Saturday, May 30, 2009

"The Crimes of Paris"

Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, a married couple, are the authors of The Monsters, a chronicle of the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Their novel, In Darkness, Death, won a 2005 Edgar Award.

They applied the “Page 69 Test” to their new book, The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection, and reported the following:
As far as we’re concerned, the best thing about page 69 of our book is that it contains nothing at all about the Mona Lisa. Because a part of our book--concerning the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911--appeared in Vanity Fair’s May issue, people have come to think that is all the book is about. Quite untrue, as you might realize from reading the title: The Crimes of Paris, as in “more than one crime.” Among the others are the first use of a getaway car (by a band of murderous anarchist bankrobbers) and the death of a newspaper editor at the hands of the wife of a prominent politician the newspaper had attacked. (Her defense: “There is no justice in France. There is only the revolver.”) But it’s more than a compendium of crimes as well.

If you read page 69, you will begin to learn about one of the most interesting figures in the history of crime and detection: François-Eugène Vidocq, who was a master of disguise and a career criminal who became the first head of the Sûreté, France’s equivalent of the FBI. He inspired many fictional counterparts, not least of which was Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin, the hero of the first modern detective story. One of the subjects we examine in our book is the connection between real-life crime and fiction. A principal figure in our story is the criminologist Edmund Locard, who might well be said to be the founder of crime-scene investigation (the C.S.I. of the popular TV programs), when he declared, “Every criminal leaves a part of himself at the crime scene, and takes away with him something from that scene as well.” Locard frankly admitted his indebtedness to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes.

Vidocq too blurred the line between fact and fiction in his memoirs, written with the assistance of France’s great novelist Balzac, and since there is no crime on page 69, we will leave you with the opening from Vidocq’s memoirs (true or false), that we quote on that page:

“I was born at Arras, but as my constant disguise, the mobility of my features, and a singular aptness in make-up have caused some doubt about my age, it will not be superfluous to state that I came into the world on the twenty-third of July, 1775, in a house near where Robespierre had been born sixteen years earlier. It was during the night; rain poured down in torrents; thunder rumbled; as a result a relative, who combined the functions of midwife and sybyl, drew the conclusion that my career would be a stormy one. In those days there were still good people who believed in omens, while in these enlightened times men rely on the infallibility of fortune-tellers.”
Browse inside The Crimes of Paris, and learn more about the book and authors at the publisher's website and the official website of Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 29, 2009


Jean Hanff Korelitz was raised in New York City and graduated from Dartmouth College and Clare College, Cambridge. She is the author of the novels A Jury of Her Peers (1996), The Sabbathday River (1999), and The White Rose (2005), as well as a children’s novel, Interference Powder (2003) and a book of poems, The Properties of Breath (1988).

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel, Admission, and reported the following:
But even sitting there, half the world away, without even laying eyes on him, he was already mine. Just because someone had told me so. Just like that. I didn’t even have a snapshot.”

“And you felt the same way when you got back to Uganda and met him?”

“Yes. Absolutely. I picked him up out of the basket, and I didn’t put him down for the next three years, basically.”

They lay without talking for a few minutes. Cars whooshed and groaned up the road outside the hotel. Once, a flap flap of footsteps sounded down the hall outside.

“Does he ever ask about his biological parents?” Portia said.

“Actually, no. I’ve always wondered about that. I’ve always wondered why he wasn’t more curious. He’s never asked me to take him back, to find a cousin or an aunt or a sibling. Somebody. He never seemed interested. And I never suggested it. Maybe I’m afraid of it, I don’t know.”

“You shouldn’t be. I’m sure you’re a wonderful father.”

“Thank you,” he said. He sounded actually moved. “We all make it up as we go along. I’m sure the biological dads are just as clueless.”

“I guess,” she smiled. “Though my mom always acted as if she knew she was doing.”

“Well, that’s what matters. It’s what experienced teachers always tell new teachers.
Act like you know what you’re talking about. We all do it. Then, one day, we magically realize that we do, actually, know what we’re talking about.”

In the darkness, she nodded, not for him but for herself. Maybe everything was like that, she thought. She remembered the first years along her own odd career trajectory, fudging statistics when asked, trying to act as if she understood the strange and unwieldy behemoth that was college admissions, reading its runes to glean some semblance of logic when there was little logic. Whim and art, she would tell herself, as if that made up for not knowing what she was doing. And then, one day, she realized that she did, in fact, know what she was doing. She just didn’t really know why.

Page 69 of Admission consists, essentially, of pillow talk. The protagonist, Portia Nathan, who is an admissions officer at Princeton University, has just unexpectedly fallen into bed with a stranger, albeit a stranger who attended college with her sixteen years earlier. Now, in the aftermath of this rather alarming event, they are actually getting to know each other a bit, and John (the stranger in question) is talking about the son he adopted in Uganda a decade earlier. It’s interesting that this excerpt – randomly chosen as it is – does manage to circle around to two of the major themes of the novel: the question of what actually connects us to our children, and the fact that Portia, as an admissions officer in charge of making life-altering decisions about thousands of bright, capable and deserving teenagers per year, has never felt deserving of such power over their lives.
Read an excerpt from Admission, and learn more about the book and author at Jean Hanff Korelitz's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Where It Lies"

K.J. Egan is the author of five novels and numerous short stories. Writing as Conor Daly, he published a three-book golf mystery series, which also has been translated into German. Two of these novels, Local Knowledge and Buried Lies, received the 1997 Washington Irving Book Award for Fiction.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to his new novel, Where It Lies, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Where It Lies is actually the first break in the action of the book. The narrator, Jenny Chase, digresses for approximately one and a half pages to place herself into context. The reader already knows, for example, that Jenny is a 40-ish single mother of a teenaged son, has an academic background, and now works as a golf pro at a suburban country club. On page 69, she gives a thumbnail explanation of how she arrived at this stage in her life.

Page 69 is not representative of the novel. Since Where It Lies is the start of a projected series, I needed a place for Jenny to explain herself to the reader. This explanation is deliberately short and deliberately vague because I didn’t want to break the narrative flow or tie myself into "character facts" that might not work in later installments.

Jenny tells the reader that she graduated from college with an English degree and third team all-American golf honors. She planned to play her way onto the women’s tour, but met a young lawyer named Roger Chase and got married. Sketched as the archetypal controlling spouse, Roger induced Jenny to get an advanced degree and to teach at a local college. Yet, as Jenny says: "Every couple of years, my dream kicked like a fetus in the womb. But Roger, bless his heart, cleverly stifled these stirrings."

At the start of the novel, the newly divorced Jenny is on the verge of fulfilling this dream. Unfortunately, her qualifying for the women’s U.S. Open coincides with her discovery of a dead body. Her subsequent investigation into a suicide she believes to have been a murder poses immediate choices. Does she help the dead man’s poor widow, or does she practice for the Open? And always in the back of her mind is this fear: How will Roger spin whatever choice she makes into recovering custody of their son?

Though not representative of the rest of the book, page 69 serves an important function. It not only introduces a complication into Jenny’s immediate situation but also foreshadows more serious confrontations in later installments.
Preview Where It Lies, and learn more about the book and author at K. J. Egan's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"In the Courts of the Sun"

Brian D'Amato received a BA from Yale and an MA from the City University of New York. He has shown his sculptures and installations at galleries and museums in the US and abroad including the Whitney Museum, the Wexner Center for Contemporary Art, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. In 1992 he co-organized a show at the Jack Tilton Gallery in New York that was the first gallery show exploring the then-new medium of 'virtual reality.' He has written for magazines including Harper's Bazaar, Index, Vogue, Flash Art, and most frequently Artforum, and has taught art and art history at CUNY, the Ohio State University, and Yale. His 1992 novel, Beauty, which Dean Koontz called "The best first novel I have read in a decade," was a bestseller in the US and abroad and was translated into several popular languages.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to his new novel, In the Courts of the Sun, and reported the following:
Readers who apply the Page 69 Test to In the Courts of the Sun will get a pretty clear idea that the book is preoccupied with games. And they'll definitely get a sense of the narrator, Jed De Landa (who is a contemporary Maya sun-adder, something like a calendrical shaman), and of the other main present-day character, the computer-game designer Marena Park, who's just invited Jed into her office and asked him how strong he is at playing Go, the ancient Asian strategy game:

“Uh, six dan. Amateur.”

“That’s godless,” she said. “I’m a five. Maybe we should play sometime.”

“Great,” I said. Five dan is actually pretty impressive, especially since most people in the entertainment industry would have trouble getting through a game of Cootie. Go is considered a martial art in Asia, and a dan is a belt. So a six-dan is like a sixth-degree black belt. I was still nothing next to a professional player, though. Anyway, a six-dan spots a five-dan one stone, which still gives you a really good game. She and I would be playing far into the night in the tatami room of her thrillingly minimalist sky-high doorman quadruplex loft to the romantic strains of vintage Jello Biafra, and as I apologized for clobbering her again by seventy and one-half points she’d push the board aside and grab me by the—

“Please, Setzen Sie sich,” she said.

I sat. The chair had looked solid, but it yielded under me and conformed to my body type, so my feet flailed for a second. Doofus. “Hey, I’m a big fan,” I said. “I play your game all the time.”

“Oh? Thanks. What shell are you on?”

“Uh, thirty-two.”

“That’s very excellent.”

“Thanks.” Even though it was her product, I was embarrassed to admit I’d spent so much geek time on the thing.

Less fortunately, though, readers may get the impression that the novel is all talk, since, as one can see already, Page 69 is mainly talk. Actually the book does have action -- even Cecil-B-DeMille-level vast-conflagrations-and-cast-of-hundreds-of-thousands action -- but I do plead guilty to some infodumpage near the beginning. Before I wrote the book, I thought of infodumping as a mistake other writers made. Now I believe that it's simply unavoidable in some cases, and that in these tough spots the writer's job is a dentist's, to make it as painless as possible. To that end, I do at least try, here, to make the information come out through the characters, or give one insight into the characters, or at least relate some damn how to the characters:

“The thing is,” she said, “even though it’s my product I really don’t know anything about the ancient Maya.” No kidding, I thought. “Or maybe you can tell that from the game,” she said, beating me to it.

“Well . . .”

“It’s okay, it’s just a fantasy. I know it’s not historically accurate.”

“Sure,” I said. I realized I hadn’t taken my hat off. Damn. I have this thing where it’s weird to have my head uncovered, and I still forget to peel off my headpiece indoors. Better take it off now, I thought. No. It’s too late. But she’s got to think I’m pretty weird with the hat thing, right? No, don’t do it. That’s my look. The Hat Look. Better just be comfortable. Right? Bueno. Senor Hat stays.

Okay, so far, so decent, except -- well, not to give too much away, but there's another, graver difficulty with my Page 69: it might give the browser the idea that the book takes place in the present day. And actually, half of In the Courts of the Sun is set in the ancient past, at the height of the Maya civilization in Central America. P. 69 does end with a sense that Marena and Jed will be soon be traveling to the Maya zone -- but there's only a tiny hint that he'll actually be going into the past:

“You grew up speaking Mayan, right?” Marena asked.

“Yes.” I took my hat off . “Actually, the language where I’m from is called Ch’olan.”

“Taro says you’re from Alta Verapaz.”


“Did you ever hear anything about any ruins down there, around, um, Kabon?”

And that's it. Unless, as one hopes and trusts, the reader turns to Page 70.

So, next time -- and there will be a next time shortly, because In the Courts of the Sun is the first part of a trilogy -- I'm going to make sure that something happens on Page 69, something physical, shocking, and, if possible, violent and sexy, something that will make the 69er say "wow, I really must take this home and give it my full attention." Maybe I could even have the world blow up on that page -- although, in that case, it will only be a 69-page book.
Read excerpts from In the Courts of the Sun, and learn more about the book and author at Brian D'Amato's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"The Cold Light of Mourning"

Elizabeth J. Duncan is the author of The Cold Light of Mourning, a traditional mystery. Here's what she has to say about Page 69:
You couldn't have picked a better page! In the run up to page 69, Meg Wynne Thompson, a posh bride about to marry a wealthy landowner's son, fails to return from her manicure on the morning of her wedding. The bridesmaids are in a flap, the groom and his party are in disbelief and nobody knows what to do. Guests have travelled from all parts of England to attend the nuptials in Llanelen, a small village in North Wales. Did she change her mind at the last minute? Or has something sinister happened?

On page 69, the rector rises to tell the wedding guests that as there is no bride, the ceremony cannot take place, and asks the wedding guests to leave the church.

The shocked stillness that had settled over the congregation was broken only by the heart-wrenching sound of sobbing coming from the front row. Meg Wynne's father, unused to performing small gestures of comfort but seeming to recognize that something was expected of him, put a stiff, reluctant arm around his weeping wife's shoulder.

From page 69, the mystery is on!
Preview The Cold Light of Mourning, and learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth J. Duncan's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Mother of the Believers"

Kamran Pasha is a writer and producer for NBC's new television series Kings, which is a modern day retelling of the Biblical tale of King David. Previously he served as a writer on NBC's remake of Bionic Woman, and on Showtime Network's Golden Globe nominated series Sleeper Cell, about a Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates a terrorist group.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to Mother of the Believers, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Mother of the Believers is an epic novel on the birth of Islam as told by Aisha, the young wife of Prophet Muhammad. The novel is meant to be an imagining of Islamic history from women’s point of view and on page 69, we are first introduced to one of the most important female characters – Hind, the evil queen of Mecca. It is the conflict between the Prophet and his loyal band of followers against Hind and her minions that serves as the spine of the story, and so page 69 represents the moment when the novel leaps into full action.

On page 69, Hind and her husband Abu Sufyan are hosting a council of noblemen to determine how to handle the rise of the Prophet’s new religious movement. Islam is primarily supported by the poor and weak in Arab society, and is disrupting the power of the elites who rule Mecca with an iron fist. Aisha, the heroine of the novel, is only a small child at the time and has managed to sneak inside the chamber and overhears the council’s secret plot to destroy the new faith.

As Aisha watches from her hiding place, Abu Sufyan attempts to quell the calls for violence against the Muslims. The wily politician is worried that bloodshed will only make the troublemakers more sympathetic and attract more people to their movement. The council members are initially swayed by Abu Sufyan’s words, until Hind intervenes and uses her cunning to incite the passions of the crowd. Her call for a violent suppression of the Muslim faith sets in motion a series of events that will forever change the course of history…


“Why do you fear the spilling of a little blood, my husband?” Hind said in a husky voice. “No nation can stand that will not pay the price of order.”

All eyes were on her as she moved toward her husband. Abu Sufyan saw the hungry yet terrified gaze of the crowd on his beautiful wife and his face reddened at her blatant defiance of his authority.

“A wise merchant always weighs the price with a cold heart,” he said, an edge entering his voice. “He does not allow himself to be swayed by the emotions of a woman.”

Hind turned to face her husband and I saw a dangerous look in her eyes. I saw her right hand move back as if to slap him, and my eyes fell on a golden armlet that wrapped around her olive-colored forearm. It looked Egyptian in design, two snakes curling around her wrist, their jaws meeting behind her hand, a glittering ruby held between their savage fangs. It was beautiful and terrifying, much like Hind herself…

Read an excerpt from Mother of the Believers, and learn more about the book and author at Kamran Pasha's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2009

"The Girl She Used to Be"

David Cristofano has earned degrees in Government & Politics and Computer Science from the University of Maryland at College Park and has worked for different branches of the Federal Government for over a decade. His short works have been published by Like Water Burning and McSweeneys.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to The Girl She Used to Be, his first novel, and reported the following:
The Girl She Used to Be tells the story of Melody Grace McCartney, a young woman who has lived a life lost in the Federal Witness Protection Program. While it comprises a handful of different components—the crime story, the love story, and the identity story—the third element serves as the hub for the other two spokes. Page 69 offers one of the moments where the identity and crime components converge. In fact, page 69 acts as the set-up for the first significant twist which unfolds in the subsequent pages.

Here, Jonathan Bovaro, the Mafioso once sent to kill Melody but has since made a change of plans, takes a moment to explain exactly how their lives have become entwined.
“You’re about to tell me some tragic news,” I say.

Jonathan sits up, puts his fork down, and takes a long, loud drink from his water glass. “I was there with my dad.” He nods a little. “The kids in the family were always kind of around. I mean, where could we go, really.” He takes a jerky, nervous breath. “I was supposed to stay upstairs and play with my cousins in a big billiards room on the third floor of Vincent’s place. You know, normally us little guys weren’t allowed to touch the pool tables for fear we’d rip the felt or something, so it was supposed to be this big deal for us to hang upstairs while my father and Jimmy did a little business.

“Well, I thought my dad was the greatest, you know? Like any kid, I guess. So I wanted to see what he did for a living. I figured he was in the restaurant business. I mean, we were always eating in the best places and we could always pick whatever table we wanted and order whatever food we wanted and we never had to pay and stuff . . .” He wipes his forehead of sweat. “Well ... I snuck down when no one was looking and tried to catch a glimpse of his high-business dealings.”

He pauses and I am about to leap across the table and beat the rest out of him. I try to finish his thought. “You saw him slicing up Jimmy Fratello?”

Jonathan throws me for a loop by grabbing his fork, piling up a huge mound of risotto, and taking a bite. “No ... actually, I saw my dad and Jimmy just talking. It was pretty boring really. I watched for a while but lost interest, so I walked down the hallway and went outside.” He pokes at his veal as though he might begin slicing, then tosses his utensils on the table. “I remember that day: it was cold and dark outside. I stood in the alley next to Vincent’s and just stared at the gray sky.” He looks at me and purses his lips.
It is quite literally the next sentence—the first on page 70—that changes the trajectory of the story, and of Melody’s life, for the first time.

While page 69 offers critical back-story, it does not necessarily reflect the tone and pace of the rest of the novel. Told from Melody’s first-person perspective, the story is propelled by her thoughts and emotions, which are more accurately displayed on pages 68 and 70. The Girl She Used to Be is a novel about a life without choices, and page 69 slaps you right in the middle of why Melody had to survive a life without any.
Read an excerpt from The Girl She Used to Be, and learn more about the book and author at David Cristofano's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"How to Sell"

Clancy Martin is Associate Professor of Philosophy at UMKC. He works on 19th and 20th century European philosophy after Kant, the intersections of philosophy and literature, and the ethics of advertising and selling. He has authored, coauthored and edited several books in philosophy,and has published over two dozen articles and reviews on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Romanticism, and the virtue of truthfulness. In 2007 his story "The Best Jeweler" won The Pushcart Prize.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to How to Sell, his first novel, and reported the following:
The Israeli diamond dealer’s son is pinned to the floor with the barrel of a gun in his eye socket. It’s one of the few violent scenes in the novel. A few moments before one of the gunmen has complained, quoting Meryl Streep from Silkwood, “I think you ought to take a man’s [Meryl: “person’s”] word for something.” In both cases, the gunman’s and Meryl’s, what is interesting is this is a classic example of one strategy of deception: when the liar in the act of lying complains that, morally speaking, there should be a presumption of truth in communication. This delightful piece of hypocrisy depends on an argument made, most vigorously in the philosophical literature on lying, by Immanuel Kant. Kant argues that lying is morally blameworthy because it contradicts itself, it is an affront to reason: possible only because of the convention that we rely on the truthfulness of speech in order to understand one another, it violates this convention. The lie is an Ouroboros, turning back upon itself to feed on its own flesh, and in the act destroying itself. The particular liar in the scene does indeed destroy himself in his criminal act, and the fact that he is relying upon the diamond dealer’s trust immediately before robbing him is also typical of the liar (a lie is often used to extract something from the dupe that could not otherwise be gainsaid). At the end of page 69 Idan is still there on the floor, and the gunman is “kneeling with one knee on top of him, like a hunter kneels on a deer he has killed…”. We don’t know what will happen next.
Learn more about the book and author at the Farrar, Straus and Giroux website and Clancy Martin's faculty webpage.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Hold Love Strong"

Matthew Aaron Goodman earned a B.A. degree in literature from Brandeis University and an MFA from Emerson College. He has been a student of writing at the 92nd Street Y, Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, and the Vermont Studio Center, and has taught and worked in inner-city communities for years. Working hand-in-hand with formerly incarcerated men and women, he created The Leadership Alliance, a community empowerment project that unites community leaders and volunteer partners. Currently, he leads a literacy program for exalt, a nonprofit organization that assists youth on the spectrum of criminal justice involvement.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to his new novel, Hold Love Strong, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Hold Love Strong occurs on a balmy summer night in a plastic kid pool on the roof of the Ever Park Housing Projects where Abraham (the narrator of the story), his cousin Donnel, his mother, and his grandmother have found refuge from their hot apartment. Abraham’s grandma has been out of work for months, and the crack epidemic is just beginning to take hold of Ever Park, and of Abraham and his family’s life. I hope the page demonstrates a development in Abraham’s perspective and in the relationships of the Singleton family members, both with themselves and with each other. But what I most wanted to affirm in this scene is the relief and fortification the Singleton family finds in each other despite the events and conditions of Ever Park. There are a lot of factors pushing and pulling on Abraham’s life. So I thought it was tremendously important to establish the strength of his roots.

We squatted and sat down in the water and our legs touched in the middle of the pool. The kid pool was the first pool I’d ever been in that wasn’t packed with people on a hot summer day, brimming with children splashing and peeing and seeing who could hold their breaths longer; with teenagers ogling and wrestling each other; with mothers holding infants. I was conditioned to be one of the many, to be of the masses; to be crammed in and to call such conditions relief; to know crowds as home. My mother, grandma, and Donnel whispered and cursed Ever, how strange it was that when the heat was broken the elevator ran smoothly. Donnel talked like an adult, like he was husband and they were his wives. He could do that. He had an ability to speak in the manner and on the terms of those he was with. I half listened and looked up at the sky, watched the lights of airplanes blink through the blackness, wondering who went where.
Read an excerpt from Hold Love Strong, and learn more about the book and author at Matthew Aaron Goodman's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2009

"The Brothers Boswell"

Philip Baruth is an award-winning commentator for Vermont Public Radio and a graduate of Brown University with an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine. His novel The X President (Bantam, 2003) received wide critical acclaim. He teaches at the University of Vermont.

Baruth applied the “Page 69 Test” to his new book, The Brothers Boswell, and reported the following:
I imagine for a lot of authors, selecting a random page produces strange, random results. But in this case, page 69 speaks directly to the heart of my novel, The Brothers Boswell. Smack in the middle of the page is a short dialogue in which the younger (soon to be insane) Boswell confronts his (soon to be famous) older brother, for daring to consider a Catholic actress as a potential wife, and even worse, for daring to consider conversion to Catholicism himself. This is Scotland, 1759, and Catholics are legally forbidden just about everything of value. At the height of the exchange, John accuses James of insanity:

“You are mad.”

“I am a writer, sir. And I am in love.”

“Twice mad.”

“And if that is madness, then I am not afraid of it. I welcome it.”

“Thrice, then.”

“I embrace it, I tell you.”

“Quadruple Bethlehem-Hospital mad, then. Stark-staring, spittle-flecked, pissing-your-own-shoebuckles Bedlam mad.”

When tempers have cooled, John regrets what he’s said; the Boswell family had a history of madness, and accusations of insanity were no joke in their household. But the greater irony is that in my novel it is John who will lose his sanity a few years hence, and eventually begin stalking his older brother and Samuel Johnson through the streets of London. And throughout that cat-and-mouse game, John will continue to try to piece together the place of art in affairs of the heart, the difference being a writer makes to one about to kill or be killed. So in my particular case, and in the case of my latest book, page 69 says just about all there is to say about just about everything else.
Read an excerpt of The Brothers Boswell, 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

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Running from the Devil"

Jamie Freveletti is a trial attorney, martial artist, and runner. She has crewed for an elite ultra-marathon runner at 50 mile, 100 mile, and twenty-four hour races across the country, and both practices and teaches Aikido, a Japanese martial art.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to Running from the Devil, her debut thriller, and reported the following:
I was surprised to see that not only does the Page 69 test work for my novel, Running from the Devil, but it’s a perfect page to see what may be in store for the characters. In Running, Emma Caldridge’s plane is hijacked and downed in the Colombian jungle. She’s thrown free of the wreckage, and watches as the other passengers are taken hostage. With no compass and no idea where she is, she’s forced to follow the guerrillas as they march the passengers deep into the jungle.

Emma has some unique talents, and at page 69 we see the first indication of what she can do. She comes upon a passenger suffering from heart problems, gasping for air and in dire need of her digitalis medication to regulate her heartbeat. Emma’s a chemist and scours the earth looking for medicinal plants. She tells the woman that she saw some foxglove, the plant from which digitalis is made, on the path. She races back to retrieve it in an attempt to save the woman.

Emma’s ability with plants is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because she can identify helpful plants from those that are toxic, but a curse because her knowledge has set in motion events that could end up destroying her and everyone around her.
Browse inside Running from the Devil, and learn more about the book and author at Jamie Freveletti's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 15, 2009

"A Trace of Smoke"

Rebecca Cantrell majored in German, Creative Writing, and History at the Freie Universitaet of Berlin and Carnegie Mellon University.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to A Trace of Smoke, her first book, and reported the following:
I was shocked when I realized just how representative page 69 is of the rest of A Trace of Smoke. The novel is set in Berlin in 1931, the year that Germany was lost to the Nazis. Nazi Storm Troopers and Communists fight in the streets. Wealthy Jews and intellectuals think of fleeing. Desperate sexual and social outcasts cram Berlin’s famous nightclubs to wring out one last dance.

And Hannah Vogel lives alone and works as a crime reporter. On a routine assignment, she finds a picture of her brother’s dead body. But since she loaned their identity papers to escaping Jewish friends, she cannot identify him and demand an investigation.

So she tracks the killer herself. Her investigation leads her to flamboyant drag queens, Hitler’s right hand man, and a young boy who claims to be her son. Can she find the killer and save the boy?

On page 69 she is talking to one of her brother’s former lovers, a teenage Nazi, about an openly gay Nazi leader named Ernst Röhm (based on a real historical figure).

Here is page 69 of A Trace of Smoke:

Behind Wilhelm the musicians took a break, putting down their shiny instruments and waddling up to the bar like penguins.

“My father told me and he should know because he’s Röhm’s top lieutenant in Berlin.”

“Does it bother him that Röhm’s queer?”

Wilhelm laughed incredulously. “He worships Röhm. It’s fine for Röhm to do whatever he wants. It’s just not fine for me. Plus I don’t act manly enough.”

“What does that mean?”

“Ernst used to coach me on ways to act manly around my father.”

I winced. Ernst certainly had experience in that.

“He called it the Code of Manliness. You should know all about it. He said you made it up.”

“I did, to keep him safe from our father.”

“The tyrant.”

“Is that what Ernst called him?”

“That was the nicest thing Ernst called him.” Wilhelm laughed. “I’d have to apologize to say what he said in front of a lady.”

“That sounds like Ernst,” I said, smiling.

A tall, overweight man dressed in a badly tailored flapper dress with black fringe wobbled over to our table. He looked like a circus tent about to unravel. “Hi, darling,” he said, to Wilhelm. I remembered him from my previous visit to El Dorado. Lola.

Wilhelm pulled out a chair and watched the man with calculating eyes.

“Nice falsies,” the man said to me, through his garish coral lipstick. “You’re a convincing woman.”

“And you are a convincing man,” I said, “which I’m guessing was not your intention.”

He blushed and gave me a genuine smile. I smelled the floral odor of Vasenol body powder. “I’m sorry, esteemed lady,” he said. “My vision isn’t so good and I thought you were, well, you know.”

I laughed. “Hannah.” I stuck out my hand.

He took my hand in his moist hairy one. “I’m Lovely Lola.”

I think the readers skimming that page would be inclined to read on to find out what Hannah is doing there and what happens to Wilhelm, the teenage boy.
Read an excerpt from A Trace of Smoke, and learn more about the book and author at Rebecca Cantrell's website and blog. Watch the video trailer for A Trace of Smoke.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"War of Words"

Simon Read is the author of On the House: The Bizarre Killing of Michael Malloy, In the Dark: The True Story of the Blackout Ripper, and The Killing Skies: RAF Bomber Command at War.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to his new book, War of Words: A True Tale of Newsprint and Murder, and reported the following:
When a gun-toting newspaper publisher collided with a hellfire preacher whose lust for the ladies equaled his craving to be mayor, sparks and bullets flew—with the citizens of San Francisco caught in the crossfire. Such is the plot of War of Words: A True Tale of Newsprint and Murder, the story behind the founding of the San Francisco Chronicle in 1865 by Charles de Young and the wild events that led to his fatal shooting in 1880.

Charles de Young used his paper to indulge his lust for power, promoting politicians he favored and lambasting those he opposed. De Young eventually focused the Chronicle’s firepower on the Rev. Isaac Kalloch, a golden-tongued preacher who had arrived in San Francisco to escape the stain of an adultery trial in Boston. Kalloch’s reputation for womanizing was legendary, with sordid rumors following him from one coast to the other.

When Kalloch decided in 1879 to run for mayor, it was more than de Young could stand. In his paper, he ran a series of scolding articles denouncing Kalloch’s past and labeled the man a “brute” and “demagogue.” Kalloch responded with a sermon at his Metropolitan Temple in front of a large congregation. “If the devil in hell has an organ on earth,” Kalloch proclaimed, “it is the San Francisco Chronicle.” Kalloch concluded his sermon in a spectacularly vile manner. “The de Youngs are the bastard progeny of a whore,” he said. “Conceived in infamy and nursed in the lap of prostitution.”

In the wake of Kalloch’s comments, de Young took up arms and turned the streets of San Francisco into a shooting gallery in his quest for vengeance. Gunfights and beatings ensued with deadly results...

Page 69 of War of Words depicts a scene from Kalloch’s 1856 adultery trial in Boston. A witness, who has testified she saw Kalloch in tryst with a woman other than his wife, has just been exposed on the stand for sleeping with her husband before they were married—a big no-no back in those days:

From the public gallery, there came a collective gasp. Mrs. Griffin, her pre-marital sin now part of the public record, lowered her head and scurried from the courtroom as the defense called character witness Thomas Frye, a physician and ten-year resident of Rockland, Maine. “I’ve known Mr. Kalloch for twenty-one years. I boarded at his father’s house,” Frye testified. “Mr. Kalloch’s general character for chastity and purity of character is good. It was good until this charge was made against him.”

Page 69 is not typical of the whole book, which is a rowdy tale of gunfights, irresponsible journalism and the lawlessness of 1800s San Francisco. It is, however, part of a chapter that sets the tone for Kalloch’s perverse character. The book, like Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, weaves the stories of two very different men into a violent climax.
Learn more about the author and his work at Simon Read's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Water, Stone, Heart"

Will North is the pen name of the award-winning author and ghostwriter of more than a dozen non-fiction books, William Nothdurft. Will turned to fiction for the first time two years ago with his highly successful debut novel, The Long Walk Home, which was selected by both the Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs, chosen as a Readers’ Digest “Select Edition,” and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives with his partner, Susan, and their two dogs on an island in Washington’s Puget Sound.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to his latest novel, Water, Stone, Heart, and reported the following:
I like to call Water, Stone, Heart a prickly love story for grownups. In a sense, it asks, “What happens when two damaged adults meet in extraordinary circumstances and find their usual defenses utterly ineffective?” Nicola Rhys-Jones, painter, is a woman in hiding from a history of abuse. Andrew Stratton, professor, is a man hiding from the pain of divorce. They meet in Boscastle, a tiny village on Cornwall’s stormy Atlantic coast. From the start, Nicola and Andrew are both drawn to each other and at daggers drawn, their witty flirtation serving as both sword and shield. For all the humor, however, there is a very serious issue at the core of the story, the question of whether a woman who has been sexually abused as a child can ever find the trust to enter a normal intimate relationship in adulthood. It takes Lee, a nine year-old girl wise beyond her years, a catastrophic flood, and a touch of Cornish witchcraft to break down both Nicola’s and Andrew’s walls and reveal how much they mean to each other.

On page 69, Nicola is walking her Siberian husky, Randi, in the narrow, wooded valley of the Valency River, which empties into Boscastle’s little harbor. She’s distracted by her confused feelings about the visiting American, Andrew:

They’d passed the wide part of the stream behind the weir that once had shunted water to the mill down by the bridge, when Randi stopped and looked up into one of the trees. He looked at Nicola, looked up at the tree, and looked at Nicola again. Lost in a reverie of her own having vaguely to do with the American, she kept walking. But Randi didn’t follow and eventually he barked once. This was unusual. She walked back to the tree by the river and the dog looked up again.

“What?!” Nicola said, exasperated.

The dog barked again, but kept looking up.

That was when she heard the giggling. She recognized it immediately.

“Lilly Trellisick! What are you up to?!”

“I’m up to about half the whole tree,” Lee said, giggling louder now.

“Well you’re driving Randi around the twist, so come on down and walk with us.”

There was a scuffle of boots on bark, a shaking of leafy branches, and then a pair of skinny, tan legs emerged from the canopy. Nicola caught Lee as she dropped the last few feet to the ground and gave her a hug.

“Listen here, you ragamuffin; you’ll break your neck one of these days.”



“Will not.”

“Will too!”

“Will not, ‘cause that’s my special tree and we have an agreement.”

“An agreement?”

‘Yup. If I climb it carefully, it won’t let me fall.”

Nicola looked at the girl and realized there was no rebuttal to such an argument. So she changed the subject.

“So tell me about this Andrew Stratton.”

“I told you.”


“He’s a nice man. We’re chums. That’s all. Why? Wait! You like him, don’t you!”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“You do, you do! Nicki and Drew, Nicki and Drew!”

“Stop that! What’s he doing here? That’s what I want to know.”


Because adults are exceptionally adept at avoiding the truth, especially in relationships, I like to have a “truth-teller” in each of my stories. Sometimes it’s an elderly character, who has seen it all and has nothing to lose by saying what he or she sees plainly. Sometimes it’s a child, whose clarity of observation and candor in speech are as yet uncorrupted by societal rules.

Water, Stone, Heart is about recognizing and finding the courage to seize second chances.
Read an excerpt from Water, Stone, Heart, and learn more about the book and author at Will North's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 10, 2009


John Pipkin holds a Ph.D. in British Romantic Poetry and once served as the Executive Director of the Writers' League of Texas, a non-profit organization promoting the literary arts. He has published articles in Studies in English Literature, Good Life Magazine, Austin Monthly and the Common Review.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to Woodsburner, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Well, I guess I have to say that page 69 of Woodsburner both is and is not representative of the entire work. Woodsburner is a historical novel based on a forest fire accidentally started by Henry David Thoreau in 1844, one year before he went off to live alone at Walden Pond. The story of Thoreau’s attempts to extinguish the fire is based on true events, but Thoreau’s story is also interwoven with the stories of three fictional characters: Oddmund Hus, a Norwegian immigrant and farm hand who is pining for the love of his employer’s wife; Eliot Calvert, a bookstore owner and aspiring playwright struggling to support his art with his business; and Caleb Dowdy, an opium-addicted preacher tormented by a terrible secret from his past.

Page 69 of Woodsburner describes Oddmund’s fateful journey to America as a boy on board the Sovereign of the Seas. In style, tone, and pacing, page 69 is representative of the entire novel, which paints a portrait of life in America in the early 19th-century. But in terms of the plot, this page really only represents about 25% of the book, since Oddmund’s story is only one of the four that are interwoven in Woodsburner.
Read an excerpt from Woodsburner, and learn more about the book and author at John Pipkin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 8, 2009

"The Pilo Family Circus"

Will Elliott's debut novel The Pilo Family Circus was published after winning the ABC fiction award, beating 900 entries from across Australia.

Once published, it co-won the Aurealis award for best horror, won the Golden Aurealis for best novel, the Australian Shadows Award, the Ditmar, the Sydney Morning Herald "Best Young Novelist Award" for 2007, and was short-listed for the 2007 International Horror Guild Award, up against, among others, Stephen King.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to The Pilo Family Circus and reported the following:
'And this sad critter is the apprentice,' said Gonko. 'Now he's basically meat with eyeballs, and not for long, mark my words. And guess what sport? You got his job, in case you're wondering where that piece of the jigsaw puzzle goes.'

Jamie stared down and tried not to envisage his own face beatan as badly out of shape as the one oozing at his feet.

On page 69, Jamie has just been dragged into the circus and told he's the newest clown recruit. No one directly threatens him, but as you can see, lessons abound about the nature of his new home and career. Such as, Gonko is the clown boss, and you may laugh at him, but it's not wise to dispute the fact.

I'm not sure how representative this snapshot can be said to be of the story as a whole. It probably reveals what kind of ride the character (and ideally the reader) is in for: expect the unexpected, as long as someone gets hurt. Come get your chuckles...

Of course on page 69 we don't meet Jamie's alter-ego JJ the clown, who will be brought to life (in Jamie's body) via use of the magic clown facepaint. (The same process made clowns out of all the others we meet on this page.) Aside from his friendship with Winston, that's the most important thing that happens to Jamie: the Jekyll-Hyde effect as a clown version of himself steps into his shoes.

But page 69 does include the very important moral: slapstick has consquences. As do sack beatings. Alas, all too true.
Read excerpts from The Pilo Family Circus, and learn more about the author and his work at Will Elliott's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Water Ghosts"

Born in Sacramento, California, the child of parents who met during the Vietnam War when her father was stationed in Taiwan, Shawna Yang Ryan graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and received an M.A. from the University of California, Davis. In 2002, she was a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan. Her debut novel Water Ghosts (originally published in 2007 as Locke 1928) was a finalist for the 2008 Northern California Book Award.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to Water Ghosts and reported the following:
This is how page 69 ends:

She creeps a little closer, as if sizing up the house, then leans against a tree. The light in the kitchen still shines. Should she wake Sofia? She and Sofia have been sneaking out for a month now, nightgowned and barefoot into the summer nights. Chloe can think of no better relief for the monotony than this scrap of brightness, running around with the wine-haired girl who was the first girl outside the brothel to—

This is what happens in the middle of page 69: Chloe is creeping around Sofia’s house, which is attached to the town church, imaging what it looks like inside, what it would be like to sneak inside and find Sofia.

Sofia, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the preacher, and Chloe, a seventeen-year-old prostitute, are in love. However, it is 1928, and neither of them have the language or consciousness to realize this. All they know is how they feel. And they spend the course of Water Ghosts pulled and pushed by this feeling, which fits into no paradigm that they know.

But the little town they live in, Locke, California, is a kind of place that finds itself outside of many paradigms. It is a town built by and for the Chinese. It is a town of bachelors. It is a town where women out number men 20:1. And it is a town where the only relief for these men separated from their wives in China are the white prostitutes who work here, despite the anti-miscegenation laws on the books all across America.

Water Ghosts is multiple love stories: Poppy, the anomalous Chinese brothel madam, is in love with Richard. Ming Wai, Richard’s abandoned wife who shows up one day on a mysterious and tattered boat—supposedly smuggled in from China—is in love with her husband. Richard, a Chinese man who has tried to forget his name, Fong Man Gum, and the place from which he came, is in love with America. He may also be in love with Chloe, the girl who came to Locke only because she was going into labor on the riverboat and this strange town of Chinese men was the most convenient stop. And Chloe, of course, is in love with Sofia.

This is how page 69 begins:

--without pasts or stories. They could be anyone.
Learn more about the book and author at Shawna Yang Ryan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Everything Hurts"

Bill Scheft, a 15-time Emmy-nominated writer for David Letterman, is the author of the novels The Ringer and Time Won't Let Me, which was a finalist for the 2006 Thurber Prize for American Humor. He has also written for the The New Yorker, the New York Times, Esquire and Sports Illustrated.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to his new novel, Everything Hurts, and reported the following:
Everything Hurts is, simply, a book about a guy trying to get rid of a psychosomatic limp.

Phil Camp tries to pay off the rest of his alimony by writing a parody of a self-help book, Where Can I Stow May Baggage? Unfortunately, or fortunately, the world takes the books seriously and "Marty Fleck" (the name under which Phil wrote the book) becomes an international self-help guru. Embarrassed by the acclaim, Phil hides behind Marty, only emerging twice a week with a syndicated self-help newspaper column, "Baggage Handling." All is well, until Phil develops a mysterious limp, which leaves him in constant pain, even though there is nothing physically wrong with him. Desperate, he seeks the aid of Dr. Samuel Abrun, a legitimate self-help guru who wrote a legitimate book (The Power of "Ow!") that has cured thousands with mind-induced chronic pain.

Phil embraces the unorthodox methods of Dr. Abrun passionately, but manages to save some passion from his daughter, Janet, herself a doctor with her own theories. We meet Janet at one of her father’s patient discussion groups, as it turns out, on PAGE 69:

What was wrong with her? Nothing that he could see. She was slacks, t-shirt and LL Bean car-coat crisp. Two pieces of jewelry and makeup if she felt like it. Every twenty minutes or so (not that he was keeping track), she would readjust whatever was clipping or securing whatever precinct of a vast county of dark hair. Dark. If there isn't a shade at the colorist called "Fuck It -- More Black," there should be, and this would be it. The right hand made all readjustments. The left was buried just over the ear, holding up what had to be, had to be, a smart head, that spent the entire hour staring at Samuel Abrun in various arrays of skepticism.

What was wrong with her?
Read an excerpt from Everything Hurts, and learn more about the book and author at Bill Scheft's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Yes, My Darling Daughter"

Margaret Leroy was born in England and studied music at Oxford. She has worked as a music therapist, teacher, and psychiatric social worker. Her novels include Trust, Alysson’s Shoes, Postcards from Berlin, and The River House.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel, Yes, My Darling Daughter, and reported the following:
Grace's four year old daughter Sylvie is frightened of water, has terrible tantrums that her nursery school can't cope with, and refuses to call her mother "Mum". On p. 69, Grace has brought her daughter to see a child psychiatrist, Dr. Strickland, in an attempt to find out what's wrong with her. Grace is desperate, as her life is slowly collapsing around her. The psychiatrist has his own ideas about what's wrong with Sylvie.

I wonder what he is going to say about me. I feel a dull, heavy ache in my chest.

He leans toward me, his fingertips pressed together in mock prayer.

"There was something that concerned me when I saw the two of you play." His voice is intimate, confiding. "I noticed that she doesn't call you Mum or Mummy. And I wondered why you'd objected to that?"

"It was Sylvie's decision," I tell him.

A picture slides into my mind. Sylvie is two, and we're in the garden by the mulberry tree. I kneel in front of her, cradling her face in my hands. Sweetheart, I want you to call me Mum. That's what children do, that's what Lennie calls her mother... She turns away from me, her silk hair shading her face. No, Grace.

"She's never called me Mum," I say.

Doubt flickers over his face. I know he doesn't believe this.

"You see, what concerns me here is your rather weak boundary setting. That there isn't a clear enough boundary between yourself and your child. That's so important for successful parenting. Sylvie needs to know you're the adult, that you're the one in charge. It's not so healthy for children to feel their parent is their best friend."

"I don't think she sees me like that," I say.

But I know he isn't listening.

Yes, My Darling Daughter is in a way a ghost story, about a child who seems to be haunted by a past life. What I especially loved in writing the story was the sense of the unseen breaking in on the present, and the collision between the everyday and the uncanny. So Grace lives in a familiar world of Hallowe'en parties, playdates, Shaun the Sheep rucksacks - yet has to deal with something that can't be explained. Why does Sylvie sob in the night and say she wants to go home? Why is she so obsessed with a picture of an Irish seaside town called Coldharbour? The people around Grace - other mothers, nursery school teachers - come up with all sorts of sensible explanations for her daughter's disturbed behaviour - as in this scene, where Dr. Strickland blames Grace's parenting style. Yet his theories, like everyone else's, are absolutely no use in making sense of Sylvie - a child who weeps for a life she has lost, and exactly remembers a place where she has never been.
Learn more about the book and author at Margaret Leroy's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"The Turtle Catcher"

Nicole Helget grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, a childhood and place she drew on in the writing of her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways. She received her BA and an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Helget applied the “Page 69 Test” to The Turtle Catcher, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Turtle Catcher introduces the burgeoning love of Herman Richter and Betty Mathiowetz, the doctor's daughter. Herman thinks to impress Betty by presenting her with a dead bird. He's twelve. Together, they study this animal and decide that they love each other.

I began my writing career by writing about my dead dogs. I don't know that there's any topic so universal (I see this story in its various forms appear in my students' papers every year) than our first experiences with death. For those of us who are lucky, these stories are about animals rather than people. But, even as my writing life evolves, I find I'm still obsessed with the lives and deaths of animals, probably because I grew up on a real farm. I've taken some heat for my "brutal" look at animal life, but I'm not deterred by those criticisms. People are so unaware (my pet's sick or dying, so I think I'll whisk it off to the vet to be humanely put to sleep) and so far removed from their food sources (what lovely packaging on this frozen chicken and how nice that the innards have been cleaned or removed!) that they have the luxury of judging without knowing what animal suffering, animal death, decomposition, or butchering really looks like. I do. When I eat beef, I’m aware that the protein comes from an animal. I’ve gone back and forth about vegetarianism. I am truly bothered by the ways in which animals are now bred, housed, and butchered since small farms such as the one I grew up on have been eliminated by big argribusinesses who couldn’t give two shits about the quality of animals’ lives and haven’t yet made the connection between the quality of the animals’ lives and the quality of the meat.

So, while I figure this out in my personal life, when I do eat meat, I try to buy and eat consciously, with an educated purse and a grateful mind and appetite. In work like The Turtle Catcher, if the only thing sections about animals do for readers is make them aware, then I’m happy with that, even if it turns the reader’s stomach. I'm really not interested in romaniticizing any part of the human condition or animal condition with pretty packaging.
Read an excerpt from The Turtle Catcher, and learn more about the book and author at Nicole Helget's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Fifty Grand"

Adrian McKinty is the critically acclaimed author of Dead I Well May Be, the award-winning The Dead Yard, The Bloomsday Dead, and Hidden River. McKinty was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and educated at Oxford University. After ten years in Colorado, he currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to his latest novel, Fifty Grand, and reported the following:
The page 69 test was difficult for me and I'll tell you why. I hate looking at the finished copy of a book I've just written. I am physically unable to do it. When I go to a book reading I always read from the galley rather than the actual book because on the rare occasion when I have looked at a copy of the actual book I found a word I wanted to change or a comma that was unncessary or a line of dialogue that could have been cut for pace etc. When I read from the galley I can fool myself into thinking that I probably made those changes before the final proof was put together. Most normal people don't worry about that little stuff but it drives me into a paroxysm of humiliation and despair. To think that the whole world will be looking at that comma in the wrong place...yikes! Yes, I know this is a problem. Anyway just for you I did peek at page 69 of the real book and it appeared to be a chapter ending where "Maria" has just arrived in the upmarket ski town of Fairview, CO during a raid by the INS.

"Maria" has come from Mexico to work as an illegal in Fairview (which is a cross between Aspen, Vail and Telluride) but she's really there to investigate a hit and run which killed a family member of hers a few months earlier. A hit and run that was hushed up because of course the dead man was also a Mexican illegal whose life was worth less than nothing. Of course the dead man had secrets and she has secrets herself: she's not just a maid (she's really a cop) she isn't from Mexico and she's not called Maria.

The story came from my own experiences as an illegal immigrant in New York City, where I worked for three years in the underground economy and then from the decade that I lived in Colorado.
Learn more about Fifty Grand at the publisher's website, and visit Adrian McKinty's blog.

McKinty appears on Brian McGilloway's top 10 list of modern Irish crime novels.

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

--Marshal Zeringue