Friday, August 31, 2007


Patricia Wood's debut novel is Lottery.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
"The 'page 69 test' is very interesting," as my character Perry would say. Perry L. Crandall would also say he is not retarded. To be retarded you have to have an I.Q. of 75 or lower according to the Reader's Digest and his is 76. In this scene, Perry and his friend Keith are at the Lottery office in Olympia, Washington claiming Perry's 12 million dollar prize.

"Hey," I say. "I can get Animal Planet now." This makes me excited.

"Hey!" I think of something else. I have a lot of good ideas today. "I can get a TV!"

Margery from the lottery office wants to talk with me.

"Do you have family? I mean someone who helps you," she asks.

I know what she really means. She thinks I am retarded. She thinks I cannot take care of myself. I hate that, and it upsets me.

"Hey, he's not retarded if that's what you're getting at!" Keith yells.

I am glad Keith yelled because my words get jumbled and thick in my throat. I stop being angry and get embarrassed. I feel better when Margery apologizes. She leads us into another office when a bunch of people with cameras and microphones crowd into the main room.

Keith stands behind me full of advice. "Don’t take the lump sum!" He hisses like a snake.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I say.

"Take the payments!" he says.

Winning the lottery is very complicated.

First, they ask to see my ticket and a man checks all the numbers. Next, I have to sign the back of the ticket with my address and phone number. Then I show my Washington State Picture ID, Social Security card, and fill out another paper.

I have to fill out lots of paperwork so that Uncle Sam gets his share. I do not have an Uncle Sam. People just say that when they mean taxes. Taxes are something you have to pay even though you do not want to. I ask the lottery people if they want to see anything else. They say no, that's fine. Finally, they ask me what I want to do. They tell me I can get my money once a year for twenty-five years, or all at once. If I take my money all at once, I only get half.

"It's a rip-off, Per. If you take it all you'd only get six mill, plus all the taxes! You'd only end up with three mill at the end."

This passage not only shows the narrative style necessary for the reader to believe that this story is told authentically from Perry's point of view but also reveals something of Perry's personality and how he and his friend Keith interact.

While a reader knows Perry wins 12 million dollars in the Washington State Lottery, they suspect nefarious individuals could possibly take advantage of his trusting nature. This becomes the story and the premise of Lottery: How much money does it take to make people to accept Perry as he is and include him in their lives?

It might very well be 12 million.
Read an excerpt from Lottery and learn more about the novel and the author at Patricia Wood's website, her blog, and her MySpace page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"The Seventh Sacrament"

David Hewson is the author of the Nic Costa series of novels set in contemporary Rome. A former journalist with the London Times and Sunday Times, his work has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai ... and Italian.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel The Seventh Sacrament and reported the following:
I write books about people. What else is there? Marmosets? A random look at P69 of The Seventh Sacrament confirms this habit. A somewhat testy Roman police inspector by the name of Leo Falcone has been attacked, in a nasty, odd and very personal way. He was with friends in the police at the time and they care about him. Shortly after the attack their boss, Commissario Bruno Messina, arrives on the scene. Falcone and his friends don't like Bruno Messina. He feels the same about them in return, is decidedly unsympathetic about Falcone's near-brush with death, even though it seems Falcone, who has been sick for some reason, may well be on the death list of a serial killer.

Quite a bit there for a single page, and a short one at that since it's the last in the chapter. Is it representative of the rest of the work? Absolutely. The Seventh Sacrament is, like most my books, pretty old-fashioned in that embraces multiple points of view, story strands and, in this book, two different eras too. A first person wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am stock thriller it ain't. One of those strands is fatherhood; how necessary it is, how disastrous it can be when the skills go somewhat wrong. Bruno Messina, though you might not guess it, has a father too, and he turns out to have been Falcone's boss fourteen years before when this nasty little affair began with an almighty screw-up on the part of the police.

The relationships are in place, the problem's there too, out in the open demanding to be tackled, and it's clear Commissario Bruno Messina knows more than he's letting on. Seems to me I have a story...

Page 69 - US edition

A stout, powerful-looking man got out. He was in his thirties wearing a black woollen overcoat and the disdain that went with rank. Nic Costa had already decided, for no good reason, he didn’t much like Commissario Bruno Messina.

Falcone watched the newcomer approach.

‘You know, Leo,’ he said, shaking his head, as if dealing with amateurs. ‘It would be nice if, just this once, you were where you were supposed to be. Home.’

Falcone said nothing, just nodded with that brief smile that was too professional to be classed as insolence.

‘Did he say much?’ Messina asked. ‘An explanation? Anything?’

Costa thought of that last whispered message. Bramante meant it to have some private significance, he thought.

‘He said,’ Falcone replied, looking a little slow, a little baffled, ‘that he was sorry, but I’d have to be the last now. Number seven.’

Commissario Messina listened and then, to Costa’s disgust, burst out laughing.

‘I want everyone in the van,’ Messina ordered when his private amusement had receded. He pointed to Falcone, Costa, Peroni and Teresa Lupo. ‘You four are back on duty, as of this moment.’

Raffaella was squawking a protest already, about Falcone’s sick leave, his injuries, his physical difficulties.

‘You…’ Messina interrupted her. ‘… and Agente Costa’s girlfriend here are in protective custody. One of the cars will take you to the Questura. You can wait there.’

‘And where…’ Teresa Lupo interjected, just loud enough to overcome the shrieks of protest from Emily and Raffaella, ‘are we going might I ask?’

Bruno Messina smiled.

‘To see number five.’
Read an excerpt from The Seventh Sacrament and learn more about David Hewson and his work -- and take a virtual tour of Nic Costa's Rome -- at his website and his blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Getting Rid of Matthew"

Jane Fallon is an award-winning television producer in England. Several of her hit shows, including This Life and Teachers, air in this country on BBC America.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Getting Rid of Matthew, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Getting Rid of Matthew falls at quite a pivotal point in the book – Helen’s married lover Matthew – who is also her boss - has just left his wife Sophie and turned up on Helen’s doorstep announcing that he’s moving in. Helen’s reaction has been one of shock and, more alarmingly, horror. She’s realised that she doesn’t want him any more but she doesn’t quite know how to handle the situation for the best. On page 69 Helen and Matthew have gone back to work for the first time since he moved in, and they’re keeping their affair to themselves. Helen goes to meet her friend Rachel for lunch and, for the first time, she admits to feeling guilty about his wife and two children (something which she has happily suppressed for the past four years). It’s this guilt which will propel her through the rest of the book, pushing her to try and repair Matthew and Sophie’s broken marriage and leading to her and Sophie becoming friends – although Sophie will have no idea that Helen is the woman who stole her husband. Without these guilt feelings creeping in Helen would be a black-and-white bitch, a woman who would steal a man away from his wife and two children. Her guilt makes her human and sets her on a path to redeem herself. By the end of the book I hope the reader actually likes her.

We also meet Sophie and her two pre teen children briefly on page 69. Sophie is the book’s other major character. At its heart it’s a story about Helen and Sophie, not Helen and Matthew. A story about a friendship between two women.

What I think you don’t get a sense of from page 69 is that the book’s funny – at least I hope it is, it’s trying to be. There’s not a single joke on page 69 but the rest of the book is full of them. Honest.
Read an excerpt from Getting Rid of Matthew and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"In Defense of Dolphins"

Thomas I. White is the Hilton Professor of Business Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. His publications include five books (Right and Wrong, Discovering Philosophy, Business Ethics, Men and Women at Work and In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier) and numerous articles on topics ranging from sixteenth-century Renaissance humanism to business ethics.

He applied the Page 69 Test to In Defense of Dolphins and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of In Defense of Dolphins? Well, yes and no.

The book argues that the scientific evidence is now strong enough to support the claim that dolphins are, like humans, self-aware, intelligent beings with emotions, personalities and the capacity to control their actions. Dolphins should thus be regarded as “nonhuman persons” and valued as individuals. Accordingly, from an ethical perspective, the injury, deaths and captivity of dolphins at the hands of humans are wrong. Looking at everything from the structure of the dolphin brain, to cetacean emotional abilities and social intelligence, and the implications of the fact that humans and dolphins have dramatically different evolutionary histories, the book explores the idea that, in the person of dolphins, humans have truly encountered an “alien intelligence.”

Page 69 describes a scientific study that suggests that dolphins possess what psychologists call a “theory of mind” — that is, the very sophisticated ability to recognize the existence of other minds. So the page is representative in that it details some important findings about dolphins’ intellectual abilities. However, the page is not representative of what I consider to be one of the book’s main virtues — discussion of the philosophical (and especially ethical) significance of such research in a commonsense way. In this case, for example, having such advanced abilities supports the idea that dolphins are a “who,” not a “what.” That is, they experience life in a way that approximates ours, are entitled to “moral standing” and, therefore, recognition of their special status and appropriate treatment.
Read a sample chapter and learn more about In Defense of Dolphins at the book's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 27, 2007

"A Beautiful Blue Death"

Charles Finch applied the Page 69 Test to A Beautiful Blue Death, his debut novel, and reported the following:
My first novel, A Beautiful Blue Death, takes place in London in the year 1865. One of the most demanding and interesting parts about writing the book was imagining not simply the external ways in which the world was different then – the constant presence of servants, even in poorer families, or the unlit evenings – but also the way in which people must have been different within. Take this passage from page 69, which comes just after the book’s hero, an amateur detective called Charles Lenox, has had an especially taxing winter’s day out on the trail of a murderer:

And when the tea came, he felt warm enough, and comfortable in his high-backed chair, watching the snow fall outside, with a paper in his hand that he might choose to read or not, as the mood took him, and a happy heaviness in his eyes, as of contentment.

He asked the girl for his slippers, and she fetched them, and in the space of fifteen minutes happiness had returned to his face, and before he had even had a chance to read the headlines the newspaper had fallen from his hands and he had dozed off pleasantly into sleep.

He awoke thirty minutes later, first half-sleeping and then gently opening his eyes. As he gazed into the whitened street, he thought drowsily that it had been a perfect nap – the sort a man runs into now and again by chance, when he has had a difficult day but comes back to his hearth to find a brief moment of peace and rest, the sort that leaves him renewed, still sleepy, but at ease with the world.

This is one of the book’s quietest moments, coming in between spells of action, but I hope it’s still typical of Lenox’s character. Silently in love, battered by the condescension of his class towards his work as a detective, and in this scene exhausted and cold, the consolations of his world are unassuming, physical, and I think almost lonely. But they are also real. Right now we live in the most exciting time in the history of the world, probably, but as a penalty we have lost to our glittering, electronic lives, laden as they are with transient pleasures, the kind of durable moments of happiness like this that are strewn across Lenox’s days, across Trollope’s novels or Gaskell’s. Were they better, those small moments, than ours? Not necessarily. But they were real. And as a writer I wanted to be faithful to them.

Later in A Beautiful Blue Death and especially in its sequel The September Society, which I’ve just finished writing, Lenox has fewer of these half-happy, half-sad interludes, mostly because he grows closer to Lady Jane Grey, his best friend. A book needs a love story, after all. But I also wanted to indicate the long years before the threshold of love (and before the book’s action) during which Lenox has been a solitary creature, and completely Victorian in his unfussy demands – a cup of tea, a fire, the snow outside, in a time when those things were enough.
Read an excerpt from A Beautiful Blue Death.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"What Goes Around"

Susan Diamond was a fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and spent seventeen years at the Los Angeles Times as a feature writer and columnist. She has worked for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Time, People, and the Village Voice.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What Goes Around, her first novel, and reported the following:
As a one-time teacher and long-time journalist, I should be able to make any passage symbolize the whole book and represent a literary trend to boot. In fact, page 69 in What Goes Around gives just a feeling for the novel’s tone and characters, barely touches on its themes and only slightly furthers the plot.

On page 69, the Los Angeles county coroner is visited by Polly, one of five women who undertake to avenge the death of a friend at the hands of three of the most powerful men in California, and in carrying out their covert and careful campaign, also change their own lives. The novel isn’t really a murder mystery; the reader knows whodunit in chapter one. It’s about the rewards of a good revenge, “good” meaning both justified and well-done.

Unlike the reader, the women know only that their friend Ginger has been found dead on a path outside the mountain retreat of an exclusive men’s club, and questioning the coroner is part of figuring out what happened. As indicated by the easy conversation and the chord obviously struck between Polly and the coroner, the protagonists are not practiced sleuths but simply competent, successful women who are also thoughtful, ironic and witty, whose individual stories wind around the central plot. Their only weapons are their intelligence, their moral outrage, good business connections and a belief that private evil must be matched by some professional wrong-doing they can find and expose.

“The dead teach the living,” says the coroner, sounding one of the book’s themes — the thin line between life and death. And when he explains that each jarred specimen — the cross-section of a smoker’s lung, for example — “speaks of ultimate consequences,” he voices the novel’s main point: What goes around, comes around, whether it’s the effects of smoking or the righting of wrongs, both moral and commercial.

Page 69 , almost all dialogue, personal and humorous, still reflects the tone of the book. In spite of serious themes — the righting of wrongs, the connection between public and private life, the bonds of friendship — the novel is a caper, a dark-nights, back-roads, wall-climbing, car-chasing adventure, and, I hope, a good read.

Page 69:

once almost ruined me. In any case, it doesn't make the best dinner table entertainment."

"Beats my field," said Vere. "At least it's clean and dry. Here I am, a single father of teenagers, supposed to have a grownup dating life, and who wants to hear about my afternoon autopsies? Anybody who had me coming to them at the end of my day would want to hose me down on the front stoop. What would we discuss over dinner? Gangrene? And my association with death doesn't help."

"That's odd," said Polly. "In my case, it seems to be a real turn-on."

"How so?"

"You know, poor young widow and all that. I couldn't handle any more popularity if I were really popular, and a lot of it is sight-unseen referrals."

"I wish I'd known of that. I'd have murdered my wife instead of divorcing her."

"I don't think it works for murder. Undercuts the sympathy factor. I thought every single girl alive was supposed to want a doctor, whatever his specialty."

"Well, there are many people these days who don't mind blood -- the movies have done that for us -- but body parts gross them out."

"Why do you keep so many body parts around?" Polly gestured around at the cabinets.

"I find it instructive," said Vere. "Keeping in mind that this is what's left after death, and in many cases, is what caused the death, each specimen speaks of ultimate consequences. Like that lump of coal in the bell jar. It's a piece of lung, a smoker's lung. The photo behind it is a cross-section of the whole lung -- almost an undifferentiated mass. The other bell jar with the pink sponge-like lump is healthy lung -- same age guy, forties, but a garroting case, I think. And the picture behind that one is its cross-section, but this one's filled with little lines of veins and deltas of oxygen-carrying alveoli."

He raised his palms apologetically. "The dead do teach the living, not just how they died, but how to live."
Read an excerpt from What Goes Around and learn more about the book and the author at Susan Diamond's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Justice Denied"

J.A. Jance's latest J.P. Beaumont novel is Justice Denied.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
The page 69 test for Justice Denied will show readers that J.P. Beaumont is a character with a history. His job as a homicide detective for Seattle PD is long in the past in this book but his connections to the people he worked with there are still very much up and running. His long term problem with departmental brass, one of the primary reasons he left Seattle homicide, is still part of his life. This is the third book with him working as for the Washington State Attorney General as part of the Special Homicide Investigation Team, often referred to as S.H.I.T. Beau’s sardonic sense of humor is also readily apparent in his dealings with other people and in the way he deals with life.

Beau is very much a regular guy. The two of us have been together as author and character for twenty-five years and for eighteen separate books, starting with 1985's Until Proven Guilty. If readers like Beau in Justice Denied, they'll most likely like him in the others books as well. Fortunately for them and for me, there's a whole world of backlist titles out there -- all of them available in paperback and E-book editions.
Visit the publisher's website to read or listen to an excerpt from Justice Denied, and check out J.A. Jance's official website and her blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Indian Summer"

Alex von Tunzelmann was educated at Oxford and lives in London.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her first book, Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, and reported the following:
Indian Summer is the story of the end of the British Empire in India, told through the lives of the people at the center of events, and through their relationships with each other. The most dramatic of these are the enmity between independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru and Muslim figurehead Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the conspiratorial alliance between Jinnah and Winston Churchill, and the love affair between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten, the wife of the last viceroy of India. Page 69 details a relationship of paramount importance, but a lower profile: the close friendship between Nehru and the icon of independence, Mohandas K. Gandhi.

On the face of it, the two men were profoundly different. Gandhi was principally a spiritual leader, who believed in returning India to a ‘golden age’ of feudal purity. Nehru was emphatically anti-religion, and hoped to move India into a future of socialism and industrialization. Page 69 brings up a more minor difference: their attitudes to sex. Gandhi saw sex as sinful and had become celibate. Nehru replied that such prohibition “can only lead to frustration, inhibition, neurosis, and all manner of physical and nervous ills.” The two men rarely held back from heated argument with each other, but the bond between them only got stronger.

There is a hint about why this might have been on this same page. Gandhi was twenty years older than Nehru. He had four sons, but had not found any political heir among them. On page 69, there is a sad story about how one son, Manilal, fell in love with a Muslim woman, provoking the wrath of his Hindu father. “Your desire is against your religion,” Gandhi wrote. “It would be like putting two swords in one scabbard.” Gandhi’s troubled relationships with his biological family contrast with the far closer connection to Nehru. That connection, I conclude, worked on an emotional and a practical level: “Gandhi needed a link to the temporal world; Nehru needed a guru.”

It’s a sidelight on the book’s main theme, but a revealing one. If you’re looking for an intimate story of how the ties between a handful of people can bring down a mighty empire, read on.
Read an excerpt from Indian Summer and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"The History Book"

Humphrey Hawksley is a bestselling novelist and a leading BBC foreign correspondent and commentator on world affairs.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The History Book, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The History Book happens to be a crucial moment of reflection and back story in a hard-driving, action-packed thriller. It’s a summer’s afternoon during the adolescence of Kat Polinski, the heroine, when she witnesses something that strips away part of her innocence. Kat is 15 at the time. She brushes herself off, keeps going, but remembers. It’s one of those moments we all have in growing up when we realise things will never quite be the same as before.

In that respect Page 69 is reflective. Kat lives in a society of near-total surveillance, where the media is used to manipulate public opinion and nations are scrambling for the control of energy supplies. Kat is clever, restless, impatient, and when her sister is murdered she will not stop until she’s found the killers.

The History Book is about what Kat discovers as she hunts. Constantly, she is told to stop for her own good. But Kat's moral compass enables her to push on, putting herself in more and more danger. Her quest unveils a challenging question (reflected on Page 69) whether it is about sending young men and women to war or about raising our children. How much truth should anyone be told?

Excerpt from page 69:

Kat dropped her eyes and saw the bulge inside his pants. She caught the scent of him and nearly wretched. Sayer bent over to look into a small mirror her dad kept on the side of the desk.

"Best to keep these things to ourselves," he said, checking his chin growth with the edge of his forefinger. "The fact is that truth hurts people, Kat. Your dad, Nancy. No-one wants good people to get hurt."
Read an excerpt from The History Book and learn more at Humphrey Hawksley's web site. Check out the video: The History Book Movie.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Lenin's Private War"

Lesley Chamberlain is a prolific writer, critic and journalist. Her most recent books are Motherland: A Philosophical History of Russia and Lenin's Private War: The Voyage of the Philosophy Steamer and the Exile of the Intelligentsia.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Lenin's Private War and reported the following, starting with the text from page 69:
Nikolai Lossky, for whom Lazarevsky and Tagantsev were colleagues and Ukhtomsky a family friend was deeply distressed. This was the moment when the family considered escaping from Russia. But like so many they were deterred by the hope for Russia’s recovery. (82) Zamyatin wrote that Gorky had taught the intelligentsia to overcome its doubts and have faith and that was indeed how they lived. (83) Since they could not yet know of Lenin’s true policy their hope was cruelly strengthened by NEP. That was the painful irony of 1921-2. ‘To all intents and purposes life seemed to be on the mend and to many it even seeemed to be booming…the streetcars were running, the shops and markets were open’ Even Nadezhda Mandelstam was partly seduced, although ‘everyday brought something new to fill us with horror and destroy any hope of recovery’. (84)

The Soviet side was constantly calculating, pitting its image abroad against its real needs at home. The greatest problem that NEP brought for the regime was the presence of foreigners who might undermine its authority or give it a bad press. Archive material has revealed how Lenin didn’t want the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and future Nobel Peace Laureate Fridtjof Nansen in the country in late Spring 1921, for fear that ‘he’ll catch us napping.’ (85) The request of an American journalist to visit in July 1921 was turned down for the same reason. Above all the Bolsheviks were adamant that no one at home or abroad should believe they had changed their policies and were giving way to capitalism. If the West sensed too much relaxation it might encourage France and Britain to mount an anti-Communist crusade. (86)

But journalists and other foreigners were not in Russia to check up on the progress of NEP. By summer 1921 the whole world had been alerted to the Russian famine, and many came to see how they could help. The disaster of 1921 would claim five million lives. Prominent Russians founded the All-Russian Public Committee to Help the Hungry (VKPG), while Gorky issued an appeal to the world ‘I ask all honest European and American people for prompt aid to the Russian people…’ (87)

- - - - - - - --
Lesley Chamberlain writes:

The year 1921, following the Bolshevik victory in the Civil War, saw Lenin equally keen to consolidate his power at home and abroad. With the so-called New Economic Policy (NEP) he relaxed the economic stranglehold of the war years, but tightened his ideological grip. The intelligentsia were slow to realise what was happening, until a number of St Petersburg professors, one of the country’s best-known poets, and many others were rounded up and shot by the political police in August. Sixty-one innocent victims were murdered in the Tagantsev Affair, and it prompted many academics and poets to think again whether they should not emigrate. As some departed, that suited Lenin, whose clear plan was to rid the embryonic Soviet Union of as many public figures as possible who were critical of the planned Marxist-Leninist future. The twelve months to August 1922 deepened the personal crisis of men of various political persuasions who had no wish to leave the country they loved, and yet increasingly they feared for their lives. I’ve called the time they lived through the Paper Civil War. There was no more fighting, but these men were treated as the Red enemy.

Lenin meanwhile worked hard to convey to foreign powers like Britain and France and the United States that his regime stood for socialism and world peace. The extent of his deception has been uncovered in the archives opened after 1991. Russia’s foreign relations were complicated by the famine which meanwhile took hold of the country, as a consequence of the prolonged war economy, It took a prominent individual like the writer Maxim Gorky to appeal to the world for aid, which US President Herbert Hoover were prepared to deliver if given free access to the people and places where help was needed. Lenin, reluctant to lay his struggling country open to outside inspection, took the aid then closed his borders again. When he finally expelled the sixty or so most troublesome writers, journalists and academics hostile to him in autumn 1922 he had prepared the way for the world’s first totalitarian state, the USSR, to come into being in December.
Read an excerpt from Lenin's Private War and learn more about the book at Lesley Chamberlain's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"by George"

Wesley Stace, a celebrated musician and songwriter who performs under the name John Wesley Harding, is the author of two novels, Misfortune and the just-released by George.

He applied the Page 69 Test to by George and reported the following:
By chance, Page 69 is key. And not just according to me.

Today, by coincidence, I was sent the questions for an email interview with the NY Post, one of which began: “On page 69…” No other page number was referenced. And what happens?

A mother cruelly belittles her son’s ambitions. He describes the vaudeville act he has been planning to take on the road – a “Distant Voice” presentation where voices, thrown by him, will appear throughout the theatre, amazing the audience. She laughs at him. Distant Voice went out with the ark, she says. She should know: she and her dummy Naughty Narcissus have the greatest ventriloquial act in 1930’s Britain. Joe, crushed, slumps to the ground, refusing to speak. Faced with his silence, she answers for him, as though he were her dummy.

This précis misses one vital piece of information: the narrator is a ventriloquist dummy called George, an unwanted gift to Joe from his mother.

by George tells the story of the secrets and lies of a show business dynasty, the Fisher family, from two different perspectives: that of a 1930s ventriloquist dummy, called George Fisher, and a schoolboy in the 1970s, with the same name, heir to the family power struggles above. Both boys, for different reasons and in different ways, are struggling to find their own voice.

The book also traces the history of ventriloquism, from its genesis in religious mystery to its current degraded status as a rather seedy children’s party entertainment. The key moment in its recent development is the birth of the boy: the boy who traps the ventriloquist’s voice and finally takes over the act, killing his father by reducing the ventriloquist’s status to that of a mere straight man.

And so, somehow, Page 69 has the entire novel on one page: a domineering mother and a weak son engage in a struggle (of which the result is a foregone conclusion) over what makes good entertainment; in particular, a struggle over voice production. He wants to be silent; she wants to speak for him. And the history of ventriloquism is laid out in a nutshell – the dummy is slowly taking over, in fact, narrating.

Page 69 turned out, rather unexpectedly, to be crucial. It gives me hope for the book as a whole. Perhaps every page has the vital themes of the book played out this neatly. (It doesn’t.)
Read an excerpt from by George and more about the novel at Wesley Stace's website and his MySpace page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 20, 2007

"A Spy By Nature"

Charles Cumming is the author of A Spy By Nature, The Hidden Man, and The Spanish Game.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Spy By Nature and reported the following:
About a month ago I received an email from a creative writing student who told me that A Spy By Nature had been used on her course as an example of how to structure a thriller. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased about this, not least because I’ve always thought that the structure of the book was somewhat unusual.

A quick glance at page 69 partly explains why. Alec Milius, my hero (maybe anti-hero would be a better description) is in the middle of the recruitment process for the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). He is having a conversation with one of the examiners, a serving SIS officer named Rouse. They’re talking about the ‘special relationship’, which is a topic that comes up all the time on this side of the Atlantic. (The British are obsessed about our political alliance with Washington in a way that most Americans are not). This long section is very closely based on my own experience of being approached for recruitment by MI6 when I was about 25.

The first 100 or so pages of A Spy By Nature are very dense and intimate – this is what I meant about the structure being unusual. Normally with thrillers you get a Big Bang opening and then a series of events in the first half dozen chapters which propel the story along. In A Spy By Nature, however, you live inside Alec’s head during this incredibly nerve-wracking, intellectually challenging process of trying to get into MI6. Nobody dies. There aren’t any car chases or explosions. It’s all cerebral.

There’s another interesting thing about p69. As far as I can remember, this is the first mention in the book of the possibility that the UK spies on America, and vice versa, which later becomes the theme of the story. Alec is placed by MI6 inside a British oil company, selling doctored research information about the Caspian Sea to a rival American company. When A Spy By Nature was published in the UK back in 2001, I expected people to be stunned or appalled at this suggestion, but nobody batted an eyelid. Given everything that’s happened in the seven years since I finished writing it, I suspect that little has changed…
Read an excerpt from A Spy By Nature and learn more about Charles Cumming and his books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them"

Philippe Legrain is a journalist and writer. He is the author of Open World: The Truth about Globalisation and many articles about economics, politics and culture.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, and reported the following:
Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them aims to debunk many of the myths about migration, and show that far from being a threat to everything we hold dear, people who cross national borders to build a better life for themselves and their children generally benefit not just themselves, but also the country they move to.

As I write on page 69 (and the half-paragraph on page 68 that precedes it):

When they are not blaming them for stealing our jobs, critics often portray immigrants as lazy welfare scroungers. If people from poor countries can claim more in welfare benefits in rich countries than they can earn working in poor countries, it is certainly conceivable that this could spur some of them to migrate. But there is no evidence for this, as even critics of immigration such as George Borjas admit: ‘there exists the possibility that welfare attracts persons who otherwise would not have migrated to the United States. Although this is the magnetic effect that comes up most often in the immigration debate, it is also the one for which there is no empirical support.’ It should be clear that if migration is costly and risky, it does not pay to move to a rich country to try to claim comparatively low welfare benefits when you could earn much more by working instead. Would Inmer really leave behind his family and risk his life in order to go on welfare in the US? In any case, migrants are typically not entitled to most welfare benefits in rich countries. And last but not least, even if rich countries were to make it much easier for people in poor countries to come work, and there were signs that this was attracting migrants who were coming simply to claim welfare benefits, governments could restrict the availability of those benefits to citizens or long-term residents. That is precisely what the British government did when it opened the doors to east Europeans from the new EU member states in 2004. As a result, Poles are not entitled to claim £56.20 a week in jobseeker’s allowance, so they must make do with earning at least £200 a week doing a minimum-wage job and most likely much more than that.

Immigrants all have different skills and characteristics, so any claim about them is by definition a generalisation. But even so, I shall make a bold one: immigrants tend to be younger, fitter, more hard-working and more enterprising than local people. Why? Not because foreigners in general are more industrious and adventurous, but because migrants are a self-selected minority. Young people have their whole lives ahead of them and so most to gain from migrating, while the old and the sick are generally not able to do so. While over half of the foreigners in the US – and nearly three-fifths of the immigrants who have arrived since 2000 – are in their twenties or thirties, only a quarter of natives are. Over four-fifths of the East Europeans who have applied to work in Britain since 2004 are aged 18–34.

Is page 69 representative? The writing style and analytical approach are. But of course, reading one page is not a substitute for reading the book as a whole. I hope I have whetted your appetite.
Read the Introduction to Immigrants, and learn more about the book and the author at Philippe Legrain's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 17, 2007

"A Nail Through the Heart"

Timothy Hallinan wrote a well-received series of six Los Angeles-based detective novels in the nineties, and now he's returned with a new series set in Bangkok, where he's lived off and on for more than 25 years. The first book in the series, A Nail Through the Heart, was just published by William Morrow. The protagonist is a rough-travel writer named Poke Rafferty, who now lives full-time in Bangkok.

Hallinan applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
“'When I was little,' Miaow says, 'he found me and took me to a place where kids were making garlands. My first day I made thirty baht. Almost a dollar. I could eat. Boo – that was his name then – showed me a good place to sleep. There was a number hotel that was closed. We could sleep in the garage. We were dry when it rained.' Number hotels, indispensable to Bangkok's sexually furtive, have curtained garages to allow customers to get out of their cars unobserved.”

The plot of A Nail Through the Heart is actually three stories braided together. They share some common characters, but each has different roots, and all those roots involve something that happened in the past. Three times in the novel (and for very different reasons) a character reopens the past and tells my central character, Poke Rafferty, what happened to him or her. On page 69, Rafferty's adopted daughter, an eight-year-old former street child named Miaow, tells the story of how she met the feral and occasionally terrifying street boy who now calls himself Superman, whom Rafferty has taken in – at least temporarily – at Miaow's insistence. This decision will have far-reaching repercussions.

So in some ways page 69 is extremely representative of a book in which the main action is the working out, sometimes violently, of relationships forged by events that took place long ago. It's one of the three times the veil is drawn on the past, and since it's the story that's closest to Rafferty's heart, I'm personally glad it's on page 69.
Read an excerpt from A Nail Through the Heart and learn more about the book at the author's website. And check out Poke Rafferty's own site.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"The Argument"

Matt Bai covers national politics for the New York Times Magazine.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, and reported the following:
Crack open The Argument to page 69, and you will be introduced to a guy named Chuck Fazio. Chuck isn’t a main character of the book, so in that sense, at least, the page isn’t terribly representative of the whole. In a deeper sense it is, but let’s hold off on that. First, back to Chuck.

It’s the summer of 2005, and Chuck, a member of, is hosting a house party at his place in northern Virginia to rally fellow progressives against the next Supreme Court nominee.

“Fazio’s home was in a pricey suburban enclave, a two-level ramble with lots of windows, long and low in a faint imitation of Frank Lloyd Wright. In the carport were two BMWs (a convertible and a sports coupe), along with a white Ford Explorer … ‘We’re supposed to have 40 people,’ Chuck said nervously. He was 44, with slicked-back, a dark goatee and wraparound shades. ‘Where are they all?’ ”

In the ensuing pages, they all show up, and Chuck turns out to be a really nice guy who’s been driven to obsession by the fact that he happens to live across the street from a legendary conservative activist. Chuck wants to pee in his pool.

Here’s why Chuck Fazio, despite his very brief appearance in the book, is nonetheless emblematic of it: The Argument is, at bottom, a book about ordinary people seizing control of the Democratic Party. Some of them are really rich. Some of them live in remote houses in the mountains and spend all their time online. Some of them, like Chuck, are just ordinary voters who’ve had enough of failed politics or who fear the direction of their government. The Argument is about the formative stages of a political movement — the first popular movement of the Internet age — and it’s a movement built on people like Chuck Fazio.

How sturdily is it built? Well, for that you’ve got to read the whole damn thing.
Read more about The Argument at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


David Anthony Durham is the award-winning author of the novels Gabriel's Story, Walk Through Darkness, and Pride of Carthage.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest book, Acacia, and reported the following:
I can’t claim that page 69 of Acacia is representative of the entire book. I’m not surprised, though. Hitting all of the aspects of a fantasy of Acacia’s size on one page strikes me as darn near impossible. The page does introduce a part of what the novel is about: the intricacies of political negotiation and the often loosing struggle to hold on to social idealism in the face of real world realities.

The scene focuses on a council meeting in which a young Aushenian prince, Igguldan, has come to submit his people to Acacian control. This comes after generations of holding out against the larger power, but the Aushenians simply can’t maintain their independence. Igguldan still wishes his nation could remain free and idealistic, but he’s facing the reality that their notion of a confederation of independent states has failed...

A Council member remarked that such a system might work at a subsistence level – each nation might make do and stay largely on equal terms – but none would achieve the wealth and stability and productivity the Acacian hegemony had created with the aid of League-managed commerce. They would have remained squabbling islands of national fervor, just as they had been before the Wars of Distribution.

Igguldan did not try to dispute this. He nodded and gestured that the palace around them was testament to the truth of that argument. “The Queen would have answered you by saying that the grandest is not always the best, especially not when the wealth is held by few, fueled by the toil of the many.” Igguldan ducked his head and ran a hand up through his hair. “But this is not what I came to speak about. Elena is of the past; we look to the future.”

Even the Acacian King, Leodan, recognizes that there’s something tragic in this…

“At times I can still envision the world your Queen wished for,” Leodan said.

“I can as well,” the prince said, “but only with my eyes closed. With open eyes the world is something very different.”

Leodan actually hates the inequities of the nation he rules, but he feels largely powerless to change them. He’s hidden the harsh realities from his children. He’s only lately introducing his eldest son, Aliver, to truth of the position he’s to inherit…

After the meeting adjourned an hour or so later, the king took tea with Aliver and his chancellor. The two older men spoke for some time, letting the conversation drift from one aspect of the meeting to another. Aliver was surprised when his father asked, “What do you think off all this? Speak your mind.”

“I? I think… The prince seems a reasonable sort. I can speak no ill of him yet. If he represents his people truly this is a good for us, yes? Only, if they hold us in such high regard why haven’t they joined us sooner?”

“To join us means a good many things,” Leodan said. “They are right to hesitated, but for some time now they have made it clear they would be our friends if we would be theirs as well.” Thaddeus motioned with his hand that it was not as simple as that. “As ever, your father is generous with his words.”

“No, what I say is the way it is. They have held a hand out to us in friendship for years now. We simply have not grasped it.”

“And it is well we did not. Our patience has paid off.” The chancellor spoke as if he were addressing the king, but his eyes touched on Aliver long enough to indicate that he was drawing out the issues more completely for his benefit. “What the prince did not admit is that Aushenia must be suffering greatly. I marvel that they remained outside the empire for so long...”

That’s about where the page ends, with Aliver getting the beginnings of his introduction to the political shape of the world. As far as that part of the novel goes, page 69 reveals important thematic aspects. At the same time I’m aware of how very much isn’t covered. In addition to political intrigue, Acacia is a novel of ancient crimes and retributions, of warrior princesses and ill-fated princes, of marauding pirates and invading races, of germ warfare and sorcery, of mythology and giant beasts. It’s a love story that wraps triumph and tragedy together in one complicated bundle.

Page 69 doesn’t convey all that, but that’s why I had to write the other 575 pages.
Read an excerpt from Acacia and more about it and David Anthony Durham's other work at his website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Jeff Abbott is the national-bestselling, award-winning author of nine mystery and suspense novels.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest book, Fear, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my thriller novel Fear finds the hero, Miles Kendrick, at his lowest point. Miles is a federal witness, a good man who was forced to act as a spy for a Miami mobster. He helped the FBI bring down his bosses -- but at a terrible price; he shot and killed his best friend when the sting went wrong. Now hiding in Santa Fe under a new name from the mob, Miles suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. This once proud and capable man is haunted by the taunting voice of his murdered friend, is afraid to ride in a car in case the mob's found him and hidden a bomb, and is barely able to hold onto a job because of his violent flashbacks. His only hope for a normal life has been with his psychiatrist, Allison Vance. Allison is in trouble -- she's being stalked by a mysterious Dr. Sorenson -- and she has asked Miles for help. He feels it's his one chance to be the man he once was, a man free of crippling fears and memories. Allison's office, with her inside, has been fire-bombed as Miles arrived for a meeting with her. On page 69 Miles stands, helplessly watching the office burn, shrugging off a paramedic's attempt to tend to his minor injuries from the blast, lying that he was simply walking past the building when it blew. The one person who could help him is dead, and he failed her. But as he watches the building collapse, he remembers that he overheard Sorenson speak of Allison's house -- so Miles turns away from the fire and begins to run toward her home, desperate to find out the truth about her murder, intent on getting to her house before the police do.

I think page 69 is representative of Fear in two key ways: first, it’s a great example of the survivor’s guilt that Miles feels in the book. Much of his journey in Fear is a redemptive one: making amends for his past failings, but also understanding that his damaged life is still one worth living. Miles could be any of us who has survived a trauma. Secondly, despite his illness, Miles is a very active protagonist; he doesn’t sit around and moan about the world. He often thinks he’s just a shell of the man he used to be; but he is constantly taking action, moving the story forward through his choices. And to me, those are the kinds of thrillers I love, where the characters you can care about drive the story at a breakneck pace.
Read an excerpt from Fear and more about Jeff Abbott's books at his website and MySpace page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Merle's Door"

Ted Kerasote's writing has appeared in dozens of periodicals and anthologies, including Audubon, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Salon, and the New York Times. He is also the author and editor of six books, one of which, Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age, won the National Outdoor Book Award.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest book, Merle's Door: Lessons From A Freethinking Dog, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of Merle's Door? Yes, in that Merle the dog is the central character of the book, and Ted the person not only treats him like an equal, but also acts as his translator.

I lay down on the run with him, nose to nose. "So tell me" -- up went one brow, down went the other -- "what happened with those coyotes?"

At the sound of their name, he blew out an anxious breath, his eyes becoming deeply worried.

I petted his head, and he sighed, a sigh that seemed to imply that things hadn't turned out quite the way he had expected.

Yet, much of what makes Merle's Door special as a dog book, doesn't appear on page 69. The reader won't see the adventurous life Merle lived in the outdoors, how his dog door, which allowed him to come and go as he wished, enhanced his mental and social skills, or how the dog-human partnership can become richer if we share leadership with our dogs instead of trying to be their alphas, just as the latest wolf research shows that wolf parents actually delegate responsibility for running the pack to their maturing pups.

All and all, however, the tone of page 69 is like the tone of the rest of the book: Merle is treated with the respect another intelligent and heartfelt being deserves.
Read an excerpt from Merle's Door, and learn more about the book at Ted Kerasote's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2007

"I Heart My In-Laws"

Dina Koutas Poch is a writer and filmmaker living in New York City with her husband. Her in-laws live in Connecticut.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her book, I Heart My In-Laws: Falling in Love With His Family -- One Passive-Aggressive, Over-Indulgent, Grandkid-Craving, Streisand-Loving, Bible-Thumping In-Law at a Time, and reported the following:
Page 69 falls midway in “The Family Tree” chapter — the opening of which says it all: “Like a grand aspen grove, your beloved is connected to a root system of hundreds of relatives. When one tree grows sick and infested with tent caterpillars, it affects them all. That’s family.”

This chapter helps to place your significant other in the context of his family. A lightbulb blinks on in your head. You say, “Aha! That’s where he gets it from” because you learn that his annoying habits — talking in the background while you’re on the phone, bouncing checks, and hyperventilating on planes — were acquired from his annoying family. Or, “Huh? I have no idea where he gets it from” because you and your in-laws are equally confused by your partner’s new two-week obsession with militant veganism.

Page 69 begins with advice for dating “The Guilty Child” a.k.a. Mr. Dutiful and Doting. “He takes great care of you, but he also takes great care of his family.” And concludes with guidance for dating “The Competitive Sibling,” the one who believes “there are only winners and those pitiful ‘losers’ who lost.” The rest of the chapter tackles the larger in-law family tree, honing in on potentially tough in-laws like “Nana.”

Nana may look like an adorable, sweet human raisin. But she rules with a ruthless mind grip on your partner and his entire family. You can’t tell Nana that you are an actress/waitress because she saved an entire town by boiling her panty hose and selling erasers for 2 cents during the winter of 1927. So, when she asks: “what do you do for a living?” Remember this is a “make or break” question.

Use the chart below before you talk to Nana or any in-law born pre-1930 who was affected by The Depression, “The War,” and not having easy access to the polio vaccine.

Your job —————————————–––>What you tell Nana

Psychiatrist —————————————–––> Doctor

Sketch comedy actress ————————–––—> Producer

Sports writer —————————————––> Lawyer

Lawyer —————————————–—–––> Rabbi

Currently unemployed —————————–––> Computers

Senior Vice President for Target ———–——––> Homemaker

Brand Manager for Crest ————————–––> Dentist

Accountant —————————–—————––> Accountant

Manager of Kinko’s ————————–––––––––> Accountant

Ph.D. candidate for gender studies ——————–> In medical school

Excerpt from Page 69:

…[Dating The Guilty Child…] We’re talking about midnight excursions to fix air-conditioning units, giving up weekends to clean in-law garages, and bailing his sister and her new “boyfriend” our of jail. It’s not easy to sympathize with Mr. Dutiful and Doting, but here are a few tips:

* Take the weight off your partner’s shoulders. Relieve him of his guilt when his sister has a bikini massacre and needs someone to add fresh cubes to her ice bath. Be his right-hand man.

* Remind him that even Atlas needs a Caribbean vacation — once in a while. Everyone deserves to check out of life now and again. Assure him that his family will be better off if he recharges his engines. With renewed vigor, he’ll be able to wallpaper this mud room in record time.

The Competitive Sibling

There is no second place for your partner. Normally sublime with you, your sweetie’s competitive side gets drawn into “the family game.” Life with your in-laws is black and white. There are only winners and those pitiful “losers” who lost.

You and yours will always have the larger diamond ring, hardier snow tiers, more fabulous vacations, and smarter children than anyone else in his family. Whatever the competition, you will compete, conquer, and flaunt. Got it?
Read selected excerpts from I Heart My In-Laws and learn more about the book at the official website and the author's blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"Dark Flight"

Lin Anderson is an author, screenwriter, and the crime-writing creator of forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the latest novel in the Rhona MacLeod series, Dark Flight, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Dark Flight, included below, fits the bill very well, I think.

Here's a little bit about the background to the story and what the story is about.

In September 2001 the torso of a boy, who later became known as ‘Adam’, was found in the Thames near Tower Bridge. The police believed Adam had been trafficked into the UK for the purpose of ritual sacrifice. Having lived in a remote part of Nigeria for five years in the early eighties, I was aware of the power of juju in West African culture. Impressed by the determination of the Scotland Yard team to establish Adam’s identity using forensic methods, I followed the story closely. And they did, tracing him back to an area near Benin City. Adam’s story became my inspiration for Dark Flight.

A woman is found murdered and brutally mutilated in her Glasgow home; her elderly mother lies dead in the next room. The only hope of catching the killer is Stephen - her six year old mixed-race son, who has vanished from the scene of the crime. The one clue left behind is mysterious and gruesome African talisman – a cross made of the bones of a child. Forensic scientist Dr Rhona McLeod is called to investigate and is soon drawn into a world she knows little about – the cult of juju and its ritual killings. Events take an even more twisted turn when the torso of another young African boy is found washed up in the river Clyde. Who was he and what is his connection to the investigation? Time is running out for Stephen, and when it becomes clear that human trafficking lies at the centre of the mystery the chase moves from Glasgow to the heat and dust of Kano, Nigeria, where Rhona must put an end to the ritual sacrifice before more innocent blood is shed.

Page 69:

They had managed to keep the story of the torso out of the headlines so far. The press was giving them a window to see if the body was Stephen.

The continuing house to house plus the search of the surrounding area had produced nothing. The boy had simply disappeared. If he had managed to get away from his mother’s attacker, he had found a good hiding place.

Bill had experience of runaway kids before. A girl of eight had gone missing in the summer of 2004. Molly Reynolds. Her name was written on his soul. Thirty-six hours after she disappeared on her way home from school, he had privately given up hope of finding her alive. Then a night watchman on a building site found her. She’d made a den in a pile of pipes and insisted she wasn’t going home until her mother threw out the latest boyfriend, who was sticking his hands down her knickers.

A lost child became a child abuse case. Bill thought about making it a double murder. The stupid mother and her arse of a boyfriend.

‘Sir..’ DC MacLaren handed him a photograph. ‘This was in a drawer in the mum’s bedroom.’

Carole Devlin stood in a formal pose beside a black man. Both were wearing brightly patterned national dress and smiling broadly. A wedding photograph perhaps? If it was, the chap beside her wasn’t the one who claimed to be her husband and walked out of the mortuary after taking photos of her mutilation.

Bill turned the picture over. A faint stamp read,

Ronald Ugwu, Photographer, Sabon Gari, Kano.
Learn more about Dark Flight and the Rhona MacLeod series at Lin Anderson's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 6, 2007

"The Cleaner"

Brett Battles is the author of The Cleaner, his debut novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the book and reported the following:
The Cleaner is an international thriller featuring Jonathan Quinn. Quinn’s job is to get rid of bodies and evidence when needed so no one knows anything has happened. His latest job seemed simple enough - investigating a suspicious case of arson. But when a dead body turns up where it doesn't belong — and Quinn's handlers at "the Office" turn strangely silent — he knows he's in over his head. With only a handful of clues, Quinn scrambles for cover, struggling to find out why someone wants him dead ... and if it's linked to a larger attempt to wipe out the Office. But as the hunt intensifies, Quinn is stunned by what he uncovers: a chilling secret ... and a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy — with an almost unimaginable goal.

Of course, page 69 in The Cleaner is the end of a chapter, and only six lines long. So I’ve taken the liberty of applying the Page 69 Test to page 70. Fair enough? By page 70 of The Cleaner, we find the hero Jonathan Quinn and his apprentice Nate on the run and looking for help in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Since it’s the first page of a new chapter, it’s still short:

Upon returning to the Rex Hotel, Quinn picked up a map of the city, then told Nate he was on his own for a while.

“But don’t sleep,” Quinn said.

“I won’t.”

“I mean it.”

“I said I won’t.”

The map wasn’t as detailed as Quinn would have liked, but it did show him the street he was looking for. He had initially thought about putting this trip off until the next morning. Get some sleep, be more alert. He had even contemplated putting it off altogether. His instincts told him it was a mistake, but he had come to Vietnam not only because they needed someplace to lie low, but also because they needed help. And after discovering the secret compartment in the bracelet, he knew they needed that help as soon as they could get it.

On the sidewalk outside the Rex, he started for the line of taxis at the curb, but he changed his mind at the last moment and decided to take a cyclo. Just because he had to make the trip didn’t mean he had to get there in a hurry.

The driver, a man in his late twenties, didn’t speak English, so Quinn pulled a pen out of his pocket and wrote the address of where he wanted to go on the back of the map. The driver looked at it, then smiled and nodded.

Not a lot of action on page 70, but it does capture a bit of the relationship between Quinn and Nate, and it definitely gives a sense of being someplace out of the ordinary – an important part of the story. But is it representative of the whole book? My answer is ... partially. It does show the international flavor and does give the reader a peek at one of the important relationships. Still, as I mentioned earlier, there’s not a lot of action here, whereas in the book as a whole there’s a lot. And there are several other very important characters that are not mentioned here (though one is hinted at).
Read an excerpt from The Cleaner and more about the novel at the author's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"In this Rain"

S.J. Rozan has won the the Edgar, Nero, Macavity, Shamus and Anthony awards for Best Novel and the Edgar award for Best Short Story.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, In this Rain, and reported the following:
On page 69 of In this Rain there's an argument between two of the book's protagonists, Ann Montgomery and Joe Cole. She wants him to do something; he's refusing. The page is, in fact, representative of the book in two ways.

First, one story in the book is Joe's story: how an ex-con filled with guilt, who wants only to retreat, finds his way back into the world. Ann, Joe's former partner, is investigating a crime and asks for his help. From the first moment, and repeatedly, he turns her down. But also from the first moment, he finds himself drawn in, prodded by loyalty and the chance for revenge -- but also intrigued by the questions she's raising.

Second, a lot of the book is about fluid relationships, alliances, people coming to terms with working with each other, separating, and finding new deals to make: some real, some phony. In this Rain takes place at the intersection of politics, real estate, and crime. It's a world of negotiation and compromise, from the mayor's office to the streets of Harlem. It's only when deals are made in bad faith, or can't be made at all, that violence solves the issue. For a time.
Visit Rozan's website and read an excerpt from In this Rain.

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

--Marshal Zeringue