Thursday, January 31, 2008

"The Jewel Trader of Pegu"

Jeffrey Hantover has written on social issues, art, and culture for publications in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Jewel Trader of Pegu, and reported the following:
I assure the readers of the Page 69 Test that I didn’t cheat on this exam and structure my novel so that a critical – if not the most critical – plot point comes smack at the top of page 69. But there it is like banner ad for the site: “What I feared has happened. Win has asked me again to deflower a bride.” The novel’s protagonist, Abraham, a Jewish jewel trader from Venice, has come to the Burmese empire of Pegu at the end of the 16th to buy precious stones. Unawares he has moved into a house once occupied by another Italian trader who embraced the Peguan practice of foreigners initiating brides on their wedding nights. Earlier in the novel, Abraham, shocked and offended, had rebuffed a bride brought to his home by his Peguan jewel broker, Win. We learn on page 69 that his one refusal has been turned into many by gossiping women in the market, making him a saint in their eyes and intensifying the demand for his services.

I would hope that a reader intrigued by this page will continue not out of any prurient interest in the possibility of torrid sex, but would be drawn to Abraham’s dilemma, as I was, and would want to explore the moral conflict between the law – in his case, religious – and the heart. Moving on, the reader will find not a succession of soft-core deflowerings but rather a series of moral choices Abraham faces as he moves from passive observer of life to an engaged actor. Page 69 is just the beginning of choices he faces that will transform his life and impel the novel forward. Dear reader rejoice, like Abraham, the choice is yours.
Read an excerpt from The Jewel Trader of Pegu, and learn more about the author and his work at Jeffrey Hantover's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"The Betrayal of Faith"

Emma Anderson is Assistant Professor of North American Religious History, University of Ottawa.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, The Betrayal of Faith: The Tragic Journey of a Colonial Native Convert, and reported the following:
My book doesn’t pass the p. 69 test at all, in that its contents aren’t at all indicative of the larger contours or themes of the work.

This book focuses on the experiences of a young indigenous boy, Pierre-Anthoine Pastedechouan, who in 1620, at the age of eleven, was taken to France by Catholic missionaries. The product of an animist, oral culture, Pastedechouan, during his five years abroad was indoctrinated into an antagonistic French Catholicism, the product of bloody decades of confessional warfare in Europe. His schooling in Latin, French and theology in the austere cloisters of an Angers convent, his visual education using the jewel-toned tapestries of the nearby Cathedral, and his lavish baptism, which celebrated the excision of his native cultural and religious identity, all profoundly impacted this native child’s sense of himself. Requested, at the end of his five year stay to return as a missionary to his family and community, Pastedechouan reacted with horror, reportedly replying: "My fathers, how could you send me back to those beasts who know not God?"

Pastedechouan’s distaste for his people, however, was fully reciprocated. Disappointed by his inability to meet Innu expectations for adult male behavior or to disclose strategically useful military or economic information regarding their inscrutable French allies, his Innu people regarded the returned Pastedechouan with confusion and derision. Despite his increasingly desperate attempts, in the latter years of his life, to reconcile the conceptual gaps which divided the worldview of his native community from that of his missionary mentors, Pastedechouan was eventually abandoned by both groups, dying alone of starvation and exposure in 1636, at the age of 28.

By focusing on Pastedechouan’s experiences, the book presents a unique, aboriginal perspective on religious contact between European and aboriginal cultures in seventeenth century North America, telling an old story in a wholly new way. Yet, if you read simply page 69, it would initially appear to be history as usual, as the page introduces individual Recollet missionaries, setting the scene for their fateful encounter with Pastedechouan’s people.
Read about The Betrayal of Faith at the Harvard University Press website. Learn more about Emma Anderson's teaching, research, and other publications at her faculty webpage.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Now You See Him"

Eli Gottlieb's The Boy Who Went Away won the prestigious Rome Prize, the 1998 McKitterick Prize from the British Society of Authors, and was a New York Times Notable book.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel Now You See Him, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my book, when isolated, is pretty dull. It belongs to that particular variant of prose whose sentences deal with the heavy, utilitarian lugging of objects around space and time. "He drove to the store." "She picked up the can opener." Ah, fond mimesis! My poet friends often laugh at the way in which, as a novelist, I have somehow crucially to bear witness to the "withness" of language, its embeddedness in the dumb operations of life. Fortunately, my lifelong situational dyslexia has galloped to the rescue, and in this case, staring at 69, I see 96.

Page 96 of my new novel, while not exactly a chorus of nightingale glissandoes, at least gets off a couple nice moves. It deals with that moment in the book when Nick, the married narrator, is returning to his domestic nest after having made out with an old girlfriend in the parking lot of a nearby diner. His already shaky marriage has been rattled further by the fact that his wife, though she doesn't know the exact details of his assignation, is furious at him that he even saw his old gal pal. For his part, the fact of having kissed another woman and felt the old erotic quickening, has given him a fresh appreciation for his original marital bona fides. As the page opens he is ruminating on the newly chilly distance between himself and his beloved. In the words of Barry Hannah: "Behold the husband in his perfect agony!"

I could watch the word-bubbles drift upwards from her mouth. I could see her fingers splayed slightly against the clear surface in greeting or goodbye. But instead of language, all I heard was the faint, underwater hiss of her respiration.

During dinner that night, I remained extra animated, with the children especially, and I tried to catch a variety of small ripples of momentum from the boys upon which to float my way across the table and touch her with warmth. I was an old hand at this kind of redistribution of feeling, this sneaky inter-generational transfer. But on this night, as the previous few nights, it was no dice. She was as skillful as I was at maintaining an open channel with the boys while keeping me out in the cold, and though I admired her virtuosity, the anaerobic withdrawal of feeling stung me.

All of this was especially sad because, buoyed by my transgression — a half hour of making out with Belinda in the car; an hour of excited chat in the restaurant — I was not only tactically happy. I was happy. I felt renewed in my marriage and I wanted her to know it. Pity is a vasodilator of the heart, just like love. And yet it's not love, for it requires loss of some sort to activate it. Lucy, without knowing it, had lost ground and become an object of my pity. And I, without understanding why, had felt the charge of that emotion and pronounced myself newly in love.

Over the next few days, I continued to observe my wife with fresh eyes, noting as if for the first time the bending grace of her figure, her gentleness and kindness with the children; her diligence in running a house whose cleanliness and order I had always taken for granted. Uncomplainingly, she had shut down her own career in the service of our family, and to this, as to so many other things, I'd been indifferent. The dailiness of cohabitation is like a rain of glass beads that wears away the larger perceptions of gratefulness and leaves behind only the chilly relicts of feeling. How could I have been so blind to the truth?
Read an excerpt from Now You See Him, and learn more about the book and author at Eli Gottlieb's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 26, 2008


John Allen Paulos is professor of math at Temple University, "an extensively kudized author, popular public speaker, and monthly columnist for (archived or current) and the Guardian."

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Irreligion:

Now if our search for these sequences isn't conducted openly, if the cases in which we find nothing appropriate are discarded (nearby ELS's for "zucchini" and "squash," for example), if we go public only with the interesting sequences we do find, and if we compute probabilities in a simplistic way, then it is clear that these sequences do not mean what they may seem to mean on the surface. Performing a procedure one way and computing a probability associated with a different procedure is, to put it mildly, misleading. The real question isn't about the likelihood of particular ELS's appearing at particular positions in the text, but rather about the likelihood of some ELS's of vaguely similar significance appearing somewhere or somehow in the text.

Not surprisingly, when people look for ELS's in different texts, they find them. In the standard English translations of War and Peace, for example, there are nearby ELS's for "Jordan", "Chicago", and "Bulls," no doubt proving Tolstoy's basketball clairvoyance.

Almost all of the many biblical codes, whether from Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or modern sources, have defects similar to those of the Bible codes. The statistical paper mentioned in the Introduction may also illustrate a different, more subtle defect having to do with unintentional biases in the choice of sought-after sequences, vaguely-defined procedures, the variety and contingencies of ancient Hebrew spelling and variant versions of the Torah, or even Ramsey's theorem, a deep mathematical result about the inevitability of order in any sufficiently long sequence of symbols.

In this snippet it's clear that the topic is the so-called bible codes (and ELS's - equidistant letter sequences) purported by some to foretell future events.
More generally over the course of the book I present all the standard arguments for God's existence and point out the gaping logical lacunae in each of them. I also digress to discuss in a very informal manner mathematical notions of relevance such as complexity theory, logic, and recursion as well topics as disparate as Jesus versus Socrates, Thai-farang relations, and "Brights." I'm not above inserting humor, which some believe detracts from such a "serious" subject. In this sense also I'm not a believer.
Read an excerpt from Irreligion and learn more about the author and his writing at John Allen Paulos' website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation"

Sandeep Jauhar, MD, PhD, is the director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He writes regularly for the New York Times and The New England Journal of Medicine.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation, and reported the following:
On pg 69 of my book, Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation, I’'m sitting in a conference room in the intensive care unit among a large group of interns and residents, being grilled by a senior physician on the proper way to read chest X-rays. In medical school I’'d been taught a systematic way of reading them, but I'’ve forgotten it. The senior physician, obviously frustrated by the gaps in my knowledge, has just taken my finger and placed it on one of the serpentine shadows running across the screen of a digital workstation, demanding to know what I think it is. “An acorn was pressing into the center of my brain,” I write. “My throat was tight and my mind had ground to a halt. If not for my seat back, I felt that I would fall backward.”

Another doctor soon pulls up the next film, and someone else takes the hot seat. In the dark room, my face burns with embarrassment. I can'’t recall ever feeling so publicly humiliated, and on my first day in the ICU, too.

My older brother Rajiv, a cardiology fellow at the hospital, stops by the conference room later that morning. He asks me how rounds went. I tell him about the X-ray debacle. “Don’'t take things so seriously,” he says. “That'’s why it’s a three-year program.”

This page actually conveys a lot of the essence of my book, which describes the grueling, humiliating ordeal that is a medical internship. Internship is the most confusing, tumultuous year in a doctor’'s life, and I've tried to convey a sense of it through a history of my own apprenticeship at a prominent teaching hospital in New York City. The book is also about what it'’s like growing up an ambivalent youth unsure about what he wants to do with his life, in an intensely competitive, immigrant Indian family.
Read an excerpt from Intern and learn more about the author and his work at Sandeep Jauhar's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Traci L. Slatton is a graduate of Yale and Columbia, and she also attended the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, sculptor Sabin Howard, whose classical figures and love for Renaissance Italy inspired her to write a novel set during that time period.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Immortal, her first novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Immortal, Luca Bastardo secretly obtains a vial of poison, then walks through bleak, wintry Florence to return to the brothel where he is indentured against his will. The next day, he is summoned by Bernardo Silvano, the proprietor of the brothel, who questions him regarding the death of a young girl, a fellow prostitute, on the very eve of the girl being turned over to an important visitor. The visitor is a cardinal who cleanses the world of Eve’s sin by torturing young women to death. The girl would have died slowly, agonizingly. Instead, Silvano must return the substantial deposit the cardinal had paid for the girl. Silvano is furious and threatens Luca with a knife.

All through this novel, Luca makes hard choices. He faces questions about faith and worship and the nature of God, life and death, friendship and betrayal, love and loss. On page 69, many of these ideas pop up. What is Luca willing to do to spare a friend severe pain? What kind of God demands suffering? Why do people devote themselves to cruelty toward other people? Luca is passionately wrestling with these questions even as, terrified, he faces a raging Silvano. On page 69 there is also a glimpse of the city of Florence, with its unparalleled art and history. This page is a microcosm of the entire novel.
Read an excerpt from Immortal and learn more about the author and her writing at Traci L. Slatton's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Michael Erard is a writer/journalist based in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wired, the New Republic, the Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Foreign Policy, the New Scientist, Lingua Franca, Legal Affairs, the Texas Observer, and other publications.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his book Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, and reported the following:
No one speaks sentences that look perfect when they're written down, and normal speaking is full of all sorts of hesitations, interruptions and other spontaneities that we'd probably want to be edited out of transcripts of our speech. I wrote Um... because I wanted to find how often these occur and why. I also wanted to know, Why do we notice more verbal blunders than others? And where on earth did we get the notion that our speech has to sound umless?

Um… gives readers lots of stuff they probably don't know, and that's what's happening on page 69. How are hesitations and interruptions in speaking useful to cops and interrogators? Unlike your high school speech teacher or your Toastmasters club buddies, these people LOVE that you pause, repeat yourself, and say "um." It's all useful information to them.

On page 69 the reader will have just met Gerry Giorgio, a famous NYPD homicide detective, who is renowned for his interrogation skills. People commonly think that you can tell whether someone is lying or telling the truth based on how fluent they are, but that's not a very reliable method. Giorgio doesn't go in for that. Rather, he listened to how people talk to monitor how stressed they are. In general, disfluencies tell us a lot about states (emotional states, psychological states) but aren't very reliable indicators of traits (personality, intelligence, honesty). So what Giorgio does is informally monitor the stress levels of people he hasn't arrested yet but from whom he wants to extract a confession. The higher the stress, the closer they are to confessing -- or potentially to walking out of his office, which he doesn't want them to do. Their speech gives him feedback about the edge he's making them walk.

I imagine that teenagers wouldn't get away with much in Giorgio's house.

Page 69 also introduces the reader to David Zulawski, an interrogation expert with other tips for extracting information about people from their disfluencies. He notes that verbal blunders, in themselves, aren't meaningful, but they have to be interpreted. That's a basic message of the book as a whole: Many of the meanings that are popularly ascribed to verbal blunders don't hold up scientifically.

Though page 69 might give a reader a sense of what the book's about, there are far funnier, quicker pages -- for samples, see pages 59 and 79, too.
Read an excerpt from Um… and learn more about the author and his writing at Michael Erard's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 21, 2008

"At the City's Edge"

Marcus Sakey's first novel, The Blade Itself, was featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR, and chosen both a New York Times Editor's Pick and one of Esquire Magazine's "Top 5 Reads of 2007." Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's production company has bought film rights for Miramax.

Sakey applied the Page 69 Test to his second novel, At the City's Edge, and reported the following:
I break this test.

I did it last year, too, with The Blade Itself, where page 69 turned out to be a half-page of fairly little consequence. Some fun stuff, but not really a window into the soul of the book.

This time around, I felt sure that all the hidden truths of the novel would be revealed when I turned to page 69 of my new one, At the City's Edge. And the timing is certainly good -- it's the first major turning point in the book, when my hero, a discharged soldier returned from Iraq begins to discover a similar war raging in his own neighborhood.

However, it's also right in the midst of action. And by in the midst, I mean smack-dab, dead-center of a chapter of intense action, when my protagonist, Jason Palmer, is trying to protect his nephew from bad men breaking into the house. And quoting it will seem a little flat, I'm afraid.

So fuck it. Forgive me, Marshal, but I'm going to break the rules, and instead excerpt a section that sets up page 69, and which is also one of my personal faves. Rewind the clock twenty minutes and eight pages, and you come to this:
He swallowed until the bottle was empty, and then let it fall numb from his fingers. CNN had switched to talking heads, Rumsfeld spinning vagaries into rhetoric. Jason remembered years ago, shortly after he’d first arrived in country, hearing Rumsfeld’s famous line about known-knowns and known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns and thinking that crazy as it sounded, he got exactly what the guy meant, only it wasn’t the war he was talking about, it was life, at least life the way Jason had always seen and never understood it, and for a while he sat and stared at the television, let the light wash over him without touching him, trying to see a way to make sense of things, to knit the world together.

By the time he gave up, his mouth was dry and he had the beginnings of a head-splitter. The clock on the cable box read two-twelve. He reached for the clicker and fumbled around until the television snapped off. Dropped the remote to the table with a thud. Unlaced his tennis shoes, pulled off his socks. Rack time. For a moment, he thought of going upstairs to his brother’s bedroom.

No. No way.

Jason pulled the blanket off the back of the couch, curled his legs under, and put his head down. A long, terrible day. A day with no sense to be found. Maybe sunlight would make things clearer.

He was almost asleep when he heard glass breaking.
That's better. Some character insight, a little angst, and a cliffhanger.

I guess I'm a page 61-type of guy.
Read an excerpt from At the City's Edge and learn more about the author and his writing at Marcus Sakey's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Atomic Lobster"

Tim Dorsey is a former editor at the Tampa Tribune and author of the novels Florida Roadkill, Hammerhead Ranch Motel, Orange Crush, Triggerfish Twist, The Stingray Shuffle, Cadillac Beach, Torpedo Juice, The Big Bamboo, and Hurricane Punch.

Atomic Lobster
is his tenth novel; he applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
Page 69 of Atomic Lobster is a paradox. It is quite unrepresentative of the novel, and also perhaps most representative.

The random page of my books is likely to find demented wrongdoings, fevered chase scenes, and dialogue from the home of the criminally insane.

Yet A.L. page 69 is a sedate, patient scene setter – in this case setting up the Epiphany Day celebration of the Greek community at Tarpon Springs bayou. And in doing so, it betrays my true purpose behind the books: to roam around Florida and frame scenes at places and times that showcase the things I love most about my home state.

It just so happens that my loveable serial killer, Serge A. Storms, shares the same obsessive pride as I do (okay, I planned it that way – he’s my mouthpiece and alter ego), and Serge absolutely must contour his crime sprees to his favorite backroads, historic sites and native events.

Page 69 is the calm on the water -- literally -- between Serge dropping a drug dealer off an overpass and heading into the jaws of mayhem with a methed-out stripper he picked up behind his rat-infested (but literarily significant) hideout.

Did I mention it’s fun for the whole family?

From Page 69:

Chapter Ten

Down on the Bayou

The church could withstand any hurricane.

Built from huge quarried slabs, it stood proudly as it had for over a century at the corner of Tarpon and Pinellas avenues. The architecture was exotic even for Florida.

This particular morning, a throbbing crowd had gathered on the sidewalk. The front doors opened. Cheers went up. A bearded man appeared in an immaculate robe and tall bejeweled hat.

He waved with dignity during his short walk to a waiting car, which drove him another brief distance.

A second, larger crowd at Spring Bayou erupted when the vehicle’s doors opened. The adulation grew louder as they followed the bishop down to the gently curving seawall. A small fleet of wooden dinghies were already anchored in the water, each containing several boys in white swim trunks, sixteen to eighteen years of age.

On the opposite side of the bayou, Serge tapped page 132 of National Geographic. "The kids in the boats. Looks exactly the same sixty-one years later. These people are all about tradition. Like St. Nicholas’s Church we passed earlier. One of the state’s greatest landmarks that nobody even knows exists. The Mediterranean dome and spire were patterned after Aya Sophia in Istanbul ..."

"Can we go now?" asked Coleman.

"But we haven’t seen it yet."
Learn more about Atomic Lobster and visit Tim Dorsey's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Messengers of Sex"

Celia Roberts is Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Messengers of Sex: Hormones, Biomedicine and Feminism, and reported the following:
On p. 69 I begin a section on puberty. This section takes a critical look at contemporary scientific understandings of the role of hormones in producing adult bodies, and argues that science tends to focus too much on hormones at the expense of social and cultural experience. My argument in this section, as throughout the whole book, is not to say that science is wrong, or that hormones do not matter at all, but to try and complexify our understandings of the interaction between biology (hormones) and social factors. I think that science too often sets the social aside, thus making arguments about hormones that are too simplistic (and sociology does the same thing with biological explanations, by the way!). The result of this Page 69 test is a good one for me because puberty is an area I want to work more on, and I am now starting on a new book project that will investigate this topic in more depth. I think puberty is an incredibly interesting time in our lives, in which we can see both massive biological/ physiological change, but also really significant social changes for any particular individual. As puberty is now happening earlier and earlier, I think there is a lot at stake in thinking about puberty in a sociologically informed way that also takes into account the role of hormones as ‘messengers of sex’. To understand what I mean by that phrase, you’ll need to read the rest of the book! Thanks for your interest and I’d enjoy any feedback on the book you want to send me.
Read an excerpt from Messengers of Sex and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website. Learn more about Celia Roberts' research and other publications at her university webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Beginner's Greek"

James Collins writes for The New Yorker and has been an editor at both Time and Spy magazines.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel Beginner's Greek, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Beginner's Greek opens with what is by far the crudest image in the whole book, although I like to think that it is crude in a sort of sophisticated way! The hero's best friend, Jonathan, has been recounting his sexual exploits and finishes up at the top of p. 69 with this comment about a particular young woman: "Catholic girls. Jesus. There's nothing like seeing the crucifix bouncing around their collarbone. Sometimes she clenches it in her teeth." This passage would no doubt disgust many people and they would put the book down (or throw it across the room) without reading another word. Still, for others, the passage might prove to be an enticement. The problem is that the very next paragraph would disappoint them. There the hero, Peter, muses about how the things Jonathan is saying disgusts him, and you get the definite idea that the line suggested at the beginning of the page is not going to be pursued. So -- it seems to me that if you gave people only p. 69 to read and then you eliminated the ones who were repelled by the first few lines and those who were let down by what follows, there would be nobody left. I am not going to suggest to the publishers that they use p. 69 to increase sales.
Read an excerpt from Beginner's Greek and learn more about the novel at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"How the Dead Dream"

Lydia Millet is the author of Omnivores, George Bush, Dark Prince of Love, My Happy Life, a winner of the 2003 PEN-USA Award for Fiction, Everyone’s Pretty, and Oh Pure and Radiant Heart.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel How the Dead Dream, and reported the following:
How the Dead Dream is the first book in a trilogy. It tells the story of a young businessman, T., who after a chain of emotional blows becomes obsessed with vanishing animals and begins breaking into zoos to be more intimate with them.

On page 69 T., is having a conversation with his mother, who’s just come out of a coma following what may or may not have been a suicide attempt. As we open to the page she’s in the middle of telling him about the afterlife: she’s been to the other side and now she’s reporting back. And she’s not happy.

As a lifelong Catholic, devout and passionate, she was both shocked and confused to discover the afterlife was, in fact, nothing more than an IHOP.

“You believe me, don’t you,” whispered his mother, reaching for his face. “You believe me.”

“Of course I do,” he whispered back.

“I was surprised. I thought it would be heaven, T. But it was bad, very bad,” said his mother, and moved her feet suddenly beneath the sheet. “It was the International House of Pancakes.”

“I’m surprised too,” said T.

“I thought it would be more expensive than that.”

He studied her face to see if he could detect humor but there was nothing, only a vague and yet urgent concern.

“We’re just glad to have you here with us,” he said, and leaned down to kiss her cheek.

“I don’t want to go back there again,” she said, and closed her eyes. “I must have done something wrong, T. Something very wrong to go there.”

“I’m going to get the doctor now,” said the nurse. “And you best be letting her get some rest. Visiting hour’s almost done anyways.”

“Sure,” he said.

Before he left he reached over and removed the barrettes.

Dialogue pages are different from prose pages, of course, so while this excerpt might serve as a decent sample of an interaction between two characters, it shows little about the interior passages of the book, which are not conversation but rumination. But the mother’s odd preoccupation with her time in the IHOP, which begins here, is in a way typical of the absurdist aspect of How the Dead Dream, which derives from the competition between the sublime and the mundane.
Read an excerpt from How the Dead Dream. Learn more about the author and her writing at the How the Dead Dream publisher's website and Lydia Millet's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Killing Fear"

Allison Brennan is the author of The Prey, The Hunt, The Kill, Speak No Evil, See No Evil, and Fear No Evil.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel Killing Fear, and reported the following:
Killing Fear starts with an earthquake at San Quentin. Escaped killer Theodore Glenn vowed revenge on everyone who put him behind bars, including Detective Will Hooper who arrested him and former stripper turned night-club owner Robin McKenna, the prosecution's key witness. Glenn takes responsibility for only three of the four murders he was convicted of, and enlists the unwilling help of a ladder-climbing reporter to help prove he's innocent of at least one crime, all the while going down his own personal kill list of those who were against him.

Page 69 is from a scene in Glenn's POV. Leading up to this page is introspection about his first kill. Now, he's planning on meeting one of his many "fans"-Sara, who wrote to him in prison. The end of the page is a pivotal turning point as Glenn's own plans start to fall in place. It's representative of the tone of the book, but is more introspection and less action than the majority of scenes.

Sex wasn't that important in the whole scheme of things. BASE jumping gave him a greater thrill than screwing. But now, after being celibate for so long, he suspected the thrill would be worth the risk.

The police probably didn't even know about Sara, not this quickly.

But he would be careful. He'd fucked up before, he wouldn't this time.
He needed to dump Jenny's car. Sara would have one for him.

He followed William Hooper to a quiet little middle class neighborhood.
Hooper stopped in front of a weed-choked yard framing a dilapidated house. Theodore drove on. He didn't need to know who lived there. He would find out soon enough.

He went back to the dive motel near the police station where he'd paid
cash for a week and the fat broad behind the counter barely looked up from her soap operas except to count his money. It had taken him an hour to find the perfect place. He'd done some shopping earlier, and now took the time to ready his room. The sheets on the bed had to go. He would not sleep on sheets others had used. He made the bed with new linens. Topped it with a new blanket. The sheets and filthy spread were folded and put in the closet.

Using the industrial strength cleansers he purchased, he scoured every
surface of the motel room. Adequate. The carpet he could do nothing about, but he would simply wear his shoes at all times, even when he slept. He sanitized the toilet and shower, then stripped and took a hot shower.


He drove back to the police station just as a news crew began to set
up. It was dark and he blended in well.

Trinity Lange was talking to her cameraman. She had covered Theodore's
trial and asked the tough questions. She was a sexy little thing, with blonde hair and dark eyes, a hint of Latina in her skin tone. He didn't particularly like mixed race women, but this reporter could pull it off.

He didn't plan on fucking her, anyway. He had other plans.
Read an excerpt from Killing Fear and learn more about the author and her books at Allison Brennan's website and her blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Redemption Street"

Reed Farrel Coleman has won the Shamus, Barry, and Anthony Awards and his writing has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Gumshoe Awards.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Redemption Street, the second of his Moe Prager novels, and reported the following:
“I don’t know the man you described personally, but I think he belongs to a…to a… I guess you’d call it a cult. We call ‘em Yellow Stars…”

It’s 1981 and Moe Prager, ex of the NYPD and a freshly minted PI, is up in the Borscht Belt looking into an old fire that killed seventeen people, his high school crush among them. The Borscht Belt is a commonly used term for a string of resort hotels that dotted the Catskill Mountains of New York State. These hotels catered to New York City’s Jewish population from the 1940s thru the 1970s and were famous for the entertainers, especially the comedians, who performed on their stages. The term Borscht Belt, much like its southern cousin the Bible Belt, is a term of both endearment and derision.

“The Yellow Stars?”

“They wear a big yellow patch on their coats that has the word—”

“J-U-D-E-N,” I[Moe] spelled out loud.

“That’s it,” Molly said. “It means—”


I chose to set Redemption Street in the Catskills for several reasons. First, because Moe Prager is a very conflicted man. One of the issues he is most conflicted about is his relationship with his own sense of Jewishness. By the mid-70s, the Borscht Belt was in the midst of its death rattle and what had once been the summer retreat of NYC’s secular Jews was being transformed into a haven for the ultra-orthodox Hasidic sects. What a perfect arena for a conflicted Jew. Second, the long ago fire that killed Moe’s high school crush is inspired by real life events. In the early 1970s, three girls from my high school who had gone to work at a Catskill hotel, perished in a workers’ quarters fire that killed a total of seventeen people.

“The other Jews,” she said, “the Hasids, they hate ‘em.”

By page 69, Moe has already encountered the various forces at play in the case — a washed up comedian, an ambitious politician, a pint-sized Hitler — but it is on this page that he learns of the Yellow Stars. As the story progresses, the reader will find just how important this discovery is not only to the resolution of the case, but to Moe’s personal struggles as well.
Learn more about the novel and author at Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Blood of the Wicked"

Leighton Gage has been a copywriter, an advertising creative director, a magazine editor, and a writer/producer/director of documentary films and industrial videos.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel, Blood of the Wicked, and reported the following:
Remember Monty Python? (“And now for something completely different…”)

Opening Blood of the Wicked at page 69 is like that:

His name was João Miranda.

Most people called him by his nickname: Cobra.

A new character is being introduced. There’s no (obvious) link to the foregoing action. You can read through to end of the chapter without once asking yourself what’s going on here?

We quickly learn that Cobra is a Brazilian criminal.

The operative word is “Brazilian.”

Blood of the Wicked is a murder mystery. But the murder takes place in Brazil. And that makes all the difference.

The country abounds with criminals who will kill for a handful of change or a cell phone. And it’s a country where many of those criminals have a day job – as policemen. Brazilian cops deal drugs and extort. They commit armed robberies and murder. They’re people to be feared.

My protagonist, Mario Silva, is a chief inspector of the Brazilian Federal Police, a moral man working within an immoral system. He often feels he has to break the law in order to enforce it.

Page 69 (and the seven pages that follow) are a story within the story. I’ve put them there to entertain, yes, but also to delineate nuances in Silva’s character, a character I’m betting readers will find fascinating – and “completely different.”
Read an excerpt from Blood of the Wicked and learn more about the author and his work at Leighton Gage's website and his Crimespace page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"The Kept Man"

Jami Attenberg is the author of the story collection Instant Love. She has written for Jane, Salon, Nylon, Print, the San Francisco Chronicle, Entertainment Weekly, and Time Out New York, and her fiction has appeared in Nerve, Pindeldyboz, Spork, and Bullfight Review.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel The Kept Man, and reported the following:
My Page 69 comes in at the very end of a chapter, so it's actually just the second half of a paragraph, but it is very representative of the book. The Kept Man is about a woman married to an artist who has been in a coma for six years, and a good portion of it is reminiscence about their life together in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. In this portion of the book, Jarvis, the narrator, is taking a cab home from a somewhat acrimonious meeting with Martin's art dealer, and ends up passing a really lovely little waterfront park in Williamsburg. It has a smashing view of Manhattan, and in the summertime this park is always packed with all kinds of locals for the sunset. I love to ride my bike down there and connect with the community. The Kept Man is as much the story of the relationship between Jarvis and her husband as it is a love letter to the neighborhood. I absolutely had to include this park in my book.

Page 69, The Kept Man:

And while the sun lowered in the sky, achingly slow at first, and then rapidly, as if someone were tugging on the sun with a string, we would talk about the city, make up stories about the people in all the tall buildings, how unhappy they must be so high up in the air. Us against the world, as we sat on the edge of Brooklyn. Then we'd make out like we were in high school, holding hands, sweaty, his palms occasionally brushing my breasts, secretly, sneakily. "I can't wait to get you home baby," he'd say.

"Take the next right," I tell the driver. I can't stand it anymore.
Read an excerpt from The Kept Man and learn more about the author and her work at Jami Attenberg's website and her blog.

Watch the two short films inspired by The Kept Man: Man and No Use Crying.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Death Was the Other Woman"

Linda L. Richards is the editor and co-founder of January Magazine and a regular contributor to The Rap Sheet.

Her books include three novels in the Madeline Carter series and, releasing today, Death Was the Other Woman. She applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
Page 69 of Death Was the Other Woman is the very end of chapter 11, so there’s only about half a page of text. It’s a zippy half page, though: it’s dialog and though it seems as though not much is going on, there’s a lot that’s unsaid.

Also, page 69 says a lot about the relationship between our narrating protagonist, Kitty Pangborn, and her boss of the louche life, the gumshoe Dexter Theroux. Page 69 is not the most illuminating snippet from early in the book, but it gets the job done:

… and it’ll seem less fishy, a good-looking couple like us out on the town, instead of me waltzing in there stag, asking questions no one wants to answer.”

My hands flew to my dress. “I don’t have anything to wear,” I said.

Dex just grinned. “You’ll think of something. I’ll pick you up at your place at nine.”

I started to get up, my mind already rummaging through my meager wardrobe, when another thought hit me.

“Why, Dex?” I asked him. “The guy you were supposed to be tailing is dead. You don’t even have a case anymore.”

“That’s true,” he agreed, without hesitation. “But Rita gave me eighty-three bucks. I offered her part of it back. She wouldn’t take it. I feel like I oughta do more for the money. Besides, you said he’s dead. His wife says he ain’t. And the body we saw is gone. Doesn’t it make you wonder?”

I shrugged and then I nodded. When I thought about it, it kind of did.
Visit the official Death Was the Other Woman website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Who is Conrad Hirst?"

Kevin Wignall is the author of the novels, For the Dogs, People Die, Among the Dead, and Who is Conrad Hirst? as well as a number of acclaimed short stories.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Who is Conrad Hirst? and reported the following:
P69 of Who is Conrad Hirst? opens with the line, "She squeezed her hand into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a key, holding it up for him to see." The page is part of a scene in which Conrad and a French woman called Delphine find each other at the house of a man called Freddie Fischer. They're weighing each other up but also trying to work out why Freddie isn't there. Actually, Conrad has a pretty good idea why he isn't there - "Whatever the explanation, Conrad sensed that Freddie wouldn't be back at all."

In some ways it's a typical page, covering the confusion and suspicion that provides the backdrop to most thrillers, but I was disappointed somehow when I turned to P69 and found this. Conrad seems quite relaxed and together, with little hint of the dislocated violence that punctuates his actions, and equally little to suggest the hopelessly wounded romantic who opens the book with an expression of love. It's something of a transition page.

Maybe that's the trouble with judging a book by a randomly selected page - as much effort as we put into every page, we still have to move the furniture and change the scenery. I prefer you to judge me on the start, but if you're gonna judge me on a page from mid-book, how about P88?
Read an excerpt from Who is Conrad Hirst? and learn more about the novel at the Simon & Schuster website.

See Kevin Wignall's website to learn about his books and stories, and check out his posts at the group blog Contemporary Nomad.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 4, 2008


Zachary Lazar is the author of the novels Aaron, Approximately and Sway, released this month.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Sway, and reported the following:
Page 69… For a random page from my novel, Sway, page 69 is oddly suggestive. The book’s climax happens in 1969 — the year of the Manson murders and the Rolling Stones’ violent concert at Altamont — the year the Sixties ended numerically as well as culturally. It is an appropriately demonic number, 69, reminiscent of satanic 666 as well as a certain sexual position that would still be more or less unmentionable had it not been for the Sixties. On page 69 of Sway, a teenage boy walks into a rare bookshop and discovers an occult manual called The Sephiroth, written by a notorious drug addict and satanist (actually made up by me) based on Aleister Crowley. In its pages, the boy finds “the secret door into that parallel world he had always hoped was there.”

According to
The Sephiroth, the world was a shifting fabric of reality and dream. There were people who without knowing it took on the attributes of certain mythological figures or gods. This could make them purposeful and bold, like Prometheus or Cain, or could render them passive and wounded, like Vulcan, the archetype of the artist. There were cold, solitary spirits like the huntress Diana, and tricksters like Hermes and Pan, and communers with the dead, like Hecate and Persephone. There were stern, paternal figures, like Shiva or the risen Christ, and there were law-abiding slaves like Mary or Job. You had little choice as to which of these spirits inhabited you personally. Indeed, most people spent their whole lives in a futile effort to become someone they were not meant to be: powerful when they were born weak, wise when they were born to take commands. All unhappiness stemmed from just this misperception: the failure to know one’s true nature or the obstinate refusal to embrace it. Your date of birth, the letters of your name, the color of your eyes, the lines on the palms of your hands — everything in the world was encrypted with the secret and conflicting information that determined the kind of life you were meant to lead.

I would not want to read much more of this kind of thing (nor would I want to read much of The Sephiroth itself), but the boy in the novel is more fascinated by the occult than I am. Still, if the reader were to continue to read Sway, he or she might find that this little passage gets more interesting as the book unfolds, casting its particular light on the Sixties and on some of the mythological figures and all-too-real people who were caught in its sway.
Read more about Sway at the publisher's website.

Zachary Lazar graduated from Brown University, has been a Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Works Center, and received the Iowa Writers Workshops James Michener/Copernicus Society Prize.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

"Twin Killing"

Marshall Cook is the author of over 20 non-fiction books and the Monona Quinn mystery Series.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel Twin Killing, and reported the following:
Honestly, I was afraid to look.

Just what would be on page 69 of Twin Killing, third of my Monona Quinn mysteries for Bleak House Books? Just how badly would I embarrass myself here?

Last year I helped host agent/writer/teacher Donald Maass here at the University in Madison, where he enthralled a packed house with his day-long version of “How to Write a Break-Out Novel.” One of his suggestions was to throw your manuscript up in the air (AFTER numbering the pages!), collect the pages in random order and go through, increasing the tension on every page. (Every page!)

I turned to page 69 with that tough criterion in mind.

So what do I find — the great scene where the killer breaks into Maddie’s house? Or the one where Mo confronts the killer in the graveyard? Or even the one where she almost succumbs to the considerable charms of her old high school sweetheart?

Naw. Mo and twin sister Maddie are serving free lunch in a church basement. Specifically, Mo is going from table to table, offering cookies from a tray, and then refilling pitchers of milk. Pretty punchy stuff, huh? (Even allowing for the fact that I write cozies…)

Did I let the whole page go by with nothing grittier than cookies and milk? No, thank heavens. This is a reference to Maddie’s son, Aidan, busted for possession and about to take the fall for a murder rap as well, and Maddie’s obvious emotional pain. So I did stir the pot at least a little.

Now, if you’d only asked me about page 169! On that page, Mo is ordering pizza — to go!
Learn more about Twin Killing at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue