shade the most memorable travel experiences. So in one sense, I guess it does offer readers a sense of what to expect from the rest of the collection.

I’ve heard that Wayne Booth used to instruct his students to pay attention to what was happening exactly halfway through a piece of literature. When I apply that principle and go to the middle page of my book, I’m happier than when I go to Page 69. Might there be a Middle Page Test?
Learn more about Grammar Lessons at Morano's official website.

Read Morano's entry at the "Writers Read" blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 23, 2007


Lawrence Light and Meredith Anthony applied the "page 69 test" to their new book, Ladykiller, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Ladykiller contains one piece of the puzzle. A series of murders has shaken New York City. Up to now, all the victims have been women and there have been no clues, no common ground, no intersection in the lives of the very different victims. In the latest killing, the victim is a man, a social worker. Is it a copycat? Has the killer made a mistake? Is this killing the key to solving the riddle of the series? Detective Dave Dillon of the NYPD is routinely questioning residents in a building near one of the series of killings. Most of the people he’s talked to saw and heard nothing. This time it’s different.

Page 69:

"What the hell do you want?"

Dave jolted into alertness. A sour old man, all lips and eyes, had answered his knock. Dave's father would have said, "The last face I saw that ugly had a hook in it."

"Police, Mr. Tucker. We wonder if you--?"

"About time you got here. I been dialing 911 all day. They keep saying someone will be over. Busy wolfing down doughnuts, weren't you?"

Dave wasn't surprised that he hadn't heard about Tucker calling 911. They were too busy with genuine emergencies to relay tips in a timely fashion. "Sorry, sir. I've been trying to get to you." Dave attempted an apologetic grin.

"There were three of them."

"I beg your pardon."

"Three of them on the street last night. I don't sleep good, nights. Never have. My wife, when she was alive, said it was because I had a guilty conscience. What have I got to be guilty about? People don't like me, I say, 'Fuck'em.' Always have."

"What did you see, Mr. Tucker?"

"We're on the seventh floor now, remember." He led Dave to the window and pointed down to the taped-off murder scene diagonally across the street and down a building. "That's a ways down to the street. And my eyes aren't as good as they used to be, especially at night. When I was working, I managed an office. Used to be able to spot something wrong with someone desks and desks away. Old Eagle-Eye Tucker, they called me. I straightened them all out. If they didn't like it, fuck 'em."

Dave nodded. "What did you see, sir?"

"Three people. One hit the other one, knocked him down. The one hit ran off, yelling. I couldn't hear what. The other two seemed to be talking. I figured this was some drug deal. Then there's this flash of light and a gunshot. Took me a moment to understand. The guy with the fists was shot."

Two persons involved in the slaying of Reuben Silver? "Could you identify any of them? Maybe pick out some kind of distinguishing characteristics?"
Read the publisher's description of Ladykiller.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"A Glorious Defeat"

Timothy Henderson is Distinguished Research Associate Professor of History at Auburn University Montgomery.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new book, A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States, and reported the following:
Page 69 appears in a chapter titled “The Problem of Texas,” in a section detailing Mexico’s “Law of April 6, 1830.” That law was Mexico’s most serious attempt to stave off the loss of its northern state of Texas, which since the 1820s had been rapidly filling with gringos who were showing considerable signs of unruliness. The law contained provisions that hoped to encourage non-U.S. immigration to Texas, to integrate Texas economically with Mexico, to outlaw slavery in the state, and to prohibit further immigration from the United States. Page 69 contains a portion of the explanation for why this effort failed dismally, leading inexorably to Mexico’s loss of Texas.

The loss of Texas wounded Mexican national pride in a way that made future compromise with the Texans or the Americans politically impossible. As such it was a key event leading to the 1846-1848 war with the United States. A Glorious Defeat attempts to explain the reasons for Mexico’s entry into that war. The political turmoil and the many frustrations that Mexico experienced between 1821 and 1846 — frustrations such as the inability to hold on to Texas — go a long way toward explaining why the Mexicans declined several opportunities to avoid war, even though it was clear to most realistic Mexican leaders that a war with the United States was not winnable. Page 69, then, does indeed contain a key component of that story.
Read more about A Glorious Defeat.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Here She Lies"

Kate Pepper is the author of Five Days in Summer (2004), Seven Minutes to Noon (2005), One Cold Night (2006), and, coming in May, Here She Lies.

She applied the "page 69 test" to Here She Lies and reported the following:
As it happens, by chance, page 69 of Here She Lies is one of this novel’s pages that I hold most dear. It’s one of the pages I re-tooled over and over to make sure it expressed exactly what I wanted it to say. It’s a page whose existence I fought for during the editorial process, when some might have curtailed it. Page 69 is where I consciously and deliberately encapsulated the societal issue that is at the core of what plagues my protagonist, Annie.

Annie is a victim of identity theft, and as an electronically plugged-in shopoholic she has laid herself bare to cyber thieves. As it happens, her identical twin sister, Julie, is a marketing guru. Page 69 shows them together, passing through a pretty gentrified country town, soon before she discovers that her identity has been stolen. In this scene, she feels a vague awareness of her role in the dance between buyer and seller without yet realizing just how vulnerable it will leave her.

Main Street was busy with shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants; the town center was more polished and inviting than I’d expected. Unlike the strip malls I had grown used to down south with their utilitarian chain stores, this was the kind of place where you might like to walk and browse. I was an unabashed shopoholic — prime feed for marketers like my twin, advertisers, telephone solicitors, the whole bunch of them — and in light of our conversation on the way into town I began to feel supremely stupid sitting in my sister’s leather passenger seat. Her keen awareness of the workings of the world, her mastery of it, afforded her leather while our car back in Lexington was upholstered in stained cloth. I wondered if it was possible that everything I did, half of what I thought, was influenced by someone else and I didn’t even know it. After all, in recent years the marketing of stuff had grown more ubiquitous and even sexier than the stuff itself. Were we offered what we wanted before we knew we wanted it? Were our own lurking desires being used to formulate and transform our wants into needs? I considered this as we drove ten more minutes along Route 7, the lush, hilly road that led into Stockbridge.

Stockbridge was another jewel of a New England town in a prosperous area; it had its own Main Street, similar to Great Barrington’s, but it felt different in a way I couldn’t put my finger on at first. Then, when we passed a sign pointing in the direction of the Norman Rockwell Museum, I knew what it was. I remembered Rockwell’s classic mid-century painting of this very street: a lineup of brick and whitewashed storefronts on a cold winter night at Christmastime, a serene and pastoral small-town moment anyone could recognize in his or her own way. His painting had become an American icon, reminding us of the simplicity and peacefulness of our national soul back when existence was organic, not just the food but people’s daily lives.

But the town I saw didn’t look or feel like the painting. Around the lynchpin of a huge Victorian hotel were all the signs of a tourist trap gone to seed: a candle shoppe, a candy shoppe, a store featuring sweatshirts advertising the names of local towns and attractions, a crowded eatery. It looked to me like the painting’s fame had driven the town around the bend, devouring the innocence that had brought it acclaim in the first place.

Was this — this sweet but faded town — what marketing left you with after the sale? A vague memory that you had once valued something but you could no longer recall precisely what it was because you had, almost inadvertently, replaced it with something else. It was cynical, I knew that, but there was something about this place, these scenic, almost staged towns and roads and flowerbeds and skies that made me want to scratch their pretty surfaces to see what really was beneath. I liked it here but none of it felt precisely real.
Visit Kate Pepper's website and her blog, and listen to her read an excerpt from Here She Lies.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Why Casey Had To Die"

L.C. Hayden applied the "page 69 test" to her Agatha-nominated novel, Why Casey Had to Die: A Harry Bronson Mystery, and reported the following:
I bow my head in shame. I gave my latest release, Why Casey Had To Die, the Page 69 test and I flunked. If a reader were to open the book to Page 69 and read only that page, the essence of the book would bypass him.

Ellery Queen Magazine wrote about me and Casey: “... her knack for gripping the reader is undeniable.” This page tends to set up the suspense that’s going to follow rather than thrust the reader in that web of suspense.

The only tiny part of suspense that might grab the reader appears on the last five lines of the page. Bronson, my detective, has learned that the so-called fictional murder puzzle that the attendees of a mystery convention are supposed to solve is actually a real cold case. In fact, it is Bronson’s first unsolved case.

Bronson asks one of the conference attendees if any of the previous fictional murder cases has ever been set in Texas. The last three lines read:

Katherine shook her head. “Not that I can remember. Far as I know, they all
have been set here in Arizona.”

“Then why the change this year?”

Hopefully, the reader will want to turn the page and find the answer. It is, after all, the backbone to the suspense that will send Bronson down a path filled with terror — one that places not only him in mortal danger, but also his beloved wife, Carol.
Check out the author's website to learn more about Why Casey Had To Die and to read an excerpt.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Lāhaina Noon"

Eric Paul Shaffer lives in Kula, on Maui, on the sunset slope of Haleakala. He is author of several books and a chapbook of poetry, two chapbooks of fiction, and non-fiction articles and reviews.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his fifth book, Lāhaina Noon, and reported the following:
“Ka Mahina O Hoku Ma Haleakalā” appears on page 69 of Lāhaina Noon, a book about sun, night and stars, sea and shore, mountains, and moments of illumination.

Living on an island two thousand miles from everywhere else underscores how small and how large the world is, and no place was more isolated than Hawai‘i when the planes stopped flying on September 11, 2001.

The sudden silence awakened me to the true magnitude of the planet, and at that moment in history, my friend Andrew and I hiked at night into Haleakalä crater.

Descending into the volcano broadened my sense of time and place, and every step carried me further into a world darker and forever changed on a planet beautiful but always indifferent to us.

Ka Mahina O Hoku Ma Haleakalā

It's a landscape barely terrestrial--sere, barren, stark.
A full moon blazes white through darkness rising
from my feet. This landscape lives by its own light,

a light of dust that silvers where it settles. In silence,
we descend. It's a landscape that barely allows
our passage. We're not alone. ‘Ua‘u call from the cliff,

voices of shadow the moonlight rips from raw rock.
It's a landscape that lives in light of stars piercing
shadows after centuries of marking the darkness.

Beyond the moon, far suns glitter like ice in oil.
Descending to the crater, my companion disappears,
though I hear his tread echo above or below me.

The crater floor glows, now reflecting light reflected
from the sun, a light reflected in my skin darkened
by sun and moon, silver in the night, this skin spun

from a dust of stars. I say nothing. This landscape
swallows words. On the trail, thoughts loom large
as the moon. It's a landscape that gladdens me:

When I'm gone, the moon will light the volcano,
the ice will come, the world will not change at all,
but for those little changes we mistake for time.

NOTES: On the Hawaiian calendar, every phase of the moon has a name, and Hoku is the night of the full moon. Haleakalā, “House of the Sun,” is the active volcano (10,023 feet) constituting East Maui, where I live. Thus, the title of the poem translates as “Night of the Full Moon in the House of the Sun.” ‘Ua‘u is the endangered Dark-Rumped Petrel, whose Hawaiian name mimics perfectly their forlorn cries.
Visit the publisher's website to learn more about Lāhaina Noon.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"The New Golden Age"

Ravi Batra is the author of Greenspan's Fraud as well as the international bestsellers as The Downfall of Capitalism and Communism, The Great Depression of 1990, and The Myth of Free Trade. He is professor of economics at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new book, The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos, and reported the following:
My latest work, The New Golden Age, is partly based on my past writings, especially those in the 1970s, when I wrote two books in which I made the following forecasts:

* The ayatollahs would take over Iran in 1979 and then rule for a while.
* The Soviet Communism would vanish by the end of the century.
* The United States would be entangled in a major fight with fundamentalist Islam starting around 2000.

Because of the far-fetched nature of these forecasts, my books, one entitled, The Downfall of Capitalism and Communism, and the other called, Muslim Civilization, attracted little attention. By now these forecasts have come true, and my new book, The New Golden Age, predicts that monopoly capitalism is next to fall.

I base my forecasts on economic and historical cycles. According to an economic cycle we are currently in the midst of an inflationary decade with a high and rising price of oil. My historical cycle concludes that the age of acquisitors, where money rules society, is about to end in America and Europe. This cycle also predicts that China, where the rule of money or of wealthy feudalist landlords ended in 1949, is about to move into its own golden age. History reveals that the age of the wealthy always ends in a social revolution followed by a golden age.

The single most worrisome global economic problem today is the U.S. housing bubble that has been primarily financed by foreign money. When the American bubble bursts by mid-2007 and continues to splinter thereafter, foreign investors will head for the exits; while it is in the self-interest of foreign governments to finance the U.S. trade deficit, private groups have no such interest or obligation. The bursting of the U.S. bubble will result in loan defaults and could start a foreign stampede out of American assets, leading to a collapse of the dollar, which in turn will cause American stock, bond, and real estate markets to crash by 2010, the year the revolution is likely to begin in America. That will then have a ripple effect around the world.

Some excerpts from pages 69 and 70.

“In spite of major differences in their inherent qualities, all classes make roughly equal contributions to the well-being of society. Without the warriors there would be no law and order, without the intellectuals there would be no conceptualization of human rights, liberty and justice, without acquisitors the economy would be in a poor state and without laborers there would not be much production. Every good person is crucial to social welfare, and every bad person is ultimately a societal parasite regardless of their innate qualities and achievements.

Once certain intellectuals discover that hoarding money and starting a business are keys to social prestige and political influence, they quickly learn the art of entrepreneurship from the acquisitors, and with their superior intellect eventually come to dominate the arteries of government. That is when the engine of exploitation runs full speed. This is because the intellectual acquisitor combines in one brain the cunning of the bad intellectual and the greed of the acquisitor.

Social Revolution

The salient feature of the era of intellectual acquisitors is that the ruling elite amass wealth but make people believe that such an endeavor is good for society. For instance, they cut taxes for themselves while raising taxes for other classes, and yet are able to convince the public that such economic policies are in society’s best interest. Or they may persuade you that God has blessed them with opulence so that they can take care of the indigent. They have the intellect to make you feel better even as they hit you, at least for a while. Dogmas proliferate at this point, and the laborer bears the maximum burden of exploitation.

Once the majority of intellectuals become acquisitive, materialism degenerates into super-materialism. There are no more religious or ethical restraints on the avarice of the elite, and as the public follows its leaders, everything gets commercialized.

There comes a point when intellectual acquisitors are virtually unchallenged; that's when the process of wealth concentration runs full throttle, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer at incredible speeds. The boundless greed and hypocrisy of acquisitive intellectuals ultimately torments the majority of people. Salaries go down, and the bulk of society is forced to devote much of its time to making money. Warriors and intellectuals then have to become laborers because they have little time left for the finer pursuits of life. They have to labor hard to support themselves and their children. The intellectual’s inherent love for art, music, painting and philosophy gives way to routine work all day long to provide the means for family survival. The warrior’s innate predilection for adventure and sport is replaced by overtime work to make ends meet. The vast majority of society comes to adopt the laborers’ way of living and thinking.

[At times such as these, people overthrow the rule of money in society, as they did during Feudalism in Europe. Then comes a golden age.]”
Visit the publisher's website to learn more about The New Golden Age.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Lost Dog"

Bill Cameron's debut mystery is Lost Dog, to which he applied the "page 69 test" and reported the following:
Lost Dog begins in two places: first, in the mind of one man hiding a dead body in a park, then in the mind of another, Peter, who finds it. Struggling with his own demons in the face of his discovery, Peter pisses off police assigned to the case, sees his emotional outburst featured on the television news, and draws the attention of Darla, daughter of the victim. He agrees to meet with Darla to discuss her mother's death, but the conversation doesn't go well, and by page 69, it's over.

“Wait,” he said. “How do I get in touch with you?”

[Darla] smiled grimly through her tears. “What the hell makes you think you’ll want to get in touch with me?” She shook her head. “You’ll be glad you got rid of me so easy. Just give it a few minutes.”

She walked out the door. He half-stood and watched her through the glass. She headed around the corner of the building and disappeared. He settled back into his chair and sat staring at his empty Danish plate, at his full coffee mug. Should’ve called Mulvaney. Just not made of tough enough stuff to deal with this. Jesus Christ.

This moment in the novel a microcosm of so much which is going on in Lost Dog. It's a moment when Peter's ambivalence about the situation stands in stark contrast to the decisions he made to put himself there. He's both attracted to and repelled by the killing, by the police, by the reaction of Darla. His connection to the death is coincidental, but his continued involvement is a product of his own compulsions. In the end, he'll have to come to terms with those compulsions if he is to survive.
Read an excerpt from Lost Dog and visit Cameron's website where you can view a video trailer for the novel.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 16, 2007

"More Sex is Safer Sex"

Steven E. Landsburg is Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester and the author, most recently, of More Sex is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his book and reported the following:
Page 69 of my new book, More Sex is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics, reads, in its entirety:
"Part II: How to Fix Everything"
The answer is to encourage innovation and create better incentives. Innovation includes ideas like "Hey! I wonder if we could make computer chips out of silicon!" but it also includes ideas like "Hey! I wonder if we could finance start-ups with junk bonds!". You can fly from New York to Tokyo partly because somebody figured out how to build an airplane and partly because somebody figured out how to insure it.

With that in mind, I've offered a series of proposals to improve the incentives of innovators and regulators, congressmen and presidents, firefighters and police officers, jurors and judges. For congressmen: I want to give every voter two votes in each congressional election: You'd cast one in your own district and one in the district of your choice. That way, when the senior senator from West Virginia diverts billions of other people's dollars to his home state, those other people will have a chance to let him know how they feel. For regulators: FDA drug approvals currently take too long; they'd come faster if we required the commissioners to hold a portfolio of pharmaceutical stocks. For jurors: If you vote for acquittal, you've got to let the defendant share your house for a month.

Even the lighthearted proposals have a serious point. Jurors currently have very little incentive to deliberate conscientiously; we really ought to be thinking about ways to change that. In the book, I offer some more detailed and serious suggestions.

The general theme of More Sex is Safer Sex is that economic logic can lead to surprising conclusions, and surprises are fun. Some of the best surprises arise from the conflict between your own interests and the interests of your neighbors. Factory owners dump too much pollution because they don't care about their neighbors. The recklessly promiscuous spread disease because they don't care about their partners. And the demurely chaste *also* contribute to the spread of disease, by failing to enter the partner pool, even though they'd improve its average quality.

In each case, the incentives are wrong. Pollution should be taxed, reckless promiscuity should be taxed, and a modest increase in sexual activity among the cautious should be subsidized. It's all a matter of getting the incentives right.
Visit the author's website and read an excerpt from More Sex is Safer Sex.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"American Leviathan"

Patrick Griffin, Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia, is the author of American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his book and reported the following:
The answer, of course, is that p. 69 does and does not get to the heart of what this book is about. But that makes the whole experiment interesting. Here's a sample of what I say on p. 69:

"As they transgressed the Line, therefore, settlers also contested the assumptions upon which the Line was drawn. Yet even as they used arguments that betokened stadial assumptions, they were articulating something more troubling. They saw themselves as “white,” after all. And they refused to believe that Indians in the West differed from Indians in the East. They both were uncivilized. The question is were they civilize-able? Unwilling to wait for civility to take hold, settlers refused even to entertain such questions. What had emerged on the frontier was a frightening spectrum of opinion ranging from the genocidal impulses of the few to the darker interpretation of the stadial vision of the many, the merger of the pre-modern and the modern. Frontier settlers did not challenge the bases of British notions of civility — they agreed with them — but in the midst of violence, they contested the implications of the civilizing scheme."

So we get a glimpse of some of the ideas that make the book tick. The book explores the meaning of the American Revolution by looking at its edges, and what this revolution has to do with American character. As such, it charts the ways in which British ideas of empire did not, nor could not, work in America. On p. 69, we join the action in mid-stream, as settlers are refusing to obey British officials who argue that Indians should be protected and their lands inviolate. They have also kinds of sophisticated arguments for making such claims, and settlers -- believe it or not -- operate within the same ideological universe. But they can't right now. What follows, then, is this: all hell breaks loose, and all sorts of Americans and Britons are caught up in an elemental struggle -- of which race, class, and land are elements -- about sovereignty as society collapses in on itself that only the state can rectify. Hence the title, American Leviathan. With the state's involvement, American empire was the ransom paid for American nationhood. The nature of the revolution on the frontier also reveals another important aspect of the book: common people, for better and for worse, stood at the center of these dynamics. On the one hand, as per the cult of the founding father, we should ignore them. On the other hand, we should not romanticize them. I do neither. These dynamics -- encompassing the faceless people who were at the center of things, and the janus-faced nature of the outcomes of revolution -- made America American.

In many ways, the exercise itself reflects the way I hope that readers will engage the book. It can be read as a narrative of revolution, a story of the American Revolution, a tale of Indian/white relations, and a broader narrative about the meaning of sovereignty, empire, and nation. Is this all confusing? Do you want to know more? All to the good. Then read on ....
Visit the publisher's webpage for American Leviathan.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 13, 2007


Susan Coll is the author of Rockville Pike,, and the new novel Acceptance, to which she applied the "page 69 test" and then reported the following:
Page 69 falls at the end of a chapter, and picks up a scene mid-dialogue. It’s not the ideal stand-alone page, but it does its bit to represent thematically. Acceptance is a social comedy about the college admissions process and this page involves an ugly conversation between two mothers. Nina makes a blatantly racist comment about Maya, one of the teenaged protagonists who is a sweet kid, a stand-out swimmer but an average student -- an anomaly in her over-achieving family. Nina suggests that Maya will get into any school to which she applies simply because of her ethnicity. Grace, who is meant to be the voice of reason in the novel, struggles to come up with an appropriate response. She’s outraged, but isn’t sure what good it will do to start a fight with her neighbor, particularly since their relations are already strained. I actually wrestled a bit with this very page -- originally Grace just sucked it up and decided not to respond, but my editor suggested she ought to have a bit more spine.

“I believe the Kaluantharanas are Hindu, actually, Grace replied, a much sharper response poised on the tip of her tongue. She was not a confrontational person, and her first instinct was to always keep the peace. Starting a fight with Nina would do little to change the world and would only make their interactions even more unpleasant. She wondered how she could have spent so many years with Nina without recognizing all this venom just beneath the surface. Or was it possible that Nina had not always been this way, and that like Lou, something inside was turning toxic as she headed into middle age.

“Oh, whatever,” said Nina. “I guess I have to confess that I don’t really know the difference. There’s just so many foreigners in this neighborhood. Like that guy who just moved in up the street, the one with the thing on his head.

“He’s a Sikh, Nina,” she replied. “He works for the IMF. Now she felt herself about to explode. “You really ought to listen to yourself -- you sound like a racist!”

She couldn’t believe she’d just said this. The remark felt uncharacteristically bold as well as incredibly stupid. Nina was a racist! She waited for Nina’s angry reply, but none was forthcoming. She’d forgotten Nina was a master of denial…
Visit Coll's website and her blog, and read an excerpt from Acceptance.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Shooting Gallery"

Hailey Lind is the author of Feint of Art, Shooting Gallery, and the forthcoming Brush with Death.

She applied the "page 69 test" to Shooting Gallery and reported the following:
When I turned to page 69 of Shooting Gallery, the second book in the Art Lover’s Mystery Series, it surprised me to see that I dropped the “F” bomb about halfway through the page. Not that I haven’t been known to drop said bomb myself from time to time – especially when dealing with the legendary San Francisco Bay Area traffic — but I rarely use such language otherwise, and certainly not gratuitously.

However, the scene explains the language: after a rather raucous scene the series protagonist, Annie Kincaid, has finally gained access to the studio of reclusive sculptor, Robert Pascal. Pascal brought a marble sculpture to his studio in order to do some repair work, but ever since has refused to give the sculpture back to its rightful owners. Pascal’s character becomes clear to the reader in the following scene from page 69:

“No. They can’t have it back,” he said dispassionately. “Not now.”

“Not now?” I echoed. “Does that mean you’ll give it back later?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Not at the moment, anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t fucking want to.”

“But you must know it’s driving the Hewetts crazy.”

“I don’t care. It’s my goddamned sculpture.”

“Mr. Pascal, don’t get me wrong — I’m a strong supporter of the integrity of an artist’s vision. But Head and Torso belongs to the Hewetts. You sold it to them in 1968, and surely the check’s cleared by now—“

“They’re morons. They don’t appreciate it.”

My brief interaction with Janice Hewett inclined me to share Pascal’s assessment, but that was not the point. If intelligence were a prerequisite for owning art, most of the world’s finest palaces would have nothing on their walls except spiderwebs.

“They paid only twenty-five hundred dollars for it,” Pascal continued. “It’s worth nearly half a million now.”

“I think I understand,” I replied, choosing my words with care. “I know how hard it is to part with something that comes straight from your soul. But in the society we live in …well, the people who buy the stuff get to keep the stuff. Are you aware that the Hewetts are threatening a lawsuit if you don’t return the sculpture?”

There was a scuffling sound high overhead, followed by a muted pounding…

This excerpt is representative of the book in the aside about art hanging in palaces, and in Annie’s acknowledgement of the difficulty in the artist giving up his work – especially to someone he thinks is undeserving. Though the books are humorous, character-driven mysteries for non-art lovers as well as art fans, I myself am an artist and enjoy including personal asides from an artistic perspective.

On the other hand, page 69 is not typical of Shooting Gallery in that it is not particularly funny. The “scuffling sound” overhead is precursor to a comical stunt by some of Annie’s friends; and this discussion with Pascal occurs right after a riotous party in the hallway. As such, it is something of a breathing space in the story, a character set-up that will lead to much more throughout the book.
Visit Hailey Lind's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"American Purgatorio"

John Haskell is the author of the story collection, I Am Not Jackson Pollock, and the novel, American Purgatorio, to which he applied the "page 69 test" and reported the following:
I don't have the book in front of me, but I'll guess page 69 comes during a section called Luxuria, which means lust. At that point a man, travelling in a car, is about half way across the country, and it's similar to the rest of the book in that he's looking for his wife, trying to avoid the fact that she may be dead and that he may be dead. Because this particular part of the book is about sexual desire, it's different than the rest of the book, but because the entire book is about desire, it's not that different.
Read an excerpt from American Purgatorio and visit John Haskell's website.

Haskell's work has appeared in Granta, The Paris Review, Conjunctions, and Ploughshares; he is a contributor to the NPR radio program The Next Big Thing.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"The Jesus Machine"

Dan Gilgoff is a Senior Editor at U.S. News & World Report, where he covers national politics and the intersection of politics and religion. After the 2004 election, he wrote the first in-depth profile of James Dobson and Focus on the Family, which evolved into his new book, The Jesus Machine.

He applied the "page 69 test" to The Jesus Machine and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Jesus Machine explains how Focus on the Family, the most powerful organization in Christian Right history, is desperately trying to attract new and younger followers by launching some highly interactive web sites. Though Focus maintains a mailing list of nearly six million names and addresses, the average age of those on the list is 52. Because Focus on the Family’s primary mission is helping parents raise their children, that statistic is unsettling.

So Focus is launching web sites like

“… the site asks parents to sign up for a free membership, which includes eight newsletters and four CD journals annually, plus access to premium web content…. There are separate newsletters and CD journals for four different age levels, and subscriptions change automatically as the child ages. As of early 2006, a quarter million users had signed up.”

The early part of my book explains how Focus on the Family founder James Dobson has gotten more politically powerful than Christian Right leaders Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson ever were precisely because he is not seen as a political activist, but as a trusted family advisor. Dobson built his massive following by dispensing advice on child rearing and marriage on his daily radio show. The site is a prime example of how Dobson and Focus have always developed close personal relationships with their followers around family issues before enlisting them in any political crusades. But, as Page 69 goes onto say:

“Of course, Focus also believes that the more people it can help and form intimate, lasting relationships with, the more soldiers it can enlist in the culture war. “Eventually, we can get them to mobilize on our behalf,” said [Steve] Maegdlin, the director of constituent acquisitions. “They essentially become an extension of who we are.”

The page concludes by saying that Focus is walking a tightrope in attempting to gain new “constituents.” That’s because it’s difficult to gain new followers by “nurturing” young families while simultaneously becoming much more vocal in the divisive culture war though Focus’s new sister group, Focus on the Family Action:

“…as James Dobson becomes ever more public about his political activism under the auspices of Focus on the Family Action, branding Focus as a political organization in the public eye, he complicates the strategy of reaching new constituents through spotlighting the organization’s “nurturing” side.”

For a reader cracking the book open for the first time and landing on page 69, it would no doubt be difficult to contextualize. But in detailing how Focus on the Family is struggling to become both more family-oriented and more political, it actually touches on the book’s central paradox, that Dobson’s is an unrivaled political power because he’s seen to be above the partisan political fray.
Visit The Jesus Machine website and read excerpts from the book.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 9, 2007

"Our Undemocratic Constitution"

Sanford Levinson holds the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his most recent book, Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It), and reported the following:
Page 69 of Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It) includes the beginning of a new section, "The Constitution as Inadvertent Promoter of Discontinuity in Government (and Presidential Dictatorship)." The general thesis of the book is that the U.S. Constitution is so far from perfect as to contain a number of "clear and present dangers" in what I call its "hard-wired" features, i.e., the rigid structural features of the Constitution that are not subject to litigation or imaginative (re)interpretation. This particular section discusses the fact that a catastrophic attack on the U.S. that disabled (but did not kill) most senators and either killed or disabled most members of the House of Representatives would leave us vulnerable to the following situation: Because the Constitution requires a majority of its members to constitute a quorum, if a majority of each House was disabled, then, technically speaking, neither House could meet. (Dead senators, incidentally, don't present the same kind of problem, as the 17th Amendment allows governors immediately to name their successors. The Constitution, however, requires that all members of the House be elected. Dead representatives "solve" the quorum problem, but generate a perhaps more serious legitimacy problem if, for example, there were only relatively few representatives alive to constitute the quorum.) Since it would be essential that government act in the immediate aftermath of such an attack, the Constitution itself, because of the way that it can effectively eliminate Congress as an effective/legitimate actor, encourages a presidential dictatorship. As it happens, the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute have jointly suggested a corrective amendment, but it has gone nowhere because of the adamant opposition of former Chair of the House Judiciary Committee James Sensenbrenner, a conservative Republican but radical democrat who hates the idea that governors might be able to appoint any members of the House, even in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack. It will be interested to see if it makes a difference that John Conyers is now chair of the Committee.

Although this is scarcely the most serious defect in our Constitution, p. 69 does illustrate the major theme of the book quite well, save, perhaps, for the relative ease with which this particular defect could be cured. We mistakenly view the Constitution primarily as a charter of rights and tend to ignore its much more important function as providing, for good and definitely for ill, the basic structures of governance.
Read a brief description of Our Undemocratic Constitution.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 7, 2007

"Final Sins"

Final Sins is the third and probably last installment in Michael Prescott's series of books featuring Abby Sinclair and Tess McCallum.

The author applied the "page 69 test" to Final Sins and reported the following:
I admit I was skeptical about the value of the page 69 test, but in fact this particular page of my newest novel, Final Sins, does seem pretty representative of the main characters and themes of the book.

On page 69, my heroine, Abby Sinclair, is talking on the phone with her latest client, Peter Faust. Abby is a freelance security operative who specializes in neutralizing stalkers. Faust is a German expatriate who served a few years in a mental hospital after committing a gruesome murder. He has since become a fringe celebrity, writing a bestselling memoir about his crime. Plagued by a stalker, he has hired Abby, who took him on with extreme reluctance because of his ugly past.

The relationship between the two is central to the story, and to the conversation on page 69. Abby is repelled by Faust, yet irresistibly curious about the workings of his mind. The first paragraph captures this motif:

Abby hesitated. "Where'd you get the branding iron?"

The branding iron was used in the commission of his homicide. Faust burned a runic symbol, the wolfsangel, into his victim's hand. The wolfsangel was worn by SS officers in Nazi Germany. "It has been prohibited in Germany, you know," Faust tells her, "along with the swastika and other insignias of the National Socialists." Faust's connection to Hitler and to Nazi occultism is another theme of the book, which plays out at the climax when he is tracked to a forested area in Germany where Himmler's SS officers used to gather for mystic rituals.

Faust asks:

"Are there any further questions?"

"Did you brand her before or after she was dead?"

"Before. It was the penultimate act. I seared my totem onto the back of her hand, and then I brought out the strap and with it I encircled her slender neck. Your neck, also, is most slender and well-shaped."

"That's not what I'd call a compliment. More like grounds for a restraining order."

"You, of all people, must know how useless a restraining order can be."

This exchange establishes the other element of the Abby-Faust dynamic - an undercurrent of menace, which will become more explicit as the story develops.

The bottom line is that page 69 offers a good preview of the overall story. I glanced at a few other pages at random, just to see how easy it was to find a representative page. None of the others seemed nearly as relevant as page 69. This includes page 99, which can be the subject of its own test. My page 99 is only a half page, and contains nothing special.

One more thing. In recounting how he found the branding iron in an antique store, Faust (still on page 69) says:

"It was most - what is the term? - serendipitous."

Page 69 turned out to be most serendipitous, too!
Visit Michael Prescott's website and his blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue