Friday, July 30, 2010


Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of Moon Shell Beach, The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, Between Husbands and Friends, and Summer House.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Beachcombers, and reported the following:
Beachcombers is written from the points of view of four different women. Abbie, the oldest sister, is 30, Emma is 28, and Lily, the baby, is 22. Their mother died when they were young, and their father, Jim, is widowed. And handsome, although the girls never considered this before.

Marina, 40, rents what used to be the sisters' playhouse at the back of their garden. She's had losses of her own and has come to the island to recover. She meets Jim and they are attracted to one another,which surprises and upsets the sisters. During one sensual Nantucket summer, these four women will fight, confide, and find their lives utterly changed.

Page 69 is the beginning of a chapter from Lily's point of view. She's at a community theater, and she sees Marina come in alone. She thinks Marina is sophisticated and chic--too stylish for her father. "He was a margarita at a clambake. This woman looked like a martini at the opera."

I think this page captures some of the tension that rolls through the book and presages the drama Lily kicks up when she sees her father alone with Marina. It also captures Lily in her most vain moments, although all Lily's moments are vain moments. It captures her youth, and her aspirations and her envy. It's a brief glimpse of two women on the brink of a summer that will transform them all.
Read an excerpt from Beachcombers, and learn more about the book and author at Nancy Thayer's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives"

Josie Brown's novels include True Hollywood Lies and Impossibly Tongue-Tied.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, and reported the following:
Page 69:
...that about me? Oh, let me guess: that nymphomaniac Tammy."

"No, not exactly--"

"Don't cover up for her. Damn it, she's not even very subtle about it. The only reason she offered to straighten out my cupboards was so that she could climb up on a ladder in those low-slung tight-ass jeans. And every time I turn around, she's trying to get me out of my clothes. I can't prove, but I swear she deliberately put a pen in the wash with my underwear." He shakes his head wearily. "Hell, maybe I should take her up on her offer and screw her brains out. It might actually calm her down. At the very least she'd finally shut up about it."

That stops me cold. If Tammy were already sleeping with him she certainly wouldn't be talking about i, to anyone.

Neither would Colleen, for that matter. Or Brooke or Isabelle. Sure they all desire Harry. But only because he's a nice, safe fantasy, and not some dirty reality that could blow up in their faces.

"I do believe you, Harry." When I look up at him, I'm happy to see he is relieved. "But--"

"But what?"

"Well, I--really, we all happened to see Margot's bike behind your bushes. We assumed that she was inside. With you. Then, when the back door opened and shut while we were in the house, I thought she'd slipped out..."

Harry's face is blank. Then all of a sudden he beings to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"That must have been when Lucky got loose. As for the bike, it's still there. Go ahead, take a look."

I jump out of the car ad look behind the bush. He's right.

"Did she just leave it here?"

"Margot? Hell, no. Laurel brought it over. When she babysat for Temple yesterday. When I got home from work, it was dark, so I drove her home instead of letter her ride it. She's picking it up after cheerleading practice.
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book? Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?

Hmmm...loaded question!

That depends! I think that it certainly invites readers to want to figure out "what the hell is going on here?"

In fact, if a book were a screenplay (say, 110 pages of screenplay to 330 pages of book, or 3 book pages-to-1 screenplay page) this would put us on 23-minute mark, or in an area of the screenplay Blake Snyder calls "Setting the theme."

That said, yes, it sets the theme: neighborhood DILF (Daddy I'd like to...well, you get the idea) a former master-of-the-universe/now stay-at-home dad is working hard to fit in. However, there are some much-to-friendly neighbors making his life miserable.

But before that scene we learn why his own marriage fell apart, and after we see its correlation with the narrator's: the neighbor with whom he's conversing, Lyssa.

Bottom line: if it piques your interest, please do pick up a copy!.
Learn more about the book and author at Josie Brown's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"A Fierce Radiance"

Lauren Belfer's debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a #1 Book Sense pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award nominee, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into seven languages.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Fierce Radiance, and reported the following:
When I first heard about the Page 69 Test, I have to admit – I was skeptical. What could one page, out of 527, possibly show about my novel as a whole? But when I checked Page 69 of A Fierce Radiance, I was shocked. Page 69 encapsulates everything the novel is about – love, passion, life, death, medicine, the pressures of war...everything is there, except for robber barons and espionage, but they’re just around the corner.

On Page 69 of A Fierce Radiance, the two main characters, Claire Shipley, a photojournalist with Life Magazine, and Dr. James Stanton, a physician/researcher, find their first opportunity to speak privately. Claire has been sent to New York’s Rockefeller Institute to report on the testing of a miraculous new drug on a man who’s close to death from a blood infection that resulted from a scratch on the knee. The story carries deep personal meaning for Claire, because her own daughter died at age 3 of a blood infection, and this miraculous new drug – penicillin – probably would have saved her life. Dr. Stanton has spent almost two decades treating infectious diseases, trying to save the lives of his patients but having few medicines to help him – until now.

Claire and James have been alert to one another during the previous days as the story unfolded around them. On Page 69, as the patient who has brought them together lies gravely ill, they take their first tentative steps toward one another. Here is an excerpt from Page 69:
He decided that when this experiment was complete and the notes were compiled, he would ask Claire Shipley to dinner. Despite death looming before them, life continued. Love, hate, friendship, all of it continued. Countless other patients would arrive here by ambulance. Someday, one of them would be cured. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he knew this was true. One of them would be cured and would walk out the hospital doorway, onto the path under the arching trees, past the fountains and the birdbaths, through the stone gates and into the city’s teeming, rushing splendor.
Read an excerpt from A Fierce Radiance, and learn more about the book and author at Lauren Belfer's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Thief Eyes"

Janni Lee Simner's first novel for teens, Bones of Faerie, is a post-apocalyptic fairy tale, set after the war with Faerie has destroyed much of the world. Her second, Thief Eyes, is a contemporary fantasy based on the Icelandic sagas, Njal's Saga in particular. She is also working on Faerie Winter, a sequel to Bones of Faerie.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Thief Eyes and reported the following:
When I turned to page 69 of Thief Eyes--my contemporary young adult fantasy based on the Icelandic sagas and Norse mythology--I was startled at just how representative it was of the larger story. Most of the book's major elements are mentioned in those 27 lines: that the protagonist, Haley, is trapped with the memory-controlling raven Muninn; that secondary character Ari is trapped, somewhere offstage, as a bear; that Haley has been touched by fire magic that could do harm if set free; and that she holds a magical coin that's somehow tied to that fire magic.

Only Haley's ancestor, Hallgerd--the woman who's spell brings most of those elements together--isn't on the page, though Muninn refers to her when speaking to Haley:
Time is fluid in this cave, not firmly bound to the outside world. As long as you remain here, the bond between you and the other one is muted. Should you leave, you would surely meet her again, though none can say when, in your life or hers. I will not risk seeing you harmed by that meeting. I'll not risk setting the fire free.
To catch a glimpse of the "other one" in question, though, the reader has to turn to page 70.
Visit Janni Lee Simner's website and blog/journal.

Writers Read: Janni Lee Simner.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"They're Watching"

Gregg Hurwitz is the author of several novels, including Trust No One and The Crime Writer, and has been a finalist for the ITW Best Novel and the Ian Fleming Gold Dagger.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, They're Watching, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the shortest page in the book -- the end of a chapter. It's a huge emotional beat. In fact, it's probably the turning point of the central relationship between the husband and wife, Patrick and Ariana Davis. I don't want to quote it because I don't want to give anything away!
View the They're Watching video trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Gregg Hurwitz's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Blake Crouch was born near the piedmont town of Statesville, North Carolina in 1978. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2000 with degrees in English and Creative Writing.

His first two novels are Desert Places and Locked Doors. Beginning in late 2005, and inspired by his relocation to Durango, Colorado, he researched and wrote a book set in the past and present in a remote mining town high in the San Juan Mountains. The resulting novel, Abandon, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2009.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Snowbound, his new novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the start of Chapter 19 of Snowbound, and is a great representation of the tone, speed, and tension of the book. In this excerpt, my protagonist, Will Innis, has teamed up with Kalyn Sharp, a defrocked FBI agent, to follow and kidnap a man named Javier Estrada, who is one of my favorite villains I’ve written. They suspect Javier of kidnapping Will’s wife 5 years ago, a crime for which Will was suspected. This scene is the buildup to a pretty exciting kidnapping sequence, when Will begins to realize just how far over his head he really is:
The new Escalade slowed as it neared the entrance to The Boulders, right turn signal blinking.

“What’d you do?” Will asked again.

Kalyn cut her eyes at him, grinned wickedly. The Escalade pulled out onto N. Tom Darlington Road. They followed.

“Do me a favor,” Kalyn said. “Reach in my purse and pull out the Glock. You’ve held a gun before, right?”

“Yeah, at Webelos camp about twenty years ago.” Will lifted out a small, black semi-automatic handgun. “Loaded?” he asked.

“Yep. Now very gently, pull back on the slide. You see a round?”

He saw the copper-tipped gold casing. “Yeah.”

“You can put it back.” Will looked up through the windshield, Javier’s SUV fifty yards ahead, but something clearly wrong with it, the Escalade drifting toward the shoulder.

“Why’s he swerving?”

Kalyn smiled again.

“Oh God,” he said. “You didn’t.”

After another half mile, Javier pulled over onto the shoulder. The way it dipped forward and to the right, Will could tell the vehicle’s right front tire was flat. Kalyn slowed down, and twenty yards past the front bumper of the Escalade, veered over onto the shoulder.

She turned off the car, said, “You ready for this?”


“Listen. You just do exactly what I say, and it’ll be fine.” Will looked in the side mirror, saw Javier’s door swing open. “When we come back,” Kalyn said, “I want you to drive. Javier’s gonna be beside you. I’m gonna be in back with the gun.” Kalyn reached into her purse and pulled out the Glock.
Read an excerpt from Snowbound.

Visit Blake Crouch's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Pandora's Bottle"

Joanne Lessner is a singer, actor, and writer.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Pandora’s Bottle, and reported the following:
Pandora's Bottle is told from four different points of view in alternating chapters. Page 69 falls within a chapter that follows Tripp, a Broadway dancer who pays the rent by waiting tables. He’s just been invited to the final callbacks for the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, but he has to work his restaurant job that afternoon. In order to get to the audition, he promises the restaurant owner, Annette, that if she ever needs him for a special event, he’ll be there. Here’s the exchange:
“This is a really important opportunity. I can’t miss it!”

“Then you’ll have to find someone to replace you tonight,” she replied briskly. “I can’t be short a waitperson, and I don’t have time to make calls myself.”

“Of course,” he said, praying silently that someone would be available to sub for him.

“And in return, if I ever host a special event, I want you on hand,” she continued. “You know you’re my best waiter.”

“Absolutely,” Tripp said emphatically. “You just let me know when, and I’ll be there. Promise!”
Out of context, it looks like a throwaway, but in fact, Tripp’s promise proves to be a pivotal plot point. Even so, page 69 doesn’t strike me as particularly representative of the book as a whole. The main character is Sy Hampton, a lonely, middle-aged financier who has spent most of his adult life obsessed by a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite that was once owned by Thomas Jefferson, and which may – through a quirk of preservation – still be drinkable. He finally gets the chance to purchase it at auction – for a whopping $510,000. And when he goes to drink it.... Well, let’s just say the perfect evening he anticipates does not turn out as he planned. In fact, the novel really centers around the question: “What happens when you pin your hopes on a single event...and it all goes horribly wrong?” Rather than a novel for oenophiles, it’s really a book intended for anyone who has ever had the experience of endowing an object, an event or a person with an importance it can’t bear. Which is to say, all of us.

So with that in mind, I’ll now hijack this idea and point out that I already extracted the passage I thought would most make people want to read the whole book and reproduced it on the flyleaf. For the record, this excerpt occurs on pp. 183-184:
“The etchings,” declared Sy. “There they are. Do you see? Château Lafitte 1787. Th. J. for Thomas Jefferson. And the crescent. Pichard’s secret code—his message to the future, his time capsule. This wine should be a treasure for the ages. And it’s for you and me. And nobody else.”

He spoke the last words with such force that there could be no doubt about his meaning. Now Sy picked up the corkscrew. The wine was like an old friend, and for a brief moment, he felt guilty about violating it. But all friends served a purpose, and this one was no exception.

With every eye in the room on him, Sy cut away his replacement capsule. Ever so gently, he pointed the corkscrew into the old cork, slowly coaxing it up. At first, the cork didn’t want to leave its housing, but finally the top half came free and slid out soundlessly. Sy set it on the table. Tipping the bottle slightly, he edged the corkscrew back in to detach the remaining bit of cork. He got part of it out, but the rest dropped back into the bottle. Sy lifted the bottle to his nose and breathed. The luscious aroma of earth, chocolate, fruit, and smoke was dizzying. Sheer, unadulterated desire overtook him, and his entire body grew weak.

“Tripp, would you?” asked Sy, indicating the crystal rod and decanter.

“Of course,” the waiter answered. Sy handed him the bottle.
Read more about Pandora's Bottle at the publisher's website.

Visit Joanne Sydney Lessner's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"The Liar’s Lullaby"

Meg Gardiner's novels include the Jo Beckett series -- The Dirty Secrets Club, The Memory Collector, and the newly released The Liar's Lullaby.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Liar’s Lullaby and reported the following:
So, holding my breath, I turn to page 69. Does the page entice? Is it representative? Does it feature a helicopter crash or an attack by an insane monkey? Some elegiac revelation? Or is it nothing but white space?

In The Liar’s Lullaby, rock singer Tasia McFarland is killed by gunfire during the wildly ill-conceived opening of her stadium concert. The San Francisco police can’t determine whether her death is entertainment’s worst stunt catastrophe, a desperate suicide, or murder. So they enlist forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett to perform a psychological autopsy and uncover the truth. But Tasia’s death drags Jo into dangerous waters, because she was the ex-wife of the president of the United States.

My novels are fast-paced by design. They’re thrillers. Occasionally, things blow up. Characters sometimes scream and leap from bridges and skyscrapers. But here’s a secret: action sequences make up only a fraction of any story. And Jo Beckett is a psychiatrist, not a ninja. She performs psychological autopsies to assess the victim’s mental state. Jo’s job is to ask questions and to listen to the answers. She talks for a living.

Which is what she does on page 69. She meets the journalist who was ghostwriting Tasia’s autobiography. The man unsettles her, and she isn’t sure why.
“You the psychiatrist I heard about?”

“I’m Dr. Beckett. And you?”

He stopped beside her. “Ace Chennault.”

“Tasia’s autobiographer.”

“The author is gone but the ghost remains.”

He tried to sound jocular, but only managed forced. Belatedly he extended his hand.

Jo shook it. “I’d like to interview you. I’m—”

“Performing a psychological autopsy. I know. News travels fast.”


“Perhaps we can help each other out.”

His cloudless smile and baby-fat cheeks must have gotten him interviews with kindly grandmothers and with rock singers who were needy for a big brother’s attention. His voice had a hint of jollity. But Jo sensed a practiced stratagem behind the sad clown’s eyes. Journalists, one had once told her, needed to connect instantly and deeply with people they interviewed. They needed the illusion of intimacy, of being a person’s best friend for a day or an hour, to get the really juicy quotes.

And Ace Chennault was a journalist who’d just lost his biggest source—and source of income.
Jo senses that Chennault has his own agenda. It’s the last thing she wants, because the case has become a whirlpool of media hysterics, conspiracy theory, and political hardball. This scene hints that Chennault is going to cause her trouble. But a few pages later, both of them get a nasty surprise.

And that, too, is representative of the book.
The Page 69 Test: The Dirty Secrets Club.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Collector.

Learn more about the author and her work at Meg Gardiner's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 19, 2010


Susan Hasler spent twenty-one years at the CIA, where she held a variety of positions including counterterrorism analyst. In 2004 she resigned from the CIA and now writes full time. Her short stories have appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal, O. Henry Festival Stories 2005, and more.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Intelligence, and reported the following:
My novel, Intelligence, is about a small group of CIA counterterrorism experts, or bomb dissectors, working to stop the next big terrorist attack after 911. Page 69 is part of a flashback to the hours immediately after planes plowed into the World Trade Center. The bomb dissectors are pulling long hours trying to figure out what happened and what other threats might be pending. It has been particularly hard for Vivian, who is over forty years old, and eight and a half months pregnant with a child she has been trying to conceive for a decade. She’s torn between needing to take care of herself and her unborn child, and trying to do her job. At this point, her boss, Ben, pulls her into his office. She has a feeling he is about to dump a highly undesirable assignment on her just when she was thinking of going home for a few hours of sleep. When he leaves the room to get her a chair, she takes a handful of cherry Tums out of her pocket to ease her indigestion, but instead of taking them, she pries off the lid of his Starbucks mug and drops them in. She admits, “It was the petty revenge of the powerless, but it settled my stomach much more effectively than if I had swallowed the Tums myself.”

Her stomach quickly becomes unsettled, however, when she finds out that her assignment is to write an assessment on evidence that Iraq was behind the World Trade Center Attack. At first she thinks Ben is joking because there is no such evidence, but he’s dead serious. She will always regret being a good soldier and agreeing to do that assignment.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan Hasler's website.

Writers Read: Susan Hasler.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"The Amateur Historian"

Julian Cole is a journalist and columnist with The Evening Press. He spent three years writing and researching The Amateur Historian, his first novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
What an intriguing exercise. The unearthed snapshot takes the form of a colour scene of York in the year 1901, one of two chosen periods for my crime novel with an historical twist. To précis the plot, a girl is kidnapped in modern-day York and the clues to her disappearance and her hoped-for rescue from peril lie in the fate of another girl who lived in poverty in the city a century beforehand. A theme of the novel is the idea of events rubbing across the grain of time, and page 69 takes the young girl, Esme Percy, on a reluctant tour round York with her wastrel father, Thomas. She is bewitched by the shops and market stalls in York, and the scenes of plenty they afford – “Esme stared through the painted glass to pink people whose skin was stretched with pleasure to accommodate what they ate now and had eaten before.” Her impatient father hurries her onwards to the banks of the River Ouse, where a sinister deal is to be struck with a mysterious stranger. A sense of unease is created by the river “wide and powerful, a sweeping force beyond anything Esme knew, the water deep and fast and terrible”.

Confronted by this test for my novel, I discover that the allotted page paints a vivid picture of the past, while offering no hint of the present, or indeed of the heroes of my series, the squabbling Rounder brothers, one a policeman, the other a private eye, who between them strive to discover and save the girl kidnapped in modern-day York.

It is to be hoped that it suggests the simmering menace I intended, but this random dip captures none of the personal history of the modern characters. Perhaps that is the price to be paid for weaving an intricate plot across the span of a century. A pot shot will by its very nature only ‘hit’ one period.
Learn more about The Amateur Historian at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Sea Escape"

Lynne Griffin is a nationally recognized expert on family life and an acclaimed novelist. She’s the author of the novel Life Without Summer and the nonfiction parenting guide Negotiation Generation. Her second novel Sea Escape was inspired by family letters, and chosen as an Indie Next List Notable and a top ten must read summer pick by Entertainment Weekly.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Sea Escape and reported the following:
Page 69 is the end of a pivotal chapter in Sea Escape. Laura is watching her brother’s commanding shape get smaller and smaller as he makes his way out of the ICU their mother Helen has been admitted to, after having had a devastating stroke. In truth, Laura doesn’t mind that he’s leaving, or that her mother is worn out enough to doze. When Laura is sure that Holden is gone and her mother is asleep, she pulls the letter her son stole from her parents’ beloved home Sea Escape from her bag.

Believing the beauty and sway of her father’s words have the power to heal, Laura reads the letters bedside to her mother—a woman who once spoke the language of fabric; of Peony Sky in Jade and Paradise Garden Sage—but who can’t or won’t speak to her now. As Laura delves deeper into her tangled family history, each letter revealing patchwork details of her parents’ marriage, she finds a common thread. A secret, mother and daughter unknowingly share.

Sea Escape is inspired by my own mother-daughter relationship, and portions of the love letters were written by my father in the early days of my parents’ romance. Yet Sea Escape is an imagined story; it’s about the strength of love, the power of hope, and the gift of forgiveness.
Read an excerpt of Sea Escape and learn more about the novel and Lynne Griffin’s other work by visiting her website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Backseat Saints"

New York Times bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson's debut novel, gods in Alabama, won SIBA's 2005 Novel of the year Award and was a #1 BookSense pick. She won Georgia Author of the Year for her second novel, Between, Georgia, which was also a #1 BookSense pick. Her third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, was a Break Out book at Target and has been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Backseat Saints, and reported the following:
Backseat Saints tells the story of Rose Mae Lolley, a fierce, tiny ball of war wounds who was a minor character in my debut novel, gods in Alabama. Her life changes dramatically when she meets an airport gypsy who shares her past and knows her future. The gypsy's dire prediction: Ro's handsome, violent husband is going to kill her - unless she kills him first... The book is a cross country chase and a journey back through Rose’s past to find a possible future. On Page 69, Ro Grandee (maiden name, Rose Mae Lolley) is ransacking her elderly neighbor’s closet, looking for a place to hide the gun she just used to shoot at her husband, with disastrous results:
“I slid the closet door open. Bingo. The bottom was lined with shoe boxes. I dropped to my knees and lifted the lid of a box on the top row. It held a pair of black suede peep toe pumps that were a good two decades out of style. The box beside it had a pair of strappy red sandals with a high, jeweled heel. These must have belonged to her younger self, the one who looked like the dead sexy woman at the airport. It wasn’t likely Mrs. Fancy would come digging in here any time soon. I closed the lids and got on all fours to pull out a box from the bottom row. Phil came up behind me and butted my hip with his head, insistent. I couldn’t push him away; if I got cat dander on my hands I’d spend the rest of my day sneezing.

“Phil, you asshole, give me a sec,” I said. The shoe boxes were in nine stacks, each four or five boxes high, all the way across the bottom of the closet.

I chose the lowest one in the farthest back corner and pulled it out. I didn’t register that it felt too unbalanced to hold a pair of shoes until I was already knocking the lid off.

The box was full of baby things: a silver cup, hand-made pink booties, a baby book. There was a spritz of dark hair, fine as silk, in a ziplock bag. A folded piece of old paper rested on top.

I’d gone looking for a hiding spot for me, but I’d discovered Mrs. Fancy’s. I rocked up to a kneel and picked the paper out and opened it. It was the birth certificate. In the first name slot I read the name Ivy. I glanced down it, looking for a date. The certificate had been issued in 1972, four years after I was born. Ivy’s father was listed as Harold James Wheeler and her mother’s name was Janine Fancy Wheeler. Janine was the daughter Mrs. Fancy was visiting right now. The one who had supposedly had her first baby last week.

I’d stumbled upon the secret flotsam of a sad time, and now I was digging in the private pieces of a grief that belonged solely to my friend.”
I’m surprised to see how much of this page touches on larger elements of the novel. This is a book about uncovering hidden things, digging up the past, and stealing -- both literal thievery and stealing the secrets/lives/names of others -- is important. Phil the cat appears, and this is a book where relationships with animals matter. Rose’s closest confident is a dear and brain-free dog named Fat Gretel...
Learn more about the author and book at Joshilyn Jackson's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"A Colourful Death"

Carola Dunn is the author of the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, and the Cornish Mysteries, set in the 1960s.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Colourful Death, the latest Cornish Mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69:
"...He'll have to change his mind as soon as he gets reports from the forensics men and the pathologist."

"I suppose so. But first impressions are so important. Once someone's made up his mind, it's much more difficult to make him change it than to make him see reason in the first place, no matter what the evidence."

"True." [Nick] smiled at [Eleanor]. "We'll regard DI Pearce's open mind as a good sign. I don't particularly want to spend a night in the lock-up."

"Nick, surely not!"

"If they believe I'm a murderer, they can hardly let me run loose. I might bump off the supposed eyewitness to my crime."

"Don't joke about it."

"It's not really a joke. The woman's a menace to society. I could kill her. Metaphorically, of course," he added hastily as DI Pearce returned at precisely the wrong moment and gave him a hard stare. "Damn, that's torn it."

"Do you think he heard? You really shouldn't talk any more without a lawyer present."

"I don't seem to be able to stop putting my foot in it tonight," Nick admitted ruefully. "I'm dog-tired."

They both looked down at Teazle, snoring peacefully in the sleep of the exhausted. They were both taken by surprise when Pearce said, close by, "It is my duty, Mr Gresham, to advise you that you need not say anything, but that anything you choose to say will be taken down and may be used in evidence."

"Oh hell!"

Wilkes, at Pearce's elbow, solemnly wrote it in his notebook. Nick was not amused.
Eleanor Trewynn is the protagonist of my Cornish Mystery series, set in the 1960s. A widow in her sixties, Eleanor is a friend as well as next-door neighbour of Nick Gresham, a young painter. Nick comes home from a trip to find the paintings in his gallery slashed. Furious, he decides to confront the fellow-artist he's sure did the deed, Geoff Clarke. Eleanor insists on accompanying him, to prevent mayhem (the dog, Teazle, goes along willy-nilly). When they reach the man's studio, they find him lying dead with a dagger in his back.

Geoff's girlfriend bursts in and hysterically accuses Nick of murder. They all end up at the local police station, where they have a long wait before the detective squad arrive.

This page shows the easy relationship between Nick and Eleanor and her concern for him, as well as Nick's light-hearted attitude towards life. He jokes even in the face of imminent arrest, though his good humour is frayed at the edges.

Needless to say, Eleanor's concern drives her to clear Nick by finding out who really killed Geoff Clarke.
Learn more about the book and author at Carola Dunn's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Manna from Hades (the 1st Cornish Mystery).

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Dana Haynes was, for more than twenty years, a journalist and editor at several newspapers in Oregon.

His new thriller, Crashers, was released by St. Martin’s Press on June 22.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
OK, this is hilarious. There are exactly four words on Page 69. “Book Two: The Crashers.” How the hell did you pick that number? Our heroes have just cleared out the last of the survivors of the crash and the real investigation is about to begin. That’s my Page 69. I didn’t half blow that one, did I?
Visit Dana Haynes' website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 12, 2010

"The Insider"

Reece Hirsch’s debut legal thriller The Insider was published in May by Berkley Books.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
In The Insider, San Francisco corporate attorney Will Connelly becomes an unwilling participant in a criminal scheme that involves Russian mobsters, insider trading and a secret government domestic surveillance program. Will’s well-ordered life (he’s just made partner) is turned on its head and he must question whether he can trust his law firm colleagues and everyone he meets.

That’s what’s happening on page 69, where Will is struggling to work out whether he can trust Katya, a Russian woman that he picked up in a bar the night before. Fortunately for Will, he guesses correctly here. I don’t consider this much of a spoiler because, after all, it’s only page 69 and Will began doubting Katya almost as soon as he met her.

The scene is mostly dialogue and is set in the midst of a crowd of tourists watching the sea lions at Pier 39. I think this scene passes the page 69 test because it prompts that all-important question that readers should be asking when reading a thriller – “What happens next?”

Page 69:
Katya looked up at Will as she made room for two little girls crowding to the railing to get a better look at the sea lions. She extended her hand, and he took it.

Then Will lifted Katya’s hand and examined her wrist where Nikolai had grabbed her. There was no bruising, no marks at all. By itself, it was not decisive, but it was enough to tip the scales.

“I think you’ve been lying to me,” he said.

“Why would you say that?”

“There are no bruises on your wrist.”

“Maybe I don’t bruise so easy.”

“No, it’s not just that. It’s everything. I just don’t buy it. I think you’re working with Yuri and Nikolai. I think you knew that they were coming to your apartment this morning. It was all an act for my benefit.”

“So it’s all about you, is it?” Katya said. “That sounds a little paranoid, doesn’t it?”

Will simply stared at her. Katya stared back at him from behind her sunglasses for a long moment.

“Okay, you’re right,” she finally said with a shrug of her shoulders. “I do work with Nikolai and Yuri. But everything that I told you about them is true.”

“Why should I believe a word that you say? You want me to be scared of them.”

“Obviously, it’s your decision, Will.”

Still adjusting to his newly revised vision of Katya, Will was silent.

“I may not be your friend, but I’m not your enemy, either,” Katya added. “Not really.”
Read an excerpt from The Insider, and visit Reece Hirsch's website.

Writers Read: Reece Hirsch.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"The Perfect Happiness"

Santa Montefiore's novels have been translated into twenty languages and have sold more than three million copies in England and Europe. She studied Spanish and Italian at Exeter University. She lives in London with her husband, historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore, and their two children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Perfect Happiness, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Perfect Happiness is not representative of the book, but it does give you an insight into the friction beginning to heat up in Angelica’s marriage, which eventually propels her into an affair. Her French husband, Olivier, comments on a woman he finds ‘sexy’ and Angelica rolls her eyes. She’s used to him admiring other women. In fact, she’s not jealous, rather weary of his flirting. He doesn’t reassure her that she is just as sexy, the conversation moves on to their parents and plans for Christmas. She can’t abide his mother and sisters and her own parents, who still think it’s 1960, are an embarrassment. At the bottom of the page Olivier has folded his clothes and scowls at his wife’s garments strewn carelessly across the floor. They have their differences and Olivier has grown intolerant of her foibles. There is no joy and laughter in their relationship any more.

Olivier works hard in the City, spending a lot of time in his office as the financial world collapses. Angelica writes children’s books, which he considers more of a hobby than a career, in spite of never having read one, and takes care of their two children. They’ve been married ten years and familiarity has worn away the gloss of attraction that once existed between them. They have stopped paying attention to the small details that used to define their relationship. It’s not that they have stopped loving each other, but their love is so familiar as to be almost entirely overlooked. Angelica doesn’t seek an affair, but when a handsome, charismatic South African is seated next to her at a dinner, the attention he pays her is invigorating. After he finds her on email and a secret correspondence ensues, his attention becomes compulsive. He’s the opposite of Olivier. Where the Frenchman is polished and vain, Jack is rugged, laid back and carefree. But he is hiding a secret that will ultimately change the way Angelica sees the world, and herself.

The Perfect Happiness is set in my London world and on a beautiful vineyard near Cape Town very like the one I visited a few years ago when I went out on book tour. It’s romantic, thought provoking and mysterious. I hope you enjoy it!
Browse inside The Perfect Happiness, and learn more about the book and author at Santa Montefiore's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Delta Girls"

Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications), the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, Self Storage (Ballantine), and Delta Girls (Ballantine), and her first novel for young readers, My Life with the Lincolns (Holt).

She applied the Page 69 Test to Delta Girls and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel Delta Girls makes the book seem as if it might be a history tome or a travel guide when it is really a story about mothers and daughters and secrets set in the world of organic pear farming and Olympic level pairs figure skating. I’m kind of shocked, really, to see how non-representative this page is. Reading it, I can tell I wanted to cram information about the history of the Sacramento Delta into the story, and it seems to come across a bit dry and stilted here; I think (at least I hope!) the rest of the book is much more fluid and organic.

Page 69 marks the beginning of a chapter, so it starts pretty far down the page and is quite short. At this point in the story, Izzy, an itinerant farm worker, and her young daughter Quinn have found themselves working at Vieira Pears, an orchard which also bottles pear eau de vie, in a fictional town named Comice, CA. After years of running, they are starting to feel a tentative sense of home there, and Izzy, much to her dismay, is also starting to feel drawn to Ben Vieira, the son of the owners. I’ll quote the page here in its entirety:
After I was done cleaning bottles, Ben drove us to Locke, a tiny town about ten miles down the levee from Comice. It had been founded by Chinese immigrants, farm workers mostly. One of the first towns built “by the Chinese for the Chinese” in the country, and the only one still on the map. Chinese immigrants were not allowed to own land, so they leased it from George Locke in 1915 and built gambling halls and restaurants and shops along a one block street, the flat-faced wooden two story buildings fronted with awnings that shaded the sidewalk, propped up with slender rectangular wood pillars. A few people sat on the second floor balconies of apartments that used to be rooming houses for pear and asparagus pickers. Not to mention whorehouses staffed by white women. Locke was filled mostly with white folks now—only about 10 of the 80 or so people living there were Chinese-American.

The town had been named a National Historic Landmark, but it was dusty and neglected feeling, as if no one cared whether/ or not it hung around. Many buildings tilted sharply, leading to a general air of precariousness. Then again, maybe I just felt precarious being out in the world, being out with Ben, walking so close beside him, the hair of our arms sometimes brushed.
I included a few lines from page 70, since 69 ends mid-sentence (marked above with a slash) and I wanted to show you the more human sentence that follows when we’re truly in my character Izzy’s body and mind and not just hearing facts about the place filtered through her. I did love learning about the Sacramento Delta, though, and hope the book will bring attention to the unique and fascinating region, one that feels lost in time, one that feeds much of California with its water, much of the country with its pears. One that certainly fed my imagination and nourished my characters as I wrote Delta Girls.
Read an excerpt from Delta Girls, and learn more about the book and author at Gayle Brandeis' website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Sweetwater Burning"

Heather Sharfeddin grew up in Idaho and Montana, the daughter of a forester-turned-cattle rancher. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son. Her books include Blackbelly and Mineral Spirits.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sweetwater Burning, and reported the following:
Sweetwater Burning is a book about perceptions, but also about standing up for ones principles. Chas McPherson is a misunderstood loner who finds himself accused of arson after someone commits a hate crime in his small town. There are many reasons the town is quick to judge, going back to his preacher-father's influence on the community to Chas's recent refusal to sign a petition that would change the school Christmas celebration to something less religious.

Page 69 epitomizes Chas's approach to his circumstances as illustrated in the following passage:
He hadn't given much forethought to the visit, but had been seized with a sudden urge to show the sheriff his congenial side after realizing he might've made a bad impression the previous day, dripping with blood and all. He pressed the silver bell on the counter. A pleasant "ding" resonated through the high-ceilinged room. Moments later a vaguely familiar woman in her mid-fifties stepped out from the back and assessed Chas harshly with her eyes. He assessed her back; she looked like she'd moussed her hair with pine pitch.

"Yes, can I help you?"

"Chas McPherson. Number one arson suspect. Here to speak to the sheriff."

"Is the Sheriff expecting you?"
Of course Sheriff Edelson is not expecting Chas, and Chas's "take the bull by the horns" approach to his circumstances causes the sheriff to think about Chas differently. Edelson isn't sure if Chas is truly innocent or just very clever, and it is the sheriff's journey to understanding the man that ultimately tells the story--motives cannot be assumed, a father and a son are not the same, and some people prefer to keep their good deeds to themselves no matter the consequence.
Learn more about the book and author at Heather Sharfeddin's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 5, 2010


Nic Pizzolatto's fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, The Oxford American, The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, Best American Mystery Stories and other publications. His work has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and his story collection Between Here and the Yellow Sea was named by Poets & Writer’s Magazine as one of the top five fiction debuts of the year.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel Galveston, and reported the following:
So, turns out page 69 in my book is a half page in which the lead character walks his dog on the beach and weighs whether or not to run from the mysterious man who's looking for him, or to face him. Is it indicative of the rest of the book? Well, in that it's Roy's voice, like the rest of the book, and there's a sense of menace and pursuit, I suppose it's representative of the work as a whole. On the other hand, the most significant thing about this passage is that it comes during the first episode the reader encounters which takes place in 2008. Up until about page 60 or so, the book's action has occurred in 1987, and many details about the 2008 interlude should surprise readers and hopefully have them reading on to find out how things acquired this shape. In that way, structurally, I think it's indicative of what I try to do with the book as a whole, which is to do the unexpected thing, and do it in the hope of producing a different effect in the reader, one which is still powerful and rewarding. During the writing of this novel, I didn't want to be limited by what we might think of as 'genre conventions', and particularly the standard tropes of plot escalation found in most noir (love them though I do). Once their escape had been fully made and the characters were in place, I wanted the book to start doing unexpected things, to take strange lulls and accelerations, to pull its drama from characterization rather than the one-upmanship of plotting (even though, I admit, that kind of plotting is still taking place, even behind the scenes). The idea here was that, without sentimentality, I could produce an honest emotional effect in the audience which was unforeseen, if the pieces were arranged correctly. Thinking about it this way, I'd say that as far as it's indicative of the voice and ambitions of the book, page 69 does offer an accurate window into the work, as it's part of the first signal to the reader that this might not exactly be the book they thought it was. Though I'd still recommend trying page 1 first.
Learn more about the book and author at Nic Pizzolatto's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Dog Blood"

David Moody self-published Hater online in 2006 and, without an agent, succeeded in selling film rights to Guillermo del Toro (director, Hellboy 1 & 2 and Pan’s Labyrinth) and Mark Johnson (producer, The Chronicles of Narnia).

He applied the Page 69 Test to Dog Blood, the sequel to Hater, and reported the following:
Although there’s not a lot of action on page 69 of Dog Blood, it’s actually a pivotal point in the story. During the course of the previous book, Danny McCoyne’s life is turned inside-out and upside-down by ‘the Hate’, an unexplained phenomenon which turns people against each other with no apparent reason or justification. The world has descended into a bloody, relentless war and for several months Danny has been fighting – working his way across the country from battle to battle, determined to keep fighting until the war has been won. By chance he’s now found himself back where he started, close to home and, on page 69, his old world and his new world begin to collide.

Danny is unnerved by the sudden familiarity of everything around him. It’s all just as he remembered, but at the same time everything has been indelibly changed too. Well known landmarks and locations have been scarred by the war and nothing has been left untouched.

In the centre of town, the enemy have withdrawn into a massive, sprawling refugee camp. This is Danny’s first sight of the camp, and the sheer scale of it surprises him.
For the first time I can clearly see the enemy-occupied heart of the city. Silhouetted against the last golden yellow light of the rapidly fading sun, the tall buildings in the centre of town stand proud and defiant. Even from here, still several miles away, I can see that the refugee camp is filled with movement. Planes and helicopters flitter through the darkening sky like flies around an animal’s carcass.
This is a war like no other. There can be no surrender, no ceasefire or truce.... Danny knows that this war won’t end until one side has completely exterminated the other, and on page 69 of Dog Blood he begins to appreciate the enormity of the fight which lies ahead of him.
Learn more about the author and his work at David Moody's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 2, 2010

"The Tavernier Stones"

Stephen Parrish is a cartographer and gemologist. He applied the Page 69 Test to The Tavernier Stones, his first novel, and reported the following:
The Tavernier Stones is the story of a modern day treasure hunt to find the Lost Tavernier Stones of popular European folklore. On page 69 I show early conflict between two of the treasure hunters, partners who serve as antagonists in the novel. This scene is representative because I like to put all characters in some kind of conflict with one another, no matter their relationship.

Page 69:
"Red spinel was often confused with ruby; such stones were known as balas rubies. Perhaps the most famous balas ruby is the so-called Black Prince's Ruby, a 170 carat spinel in the center of the Maltese Cross on the British Imperial State Crown. Its history is murky; no one knows how it came to the Tower of London, where it shares the crown with Cullinan II, the Second Star of Africa ... and 2,800 other diamonds."

"You're drooling, Frieda."

"Oh, if security weren't so tight..."

"Well, you studied stealing in college. Breaking and entering must surely have been part of the curriculum."

"Finance, Mannfred. I studied finance."

"A rose by any other name."

"Well, let's talk about your major: classics. On a ranking of most useful subjects to least useful subjects, yours would place just about ... oh my, it falls off the list altogether!"

"If it weren't for historians—"

"But you didn't study history, you studied Greek and Roman mythology. You studied events that never happened, documented in languages no one ever speaks. If you had really studied history you might be able to help me with this research. Speaking of which ... where are the maps?"


"Now, don't get petulant. Your ways are impractical, just like your choice of major, and you know it. If you were a little less idealistic you'd have a political party of your own by now, instead of a handful of unemployed friends who throw rocks at public speakers and can't even score a hit."

"You're one of my friends, Frieda."

After a moment of silence Blumenfeld said, "I prefer to see myself as your mentor." She opened a notebook and signaled for Gebhardt to crouch on the floor next to the coffee table. Once he did, it was hard for him to concentrate on anything but the chains dangling from her glasses; they did a synchronized dance each time the old woman bobbed her head.
Browse inside The Tavernier Stones, and learn more about the book and author at Stephen Parrish's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue