Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"The Whole World"

Emily Winslow is an American author living in Cambridge, England. The Whole World, her debut novel, is set in Cambridge, and is about a missing graduate student and what happens between those left behind. The Richmond Times-Dispatch says, "The Whole World shines as a potent look at the self-absorption and angst of youth and the regrets and doubts of middle age..."

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Whole World and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Whole World is the beginning of one of my favorite sections, a flashback that explains the strange behavior of the protagonist from the beginning of the book.

In fact, there’s a lot of flashback in The Whole World. Yes, there’s a lot going on in the present too. But previous events affect the perception and decisions of my characters to the point that the flashbacks are, in a way, participants in the present scenes. These memories don’t come up because I, the author, think it’s a good time to tell you, the reader, something from the past. They come up because at that moment there are things in that character’s immediate present forcing them to relive those old moments. Those old moments assert themselves in ways that make the characters remembering them squirm.

I think if a reader opened up to page 69 they’d be a bit misled, because this flashback is set in New Hampshire, while the present action of the book is set in Cambridge, England. The Cambridge is setting is so important that I consider it nearly a character.

“Jeremy and I became careful. We didn’t do anything for weeks. I stayed in most evenings too, to show Dad. The condoms were gone and I didn’t buy new ones; I didn’t want the pharmacist or one of the supermarket cashiers to maybe tell him something and set him off.”

What happens next explains a lot…but there’s always more to discover. The Whole World is told by five narrators, all of whom have their own pasts to wrestle with.
Read an excerpt from The Whole World, and learn about the book and author at Emily Winslow's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 28, 2010

"The Poacher’s Son"

Paul Doiron is the editor in chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, Down East Books, and He is also a Registered Maine Guide, licensed by the state to lead trips into the wilderness.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel The Poacher’s Son and reported the following:
I wrote The Poacher’s Son with the Page 69 Test in mind since the page is such a precise encapsulation of the novel’s plot. Actually, I just seem to have gotten lucky here. The Poacher’s Son is the story of Mike Bowditch, a rookie Maine game warden, who finds himself drawn into the hunt for a suspected cop killer—his own estranged father. On page 69 Mike arrives at the remote spot where his father, Jack, has just overpowered a sheriff’s deputy and escaped into the wilderness. A search is under way for the fugitive.
the sheriff was temporarily the officer in charge until the state police tactical team arrived.

“Are the K-9 units here?”

“Not yet, sir.”

Which meant the grid search, as such, hadn’t begun. I checked my watch. By my crude reckoning, my father had already been on the run for close to two hours.

There was another roadblock set up at the ditch where Deputy Twombley had careened off the road. Half a dozen police officers, most in body armor and carrying semiautomatic weapons or shotguns, were clustered around their vehicles, waiting for something to happen. I’d never participated in a hunt for an armed fugitive, but I’d taken part in grid searches for an Alzheimer’s patient, missing hunters, and a couple of lost children. Hurry-up-and-wait was the way these operations usually worked.

Yellow police tape marked the spot where the cruiser had crashed off the road. The car had plunged twenty or so feet down, ripping off alder branches and evergreen boughs, before landing sideways in a couple of feet of marshy muck. This was the manhunt’s inner perimeter, the zone where searchers would concentrate their efforts and expand out.

I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. Earlier this morning, Pete Twombley drove out alone to Rum Pond on his own authority, but to do what? Accuse my dad of murder? Twombley should have called for back-up after things turned ugly, but instead he proceeded with my father towards the jail in Skowhegan. From Rum Pond, traveling along logging roads, it would have taken them at least an hour to reach this spot, at which point the cruiser went off the road. And Twombley was incapacitated long enough for my dad to take his weapons. Or so the deputy claimed.

My father had been arrested before; he knew when a bogus charge
Page 69 does a decent job of capturing the plot of The Poacher’s Son and gives a sense of both the pacing of the book—especially the second half—and the North Woods setting. It also gives insight into Mike’s conflicted emotions. He and his father have a fractured relationship to say the least.

“It seemed like I’d spent my whole life either embarrassed by him or trying to win his approval,” Mike observes. “I even became a law officer because of him — to make amends, if that was possible, for the petty crimes he’d committed against society and against his own family.”

Mike knows Jack is bad news, but he doesn’t believe his father is a cold-blooded murderer: “He was a bar brawler, not a terrorist,” he says. Unfortunately, Mike finds himself alone in this conviction, and as the story unfolds he becomes increasingly desperate to prove his father’s innocence. Haunted by the past, he risks his career—and life—in an urgent chase to catch up with Jack before the police do.

Although I hope The Poacher’s Son is a gripping suspense novel, I have always thought of it as really a story about fathers and sons. At the center of the book is a question: “How well can we ever know another human being?” I preface the novel with a quote from Ivan Turgenev that sums up the sentiment: “The heart of another is a dark forest….”

So, is Mike’s loyalty to his father noble—or is it foolish? I hope you’ll want to read The Poacher’s Son to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Paul Doiron's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"A Bad Day for Pretty"

Sophie Littlefield's first novel, A Bad Day for Sorry, was an Edgar Award Finalist and is shortlisted for an Anthony, Barry, and Macavity Award. It won an RT Book Award for Best First Mystery and has been named to lists of the year's best mystery debuts by the Chicago Sun-Times and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Bad Day for Pretty, and reported the following:
In the wrong house, this sort of dog seemed to invite abuse. Much like some women – the sweet, naïve ones – when they got together with a man whose evil streak was of the vicious woman-hurting sort, it seemed like they couldn’t do anything to prevent the meanness heaped on them.
In this scene, Stella’s reluctantly adopting a stray dog who I modeled after our old beagle (Stella’s namesake actually; Stella the dog died last Valentine’s day at the ripe old age of fifteen.).

You’ve heard of alpha dogs? Well, this dog was a zeta dog. She didn’t possess one ounce of aggression or dominance. When confronted with another dog – it could be a five-pound toy poodle – our dog would roll over and expose her stomach in a show of vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I believe there is something about this trait – in pets or in women – that invites mistreatment. Bullies are attracted to the weak, to the easy targets. Abusive men do not pick out feisty partners. Sometimes, gentle souls are crushed by cruel treatment, but sometimes they can thrive with loving attention; Roxy – Stella’s dog – is such an example. She quickly becomes a beloved member of Stella’s household.
Learn more about the book and author at Sophie Littlefield's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Sorry.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Summer Shift"

Lynn Kiele Bonasia is the author of two novels set on Cape Cod, the latest of which, Summer Shift (Touchstone, Simon & Schuster), came out June 1, 2010. A former advertising copywriter, Lynn now lives and writes on the Cape full time. She also just sold her first teen novel, Countess Nobody, which will be released next summer with Egmont USA.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Summer Shift and reported the following:
From page 69:
…But as a young child, she imagined that she could not possibly drown, and even that she could breathe underwater. Relaxing her whole body, she could go what seemed like minutes without air. Rather than clench the breath in her lungs, she held it softly so that she could barely tell where the air stopped and the water began. Now she imagined what it might be like to let the water in through her mouth and nose, how the salt water might fill every orifice, bloating her like a water balloon, smoothing out the wrinkles, plumping her flesh, and restoring her pale ivory skin for one last time. It might be a fitting end, surrendering herself to the sea to honor all the unsuspecting fish, mollusks, and crustaceans that had been plucked from their homes, only to end up on a blue plate, in a basket or on a bed of kale.
Forty-four year old Mary Hopkins is the long-time owner of a successful clam bar on Cape Cod. By page 69, she has learned that one of her servers, a young mother, has died in a drunk driving accident. By page 69, Mary is recalling the events surrounding her own husband’s accidental death fourteen years earlier. By page 69, Mary has learned that her great aunt believes someone is breaking into her apartment to use her pots and pans. By page 69, Mary has discovered a secret tryst between two kitchen workers. And by page 69, Mary suspects an old flame that had broken her heart what feels like a lifetime ago may have finally resurfaced.

By page 69, Mary is feeling old, out of touch, lonely, rueful and lost. She stands at the water’s edge now and contemplates what it might be like to drown. Mary has hit bottom. And things are about to get worse.

I must admit I was relieved to see that page 69 of Summer Shift contained a significant moment in the book, that instant where a woman who has been just going through the motions season after season suddenly stops to consider the relevance of her life. That very next morning (also on page 69) she is visited by a dream that gives her hope that she is worthy of being loved.

Everything in our lives is in a continual state of flux. One moment we feel forlorn, the next, something happens to provide comfort and impel us forward. Finding grace is all about learning how to ride the waves, something Cape Codders learn to do at an early age.
Read an excerpt from Summer Shift, and learn more about the book and author at Lynn Kiele Bonasia's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"The Art of Devotion"

Samantha Bruce-Benjamin was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she earned a Masters Degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh. A former BBC Editor, she began her editorial career at Random House. She now lives in New York.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Art of Devotion, and reported the following:
…herself against the unpleasantness of others. I understood the logic of Adora’s argument but, despite how much I loved Gigi, I never felt it rang true or understood everyone’s tacit acceptance that Genevieve was the innocent victim of schoolgirl malice. Not once did one of us ever ask why. Why Genevieve: What was it about her that made people turn away?

It seems to me that for everything there is a reason – every regret and disappointment, something we do contributes to it. Perhaps I lack the compassion to understand what Gigi was forced to tolerate. It’s certainly possible. After all, I have no illusions left about myself or of what I am capable.
P. 69 finds Sophie, one of the four female narrators in The Art of Devotion, considering the character (moral and otherwise) of Genevieve (or Gigi as she is also nicknamed), the young girl who becomes the focus of her daughter Adora’s perceived obsession as they summer each year on an island in the Mediterranean Sea in the 1920s and 30s. In essence, p.69 constitutes only a third of a page, yet it does introduce one of the pivotal themes of the novel: that of perception. This story, at its heart, is about the judgments we make based on the information we receive from others. It is also a narrative, by its end, where a reader is forced to re-examine everything he or she has accepted as truth, and to question the narrator in whom such trust has been placed, subsequently raising the specter of the unreliable narrator.

The decision to write a novel founded on four female voices was entirely deliberate – my hope was that a reader might readily identify with at least one of these characters and allocate their trust accordingly. P. 69 offers a prime example of such a voice, asking – implicitly – to be trusted. In this passage, the reader finds Sophie not only questioning her judgment for the first time in the novel, but also introducing an early hint of doubt as to Genevieve’s character. Sophie’s narration here is not particularly kind. She’s talking about a bullied child and pondering whether this ‘victim,’ Genevieve, actually contributed to her persecution, which either displays a staggering lack of compassion or a penetrating insight based on what she, Sophie, although not the reader, knows as she narrates this passage from her present-day vantage point looking back to the past. Certainly, Sophie, by questioning her own judgment, might be perceived to be playing on a reader’s sympathies; she suggests that she may be wrong; maybe she shouldn’t be trusted. Yet, the ball is squarely placed in the reader’s court in terms of what to believe, which was precisely my intention. So, the dilemma remains: To trust Sophie, or not to trust Sophie? I can’t tell you, alas. You will have to turn to p.70 to find out….!
Browse inside The Art of Devotion, and learn more about the book and author at Samantha Bruce-Benjamin's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Nicola Monaghan grew up in Nottingham, England. A career in finance took her to New York, Paris, and Chicago, but she gave it up to pursue an MA in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Starfishing, her second novel, and reported the following:
Well, Starfishing is a pretty sexy book, so the fact that this is page 69 we’re talking about should not go unmentioned. There’s probably less action on this page than there is in a lot of the book, and no actual sex, though there is a promise to be fulfilled in the next few pages. Frankie, the novel’s main character, an Essex girl come good, is quite a conflicted personality, torn between her past council estate* raised self and her sophisticated City of London persona. This comes across pretty strongly in this section, where we see Frankie out drinking with her Essex girl mates, appalled by the clothes they wear but at the same time trying to change her accent to the way it used to be. They are at a local pub, and just to make the picture complete, Frankie’s ex turns up with yet another new girl on his arm. It’s years since they’ve been together but it still stings a little. Frankie tries to tell herself it doesn’t matter, though, push the emotions she feels out of reach. He’s the man she lost her virginity to and she plays this down as well, saying ‘Waiting for someone special is overrated – the whole thing is best got out of the way sooner rather than later. I wish to God I’d done it with some random stranger.’ All of these things are her character all over.

*UK equivalent of a housing project
Browse inside Starfishing, and learn more about the book and author at Nicola Monaghan's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 21, 2010

"The House on Oyster Creek"

Heidi Jon Schmidt's books include The Rose Thieves, Darling?, and The Bride of Catastrophe, all available in paperback. Her stories have been published in The Atlantic, Grand Street, Agni Review, Yankee, and many other magazines, and anthologized in The O'Henry Awards, Best American Nonrequired Reading, the Grand Street Reader and others.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The House on Oyster Creek, and reported the following:
When I'm asked what The House on Oyster Creek is about, I've answered-- "a marriage and a love affair," or "a land war between oyster farmers and waterfront homeowners," and these are the warp and woof of the plot. But really I am, as always, trying to capture what it feels like to be alive, in all the smallest and largest particulars. Especially what it feels like way out here at the furthest reach of Cape Cod. We're crowded onto a long sandspit where every tide changes the land a little, and we become hyper-aware of each other and of the huge forces of nature and history and economics that shape everyone's lives.

I've called it an ecological novel, because it's about how the smallest things we do affect everything around us. In the book, the gas leaking from a submerged truck endangers the ecosystem, and one kiss seems to threaten the stability of a whole community. I couldn't have dreamed in my worst nightmares of the kind of catastrophe that's happening in the Gulf of Mexico, and the havoc that's being wreaked on the shellfish farming communities there.

Page 69 talks about the different people on the Outer Cape, and yes, it does seem to show part of what life out here is like: the way, in certain lights and weathers, you can almost feel what it would have been to live here a century ago, or more.

From page 69:
There were lobster divers, chambermaids, and, in the summer, professors and editors who found the lobster divers and chambermaids irresistibly attractive. There were Freudian analysts, Jungian analysts, and a stray Kleinian analyst who was furious at both groups. There was Sklew Margison, who had a Nobel Prize in physics, for discovering something no one could explain. And Reggie the glass eater, who was said once to have swallowed a shot glass right along with the bourbon in it, and suffered no ill effects....

And Ada Town, the old woman who walked to the end of the point every morning regardless of the weather, dressed in a neat skirt and blouse and always with lively interest in her face. She'd been found on the church steps as an infant, rowed in from a passing ship, people said. Someone had seen a light on the water, heard the quiet splash of an oar. This scene, like so much of the town's history, remained vivid in every imagination--the streets were still narrow, angling up from the harbor to the town center, where the Congregational Church stood at the highest point, its steeple stark against the sky. If you stood on the steps there, you could see exactly how a dory might have been pulled ashore for the minute it would take to run up the hill and set a baby safely at the church door.
Learn more about the book and author at Heidi Jon Schmidt's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Dear Money"

The author of four previous novels and a finalist for the National Book Award, Martha McPhee lives in New York City with her children and husband, the poet and writer Mark Svenvold. A few years ago, when a legendary bond trader claimed he could transform her into a booming Wall Street success, she toyed with the notion--but wrote Dear Money instead.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Dear Money and reported the following:
What an interesting exercise, The Page 69 Test. I turned to that page and the first words I saw were: "Why do we like to keep our writers poor?" The entire page is a conversation between the protagonist, India Palmer, and her husband Theodore. She's tired of being cash-strapped. She's questioning her commitment to her craft. She's longing for the grown-up life, to have enough. This is the central predicament of the novel. With two children, married to an artist, an artist herself, India can't quite keep up in New York City. It's 2004, the height of the housing bubble when real estate was is the air and everyone, all across America, it seemed, owned her own home. The only true value of things was how much money you made. If you were a novelist, as India still was on page 69, the questions asked of her by others was: How are you book sales? How do you create when those are the terms? A little before page 69, India meets a mortgage-backed securities trader from a glittering Wall Street firm and he propositions her. After expressing curiosity about what the trader does, he says: If you give me 18 months I'll turn you into a trader of renown. By page 69 the pressures of keeping up cause her to take very seriously his proposition. She feels like a traitor to her talent and tossing this around with her husband, in the dark night of their bedroom, she is slipping away from art as he still believes in her as a writer. What will happen? Will she go to Wall Street and be transformed Pygmalion-like into a MBS trader? (Yes.) Will she have a love affair with money? (Yes.) After all is said and done and the financial world blows up, will she return to writing? (Hmm?) Where and how do art and commerce intersect and who comes out the winner in this foolish age? On page 69 questions are tossed into the air like a juggler's spinning balls.
View the Dear Money book trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Martha McPhee's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"My Name Is Mary Sutter"

Robin Oliveria received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship for a work-in-progress.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter, and reported the following:
The scene on page 69 in My Name is Mary Sutter, my debut novel about a midwife in the Civil War who wants to be a surgeon—a story that includes a family saga, several love stories, and a serious look at the beginning of both modern medicine and modern nursing in America—takes place on the quay in Albany, New York. The railroad that served Manhattan City, as New York City was then called, was in East Albany as it is now, across the Hudson River. It was from the river’s western shore that Albanian mothers bid farewell to members of the historic 25th Regiment, one of whom was Christian Sutter, beloved brother to the titular character and her twin sister, and adored son of their mother Amelia. Amelia is saying good-bye; she fears it is the last time her family will be together.

I can’t think of a better representation for the essence of the novel than this scene, as the Civil War was nothing but heartbreak, especially for women, but mostly for mothers. What follows is a paragraph that bleeds over to page 70.
The Lady of Perth Ferry had just left the dock with another hundred men, but it would return soon, for it would take ten trips to ferry the entire regiment across the swollen Hudson River toward the railroad depot on the far side. On the quay, there was a band, in uniform, and a flag, brilliant blue. The day had the crisp promise of spring; the freshet had receded, leaving the cobbles muddy and slippery. Saying farewell was a noisy business this April morning. There was so much vibrant feeling, a willful ignorance of what was to come. It had been almost a hundred years since Albany had been taken up with a war, and in between there had been years to forget the consequences.
Those consequences are, of course, what will concern the main character Mary Sutter, the doctors with whom she will work, and Amelia, whose heart will, unfortunately, break. The optimism and bravado rampant on the quay will soon fade in the desperate reality to come, into which Mary Sutter willingly steps, in pursuit of her unlikely goal.
Read an excerpt from My Name is Mary Sutter, and learn more about the book and author at Robin Oliveira's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Through the Cracks"

Barbara Fister's mysteries include On Edge and In the Wind.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Through the Cracks, and reported the following:
Through the Cracks grew out of two issues that were on my mind: the human stories behind exonerations and the anger and anxiety that infuses the current immigration debate. I decided to weave both of these into a story about the victim of a racially-charged rape case after the man she thought was responsible had his conviction overturned; I paired it with a contemporary case of an undocumented Mexican gang member arrested for the murder of a missing woman. In both cases, race influences both public opinion about crime and the workings of the criminal justice system.

On page 69, we meet the detective who investigated the 1986 rape case. Anni Koskinen, the private investigator hired by the victim to find out whether her rapist has gone on to commit more assaults, has learned the detective retired after being involved in a fatal shooting and is working as a building manager in Lincoln Park. She tracks him down in his basement apartment.
He was unshaven and bleary-eyed, dressed in wrinkled chinos and faded Cubs sweatshirt. His gray hair was tangled and stood up in uneven wisps. The room smelled of stale food and unwashed clothes.

“I’m looking for Jerry Pozorski.”

“Yeah? Whatcha want?”

“I’m sorry. Did I wake you up?”

“If you’re looking to rent, call the number on the sign outside,” he said. A calico cat crept past his legs to sniff the air in the corridor. He nudged it back with a foot. His sock had a gaping hole in the heel.

“I’m not looking for an apartment. I need to ask you about one of your cases.” I handed him one of my cards. “My client suggested I talk to you. Could I come in?”

He blinked at my card. Behind his legs I saw a tabby kitten with big ears peeking at me. “What client?” he asked. This time I caught the smell of bourbon on his breath.

“Jill McKenzie. You investigated an assault against her in 1986. I’ve been going through your case files; you did a good job. But as you know, the case has been thrown out, and there have been more recent assaults that may be related. It would be very helpful if I could talk to you.”

He bent to scoop up the calico as it started to wander into the hallway, then turned unsteadily and walked into his apartment, the tabby kitten scampering in front of him. I started to follow him, catching a glimpse of a recliner and a coffee table crowded with bottles and fast food containers, but had to step back quickly to avoid getting hit by the door as he slammed it behind him.

I knocked again, but the only response I got was the sound of a bolt being fastened.
This passage is fairly typical of the book. I'm more interested in the effect of crime than in crime itself. So often sexualized violence against women is the animating spark of much popular crime fiction; female characters are introduced expressly to be victims; they're barely on the page, except to be brutalized and avenged. Though I take seriously the reader's expectation that a mystery will provide an entertaining story, the last thing I wanted was to use rape as a convenient frame for a duel of wits between a detective and a clever criminal. Instead I focus on the lives of the women who have had to confront their fears, on the detective who wants a second chance to get the case right, and on the exonerated man who is trying to reenter a society, but who finds he can't get a job because he was in prison, but isn't eligible for convict re-entry programs because he was innocent.
Learn more about the author and her work at Barbara Fister's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: In the Wind.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Junkyard Dogs"

Craig Johnson has received high praise for his Sheriff Walt Longmire novels The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins, and The Dark Horse, which received a superfecta of starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and was named one of Publishers Weekly's best books of the year (2009).

He applied the Page 69 Test to Junkyard Dogs, the sixth Walt Longmire mystery, and reported the following:
From the flap copy:
Missing body parts and dead developers are only the beginning when Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire finds himself in the throws of a modern day range war.
You have to realize that there’s going to be a lot of baggage with both a detective story and a western, but I think that’s where the humor comes in handy for not only pointing up those connections but poking a little fun at them as well. Junkyard Dogs is the sixth in the series, and I start all my novels with some sort of social issue at which I want to take a whack. I like to think that I’m writing socially oriented mysteries. The majority of my books get their seminal idea from a newspaper or magazine article which keeps the novels grounded in the culture of the American west. I refer to it as my ‘burr-under-the-saddle-blanket’ syndrome. I’ve found that dissatisfaction is great fuel for writing. Junkyard Dogs deals with the economy of the new west and the separation of the haves and have-nots. I set out to write this dire, frozen landscape of a pressure cooker in a small town in order to deal with the more venal aspects of human nature and something strange happened along the way—I came up with the funniest novel I’ve ever written.

A lot of the humor has to do with the characters and their relationships. At this point in the novel, Walt has learned that his high school civics (look it up, kids) teacher, Betty Dobbs, the mother of local developer Ozzie Jr., is having an affair with Geo Stewart who is the junkman; an incongruous relationship at best. Geo’s been taken to the hospital, and Walt has been feeding his animals at his house—just another kindly service provided by the Absaroka County sheriff’s office. When he returns to his vehicle, he finds his under-sheriff, Victoria Morretti, leaning against his windshield “like one of those women you see at car shows reclining on the hoods of cars—that is, if those women wore 17-shot Glocks and attitude”…
“Doc Bloomfield said you’d gone to feed those dire wolves of Geo Stewart’s, and I thought they must’ve gotten you in­stead, so I came out here.”

“Somebody had already fed them.”

She glanced in the direction of the peaked gables, just vis­ible over the crest of the ridge. “It wouldn’t happen to have been Betty ‘Petty’ Dobbs, would it?”

I made a face. “How did you know that?”

“Her son, Tweedledum, called in a missing persons.”


She studied me and smiled, revealing the canine tooth that was just a shade longer than the others. “Is there more to this story?”

Vic loved dish, so I pulled my hat off and rested my fore­head on her thigh—I was the picture of abject despair. “Betty Dobbs, my seventh-grade English/civics teacher, is having an affair with Geo Stewart.”

Her leg jumped, my head bounced, and I looked up at her as she covered her mouth with a hand. “Get the fuck out of here; Daughter of the American Revolution, P.E.O., Who’s Who, grand matron of Redhills Rancho Arroyo is shtupping the junkman?”

“I think Municipal Solid Waste Facility Engineer is the title he prefers.”

“Ozzie Junior is going to prefer to put a bullet in his un­washed ass. Is he aware?”

I put my hat back on. “Who?”



“Can I tell him?”
The page is almost exclusively dialogue between Walt and Vic, which is something I enjoy. The contrast between their two voices, his rural/hers urban is pretty definitive of not only the book, but of the series as a whole. The novels are in Walt’s first-person voice, and I knew that there was going to be a preponderance of masculinity so I thought I better counter-balance that with some really strong female characters—predominantly Vic. Sister of four brothers in the Philadelphia PD, father who’s a chief of detectives—she has to be twice as tough and twice as good at her job to be noticed half as much. Of course, a lot of this goes back to that pre-conceived baggage of western and mystery writing. I think it helps the novels to have that one, very urban and bitingly humorous voice.

I think page 69 of Junkyard Dogs is representative of the book, and I’ve got to admit that I’d want to read some more.
Read an excerpt from Junkyard Dogs, and learn more about the author and his work at Craig Johnson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Kindness Goes Unpunished.

My Book, The Movie: The Cold Dish.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Horse.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 14, 2010

"The Rebellion of Jane Clarke"

Sally Gunning's books include The Widow's War and Bound.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Rebellion of Jane Clarke, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Rebellion of Jane Clarke you will find a scene set in a 1769 Boston bookstore where Jane Clarke meets bookseller Henry Knox. At first glimpse this page might appear as a diversion, where I explore some of the hideous literary offerings of the 18th century (Abducted women? Scandalous convents?) and hint at a potential relationship between Jane and Knox, but the scene also serves the larger plot. Near the end of the page Henry Knox quotes from John Locke, a philosopher who inspired Thomas Jefferson as he wrote the Declaration of Independence:
“Men being by nature free, equal and independent, no man can be put out of his estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent.”
As this book explores the conflicting impulses for and against independence, this page is certainly representative of it. It foreshadows the conflict within America in the years leading up to the Revolution, and hints at the conflict in Jane, whose loyalist father would very much disapprove of Mr. Knox.

Mr. Knox next confesses to Jane that he is also making a study of artillery. Knox, John Adams, and other famous figures that people the pages of this book accept the necessity of force in backing up an argument. But what of Jane Clarke? (Now I’m going to cheat. TURN THE PAGE. Do it by candlelight in the privacy of your room if you must, but Jane’s response deserves to be heard). At the top of the next page Jane says:
“I’d not have thought the words consent and artillery would make such compatible reading.”
Here is the heart of the conflict in the book and in Jane, and a hint of the struggle ahead in her relationship with her father and Knox, as well as with a key piece of American history – the Boston Massacre -- on which Jane leaves her own indelible mark.
Browse inside The Rebellion of Jane Clarke, and read the story behind the novel. Learn more about the author and her work at Sally Gunning's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bound.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Beach Week"

Susan Coll is the author of the novels Acceptance,, and Rockville Pike.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Beach Week, her latest novel, and reported the following:
Page 69:
…He took a deep breath, as if anticipating her reaction. “I got an e-mail, and I confess I didn’t really pay any attention to it. I should have forwarded it to you, but I---well, I just figured you got it, too, and since this is your thing, I thought I’d just let you deal with it.”

My thing?”

“Okay, well our thing. I didn’t mean it like that. I give up. I’m just digging a deeper hole here.”
Page 69 is sort of a workhorse; while it’s not particularly artful, it does get right to the heart of the matter in the sense that it captures a family mid-bicker about Beach Week. This is the story of how a high school rite of passage in which graduating seniors go off to the Delaware shore for a week of presumed debauchery puts pressure on a family, and on an already fragile marriage. When I began to write this book, the only thing that I knew for sure was that I wanted to capture the climate of lunacy that has adults thinking they can regulate teenage behavior by generating a lot of paperwork and holding a lot of meetings that involve lectures, pledges, and the signing of legal contracts. Meanwhile the couple at the center of this novel is in disagreement about whether their daughter should be permitted to attend Beach Week at all. As the book progresses they tacitly switch positions for reasons that have less to do with their daughter than with themselves, and the fighting becomes increasingly petty. In this patch of dialogue they are having a little tiff about who got what email, and who initiated this conversation in the first place. More time and energy is spent discussing the logistics of Beach Week than on the event itself, and in that sense, this is a reasonably representative page.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan Coll's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Susan Coll & Zoe.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 11, 2010

"City of Fear"

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

He applied the Page 69 Test to City of Fear, the eighth and latest Nic Costa novel, and reported the following:
On Page 69 of City of Fear I’m introducing one of the main themes of the book and paying homage to a writer I love. This is a story set in the labyrinthine and tortuous world of Italian politics, one in which a decent old man, Dario Sordi, the nation’s president, is pitted against an indecent, scheming prime minister, and beset by a terrorist crisis that is not all it appears, turning for help to Nic Costa, whose late father he once knew.

One of the inspirations for the book is the work of the great Robert Graves, whose I, Claudius and Claudius the God first introduced me to the world of Rome when I was a kid. Graves wrote about the bloody, conspiracy-riven politics of the Imperial family in the palaces of the Palatine hill two thousand years ago. My book is set on a different hill, the Quirinale, not a mile away, around another palace, that built by a pope and now occupied by the Roman president. An abiding theme of these books is the recurring nature of history, how we return to make the same stupid mistakes over and over again. Graves made the self-same point in the Claudius books.

Is Page 69 representative of the book? Definitely. Would a reader skimming it still feel minded to carry on? Probably. I certainly hope so though they’d miss me offering a few word of thanks to one of my own literary heroes.

Page 69 extract:
Costa followed him back into the house. The library sprawled untidily across a set of shelves that spanned an entire wall in his father’s study.

‘Here,’ Sordi said, finding two copies among the foreign novels jumbled together in a section closest to the window. ‘Have you read them?’

They were by an English writer, Robert Graves. I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

‘Years ago, but I don’t remember them much,’ Costa admitted. ‘History’s not much to my taste.’

‘They’re about history only tangentially. In truth they’re about us. The human animal. About society. How it works, or attempts to. How it fails when we forget our ties to one another. Read them again some time, properly. Your father and I...’

Sordi opened the covers of each so that he could see. Inside was an identical inscription... To my dearest friend, Marco. From Dario, the turncoat.

‘We were still friends when I gave him these. Not for much longer. What came after, by which I mean the end of the commission into the Blue Demon case... perhaps it was inevitable we would drift apart.’

He waved the books at Costa and placed them on Marco’s desk.

‘These were a gift I hoped might explain a little. Your father lived for his principles. He would rather die than compromise them. I...’ Sordi grimaced. ‘A politician reaches a point in his life when he or she must decide. Do you wish to hold steadfast to your beliefs? Or do you become pragmatic and attempt to turn some small fraction of them into reality? I chose the latter, and look what it made me. A widower living in a solitary palace, with a slender grip on power and a prime minister who would send me off to an old people’s home if he could. King Lear of Rome. Perhaps your father was right. I betrayed what we once stood for.’
Learn more about the author and his work at David Hewson's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Never Wave Goodbye"

Doug Magee has been a photojournalist, screenplay writer, children’s book author, death penalty activist, film producer and director, war protestor, college football player, amateur musician, and the basis of the Aidan Quinn character in Meryl Streep’s Music of the Heart.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Never Wave Goodbye, and reported the following:
Page 69 in my new novel Never Wave Goodbye is actually half a page, the end of a chapter. The page turns out to be somewhat pivotal, at least for the four nine year-olds it talks about. They were put on a van to go to Camp Arno, but a strange Mr. Everett has taken them deep into the Adirondack Mountains, all the time telling them this was just a program from the camp. On Page 69 they're catching on to the fact the Mr. Everett has nothing to do with the camp. Then in the final paragraph, Mr. Everett comes to them, tells them to line up in front of some nondescript bushes, and takes a short video of them with his digital camera. That video is soon to be emailed to their parents, proof that they are alive.
Read an excerpt from Never Wave Goodbye, and learn more about the book and author at Doug Magee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"So Cold the River"

Michael Koryta has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Great Lake Books Award, and St. Martin's Press/PWA Best First Novel prize, while also earning nominations for the Edgar, Quill, Shamus and Barry awards. In addition to winning the Los Angeles Times prize for best mystery, his novel Envy the Night was selected as a Reader's Digest condensed book. His work has been translated into nearly twenty languages. A former private investigator and newspaper reporter, Koryta graduated from Indiana University with a degree in criminal justice.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new, standalone novel, So Cold The River, and reported the following:
The thing about Page 69 of So Cold The River is that there have been a crucial 68 pages preceding it, I mean just absolutely critical, couldn’t possibly have been cut, so you’ll really have to…

Oh, wait. Hmmm. You know, I’ll be damned. It’s really not a bad place to dive into the book. Now, don’t take that advice and skip those crucial 68 pages, but we really do have the gist of the opening here. On page 69, the novel’s protagonist, Eric Shaw, is faced with the first vision of the ghost who will plague him – and the towns of West Baden and French Lick, Indiana – for the remainder of the novel. While having a drink in the lobby of the West Baden Springs Hotel, bothered by headaches and unsettled by a recent disconnect between his own eye and his video camera’s recording capabilities, Eric’s attention is grabbed by a haunting violin melody. There’s a problem, though – the only instrument around is a piano. And the man playing the piano is, well, a little misplaced. By a century or so. He looks up, meets Eric’s eye, grins, and…
Eric opened his hand and the glass fell from it and hit the edge of the bar before dropping to the tile floor and breaking, sending splinters of glass in all directions. The moment the glass broke, the music vanished. Cut off in midnote, like somebody had jerked out a stereo power cord...
Away we go. Hopefully. You with me? I’d like the company. But go back and start at page one, would you?
Learn more about the author and his work at Michael Koryta's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Random Violence"

Jassy Mackenzie was born in Rhodesia and moved to South Africa when she was eight years old. She has actually been carjacked at gunpoint outside her home. She lives in Kyalami with her partner, Dion, two horses and two cats. She edits and writes for the annual publication Best of South Africa.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Random Violence, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Random Violence, P.I. Jade de Jong, the feisty but flawed heroine, is trying to extract the truth from South African artist Piet Botha, whose wealthy ex-wife Annette was murdered outside her Johannesburg home in what appeared to be a botched hijacking. Jade has just discovered that Piet did, in fact, have Annette followed a while ago. Now she is interrupting his gardening session to tell him that she knows.
“Followed? Who told you that?” Piet struggled to his feet, dusting soil off his jeans. He glanced at her, biting his lip, and then looked away.

“Never mind who told me. It’s true, though, isn’t it?”

“Well, I mean…” He shook his head. “I didn’t think it mattered.”

“Piet,” Jade stared down at the little man in exasperation. “You don’t think anything matters. You didn’t tell the police about Annette contacting a private detective, either.”

“Yes, but that was different. I forgot about it.”

“And you forgot about following her, too?”

“No, no.” Piet’s head swiveled from side to side, as if looking for the cavalry to come and rescue him. “I didn’t forget about that. Like I said, I didn’t think it was…” He searched for the word and found it. “Relevant.” He snapped his fingers. “That’s it. I didn’t think it was relevant.”

“The police are going to think it’s extremely relevant.”

Piet looked at her, anguish in his eyes.

“That detective already said I was a suspect. I’m terrified of being falsely accused. Like the way it happens on TV. I don’t want the police to arrest me, Jade. What if I get put in prison for something I didn’t do? If you tell them this, they might think I’m guilty.”

His voice had risen to a shout. He glared at her, breathing hard.

I’d be happy if readers opened the book on this page, because this conversation contains important clues to the mystery surrounding Annette Botha’s death as well as giving an insight into two of the main leads. Jade’s tenaciousness comes across clearly in this dialogue. She’s like a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out the truth, but her singleminded obsession with her cases combined with her somewhat cavalier attitude towards the law often ends up landing her in trouble – or in danger.

Throughout the book, Piet is as scatterbrained as he appears to be in this conversation. But is the little artist genuinely absent-minded, or is he an accomplished liar who paid a generous hit fee to his wife’s killer? To find that out, you’ll need to read on to page 70 and beyond…
Read an excerpt from Random Violence, and learn more about the book and author at Jassy Mackenzie's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Justice in June"

Barbara Levenson is the author of Fatal February, the first novel in the Mary Magruder Katz mystery series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Justice in June, and reported the following:
Page 69 highlights one of the three cases that comprise the plot in this second Mary Magruder Katz mystery series. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include the hot romance Mary has going with her hot Latin boyfriend, Carlos.

The protagonist, Mary Magruder Katz, a criminal defense lawyer in Miami is representing Judge Liz Maxwell who is under investigation for fixing drug cases. Mary is at a meeting with the state attorney, Jason Jimenez Jones. (I told you this is a Miami story where every one is an ethnic mixture.)

Jason is outlining all the reasons he believes Liz is a dirty judge:
“I thought you knew me better than to think I’d go on a witch hunt. I couldn’t ignore the fact that more than one of my prosecutors believe something funny is going on in Maxwell’s division. Since she came back to the criminal bench six months ago, several cases involving drug dealers have been dismissed without any reason at a very early stage in the litigation. Some of these cases were dismissed after the filing of perfunctory motions to dismiss by the defense. No hearings were held, and the orders were form orders with no reasons stated for the dismissals. In some cases form orders were signed right after the arraignments.-----Then there was the murder of the informant in an important state case. Judge Maxwell directed the state to produce the guy. She could have tipped off someone about the time and place he would be produced. Things began to add up.”
Mary, ever the advocate for her clients appears undaunted, although she is terrified of losing the case of a woman judge who, up to now, has a flawless reputation.
I was feeling a little shaky. It looked like the state was not just on a fishing expedition, and Liz was a big catch. “What added up?,” I asked. I assumed as haughty an attitude as I could muster.”
Page 69 shows the reader what Mary is up against in this case, and gives some insight into her outer façade of toughness. Can Mary win this case, along with the case against an alleged terrorist? Will Mary and Carlos keep their hot romance going? To find out, read Justice In June.
Learn more about the book and author at Barbara Levenson's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Sylvan Street"

Deborah Schupack is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, as well as numerous short stories and newspaper and magazine articles. She runs a copywriting firm, King Street Creative, and lives in the Lower Hudson Valley.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sylvan Street, and reported the following:
Page 69:
“The perfect guest,” Billy said.

“Dying to be.”

Billy felt the urge to say something profound, that he loved him or thought him a wonderful, worthy person, that he would miss him and so would Maggie, that they would name a son after him.

“Good night, sir,” Billy said.

“Good night, sir, yourself.”

So it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that a dying Uncle Richard, in love with the potential family that Billy and Maggie would create, would bequeath them at least some of his considerable wealth. In the form of a briefcase full of cash? That’s how Billy would do it if he had kids squabbling over inheritance while he was still alive, thank you very much. Pull the rug right out from under them.

Billy could picture it to the last detail, Richard wheeling the case from his car to the pool house, stopping now and then to catch his breath but spurred on by the feeling that his plan was ingenious and served everyone right. The moon, Billy remembered now—with plenty of romantic hindsight—was full, or at least gibbous in its brightness, lighting Richard’s way.

Had Billy in fact divvied up his wife’s inheritance among their neighbors? He found the notion benign enough. The last thing he and Maggie needed—and he was sure she’d agree with him on this—was more money to separate them from those around them.

Billy had given up his circle of friends bit by bit, through the social atrophies of marriage, of moving to the suburbs, of (continued on page 70)
Quick summary of Sylvan Street: Billy Callahan finds a mysterious briefcase in his pool shed while all his neighbors are gathered for a party. He opens the case in front of everyone—only to find one million dollars inside. The money, and the decisions that go along with it, become everybody’s windfall—and everybody’s problem.

Page 69, I was intrigued (and relieved) to find, goes to the heart of both the general storyline—the neighbors and the newfound money—and Billy’s particular storyline. Billy and his wife Maggie have been trying to have a baby for years, and their inability to do so is eating away at their marriage.

In this scene, Billy imagines a benign, self-admittedly romantic source of the money (a beloved dying Uncle Richard). That runs counter to the actual source of the money, a much more corrosive force. But on p. 69, Billy, like many of his neighbors in the earlier part of the book, swells with possibility and promise. Throughout the course of Sylvan Street, the story and the characters knock back and forth between promise and destructiveness.

In a similar way, for Billy, the idea of family oscillates between promise and destructiveness. The promise of family, of a baby, looms large—but the reality of infertility threatens to destroy their relationship.

I often talk about Sylvan Street as exploring the power and limitations of money. What I realize after doing a close reading of p. 69 is that the book really explores the power and limitations of promise. Inherent in promise, as in money, is evidence of its other side, its loss. Promise, like money, is a bittersweet thing.
Read an excerpt from Sylvan Street, and learn more about the book and author at Deborah Schupack's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Blood Oath"

Christopher Farnsworth worked as an investigative and business reporter for several years, and his work has appeared in New Republic, Washington Monthly, the New York Post, a Windows technical manual, and on E! Online. After moving to Los Angeles he began writing full-time and sold his first script, The Academy, to MGM.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Blood Oath, the first book in a series featuring the adventures of Nathaniel Cade, a vampire sworn to protect the president and the United States from supernatural threats, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Blood Oath:
Cusick was about to say something else, but Cade interrupted. “I think we need to take a moment. Don’t you, Agent Cusick?”

They all trooped out of the room again, behind Cade.

“Hey! What about my lawyer?” Reese yelled. No one answered him.

They stood outside the door for a moment, not saying anything.

“He doesn’t seem very cooperative,” Cade said.

“Screw you,” Cusick shot back. “If you’d been here earlier, we might have had more luck.”

Cade ignored him, again. “I’d like to talk to him alone.”

Cusick was instantly suspicious. “Why?”

Cade’s expression didn’t change. “Because I’d like to talk to him alone.”

Cusick grit his teeth, and stepped back with exaggerated courtesy. “Of course. Excuse the hell out of me.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Cade said, and went back into the room.

Zach heard Reese talking, muffled through the door. He didn’t know what to say to the ICE agents, so he smiled.

They looked at him like he was retarded.

“Who the hell are you with again?” Cusick asked.

Zach blanked. He couldn’t remember which division of the government was written on his fake ID.

Then the screaming started.

Zach had never heard anything like it. It came from inside the small office. It sounded like an animal caught in a trap.

It was Reese.

Cusick moved before his partner did. He lifted his foot, prepared to kick the door down–

Just as Cade swung it open gently.

They rushed in together. Cade stood back.

“What the fuck – “ Cusick said. Zach looked down, noticed that Cusick had his gun drawn.

“He wasn’t hired by a referral agency,” Cade said.
In this scene, Nathaniel Cade and his human handler, Zach Barrows, are dealing with authentic DHS agents questioning the driver of what turns out to be a truck full of rotting human body parts. The driver isn't very cooperative, so Cade uses his own special kind of enhanced interrogation methods. He gets results.

Cade is a vampire. By nature and definition, he's evil. He's bound to protect the United States from everything else the darkness throws at us, but make no mistake: he's not a good guy. And yet, he has his own morality, and he's often disillusioned -- if not disgusted -- by the things people do to each other. Cade had his humanity taken from him; he can't see why anyone would give it up willingly.

That's the serious undercurrent of the passage. But in truth, I also just wanted to write a scene where a vampire gets to play "bad cop" in an interrogation scene. I can't imagine anyone holding onto a secret if the guy asking the question bares his fangs while he talks.

This is, more or less, what the entire book is about: the line between light and dark, and how far you have to be willing to go, sometimes, to defend it. Like one of my characters says, "Forget the War on Terror. This is the War on Horror." And that's why we need Cade.
Read an excerpt from Blood Oath, and learn more about the book and author at the Blood Oath website, and Christopher Farnsworth's website and blog.

View the Blood Oath trailer.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Bodily Harm"

Robert Dugoni has practiced as a civil litigator in San Francisco and Seattle for seventeen years. In 1999 he left the full-time practice of law to write, and is a two-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a degree in journalism and worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times before obtaining his doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.

His fourth novel--and third in the David Sloane series--is Bodily Harm, which was released by Touchstone Books last month.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Bodily Harm and reported the following:
Actually page 69 has much to do with the book. David Sloane has traveled to central Washington to investigate the death of a young boy, suspecting that the death could be related to a prototype of a toy. Sloane is talking to the attorney who represented the boy and settled the case in confidence without even filing suit, which begs the question – why would a toy company settle a case for a toy that they are about to put on the market unless they knew there was something dangerous about the toy? And from there Sloane is off and running, sensing a conspiracy to hide the truth about a toy that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars … and potentially deadly.
Learn more about the author and his work at Robert Dugoni's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Five Odd Honors"

Jane Lindskold is the author of the acclaimed Firekeeper fantasy series and the new Breaking the Wall fantasy series. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband, archaeologist Jim Moore, and several cats.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Five Odd Honors, and reported the following:
Coincidence is a funny thing. Back when my novel Thirteen Orphans, the first book in the “Breaking the Wall” series, was a new release, I was asked if I’d like to write a Page 69 piece.

I did so, using a reading I was giving at Page One Bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a way to test the page in question.

This year I was again asked if I’d like to do a Page 69 piece, this time related to Five Odd Honors, the third book in the “Breaking the Wall” series. (The middle book is called Nine Gates, in case you’re wondering). Once again I had a reading scheduled at Page One Bookstore. I decided to trust the omens and, as before, reserved a peek at page 69 of Five Odd Honors until I was before an audience at the bookstore.

I started my reading with the prologue and first chapter from the novel. I think it’s pretty good but, when you’re three books into a series, there are a lot of characters and past action to introduce. There’s more talk than walk (although there is also a very strange dream and a nasty threat, too).

I wondered what page 69 would offer. I hoped for a bit of action since both action and intrigue have their places in Five Odd Honors. I couldn’t have been happier. The first words were: “Raw anger powered her next blow.”

I recognized the scene immediately, one of the stranger battles in a book containing more than its share of such: Pearl Bright against the ghost of her father, Thundering Heaven.

However, what my listeners quickly gathered as I read on was that neither Pearl nor her father were fighting in human form. As both held (or had held in Thundering Heaven’s case) the role of the Tiger among the Thirteen Orphans, now they fought as tigers. I quote:
They sparred, occasionally drawing blood, but neither doing more than scoring the other’s coat. Eventually, on each, golden orange fur acquired added stripes of muddy, dark red, stripes that, trickling into the white fur of ruff and underbelly, marked the course of a wound in vivid scarlet.

They snarled, chuffed, and hissed as they fought. Soon both were panting, foam and saliva dripping from open mouths. They were well enough matched – her greater dexterity eliminating the advantage of his greater size and weight, both of them skilled in combat – that Pearl began to feel the battle could go on forever.
Does the battle go on forever? Who wins? I read onto page 70. I hope that any reader picking up the book for examination in the bookstore might do so as well. Then, hopefully, that reader will go back to find out how a woman in her seventies and her dead father ended up battling as tigers in a very strange jungle.
Read an excerpt from Five Odd Honors, and learn more about the book and author at Jane Lindskold's website.

The Page 69 Test: Thirteen Orphans.

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

--Marshal Zeringue