Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Top Producer"

Norb Vonnegut is a professional wealth adviser turned novelist.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Top Producer, his debut novel, and reported the following:
"Wall Street generally yawns on Fridays during the summer. Clients disappear. The most powerful money managers board helicopters in the morning and retreat to the Hamptons, where the square footage of their palatial estates grows faster than the portfolios they manage."
--from page 69 of Top Producer.

Is page 69 indicative? I think so, especially in the tone of my narrator, Grove O’Rourke. These days it’s difficult to identify with anyone from Wall Street, especially a top-producing stockbroker. But I hope you’ll care about Grove, a decent if somewhat irreverent guy who could be any one of us. He works hard and keeps his head down. He’s trying to hold it together as he chases the dream. Only Grove has no clue, he has no idea what’s lurking round the bend.

Top Producer begins inside a raucous party of 500 people, where Grove watches the spectacular death of Charlie Kelemen—best friend and money manager with a Midas touch and the spending habits to match. After the funeral, Charlie’s widow confides to Grove she can’t find her husband’s money and has only $600 left in a checking account. Grove offers to help, but the more he looks for her fortune the more trouble he finds. With the police. With his colleagues. With some really bad guys.
Read an excerpt from Top Producer, and learn more about the book and author at Norb Vonnegut's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 28, 2009

"The Art of Disappearing"

Ivy Pochoda graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Classical Greek and English. She was a champion squash player and a six-time member of the United States Women's National Squash Team. She was the writer in residence at the James Merrill House in Stonington, Connecticut from February to August 2009.

Pochoda applied the Page 69 Test to The Art of Disappearing, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 happens to be one of my favorite parts of The Art of Disappearing. On this page, Mel Snow, the novel’s protagonist, runs into Greta, a teenager who is obsessed with Mel’s husband, Toby, in a diner in Las Vegas. Toby is a traveling magician with powers far beyond those of his peers. He and Mel marry the day they meet and move to Las Vegas.

The strange thing about this page is that it contains none of the primary themes of The Art of Disappearing—magic, love, or loneliness. Instead it is a humorous look at Las Vegas’ buffets and an all night diner that offers a “steak dinner that got cheaper as the hours got later.” I love this page because it lifts the reader out of the world of magic and the strange relationship between Mel and Toby. While events on this page set in motion a disastrous moment in the life of the magician, the moment captured here is meant solely to convey both the gaudiness and the grit of Las Vegas.

It also has one of my favorite lines of dialogue in the whole book. When Mel orders a steak from Greta, Greta replies, “So you know, we don’t do rare, medium rare, anything like that…. We just do steak.”

Here is Page 69 in its entirety.

Despite the temperature, I was hungry. In fact, I was craving a steak—a flat, greasy diner steak. There was a joint just off the Strip I hoped would offer low-key relief from the elaborate Vegas buffets. I was tired of big spreads where cold cuts cuddled up to sashimi, dim sum next to seared quail. But worst of all, buffets sapped my hunger before I even sat down. Overwhelmed by choice and fearful of making a poor selection, I became a grazer, sampling drumsticks and spring rolls to see whether either was worth adding to my tray. By the time I reached my seat with a plate of food, I was unpleasantly full.

The Red Rock diner offered a steak dinner that got cheaper as the hours got later. At 11 a.m. the price of a well-flattened 16-oz sirloin with “any sort potato” had risen to four dollars from its low of three dollars, 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. At noon the trampled steak had hit $5.50. During the dinner rush, it would peak at $6.75, before plummeting at ten p.m. to $4.50, and then back to its two a.m. low. Before I sat down, I spun one of the vinyl-covered stools at the lunch counter. It creaked and wobbled until I stopped it with the weight of my body. The Red Rock’s chrome décor was tarnished by a layer of grease from the grill. Years of fry fat, cheese oil, and burger juices settled over the counter, napkin holders, seats, and silverware, giving the restaurant a speckled sheen.

“Steak dinner,” I said to the waitress when she appeared in front of my stool. I was busy finding hidden patterns in the Formica counter and didn’t look up.

“So you know, we don’t do rare, medium rare, anything like that,” the waitress said to my bowed head. “We just do steak.”

“That’s fine.”

“And the potato? You want fries?”

“Anything else? Can I have baked?”
Read excerpts from The Art of Disappearing, and learn more about the book and author at Ivy Pochoda's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Evil for Evil"

James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II series, historical mysteries set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. The series began with Billy Boyle, which takes place in England and Norway in 1942. The second, The First Wave, carries on a few months later during the Allied invasion of French Northwest Africa. The third, Blood Alone, continues the story through the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Benn applied the Page 69 Test to Evil for Evil, the latest novel in the series, and reported the following:
Page 69 finds Billy Boyle meeting District Inspector Hugh Carrick for the first time, and sparks fly in their exchange, which encapsulates the chasm which separates Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland.

It’s November 1943, and Billy has been sent to Ulster to investigate the theft of fifty automatic weapons from a US Army depot. Suspicion falls on the Irish Republican Army, possibly in league with German agents, with the aim of disrupting the buildup of American troops training in Northern Ireland for the invasion of Europe. But Billy’s family has a history of supporting the IRA, and the family history handed down from his grandfather—who left Ireland as a child during the Famine years—causes Billy to have little sympathy for British rule in the North.

He and Inspector Carrick, an Irish Protestant, are ordered to cooperate in the investigation. Their first encounter does not go well, as Carrick has just returned from the funeral of a constable shot from ambush by the IRA. Billy tries to give his condolences, which are not appreciated.

“I am sorry, District Inspector. I’m a policeman myself, or was. In Boston, before the war. The death of a brother officer is a serious matter.”

“Serious? To a Catholic from Boston? I understand the IRA murder squads enjoy a great deal of support from the Irish settled in Boston.”

“How do you know I’m Catholic? Maybe I’m an atheist.”

“Do not joke with me, Lieutenant Boyle. Your name tells me what I need to know, and your city tells me the rest. It’s in the blood with you from across the border, whether you’ve gone to America or come north with a pistol to shoot a good man in the back.” His words spilled out with the Irish accent I was used to, but with a harder, clipped edge. The only part of him that moved was his lips.

“Perhaps we should talk another time, District Inspector. I’m sure passions are running high after the funeral.”

“Passions, Lieutenant Boyle? We have no time for passions. We have murderers to apprehend. We have a war to fight. Perhaps you allow yourself to wallow in passions, but personally I find them distracting.”

“Passion is what usually leads to murder, DI Carrick.”

Billy finds that for many, including himself, much is “in the blood.” Page 69 is instructive in that it sets the stage for everything Billy has to overcome, in his own heart and mind as much as in others, to solve a murder that threatens his own loyalties and beliefs.
Learn more about the book and author at James R. Benn's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 25, 2009

"The Brutal Telling"

Louise Penny is an award-winning journalist who worked for many years for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Her bestselling first mystery, Still Life, was the winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards; her second, A Fatal Grace, won the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel; her fourth, A Rule Against Murder, was a New York Times bestseller.

Penny applied the Page 69 Test to The Brutal Telling, the fifth novel in the Three Pines mystery series, and reported the following:
Amazingly enough, page 69 is quite a bit like the rest of The Brutal Telling. Indeed, I’d suggest, for the time challenged, you simply read it. Forget the rest. Just filler, really.

On page 69 you get the cops discussing one of the mysteries of the murder, how come no one saw a light on at the bistro? Next morning we see Chief Inspector Gamache walking quietly around the village green, and we get some of the atmosphere of the tiny Quebec village of Three Pines. It’s Labour Day weekend and kids and families are preparing to return to the city. Gamache muses on the first day of school. On the pristine work books and sharpened pencils, when anything is possible and no mistakes had yet been made.

And he wonders about their young investigation. Had they marred their books yet? Made any mistakes?

Finally, at the bottom of page 69 – and as you know the bottom is always the best part of 69 - you get one of Gabri’s famous breakfasts at the B&B. Maple-cured back bacon, eggs, frothy café au lait and croissants.

Honestly, what more could you want in a page?
Read an excerpt of The Brutal Telling, and l
earn more about the book and author at Louise Penny's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Mathilda Savitch"

Victor Lodato is a playwright and poet. He is the recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and has won numerous awards for his plays, including one from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Mathilda Savitch, his debut novel, and reported the following:
The novel is written in the voice of a fiercely precocious child, the thirteen-year-old Mathilda Savitch. A year before the book begins, Mathilda's beloved older sister, Helene, is killed--pushed in front of a train by a man still on the loose. Mathilda has been anticipating, with a kind of manic intensity, the one-year anniversary of her sister's death. And, on page 69, we find ourselves, precisely, on the night before the "big day," as Mathilda calls it. Up until this point, Mathilda has been hell on wheels: breaking dishes, lying, smoking, getting into fights at school--doing everything in her power to wake up her parents, who, by her estimation, have turned into zombies. Mathilda's badness seems to have no bounds, but, on page 69, she's exhausted, and some vulnerability is beginning to seep through the tough exterior.

In the car with her parents, heading home after a night at the theater, she's not feeling well. Lying across the back seat, with her mother's sweater wrapped around her head, she tells us:

Ma's sweater had perfume on it, the kind I love that smells like powder, but tonight it just made me sicker. I thought I heard Ma and Da whispering at one point but when I poked my head out of the sweater I realized it was just the radio. Da had put it on real low. It was the voices of strangers.

I have to get out of here, I thought. I started crying but I swallowed it.

"What are you eating?" Ma said.

That's when I stopped breathing. I made myself into a dead person.

But then I had to breathe again, I couldn't help myself.

For most of the book, Mathilda is at odds with her mother, whom she loves desperately, but at whom she's furious for having abandoned her, physically and emotionally, after Helene's death. Mathilda's feelings of isolation, of being trapped on the "island of grief," to borrow the narrator's phrase, are clearly defined in this excerpt. But the tone of this page is a little more melancholy than usual. Mathilda is often involved in some prank or scheme that keeps her in a more lively, even comedic, mode. And, later in the book, she'll be back to her old tricks--especially after she breaks into Helene's still active e-mail account, and begins to uncover information about her sister's secret life. But here, on page 69, she's too weak to play games, and the undeniable gravity of her family's position overtakes her:

When we were pulling into the driveway I saw Da's eyes in the mirror. I guess he saw me as well. We looked at each other for a second, and with the mirror between us it was almost like the truth was coming out.

It was so big I bowed my head. I threw up in the car. Everything started to spin, and then time went funny again. A few years passed or maybe they went backwards because the next thing I knew, Da was carrying me into the house and putting me to bed. Which is something he used to do a million years ago when I was a baby. When I was the angel of the world. When we were the luckiest people ever to live on the face of the Earth.
Watch the video trailer for Mathilda Savitch and learn more about the book at the Farrar, Straus and Giroux website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Michelle Huneven is the author of the novels Round Rock and Jamesland. She has received a General Electric Foundation Award for Younger Writers and a Whiting Writers’ Award for fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel Blame, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Blame, finds the novel’s protagonist, Patsy MacLemoore, adjusting to life at a prison fire camp in the hills of Malibu.

A year before, the 29-year-old hard-drinking college history professor had woken up from a blackout in jail to discover that, while she had been driving on a suspended license (again), she had hit and killed two people in her driveway. Thanks to a plea bargain, she was sentenced to four years in state prison. By page 69, she has already endured stints in jail and “receiving” (a 60 day period in which she was evaluated for assignment to the appropriate state prison), and has spent most of a year in Bertrin, a women’s minimum-to-medium security unit in the San Joaquin Valley.

Now she’s at fire camp, an honor of sorts, and certainly better than prison—you can be outside, there are doors on the toilet stalls and fewer restrictions in general. But it’s still not for the timid or the physically unfit: After her first day’s physical training, which consisted of a six-mile hike, Patsy thighs are sore to the touch, her face “tight and pink, as if scalded.” But she’s in luck because it’s Sunday, visiting day, and she can sleep till dinner.

The second day’s hike is nine miles, which is then followed by a full workday of clearing brush at a public campground using the versatile Pulaski, “a heavy hybrid ax, maul, and hoe.”

“They don’t call it work camp for nothin’,” quips Patsy’s roommate, Antonia.

By this time in her sentence (about a year in and, it turns out, halfway through), Patsy has started attending AA and accepting responsibility for her previous heedless and careening life. But here, at fire camp, she also has come as far as possible from her former life of middleclass privilege and intellectual pursuits:

“At Bertrin, Patsy had been in with petty, unmalicious felons—drug users, prostitutes, check kiters—but in Malibu she lived with killers, assaulters, armed robbers, anyone who’d done good time and had fewer than two years to go…”

Antonia, for example, has come over from the California Youth Authority, where she’d been incarcerated since age thirteen for killing her mother, a crime Antonia freely admits is “a doozy.”

Page 69 is fairly representative in that it finds Patsy adjusting to life in sobriety, working hard, finding sustenance in the natural world, and making lifelong connections. (A dozen years down the line, Antonia will landscape Patsy’s new home.) At the same time, the humiliations of prison and fire camp go deep and mark her for life.

In Blame, I wanted to write about someone who always had an uneasy sense of her own goodness. Most people are fairly sure that, at heart, they’re morally sound; Patsy, never. The drunken accident dovetails into this uneasiness and she will spend much of her life atoning, making amends, and trying to be good. Decades later, she will face certain questions: Does living a life intent on goodness make for a good life?

And, What if you’ve spent much of your life making amends that were, perhaps, not altogether necessary?
Read an excerpt from Blame, and learn more about the author and her work at Michelle Huneven's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Seven Days of Rage"

Paul LaRosa is an Emmy Award-winning producer for the CBS newsmagazine 48 Hours. He won a Primetime Emmy for the acclaimed CBS documentary 9/11, and has also won a Peabody Award, a Christopher Award, and an Edward R. Murrow Award. For sixteen years he was reporter for the New York Daily News, where he was the co-winner with Anna Quindlen of the Meyer Berger Award given by Columbia University's School of Journalism. Maria Cramer is a reporter for the Boston Globe where she covers the Boston police. She has been the lead reporter on numerous crime stories, including the case of Clark Rockefeller, who gained international attention in 2008 when he kidnapped his daughter from a Boston Park and was later connected to the 1984 disappearance of a California couple. She began covering the Craigslist Killer story since the April 14th killing of Julissa Brisman.

LaRosa applied the Page 69 Test to their new book, Seven Days of Rage: The Deadly Crime Spree of the Craigslist Killer, and reported the following:
It's always fascinating to me to turn to any page of a book I've written to see how it reads, if it will hold up, and, now that I've turned to Page 69 of Seven Days of Rage, I'm happy to see that I do believe a reader skimming this page would be inclined to read on or, hopefully, buy the book.

On Page 69, I'm describing the third attack of the Craigslist Killer and, as far as I know, I am the only journalist to have interviewed this victim whom I call Amber in the book. Even if you've read everything there is to read on the case, you have not read this, simply because it has not appeared anywhere else.

The third victim of the Craigslist Killer is a stripper from Las Vegas who was in Rhode Island working the strip club circuit and, in her spare time, making some money in her room giving private lap dancers that she advertised on Craigslist. This was her unlucky night because the Craigslist Killer decided to answer her ad and, within moments of entering her room, he had pulled a gun on her.

Here is her quote from Page 69: "I turned around and he pulled out a gun. His hand was shaking pretty bad. I was scared but I listened to what he said to do."

I think that should get any readers blood boiling for more. A stripper, a killer, a gun. What happens next? Read on, my friends.
Read an excerpt from Seven Days of Rage, and learn more about the book at Paul LaRosa's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Stephen Jay Schwartz grew up in New Mexico and traveled the United States extensively before settling down in Los Angeles. There he became the Director of Development for Wolfgang Petersen, helping develop films such as Outbreak and Air Force One.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Boulevard, his first novel, and reported the following:
Ah, if only it were all about page 68, which is rich with a symbolism that carries through to the end of the novel. Page 69 of Boulevard comprises only a paragraph or so, the end of a chapter. Still, it does capture a few of the main themes:

His desperate protestations sounded like admissions of guilt to her ears until he finally called out, “What do I need to do to prove I’m not lying?” and she responded with what she had wanted all along: “A lie-detector test.”

At the time it seemed like a good idea. Hayden was willing to do almost anything to keep his marriage intact. He had been honest with her and he was sure the test would prove him right. In fact, however, it proved to be the beginning of the end.

The chapter is about Hayden’s disclosure to his wife about his sexual addiction, about the years of picking prostitutes off the street, going to strip clubs, visiting brothels. It’s about trust, love, break-up, fear, addiction.

Odd topics to be floating around in a hard-boiled crime-thriller, no?

Robbery-Homicide Detective Hayden Glass is a flawed human being. As the review in Booklist says, Hayden is “decent, haunted, and sometimes loathsome.” This is a true depiction of his character. He’s human.

But it’s also this addiction, this darkness which he understands, that helps him catch one of the cruelest serial killers Los Angeles has ever known. Had he not been a sex addict, he might not have known where to look.

However, had Hayden Glass not been a sex addict, the killer might never have arrived in the first place…
Read an excerpt from Boulevard, and learn more about the author and his work at Stephen Jay Schwartz's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Bird in Hand"

Christina Baker Kline is the author of four novels: Bird in Hand (just published by William Morrow), The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water. She is Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University, and lives outside of New York City.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Bird in Hand and reported the following:
Page 69 of my new novel, Bird in Hand, is a turning point in the story.

The novel opens with a car crash: Alison, driving back to her home in the suburbs from New York City after a party, gets into an accident, and a child dies. Her husband’s first reaction, when she calls him, is accusatory: “What did you do?” And Alison suddenly realizes that something is deeply wrong in her marriage.

On p. 69, it’s the morning after the accident. Alison, dazed, is standing in her kitchen when she hears a knock at the back door. Her resolutely chipper next-door neighbor, Robin, is “tentatively waving the fingers of one hand, anemone-like, through the glass.” Alison winces; the last thing she wants to do is talk to Robin, who knows about the accident but not about the child’s death. But when Robin hands her a foil-wrapped loaf of banana bread, Alison is surprised at her reaction:

The loaf was still warm, and somehow comforting in Alison’s hands: the solid heft of it, its mammal warmth. “Robin – thank you.” How kind. Alison felt a tickle in the bridge of her nose.

Oh no; she was going to cry.

Robin took the loaf from Alison and placed it on the counter. Then she clasped her hand and led her to the table. “How about some coffee?” she said gently.

What Alison discovers over the next few weeks is that some of the people she loved and trusted most in her life will let her down, and people she barely knows will come through for her in unexpected ways. Robin’s simple gesture in this scene, her instinctive kindness, is exactly what Alison needs. As the story unfolds, the reader learns that the accident has set in motion a series of events that changes the lives of all of the central characters. This moment, on page 69, marks Alison’s dawning realization of this change.
Browse inside Bird in Hand, and learn more about the author and her work at Christina Baker Kline's website and her blog on writing and the creative process.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Ken Bruen's many novels include The Guards, the book that introduced Jack Taylor, which was a finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Macavity Awards, and winner of the Shamus Award for the Best Novel of 2003. Reed Farrel Coleman's sixth novel, The James Deans, won the Shamus, Barry and Anthony Awards for Best Paperback Original, and was further nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Gumshoe Awards.

Coleman applied the Page 69 Test to Tower, their highly acclaimed new novel, and reported the following:
Tower is a collaboration that Ken and I discussed many years ago at Bouchercon. It was to be a story of two tough guys from Brooklyn who grew up and apart together and whose fates were tied together by their long painful history. But after a few months and no further discussion of it, Ken sent me about 85 pages of the book and said, “Here’s my part of the book. Have at it, brother.” The rest, as they say, is history. The book is unique as it is told in parallel narratives and P69 features a crucial section of “Nick’s” narrative.

Boyle was nose deep in the good book, Griffin reading the Daily News. They surveyed me,
hard to read their expressions, but if I had to, I’d say Griffin, as ever, was amused. Boyle, he was just unpredictable. He closed the Bible a with slow grace, gave it a touch and then blessed himself, said

“So they shot yah?”

Biblical Boyle is the head of a Westies-like crime gang in Manhattan and Griffin is his ex-IRA enforcer. Nick’s been shot outside a Brooklyn bar after meeting with his friend Todd, but it’s unclear who did the deed. Was it the cops? A jealous rival for his girlfriend Shannon? A rival gang? Boyle wants to know if the cops have questioned his “wild colonial boy.”

“The cops been to see you?”

“Yes, sir.”

The sir definitely helped. He seemed to uncoil and with his cigar, signalled for me to continue and I did.

“They asked me if I knew who did it, why anyone would want to shoot me and I gave them nothing.”

Boyle smiled, said

“That’s me boyo.”

Well, as Boyle finds out later, that’s a questionable assessment.
Learn more about Tower.

Visit Ken Bruen's website and Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Tower.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Never Slow Dance With A Zombie"

E. Van Lowe was born in New York City and moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school. He cowrote the Academy Award-nominated short film Cadillac Dreams, and was a writer for many TV shows, including The Cosby Show, Knight Rider, and Even Stevens. He was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Even Stevens.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Never Slow Dance with a Zombie, his first novel for young adults, and reported the following:
Page 69 is not representative of what happens in Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, however it is a pivotal moment in the story. In the book, Margot Jean Johnson (as self centered a protagonist as you will find in YA lit) comes to the realization that she has achieved none of the goals she has set for herself in high school. One of her goals is to have a boyfriend. Sybil convinces Margot to allow her (Sybil) to ask school hottie, Dirk Conrad, to go to the carnival with Margot. Why would Sybil do this? Because she’s Margot’s best friend. But the asking leads to an argument, and when Margot and Sybil show up at school the morning after the argument and the carnival everyone at school has become zombies. Well, almost everyone. It seems Principal Taft isn’t a zombie either. P. 68 is where the girls go to Taft to tell him that their classmates are all zombies. On P 69 we get his outrageous response.

When Margot says “So we should just pretend this hasn’t happened?” Taft’s response is: “No, I’m not saying that at all.” He lifted his head. “But would it be so bad if we did? Just until the end of the semester. There’s only seven weeks left…” I’m sure the reader will be compelled to go on because how many high school principals would ask the remaining living students to ignore that they are in the midst of a zombie uprising?

Never Slow Dance With A Zombie is an absurd look at high school life. Along with all the usual high school issues one might have, Margot and Sybil must navigate life among the zombies. They realize they can have the best semester of their high school careers. All they have to do to achieve it is stay alive.

The book has been described as Mean Girls meets Night of The Living Dead. I had a blast writing it. I hope people enjoy reading it.
Read an excerpt from Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, and learn more about the book and author at E. Van Lowe's website, blog, and MySpace page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Vampire a Go-Go"

Victor Gischler's novels include Gun Monkeys, which was nominated for the Edgar Award, and Shotgun Opera, an Anthony Award finalist. His work has been translated into Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese. Bestselling author James Rollins has called him "Part Christopher Moore, part Quentin Tarantino, ... a raving, badass genius."

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Vampire a Go-Go, and reported the following:
"Not for the first time or the last, Kelley wondered if his work here at Rudolph's court wasn't in fact a terrible, terrible idea."

That is the first sentence of page 69 in Vampire A G-Go, and I think it pretty much hits the nail on the head. The characters in Vampire A Go-Go are constantly suffering the results of terrible ideas, all stemming back to the original terrible idea of the Alchemists who worked in the court of mad Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II. The novel is really two stories woven together; the first story is about young Allen Cabbot, well-meaning but semi-bumbling grad student. But the terrible ideas began with John Dee and Edward Kelley so long ago. Kelley's story takes place centuries before Allen's, yet both are connected. What is the secret of the Philosopher's stone? What was Kelley part of all those years ago that has come back to haunt Allen in the present day.

Answer: A Terrible, Terrible idea.
Browse inside Vampire a Go-Go, and learn more about the author and his work at Victor Gischler's Blogpocalypse.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"An Off Year"

Claire Zulkey is the author of a very short humor book called Girls! Girls! Girls!. She also edits the blog Zulkey.com.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, An Off Year, and reported the following:
I had to laugh when I applied the Page 69 Test to An Off Year because it was almost as if my publisher purposefully set the page to be a great representation of what the book is about. An Off Year focuses on Cecily, a girl who finds herself "accidentally" taking a year off between high school and college after she reaches her freshman year dorm room and inexplicably turns around and goes home. She takes the next year trying to figure out a.) why she did that and b.) what comes next. Page 69 takes place in December, which is about when Cecily's father gets sick of her hanging around the house and decides to persuade her to get more serious about deciding where she's going to go back to school, if she chooses to do so. Cecily is lugging around a college guide that she (unhappily) received as a Christmas gift, and to procrastinate, she decides to annoy her crabby older sister Germaine who is watching a movie with her usually-useless boyfriend Conrad. "What are some things that I want in a college?" Cecily wonders aloud, and while Conrad notes that choosing a college is one of the most important steps she'll ever take in her life, he confounds her a bit by also asking "Do you want activism? Do you want to do community service? Do you want to study abroad? Do you want a campus friendly to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered community? A medieval society?" This thereby renews the sense of how overwhelming and yet how absurd the college selection process can be, which is one of Cecily's obstacles during this year off. Of course what also makes page 69 representative of the book is how crazy Germaine and Cecily drive each other but the college thing is a weightier topic (hence why the book is call An Off Year and not My Sucky Sister.)
Learn more about the book and author at Claire Zulkey's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"The Children’s Day"

Michiel Heyns grew up all over South Africa – Thaba Nchu, Kimberley, Grahamstown, Cape Town - and was educated at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cambridge. He is the author of four novels: The Children’s Day, The Reluctant Passenger, The Typewriter’s Tale, and Bodies Politic. He has translated two works by Marlene van Niekerk, Agaat and Memorandum, and he has recently translated Equatoria by Tom Dreyer, Aflame Books (UK) 2008. He reviews regularly for the Sunday Independent. Heyns was awarded the English Academy's Pringle Prize for reviewing in 2006 and the Sunday Times Fiction prize in 2007 for his translation of Agaat.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Children’s Day and reported the following:
Page 69 describes one of several emotional crises that the young protagonist-narrator, Simon, undergoes in the course of the novel. It is a representative instance of Simon’s painful encounters with the “cool web of language”, that construct that both defends us from extremes of emotion and dulls our senses to the true intensity of unmediated experience.

Set in Verkeerdespruit (“the wrong creek”) a desolate little town in South Africa in the 1960’s, the novel’s negative theme is lovelessness – as most dramatically embodied in the prevailing politico-religious dispensation, more subtly in interpersonal relations. Conversely, the novel’s positive theme is love, in all its multifarious and puzzling manifestations. Simon’s quandary is learning to distinguish between love and lovelessness, a process in which the various labels offered by society prove to be of little help.

Here, Simon is talking to Betty the Exchange, the town’s chinless but principled switchboard operator, while they are having soft drinks in the town’s only café. They have both, in their different ways, been drawn to one Steve, a big-city biker who has fascinated and horrified Verkeerdespruit in about equal measure. Recently, Steve has abducted Fanie, a young classmate of Simon’s; he was apprehended in a nearby village and sent to prison. Now Simon has to come to terms not only with Steve’s feelings for Fanie, but with the nature of Betty’s feelings for Steve. “Fanie said Steve liked him” Simon tells Betty, the safer word “liked” here standing in for several more troubling alternatives.

“Yes, and I thought Steve liked me,” Betty counters, also availing herself of the safer label. But as the scene progresses, and Betty reveals the true nature of her relationship with Steve, Simon is brought face to face with the puzzle of human affection. Perplexed at Betty’s failure to “tell the police” that Steve had absconded with her savings (“In my world people who stole had to go to jail”) he asks her, “But why not?”

“You won’t understand,” she says, but then does after all try to make him understand:

“Because I loved him.” The straw made a slurping sound as she sucked up the last little bit of her cream soda.

This declaration, for reasons at this stage unclear to him, so upsets Simon that he rushes out of the café. Ironically, in a society riven by injustice and intolerance, “love” presents itself to Simon as an enormity, almost an obscenity.
Read an excerpt from The Children’s Day, and learn more about the author and his work at Michiel Heyns' website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Losers Live Longer"

A former managing editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Russell Atwood published his first Payton Sherwood mystery, "East of A," in EQMM in 1996 after leaving the magazine. Encouraged by a letter from a publisher, he wrote a longer work involving the East Village private eye, The Land of Plenty of Nothing, published by Ballantine as East of A in 1999, which was nominated for a Shamus award.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Losers Live Longer, his new Payton Sherwood mystery, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of my novel? Well, oddly enough it does contain many reoccurring elements, so I'd have to say yes.

Losers Live Longer is an attempt to update the classic private eye novel best exemplified by the film The Big Sleep. This page contains one of those typical Bogie/Bacall verbal fencing matches between my private detective, Payton Sherwood, and the lead femme fatale, Sayre Rauth.

It also displays the novel's quick pace, not to mention my arguably simplistic sense of humor.

Payton teases Sayre about mixing up "in" and "out" and cites having learned the difference from Sesame Street's Grover, and offers to teach her about near and far as well. Sayre drily opts to begin with "far" and starts to shut the door on him. This is one of my--what one reviewer has called--"pleasantly understated pop culture references."

And while the page starts off light, by the bottom, a sense of menace is introduced. When Payton reaches behind his back to get his wallet, Sayre reacts as if he might be going for a weapon. It makes Payton take a firmer hold on himself and take a second look at her. What kind of a person is he dealing with here?

This sort of change in dynamics is something I try to do throughout the entire book, to keep the reader always wondering what's coming next.

Below is page 69 in its entirety:

or else that was all just from the ponderous frown she leveled at me.

“Not exactly,” she repeated. She had some trace of accent I couldn’t place, but not American, more guttural, her words spoken under her breath. “Could you be exact?”

“Possibly. Given time.”

“I do not have time, I’m about to go out.”

“But you just got back in.”

She cocked her eyebrow, but ignored the deliberate provocation. “And now I go back out again.” She pushed the intercom button and, when she heard a crackle from the speaker, said, “The door.” The latch clacked and she pushed the door open behind her and took a backward step.

“That’s in,” I said, feeling playful.


“You’re going in. You said you were going back out again, but that’s in you’re going. I learned all about it. From this guy, Grover. Shaggy blue hair, red nose, thin dangly arms? No? He also taught me about near and far. If you like I could teach you sometime.”

“Yes. Let us begin with far.” She started to swing the door closed.

“I have information.”

Her eyes narrowed. She stepped out again, keeping one hand behind her back. I heard the door shut.“Who are you?”

I reached into my back pocket and she stiffened, her shoulders tensing, until my hand came forward with my wallet. Her reaction made me uneasy—what had she expected, what sort of thing was she used to? I opened my wallet, keeping my thumb on the snapshot of Owl, while I extracted one of my business cards, one of a batch I had printed last year. Nicer than the old

(from Losers Live Longer, © 2009 Russell Atwood)
Read an excerpt from Losers Live Longer. and learn more about the book and author at the Losers Live Longer website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Evidence of Murder"

Lisa Black is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and has been certified by the American Board of Criminalistics.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Evidence of Murder, her second novel featuring forensic scientist Theresa MacLean, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my book Evidence of Murder seems, at first glance, fairly atypical of the rest of the book. My heroine, forensic scientist Theresa MacLean, is usually found in her laboratory or at a crime scene full of blood and cops and the smell of recently fired weapons. But at the beginning of chapter seven she shows readers that forensic staff members have lives and feelings and obligations outside their jobs. She is at a birthday party for one of the many children of her many cousins, in a too-small, too-warm house full of voices and sugary pink frosting. Like me, she doesn’t mind, exactly, being there because she loves and respects her extended family, but like mine, they can be a bit overwhelming when found en masse.

The page hints at another reason Theresa is not fully comfortable: she has been in an emotional hibernation since losing her fiancé eight months before—part of the fallout from her adventures in Takeover. So instead of doing the ‘let’s catch up’ thing with her cousins, she would rather talk to the only one of them who also happens to be a homicide detective—Frank—about whether or not video game wunderkind Evan Kovacic murdered his wife, beautiful ex-escort Jillian. Theresa discovered some interesting information earlier that day, courtesy of a man named Drew, Jillian’s ardent fan and unrequited love.

“Jillian’s grandparents left a huge amount of money to her baby, Cara. Like a million and a half huge.”

Frank shoveled another spoonful of potato salad into his mouth despite having made the comment earlier that potato salad was a summer dish and there was something weird about eating it in March. “So Jillian was rich? Then she didn’t marry for the money.”

Aside from the deceptively sweet setting, the page is both typical Theresa (temporarily stymied, worried, and trying hard to resist the pink frosting) and typical Frank (it would not even enter his head to resist the potato salad or the topic of murder at a child’s birthday party). But this appearance of a motive changes their view of the odd Drew’s accusation of Evan. But how did he do it? There’s no mark on the body and no chemical trace of poison or overdose. Could he have discovered the perfect way to murder?
Browse inside Evidence of Murder, and learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: Takeover; My Book, The Movie: Takeover.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Evil at Heart"

Chelsea Cain lived the first few years of her life on an Iowa commune, then grew up in Bellingham, Washington, where the infamous Green River Killer was “the boogeyman” of her youth. Her first two novels featuring Det. Archie Sheridan and serial killer Gretchen Lowell, Heartsick and Sweetheart, were both New York Times bestsellers. Also the author of Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, a parody based on the life of Nancy Drew, and several nonfiction titles, she lives in Portland, Oregon.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Evil at Heart, her third thriller featuring Archie and Gretchen, and reported the following:
Henry wrote something down. “Do you think you’d recognize the caller’s voice?” he asked.

Susan tried to replay the caller’s voice in her head, but it eluded her. “Maybe,” she said. She gazed down at her bloodstained jeans. Thank God for black denim. It could hide anything.

“The guy I found,” she said—she could still see his face, those egg-white eyes—“how’d he die?”

“I think we can rule out natural causes,” Henry said.

Susan had knelt two feet away from the body, and gotten blood on her pants. The sheet was soaked with it. The guy had bled a lot. Like he’d been cut up. No, she thought, operated on. The hearts on the wall, Gretchen’s signature, the fan site. Suddenly she knew. “His spleen’s gone, isn’t it?” Susan asked. Henry’s reaction was almost undetectable. But he flinched.

Someone had ripped out his spleen. Just like Gretchen had done to her victims, like she’d done to Archie. She had sliced Archie open without anesthesia and cut it out of him. Then sent it to Henry in the mail. Susan’s throat tightened and she had to swallow a few times before she could speak. “Should I be in protection?” she asked.

Henry took off the sunglasses and looked at her. His shaved head was still shiny with rain. “Leave town,” he said.

It was a good idea. Go to Mexico for a few months. Get some writing done. Maybe she could have done it, a few months ago, before she’d met Archie. “I can’t,” she said. “I’m a journalist. I can’t.”

Susan’s pulse was racing. The fingerprint tech must have felt it because he looked up at her for the first time since he’d arrived. “Koalas,” he said. “You fingerprint a koala, it’s almost impossible to tell the print from a human one.”

“Seriously?” Susan said.

It worked! I think this scene does speak to the book. A little gore, a little humor, my insistent descriptions of Henry’s shaved head, and some very useful trivia about koalas. I like also how this scene gives a few hints as to the plot. They’ve found a body. The spleen’s missing. Someone named Gretchen is at large, and hey, she likes to take out people’s spleens. She’s taken out Archie’s spleen. Susan wonders if she’s in danger. It’s very economical. Plus we get a hint of Susan’s character arc. She resists her urge to flee because she feels journalistic obligations. Curiously, after I did this, I checked out page 99, and it also worked, but in a very different way. Page 99 is a scene between the detective, Archie Sheridan and the killer, Gretchen Lowell. It is very dark and flirty and twisted. Which is the other side of the narrative. So really both would have worked, thought I think this perspective (Susan’s) feels more like my voice.
Read an excerpt from Evil at Heart and watch the Evil at Heart video.

Learn more about the author and her work at Chelsea Cain's website and blog, and at iheartgretchenlowell.com.

The Page 99 Test: Sweetheart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Murder at Longbourn"

Tracy Kiely graduated from Trinity College in 1990 with a degree in English.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Murder at Longbourn, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Tom listened calmly to Linnet’s tirade, but remained firm. He probably had had years of dealing with reluctant witnesses. “My name is Tom Cooper,” he said. “I’m a retired police officer. I understand that this is difficult, but trust me, it’s necessary.”

Tom’s reply had no effect on Linnet’s ire. “Well, Mr. Cooper, I know my rights and you simply cannot keep me here against my will!” She marched to her seat where her purse lay. Whipping out her cell phone, she yanked off her clip-on earring, saying, “I’m calling my lawyer. I know my rights. Do you have any idea who I am?”

“All I know is that you’re a potential suspect in a murder case,” Tom replied. Linnet bristled as he continued unfazed. “No one is to leave this room. We must secure the scene and wait for the police.”

Aunt Winnie returned. With a somber glance at Tom, she quietly said, “They’re on their way.”

Randy walked over to Linnet. “I realize that this is a horrible situation, Mrs. Westin,” he said soothingly. “And that what you are being asked to do is quite extraordinary, but I really think we should do as he says. It will most likely make matters easier when the police do arrive. I am sure that your gracious tolerance of the situation will be appropriately acknowledged.”

I wondered exactly how Randy thought the police were going to acknowledge Linnet’s “gracious tolerance of the situation.” I had an inkling that nothing short of a parade would assuage her monstrous ego. Linnet continued to glare at Tom, but Randy’s words seemed to mollify her. She still watched the proceedings with an icy frown, her rigid posture radiating displeasure. However, she did put her cell phone back and replaced her clip-on. Jackie glanced anxiously at her friend, but said nothing.

Aunt Winnie walked over to Lauren, sitting mutely beside Gerald, and gently took her by the shoulders, easing her away from the

My book, Murder at Longbourn, is a humorous cross between the classic Agatha Christie cozy and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I love the twisty, deviously clever plots of Christie and the sublime wit of Austen. I began to wonder how the characters in Pride and Prejudice might fit into a mystery. What if, after years of living with unbearably rude and condescending behavior, old Mrs. Jenkins up and strangled Lady Catherine? What if Charlotte snapped one day and poisoned Mr. Collins’ toast and jam? Skip ahead several years, and several different plot ideas, and you have Murder At Longbourn.

Except none of it is readily apparent on page 69.

When I was invited to participate on this blog, I eagerly opened my copy to the appointed page only to discover the barest hint of a Christie cozy and absolutely no references to Pride and Prejudice.

So, I’ve got that going for me.

But I promise you it is there. The main character, Elizabeth Parker, having just dumped her two-timing boyfriend, accepts her great Aunt Winnie’s invitation to spend New Year’s at her Cape Cod B&B, The Inn at Longbourn. During the Host-A-Murder dinner party, one of the guests ends up the unscripted victim. When Aunt Winnie becomes the police’s main suspect, Elizabeth must unearth old secrets and new motives to clear her Aunt and stop a killer who keeps killing. Throw in a childhood nemesis, now grown up and as handsome as ever, and you start to get the picture.

Murder at Longbourn isn’t a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. While there are resonances of Austen’s characters in my own (for instance, a spoiled white Persian named Lady Catherine), they are stand alone characters. Murder at Longbourn is meant to be a wink at the reader who loves Austen and happy retreat for lovers of the classic English cozy.

Just don’t judge it from page 69.
Read an excerpt from Murder at Longbourn, and learn more about the book and author at Tracy Kiely's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 7, 2009

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

Deborah Grabien is the author of the Haunted Ballad series and five stand-alone novels. Additionally, many of her short stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and magazines.

She applied the Page 69 Test to While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the second book in the JP Kinkaid Chronicles, and reported the following:
Page 69 establishes all three of the main characters: JP Kinkaid, Bree Godwin, and homicide detective Patrick Ormand. And it gives you the nature of the murder victim, Vinny Fabiano:

I stopped suddenly. Inside, I was cursing. What was it about Patrick Ormand, that he always got me to say too much?

Bree, managing a smile, reached out and patted my hand.

"It's okay, John. I was about to suggest I tell him anyway. God knows, there were enough witnesses. I'd rather have him hear it from me."

She looked up at Patrick. He was watching, looking back and forth between us. If he'd set a trap, if he already knew all about it and was trying to catch us out, he was a brilliant actor; he just looked puzzled and interested. Bree took a deep breath, and met his eye.

"I suppose - if the amount of mousehole-watching you did after Perry Dillon was killed is anything to go by - that you're going be asking around, seeing who'd had disagreements with him recently. Right?"

He nodded.

"Well," she told him, "Let me save you some trouble. Last Saturday night, we went to a party in Sausalito - it was a house the belongs to a guy called Paul Morgenstern. He owns a club in Marin, where a lot of the local bands play. John had gone hunting in the crowd for some chairs and I went to load up a couple of plates at the buffet."

Patrick waited. Bree patted my hand again; I must have looked worried, or something. "Anyway, Vinny came up behind me, and grabbed me - I mean, grabbed me, solid grip on my ass. He was reaching around front with the other hand. I told him he moved his hand or I cut his nuts off and wore them as earrings. I was not amused."

"Jesus." Patrick gave a long whistle. "No, I can see how you wouldn't be. What happened?"

"He took a swing at me, a real swing, full fist. John was halfway across the room, trying to get through the hordes. Vinny was looking to inflict some serious damage and show me who was boss. So I kneed him in the balls."

Would a reader, skimming the book, pick it up on that basis? You tell me.

The JP Kinkaid Chronicles were written from a place of personal truths. The series is my attempt to recapture my own history, and to recapture a particular man's voice, in the person of JP Kinkaid. But if I, as writer, do my job properly, the characters become unique and distinct unto themselves. That's what happened here.

This is a mystery series, and I think page 69 captures that. But it's also a coming of age story, set in the rarified world of rock stardom. The protagonists are adults, not twentysomethings. JP, a guitarist in his fifties, was written by a woman in her fifties, looking back, seeing what was lost and what was learned. Bree's reaction to the attempted grope is an adult woman's reaction, rather than a girl's. And her understanding that not hiding it from the cop gives her control. A small lesson learned - but that's what coming of age is all about.

There are grand themes at work here: love, loyalty, the family we make, taking responsibility as we age. But it's also a nice tense mystery series, with twists and turns. And while page 69 has some of that, I'd begin at page 1.
Learn more about the book and author at Deborah Grabien's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"The Yard Dog"

Dr. Sheldon Russell has taught at the University of Louisville and is professor emeritus at University of Central Oklahoma. He is the author of four previously published novels. Empire, a suspense novel; two historic frontier novels, The Savage Trail and Requiem at Dawn, which was voted a Finalist in the 2001 Western Writers of America, Inc. Spur Awards competition; and Dreams to Dust: A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush, which won the 2006 Langum Prize for Excellence in American Historical Fiction and the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction and was selected as an Official Oklahoma Centennial Project.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel The Yard Dog, the first volume in the Hook Runyon Mystery series, and reported the following:
From page 69:

Finding a telephone in the waiting room, she dialed the number Major Dunfield had given her.

“Camp Alva,” a woman said, “may I help you?”

“Yes, perhaps. My name is Dr. Reina Kaplan, Special Projects Division. I’m to report to Major Foreman at Camp Alva in the morning. Might you suggest a place for me to stay the night?”

Thus begins Dr. Reina Kaplan’s first contact with the prisoner of war camp located in the middle of the Oklahoma prairie during WWII. Dr. Kaplan, a Jewish big-city transplant, has been charged with educating the five-thousand Nazi prisoners in the basics of democracy before their eventual return to Germany.

A bizarre cast of characters await her in this bare and stoic place. There’s Hook Runyon, the one-arm railroad bull who collects books and lives in a caboose, and Runt Wallace, his sidekick and purveyor of busthead shine. There’s Spark Dugan, the itinerant coal picker who lives in a shack under the trestle, and Bud Hanson, the local digger and part-time philosopher. And of course there’s Hugh Favor, the immensely rich and powerful oil man who is driven by his passion for art.

Soon enough Dr. Kaplan is drawn into a conspiracy that reaches into the highest echelons of the camp and beyond.
Read an excerpt from The Yard Dog, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 4, 2009

"The Prodigal Mage"

Karen Miller is the author of the bestselling fantasy duology Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, the fantasy trilogy Godspeaker, and the bestselling tie-in novels Stargate SG-1: Alliances, Stargate SG-1: Do No Harm, and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Wild Space.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Prodigal Mage, and reported the following:
The Prodigal Mage is the first part of a two-part sequel to the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology. At the end of that story it seemed that evil had been defeated, good had triumphed, and peaceful prosperity was returned to the kingdom of Lur. But nothing is ever that simple. Evil might sleep, but it never truly dies.

Page 69 of the Orbit Hardcover edition of The Prodigal Mage is a quiet moment in the story. A pause between breaths, between revelations. It's a recognition of what's just happened, a melancholy acceptance of what's just to come ... and a fearful resentment of what might come, will probably come, despite every previous attempt to prevent it. It's part of a scene between two old and trusted friends, Asher of Restharven and Pellen Orrick, who survived calamity once and hoped never to face it again.

"You want to see Darran, then?" he said, as the lads bustled out of the feed room with their buckets of porridged oats and chaff. "Afore ..."

Pellen nodded. "Can I?"

"Kerril said there weren't no harm," he replied, and headed out of the yard.

"Then I will take a moment," said Pellen, following. "But first, tell me what you're going to do about -- this other business."

"Well, Dath's for meeting with a few of them Circle Olken. Reckon she's prob'ly right. Aside from her they be the best mages we got."

"No," said Pellen, with quiet intensity. "You're our greatest mage, Asher."

Trust him to mention it. "I ain't any kind of mage, Pellen. Not any more."

The Fisherman's Children duology is about family and fate. It's about doing what must be done even though you don't want to do it. And it's about lots of chickens coming home to roost. At its heart, The Prodigal Mage is about a father and his son who might love each other but don't fully understand each other. And about what goes wrong when love isn't enough.
Read an excerpt from The Prodigal Mage, and learn more about the author and her work at Karen Miller's website and her LiveJournal.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"I'm So Happy for You"

Lucinda Rosenfeld’s first novel, What She Saw... was published in 2000 by Random House. It was excerpted in The New Yorker, and optioned by Miramax Films. In 2004, she published a sequel called Why She Went Home. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times magazine, Creative Non-Fiction, Glamour, and Slate. Currently, Rosenfeld writes the “friendship advice” column, Friend or Foe, for doublex.com.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, I'm So Happy for You, and reported the following:
On Page 69 of I'm So Happy for You, the main character, Wendy, recounts how her best friend and nemesis, Daphne, introduced her (Wendy) to her now-husband, Adam. The page is actually very representative of the book, insofar as Wendy’s love/hate relationship with Daphne--the crux of the novel--is on full display. On the one hand, Wendy is thankful to Daphne for the introduction. (“... Daphne had done Wendy the biggest favor that a friend could do; hadn’t she?”) On the other, Wendy is suspicious of the way in which Daphne herself meets and commandeers the attention of Adam, in the middle of a crowded apartment party. (“Somehow, only Daphne had managed to move freely.”) She also feels unhappily indebted to Daphne. (“And yet, over the years, Wendy had come to resent the fact that Daphne had found her a husband. It gave her too much power....”) Finally, the page provides a window into Wendy’s and Adam’s increasingly shaky marriage. (“From the beginning, there had been an immediate connection between her and Adam—a shared misanthropy laced with humor and longing. Was that it?”) Close readers will note the oblique suggestion that Wendy’s attraction to Adam is at least partly due to the fact that he comes “pre-approved” by Daphne. As for whether readers will be inclined to read on, all I can say is: I hope so! The Los Angeles Times recently called I'm So Happy for You a “... rare page-turner: No one is murdered and no time bombs tick--just a friendship going to seed in the moneyed coliseum of New York City yuppiedom.” I can also promise that the ending reads like a thriller--because I wrote it that way!
Read an excerpt from I'm So Happy for You, and learn more about the book and author at Lucinda Rosenfeld's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Criminal Karma"

Steven M. Thomas grew up in a working class suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, where he was not an Eagle Scout or member of the boys choir. He left home the first time at 15, spending the summer hitchhiking across the country, working at odd jobs and writing a journal. Before becoming a fulltime novelist, Thomas was a magazine editor, journalist and college lecturer, teaching writing at the University of California, Irvine. He has also been a short order cook and an aluminum siding salesman. He lives with his wife and daughter in Orange County, California, where he is at work on the third Robert Rivers novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Criminal Karma, and reported the following:
Criminal Karma is the second book in a series that began with Criminal Paradise (2008). Both books aim to be classic Southern California crime fiction, loaded with action, suspense and shocking plot twists, set in a sunny, palm-shaded world along the shore of the blue Pacific. But they are also meant to be literary novels with complex characters and some real thematic depth. You see a little more theme and a little less action on page 69, but -- happily for the purposes of this test -- there is a discovery in the middle of the page that opens the door to all the action that follows.

Criminal Karma begins with professional thief and narrator Robert Rivers following a wealthy socialite and her tough-looking driver out Highway 60, from Venice Beach toward Palm Springs, where Rivers plans to relieve the lady of a diamond necklace worth a quarter of a million dollars. During the first 68 pages, Rivers and his gritty ex-biker partner, Reggie England, steal the necklace and then lose it in a brutal fight with a rival criminal who claims to be working for a mysterious New Age guru named Baba Raba.

Evading the police, Rob and Reggie return to Venice Beach where Rob immediately goes to work tracking the guru down in order to re-steal the diamonds. At the top of page 69, Rob is piecing together what he has found out about Baba Raba so far, trying to form a mental image of his adversary. Then, in the third paragraph, he uncovers guru’s whereabouts:

There was nothing about the guru in the library’s newspaper data base, but there was a flyer on the cluttered bulletin board in the lobby announcing that free introductory meditation classes would be offered each Saturday night in January at the Murshid Center for Enlightened Beings, where seekers could bathe in the beneficent darshan of Baba Raba, head of the Magdalene Order, healer of the heartsick, frustrated, angry, confused, homeless, loveless, and depressed.

I’d fit right in.

If Baba stuck to his schedule, there would be a meditation class at eight o’clock that evening. The ashram was on Broadway between Sixth and Seventh, about ten blocks north of the library. I wrote down the address and phone number.

From page 69 forward, Rob and Reggie focus their considerable criminal skills on infiltrating Baba’s ashram and finding the necklace. Along the way, they cut through the roof of an office building in the middle of the night to crack a corrupt lawyer’s safe and do battle with some old-school Italian gangsters allied with the guru. Rob also finds a girl he likes better than diamonds and ends up helping the rich lady resolve a tragedy in her past that has enabled the guru to get a grip on her mind, soul and jewelry.
Read an excerpt from Criminal Karma, and learn more about the book and author at the official Steven M. Thomas website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue