Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Dark Moon of Avalon"

Anna Elliott is the author of the Twilight of Avalon Trilogy from Simon & Schuster's Touchstone imprint. The trilogy comprises Twilight of Avalon, Dark Moon of Avalon, and the upcoming Sunrise of Avalon.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Dark Moon of Avalon and reported the following:
In Dark Moon of Avalon, a retelling of the Trystan and Isolde legend, the young former High Queen Isolde and her friend and protector Trystan are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper Lorde Marche and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. To save Britain's throne, Isolde must navigate a political landscape torn by infighting and civil war and turn bitter enemies into allies. Yet her own greatest challenge lies in saving the life of the man she loves and mending her own wounded heart.

Page 69 of Dark Moon of Avalon finds Isolde in the midst of a meeting of Britain's High Council of Kings. Born a royal princess, Isolde is barely twenty years old but already has been forced into marriage twice by the political maneuverings of the petty kings on the council. Now, as former High Queen, she is the only woman grudgingly permitted a voice in the council's meetings. And as she listens to the quarreling and political jockeying amongst Britain's petty kings--kings who must be forced to unite if they are to survive the coming war with invading Saxon forces--Isolde feels "an almost physical revulsion for ... men who, Briton or Irish or Saxon, knew only one thing, so it seemed. How to fight, to kill, to hurt--how to carve one another up into bloody, aching pieces--and then send the fragments home to be either buried or stitched together as best their women could."

This scene encapsulates both Isolde's position in the political landscape of Dark Age Britain and one of the central challenges she must overcome in Dark Moon of Avalon. As a high-born woman, she has throughout her life had little control over her own destiny. Her Britain is a dark and often brutal place, where might truly does make right, laws are made by the men who conquer in battle, and women are little more than chattel to be given in marriage wherever their male guardians deem most advantageous. In Dark Moon of Avalon, Isolde must prove to Britain's High Council that a woman can be as valued and courageous a fighter as any warrior, and serve her country through more than just political marriage. And through her journey, she must fight for the right to control her own destiny and follow her own heart.
Read the prologue to Dark Moon of Avalon, and watch the video trailer.

Learn more about the book and author at Anna Elliott's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Blind Man’s Alley"

Justin Peacock is the author of the novels A Cure for Night and the recently released Blind Man's Alley. He received an MFA from Columbia and a law degree from Yale.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Blind Man's Alley and reported the following:
Although Blind Man’s Alley is set in the recent past – the summer of 2008 – in some ways the book is intended as a work of historical fiction, capturing a recent moment that already feels long distant. Page 69 illustrates this.

The scene that is unfolding on that page takes place at a private event being thrown by an elite law firm for summer associates (law students who are spending the summer with the firm before deciding whether to join it upon graduation) at the Rainbow Room, at the time an exclusive and expensive Manhattan restaurant, more famous for its views (a classic of art deco design, the restaurant opened back in 1934 and occupied the sixty-fifth floor of a Midtown skyscraper) than its food. Such fancy events were a ubiquitous part of law firm recruiting before the financial crises hit; now, after waves of layoffs, young lawyers cling to whatever job they can get. Similarly, the Rainbow Room, the sort of ornate establishment whose success was predicated on tourists and corporate events, has recently closed its doors, another victim of the Great Recession. I chose it as the location of this scene precisely because it crystallized the gilded aspects of New York City that have recently taken a severe battering.

The novel’s protagonist, Duncan Riley, is a senior associate at the law firm in question, obligated to attend such events because his upcoming partnership vote requires establishing his bona fides as a team player. Duncan, to his great surprise, has just found himself taking on a murder case pro bono, and on page 69 he is buttonholed by a junior associate who would love to escape the tedious grind of corporate litigation and is intrigued by the murder. Duncan, who is not quite as cynical as he thinks he is, has more than put in his own dues in the corporate trenches and is therefore possessive of the murder case, which he hopes will provide him with the opportunity to actually help someone.

In terms of the main plot of the book, page 69 reveals little, if anything. In turns of the themes of the book and the world it depicts – high-end Manhattan, just before the long fall – page 69 is a perfect example.
Read an excerpt from Blind Man’s Alley, and learn more about the book and author at Justin Peacock's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Cure for Night.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Ken Scholes is a winner of the Writers of the Future contest whose short stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies since 2000. His first novel, Lamentation, debuted from Tor in February 2009. Canticle was the second and Antiphon is the third of the five-book series, The Psalms of Isaak.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Antiphon and reported the following:
Antiphon, Page 69:

"And I have saved your son's life," she reminded him. "What does that merit with you?"

Rudolfo nodded slowly but found no words to accompany it.

Her voice became even more muffled, heavy with emotion. "Your son will be the salvation of our world," she said. "We have pledged blade and heart to his well-being and to the well-being of his parents." Her voice was at the door now. "I will ask you to reconsider my offer of aid. You have many enemies in the Named Lands and your borders are not secure. Allow me to assist you or, if you can not abide a Machtvolk presence on your soil, send your wife and child to me and I will watch over them until this threat has passed." Her voice was near the door now. "It will pass, Rudolfo, and when the Crimson Empress arrives, she will make all things right."

He squinted but could not even make out the ghost of her. She will make all things right. That would be quite a trick. He considered his next words carefully, tasting them like iron shavings in his mouth before he spoke them. "Ria," he said in a quiet voice, "do not come to me in this way again and do not broach my borders without announcing yourself."

The door handle moved beneath a hand he could not see. "I will do what I must to preserve the life of this child of promise," she said, and her next words stung him though he knew she meant them to. "The question remains, Lord Rudolfo, as to whether or not you will do the same."

Rudolfo heard Jin's swallowed gasp and looked over to see her face red in wrath she could no longer conceal. Still, Jakob slept on.

As the door swung open slowly, Aedric looked in. "Was there someone -- "

When Ria moved past him, the First Captain leaped back and reached for his knives, his lips puckering to whistle third alarm.

"Let her go," Rudolfo said, hearing the weariness in his own voice. Even as he said it, his fingers were moving. Do you believe her message?

Jin Li Tam sighed. She had not spoken through the entire exchange and he could see that her lips were a tight, pale line. I believe her but I do not trust her.

Yes. "I concur," he said.

Then, he reached for his glass of chilled peach wine but found that his interest in it had passed. Instead, Rudolfo fixed his eyes upon his sleeping son and pondered the darkening paths that lay before them both.
Above is the pre-copyedited manuscript for what is now page 69 in Antiphon, volume three of the Psalms of Isaak. For those of you who haven't read the series, you may want to avoid any potential spoilers.

I would have to say that this page is indeed indicative of the novel as a whole -- a novel that is largely about trust and making the best bad decisions when no good decisions really are left. Here, we see Ria -- the Machtvolk Queen first introduced in Canticle -- having snuck magicked into Rudolfo's Seventh Forest Manor with a warning and an offer of aid for the Gypsy King and his family. Jakob, the son born to him and Jin Li Tam in the second volume, features heavily in the Machtvolk gospel as The Child of Promise and though Ria is their enemy, Rudolfo is discovering that those who once held kin-clave with the Forest Gypsies now see he and his family as allied with the dark forces -- including Ria's Machtvolk -- that are pressing upon the Named Lands.

As the book progresses, Rudolfo watches loss and fear of loss reduce his effectiveness as a leader even as he learns that trying to hold to tradition and past ways of coping is not serving him well. Jin Li Tam and Winters find themselves slowly figuring out that the levels of mistrust created by recent events in the Named Lands are interfering with their own ability to work together and trust each other as they, too, grapple with making the best of a bad situation. Petronus, the life-long humanist and former Androfrancine Pope, finds himself dreaming dreams and hearing voices leading him deeper into his place of exile in the Churning Wastes. Vlad Li Tam, the spymaster and Machiavellian manipulator, finds himself inexplicably falling in love and pulled by that love onto an unexpected journey with the remnants of his family to discover yet more secrets of the ancient world. And Neb...well, he learns a lot more about himself and his role in the Home-Seeking dream.

I do hope that if the page above and my brief words about it resonate with you, you'll pick up the books and give them a try.
Learn more about the author and his work at Ken Scholes's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Lamentation.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 27, 2010


Joan Frances Turner was born in Rhode Island and grew up in the Calumet Region of northwest Indiana. A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, she lives near the Indiana Dunes with her family and a garden full of spring onions and tiger lilies, weather permitting.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Dust, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69 of Dust:
Renee's grave was already pristine, the birthing hole filled in and covered with grass too even and green to be real. There's no gate guards, the alarm systems are defunct, the barbed wire's busted full of holes, weeds everywhere, but by God they still get those gravesites looking swank and undisturbed as soon as they humanly can. Maybe it's all people really care about, the handful that still come to visit. I hope the pay's good, if you've got that job. I bet it is. Nearly as good as a thano lab guard's. We crouched in a patch of woods above Calumet Memorial, waiting.
Dust is a story of the undead ("zombie" they consider derogatory) from their own point of view, as they exist hand-to-mouth in abandoned rural areas and try to avoid any contact with the living families they've left behind, lest terrible things happen on both sides. The undead, in this world, aren't virally created Johnny-come-latelies; an uneasy living/dead détente has existed for centuries, with nobody understanding why or how some of the dead return. The thanatological ("thano") labs are working on it, though, with potentially disastrous consequences all around.

This excerpt pleases me because it sets the book's background swiftly, via Jessie's asides: Our lead characters are dead, the living know this and avoid them even as they try to mask the traces, the ordinary task of gravekeeping is a dangerous job and the dead can end up attending their own funerals. Her casual relation of these facts, none of them odd to her or her friend Renee even though fantastical to the reader, establish straight off this isn't the reader's reality, and our usual cultural assumptions about what death means are not just inapplicable, but irrelevant. For a random page-turn, my page 69 is quite a good and instructive introduction.
Read an excerpt from Dust, and learn more about the book and author at Joan Frances Turner's website and blog.

Writers Read: Joan Frances Turner.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Sixty-One Nails"

Mike Shevdon draws his inspiration from the richness of English folklore and from the history and rituals of the UK. His Courts of the Feyre series follows the adventures of Niall and Blackbird as Niall discovers a world of dark magic and strange creatures hidden in plain sight.

The first book in the series, Sixty-One Nails, is now available everywhere. It will be followed by a sequel, The Road to Bedlam, available now in the UK and Australasia, and in North America on 26th October 2010.

Shevdon applied the Page 69 Test to Sixty-One Nails and reported the following:
Page 69 of Sixty-One Nails finds Niall in the tunnels below Covent Garden Underground Station, about to be introduced to Kareesh, who may be able to help him survive. Having already met the troll, Gramawl, he has little idea of what to expect, but then this is turning into the strangest of days…
Gramawl materialised from the darkness without a sound. It wasn’t just that he moved quietly. In the silence of the passage you could have heard a feather fall but Gramawl made no sound until he reappeared from tunnel. Blackbird was unsurprised by this and took in the rapid gestures that accompanied his return.

“She’ll see us now, Rabbit. You are privileged. She must be curious about you.”

“Why would she be curious about me?”

“Because I brought you to her, I expect.”
The way that Blackbird calls him 'Rabbit' and his exclusion from the conversation through the use of sign language between Blackbird and Gramawl adds to Niall's unease. Blackbird has brought Niall to someone she believes can help him, but at this stage only she knows just how desperately he needs that help. There's a hint, though, that their request might have been refused: You are privileged. Even so, when Niall asks her why Kareesh would be curious about him, Blackbird's answer is typically evasive.
Gramawl stepped back into the darkness and Blackbird followed him. I wasn’t sure what to expect now that we were going to meet Kareesh. What would a female troll look like? Were they bigger or smaller than the males? Was she likely to decide I was a self-delivering takeaway?

The darkness eased in behind me and we were climbing slightly. The passage angled left and right and came to a stairway at one side while the passage continued onward into darkness. The metal treads of the steps gleamed dully in the darkness and I noticed a faint glimmer of light coming from above.
There was some unseen exchange between Gramawl and Blackbird and she took the steps upwards. I followed, nodding a blind acknowledgement to the hulking shape in the dimness, guessing that with his huge gold-rimmed eyes he could probably see me perfectly well.

There are hints here that Niall still isn't sure whether to trust Blackbird; she's leading, but should he follow? Reading this back to myself, it's also the moment where Niall crosses from the concrete and steel world of humanity into a place altogether more strange.
The steps doubled back at the first level and climbed up to an area that opened out, whether into another corridor or a room it was hard to tell, for every surface was hanging with rugs and heavy curtains patterned in muted gold and red. In contrast to the space below, the echoes died immediately, leaving a sensation of muffled closeness.

As we walked forward we stepped onto rugs with curving geometric patterns that led the eye to wander. Delicate filigree lamps in beaten copper hung from the ceiling…
This is not a page I would have immediately chosen to introduce a stranger to the book, but I think it touches on some important themes - the precarious balance of trust between Blackbird and Niall, and the human world concealing the hidden world of the Feyre. There's a sense that Niall is lost, that he doesn't know what's expected of him or how to behave. The rules have changed and his guide is uncertain, and now he's heading into unknown territory.

Everyone keeps looking at him strangely, even though he's normal and they're the ones who are strange, but that's because they're all looking at someone they don't expect to survive to see the dawn.
Read an excerpt from Sixty-One Nails, and learn more about the book and author at Mike Shevdon's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"City of Veils"

Zoë Ferraris moved to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War to live with her then husband and his extended family of Saudi-Palestinian Bedouins, who had never welcomed an American into their lives before. She has an MFA from Columbia University and is the author of the novel, Finding Nouf.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, City of Veils, and reported the following:
City of Veils is a follow-up to Finding Nouf. Both are mysteries set in Saudi Arabia, and both follow Nayir, a devout Muslim who is looking for a wife, but having trouble finding one in a society where he is not allowed to interact with strange women. Through his investigations, he meets Katya, an independent and liberal-minded woman who puts him into an agitated state of desire, admiration and disdain.

Page 69 contains a gem: Katya, a forensic tech at the Jeddah medical examiner’s office, is waiting to talk to someone at work. She isn’t wearing a veil. When a man walks by, pointedly avoiding looking at her face, she feels strangely empowered by it.
Her previous boss had taught her not to wear her burqa unless she absolutely had to, so Katya kept it resting on the top of her head, ready to drape down when the next pious bureaucrat chastised her with sharp works or a withering look.

“Do you think you are so ugly,” the last one had said, “that no man will find your face appealing? Is that why you expose it?”

No, she wanted to retort, I just mistakenly thought that when it came to sexuality, you had some self-control.
This is the big argument in Saudi Arabia for why women should be covered: they are beautiful, tempting, and distracting. Covering them up solves the problem. But as most women will tell you, not being thought of as a sex object would be a far better solution.
Read an excerpt from City of Veils, and learn more about the book and author at Zoë Ferraris' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Finding Nouf.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Rag and Bone"

James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II series, historical mysteries set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. The series began with Billy Boyle, which takes place in England and Norway in 1942. The second, The First Wave, carries on a few months later during the Allied invasion of French Northwest Africa. The third, Blood Alone, continues the story through the Allied invasion of Sicily; and Evil for Evil, the fourth volume, follows Billy Boyle to Northern Ireland where he is sent at the request of the British government to investigate links between the Irish Republican Army and the Germans.

Benn applied the Page 69 Test to Rag and Bone, the latest novel in the series, and reported the following:
In Rag and Bone, Lieutenant Billy Boyle is sent to London in the midst of a Luftwaffe bombing offensive to investigate the murder of a Soviet embassy official. There's reason to believe that the crime could be connected to the recent discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest, where thousands of Polish officers were executed. Is there a killer targeting Soviet officials in revenge for the Katyn Massacre? If so, the diplomatic stakes couldn't be higher as the uneasy relationship between the Soviets and the other allied powers hangs in the balance. Further complicating matters, Scotland Yard names Billy's friend Kaz, now working for the Polish government in exile, as the prime suspect. Billy must track the killer through London's criminal underworld and the higher strata of Allied diplomatic circles to save his friend.

The Page 69 Test finds Billy paying a visit to the Soviet Embassy, where he gets his first lesson in Marxist diplomacy, and it is not what he expects. In this passage, he is introduced to Captain Kiril Sidorov, likely an NKVD agent, who tells him Soviet officials are not allowed to meet foreigners alone.
“Do not mind Sergei. We do not meet alone with westerners. Sergei was available, although he speaks English poorly. Still, it allows us to follow the rules laid down by our security people.”

“To protect you against provocateurs,” I said.

“I see you have been lectured by our reception committee. They are sometimes over-enthusiastic, but these precautions are necessary, believe me. The Revolution has enemies beyond the Nazis. Czarists and other émigré groups are based here in London, and none of them wish us well. But never mind about our security procedures. Tell me how I can help you.”

“General Eisenhower asked me to look into the death of Captain Egorov,” I said, avoiding the distinction between murder and assassination. “He’s also concerned about security, and wanted to be certain there was no further trouble.”

“You work for General Eisenhower?”

“Yes, I’m on his staff.”

“Please excuse me, Lieutenant Boyle, if I fail to be impressed by a mere lieutenant detailed to this investigation. It does not signal true concern on the part of our American allies.” Sidorov smiled, almost apologetically. He looked half serious and half amused at the lines he had to speak. He wasn’t what I expected. He was stern, but not harsh. He spoke the jargon of Communism naturally, but lightly, as if we were all in on the joke. It occurred to me that the Soviets picked their personnel for foreign posts very carefully, and that his casual veneer of nonchalance was well practiced. Possibly dangerous.
Billy is right in his assessment, and the mysterious and definitely dangerous Kiril Sidorov has a major role to play in Rag and Bone, once again validating the Page 69 test!
Learn more about the Billy Boyle WWII Mystery Series at James R. Benn's website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Wave.

The Page 69 Test: Evil for Evil.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"The Blessings of the Animals"

Katrina Kittle is the author of Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, and The Kindness of Strangers. The Kindness of Strangers was a BookSense pick and the winner of the 2006 Great Lakes Book Award for Fiction. Early chapters from that novel earned her grants from both the Ohio Arts Council and Culture Works. Kittle earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University in Louisville.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Blessings of the Animals, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Blessings of the Animals is not at all a page I would have picked to represent the rest of the book…at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I think it does reveal something of what I was going for. Page 69 puts you smack in the middle of a complicated, fast-paced scene with a large cast of characters. Not an easy place to "drop in." The main character, Cami, was left abruptly by her husband the day before. She and her daughter, Gabby, have been asked to help with the surprise marriage-proposal for Olive, Cami's best friend (and the sister of Cami's soon-to-be-ex-husband). Olive and her boyfriend Nick do not know that Cami's husband left. Cami's brother Davy (who does know) has come along to help. Cami, Davy, and Gabby are "breaking in" to Olive's apartment while Nick takes Olive down the block for a coffee. Cami is to pack an overnight bag for Olive, who believes she and Nick are going to a beer garden, not to a fancy, formal restaurant and bed-and-breakfast. In the middle of the hurried packing, Cami gets a call from her best friend, Vijay. She emailed Vijay yesterday when her husband left and told him to get back to her asap because it was an "emergency." At the same time, Zayna—a girl who works both in Cami's vet clinic and in Cami's husband's restaurant—arrives at Olive's apartment, seemingly confused by why Cami and her crew are there. Zayna will become intertwined in Cami's life in ways Cami does not realize yet.

An excerpt of this chaos:
Clutching the phone between my ear and shoulder, I dug around on the closet floor and found the cream T-strap heels Olive always wore with the pink dress.

I stood up and turned around, barreling into Davy. "Here, Gabby, run these down!"

"ME? I'm gonna get caught now!" but she snatched them and ran.

"Cami, talk to me." Vijay sounded panicked.

I took a deep breath. I had, after all, left a melodramatic message. "Bobby left."

There was a pause. "Left?"

"Yes. Left. As in emptied his closet, packed up his car, and left me."

Zayna put her hands over her mouth. I turned away from her.

"Oh, Cam. Cam." The tenderness in Vijay's voice prompted my eyes to sting.

"I should go—" Zayna said.

But Gabriella ran back into the apartment, blocking Zayna's exit. "They're coming!" she said.

"They'll just get in the car and leave now," I said. "We can hide up here until they go."

"HIDE?" Vijay asked. "Why are you hiding? Who are you talking to?"

"I'm talking to Gabby. Don't worry. This is a GOOD thing. It has nothing to do with Bobby—"

Suddenly Nick's voice boomed in the stairwell. Way too loud he announced, "Okay, just hit the bathroom and we'll be on our way."

I reached out to quietly close and lock the door.
This page illustrates a reality of life Cami learns to embrace in the wake of her divorce: life isn't either/ is and & and & and. Life doesn't ever say, "Okay, she's been dealt a bad blow. Let's give her a pass." Life piles it on, both with the good and the bad. Here is Cami, the day after her husband leaves her, helping to make someone else's engagement spectacular. Just as the animal characters will teach her later, this is Cami's first mini-lesson in moving on and moving forward. Although it seems chaotic, the tribe of family and friends surrounding her are her salvation (and later, she will be the salvation for some of them).
Learn more about the book and author at Katrina Kittle's website.

Writers Read: Katrina Kittle.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Sick City"

Tony O'Neill played keyboards for bands and artists as diverse as Kenickie, Marc Almond and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. His autobiographical novel Digging the Vein was published in 2006. Seizure Wet Dreams, a collection of short stories and poems was also released in 2006, followed in 2007 by a volume of poetry, Songs from the Shooting Gallery. Down and Out on Murder Mile, his second novel, was released in 2008 by Harper Perennial. O'Neill also is the co-author of Hero of the Underground, the memoir of Jason Peter.

His latest books are Neon Angel (co-written with Cherie Currie) and his new novel, Sick City (both 2010).

O'Neill applied the Page 69 Test to Sick City and reported the following:
Sick City is a novel about 2 drug addicts (ex-prostitute Jeffrey, and wayward son of a Hollywood tycoon Randal) and their attempts to get rich by selling a legendary sex tape on the black market. The tape itself was stolen from the Tate house by a crooked LAPD cop the night of the Manson murders, and shows a sex and drug orgy starring Sharon Tate, Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Mama Cass.

Other characters include:

• Dr Mike, the media whoring “addictologist” who runs the rehab our heroes meet in. Dr Mike has a nice sideline in self help books and reality television.

• Ex-child actor and now meth-addled gay porn performer Spider.

• Phil Collins obsessive Pat, a psychotic speed dealer who is hot on the heels of the tape.

But what you really want to know is what is happening on page 69, right?

Well, page 69 amounts to paragraph of writing, as it falls at the end of a chapter. In this scene Dr Mike is at home with a beautiful transsexual called Champagne. We find them mid way through an act of… uh… lets call it “oral copulation.” However, before she will continue pleasuring the Doctor, she insists that he bring her some painkillers, to “help her concentrate.”

Does this snippet sum up the book in any way? Well, no, not really. But it does speak to one of the threads of the book: the fact that the “normal” characters (like Dr Mike) are easily more corrupt and repulsive than our drug-addicted anti-heroes, Jeffrey and Randal. In this exchange we see the duplicity of the sanctimonious “addicologist” who is willing to trade prescription narcotics for sex, while preaching abstinence to his drug dependent patients.

However, you’ll really have to pick up a copy of the book if you want to know why James Frey called Sick City “one of the best books written about LA in a long time.”
Learn more about the book and author at Tony O'Neill's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Darin Bradley holds an M.A. in Literature and Literary Criticism and a Ph.D. in Literature and Theory. He has taught courses on writing and literature at the University of North Texas, Furman University, and East Tennessee State University. His short fiction, poetry, and critical nonfiction have appeared in a variety of journals, and he served as founding fiction editor of the experimental e-zine, Farrago's Wainscot.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Noise, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel, Noise, is both representative and not. See, what occurs on page 69 is a segment of "The Book"--a fictional manifesto that appears in the larger novel. This manifesto was penned piecemeal by the various members of an international counter-culture movement that calls itself Salvage. Salvagers are convinced that the collapse of society is coming, long before it does, so they broadcast, email, vandalize, hack, and otherwise do whatever they have to in order to communicate bits of advice to themselves about how best to build a new nation-state after a collapse. The resulting document, which prioritizes the survival of the reader's "Group" at the expense of others, is a horrifying, somewhat-fascist guide to civilization. Page 69 is Part Two, Section I, Sub-section "c," "Event Exit Strategy" of this manifesto: "The Book."

While the majority of the novel deals with the plotline of how the main characters survive the collapse and make use of The Book, the tone of delivery (and the ideas motivating the characters' actions) of the material on page 69 is very representative, while not being part of the story at all.

The entire "Book," for those who are curious, appears at the promotional companion site to Noise.
Read an excerpt from Noise, and learn more about the book and author at Darin Bradley's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 17, 2010

"The Pindar Diamond"

Katie Hickman is the author of two best-selling history books, Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia, and two travel books, Travels with a Circus, which was shortlisted for the 1993 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon.

Her novels include The Quetzal Summer, for which she was listed for the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year award, The Aviary Gate, and The Pindar Diamond.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Pindar Diamond and reported the following:
Once again the Page 69 Test has proved uncannily representative!

Page 69 of The Pindar Diamond describes the first meeting of my two principal characters: a young nun, Annetta; and the maverick John Carew, servant to a rich English merchant.

The setting is in Venice, 1604. At the beginning of the novel we are introduced to Annetta, a woman with a disquieting past. As a novice she was captured by corsairs in the Adriatic, taken into captivity, and sold as a high-caste slave to the mother of the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople. On the death of the Queen, Annetta regains her freedom (as was the custom of the day), but instead of marrying an Ottoman lord, she chooses instead to return to her convent on the Venetian lagoon, enriched by a large dowry. With her ambiguous past and her sharp wits, Annetta is seen as a disruptive and transgressive figure by the nuns of the island convent.

John Carew has also returned to Venice after several years living in Constantinople, where he had accompanied his master, the Levant company merchant Paul Pindar, who travelled there as part of an English trade mission sent by Queen Elizabeth I to the Ottoman Sultan.

Although they do not yet know it, Annetta and John Carew are intimately linked by a third character, an Englishwoman named Celia Lamprey. Celia was once engaged to be married to Paul Pindar, but she too was taken into captivity and sold into the Sultan’s palace. Annetta and Celia had become like sisters in the brutal world of the harem – but then tragedy stuck. Everyone believes that Celia has been killed, her punishment for trying to be re-united with her former lover. (This story is told in full in my previous novel, The Aviary Gate.)

But what really happened to Celia Lamprey? Is she dead or alive? Many years later these thoughts still torment Paul Pindar, but he is galvinised by the appearance in Venice of a priceless diamond, the Sultan’s Blue. Could the diamond be linked to the mysterious nun, and through her to Celia Lamprey?

Pindar sends Carew to the Convent to investigate, not realising that his servant’s nocturnal wanderings – as a monachino, or seducer of nuns - have already brought him into contact with that establishment.

It is under these circumstances that Annetta and John Carew are fated to first meet, with explosive results.
There was a pause, as though he were considering something. ‘All right, then, this time I’ll let you off,’ he said, still holding her fast against him, ‘but in return I want you to promise me something.’

‘Promise what?’

‘Promise you won’t tell anyone what you saw last night.’

Annetta considered her options; she felt she would rather have her head boiled in oil than promise anything to this man, but pragmatism soon got the better of her. Of course she would promise him anything he liked, the stupid fool. And as soon as she got safely away from him she would tell everyone, but everyone, what she had seen, scream it from the convent rooftops if necessary.

‘All right, I won’t,’ she answered him meekly, ‘I promise I won’t tell anyone what I saw – ‘ but immediately the words were out of her mouth she knew that she had fallen into his trap.

‘Ah! So you did see something!’

Stronzo! She detected a change in his tone of voice: could it be that he was smiling, or worse, actually laughing at her?

‘You’re wrong, I didn’t see anything, not really!’ Annetta was floundering now, but she knew it was no good.

‘Oh, yes you did. Describe to me what you saw.’


‘It’s not hard to understand. I said, describe to me what you saw.’


‘Oh go on. Which bit did you like the best? Was it just a bit of kissing, or.... something a bit more exciting? She’s very eager to please, that little nun, but then you usually are you know.’

Stronzo, stronzo, stronzo!’

‘Language, please!’ Carew was really laughing now. ‘Well, I’d wager that you haven’t been a nun all your life.’
Learn more about the author and her work at Katie Hickman's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviary Gate.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Trail of Blood"

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue, working as a forensic scientist in the trace evidence lab until her husband dragged her to southwest Florida. Now she toils as a certified latent print analyst and CSI at the local police department by day and writes forensic suspense by night. Her books have also been published in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Japan.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Trail of Blood, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Trail of Blood may not be a microcosm of the book but it does give a quick essence of the plot, the setting (Cleveland, Ohio) and my main character, forensic scientist Theresa MacLean. She is responding to a call at the annual Cleveland Air Show, a Labor Day weekend extravaganza of power and grace on the shores of Lake Erie. In a few sentences we learn that the city, with its battered self-esteem, isn’t too concerned about security on an everyday basis but it has been ramped up due to the large amount of military aircraft at the show.
And so the Port Authority officer had been policing the perimeter on foot when he discovered the girl’s body. Or rather, part of it. He stared at it for a long time, that completely obvious yet somehow indecipherable object. Then the officer took out his radio, called his supervisor, and said a silent prayer of thanks that the piled stones sloped downward to the water and therefore the body or part of a body lay just below the line of sight from the bleachers. There were a hundred thousand spectators on the south side of the tarmac. At least half of them carried binoculars.

Theresa had attended the show in exactly two of her (almost) forty years. She wondered if this visit counted as number three, though they didn’t enter the show, only skirted around it down a small access road between the runways and the water.
Through this and the rest of the page, we see that Theresa is approaching the big 4-0 and that she is not at all concerned about approaching this mangled corpse which has so unsettled the officer. It turns out she is more concerned about moving around active runways. Theresa has been in forensics too long to be freaked out by dead bodies, but long enough to have learned to put safety first. There are too many ways to die and she’s not looking to try any out.

Unfortunately we don’t meet any other characters on this page and we will not see the unnamed Port Authority officer again. Theresa’s cousin, homicide detective Frank Patrick, will arrive shortly.

What even Theresa does not immediately realize is that this dismembered body is only the first volley fired across their bow by a psychotic who wishes to see history repeat itself. The dead woman is a replica of the first victim attributed to the Torso Killer—an unknown, never-caught, true-life murderer who terrorized Depression-era Cleveland over seventy-five years ago. Theresa had just found an apparent victim of his walled up in an abandoned building, and for a few chapters we travel back to see an earlier version of Cleveland through his eyes.

To sum up: on page 69, the battle between Theresa and this new killer begins in earnest. And that battle will get personal.
View the video trailer for Trail of Blood, learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

My Book, The Movie: Trail of Blood.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno"

Ellen Bryson holds a BA in English from Columbia University and an MA in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC. Formerly a modern dancer, she lives in Southern California.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, her debut novel, and reported the following:
The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is a book about change. Although it’s historical (1865 New York City in P.T. Barnum’s audacious American Museum), and it’s about special people (the protagonist is Bartholomew Fortuno, the world’s Thinnest Man), and it’s a love story (Fortuno’s love interest is Iell Adams, the fabulously beautiful bearded woman), underneath it all, it’s a slow unfolding of true character, a strip tease of identity.

Page 69 is a “seed” page. It’s one of the few early indicators of Fortuno’s back story and it holds clues as to why Fortuno is as he is: arrogant, confused, and thin, thin, thin. The scene on page 69 begins with Fortuno nervously dressing for a meeting with his boss and obvious father figure, P.T. Barnum. As he dresses, he reminisces about his own father, a harsh man who raised horses for a living. He remembers his mother once saying:

“You should have seen your father when he first came to the farm…So dashing. His accent. His broad back.” And later, on that same page: “There’s no man in your father at all when he rides…Just a saddle and a beast.”

Fortuno comments: “Even that was an understatement. My father could sit, stand, turn, or throw himself sideways on a horse and pick up a nickel from the ground with his teeth. But he never used his talents to amuse. He hated trick riding almost as much as he hated little boys.”

It is no wonder Fortuno claims that his talent is to educate, not to amuse. Very little else is said about the father until the end of the book, but what they did to one another and consequently to Fortuno are really the heart of the story.

Page 69 carries a lot of weight, as memories from childhood often do. It’s the smallest myths and mysteries that contain the seeds out of which the rest of one’s personal story grows. Fortuno is no exception.
Read an excerpt from The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, and learn more about the book and author at Ellen Bryson's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"The Hanging Tree"

Bryan Gruley is the critically acclaimed author of Starvation Lake, a nominee for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel by the Mystery Writers of America.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Hanging Tree, and reported the following:
The Hanging Tree is about a young, troubled woman found hanging in a tree outside the fictional town of Starvation Lake in northern lower Michigan. Circumstances of Gracie McBride’s death suggest the apparent suicide could be homicide.

Page 69 has little to do with Gracie’s death but a lot to do with Gus Carpenter, the story’s narrator and Gracie’s second cousin, who is investigating her death.

On Page 69, Gus recalls part of a long ago ago day he spent poring over confidential documents in the offices of a prominent Detroit plaintiff’s lawyer.

The flashback offers no gunplay, no fisticuffs, no blood, and zero sex, at least of the carnal variety. But within the details that Gus relates--from the turkey sandwiches to his grinning at the secretary to his deal with Laird Haskell--there is seduction, complicity, and the foreshadowing of disaster.

Gus “readily” agrees that everything he sees will be off the record until the lawyer, Haskell, lets him make it public. “It was better than nothing,” Gus says, “and I couldn’t imagine that Haskell wouldn’t want me to tell the world how Superior had behaved prior to the untimely death of the father of five.”

We learn a little about Gus and a little about Haskell. And we learned a little more about each in the ensuing pages as this car crash in slow motion plays out. It’s all vital to understanding two of the most important characters in the story, and why they behave as they do as Gracie’s death propels them to their fates.

That said, I suggest you start on Page 1.
Browse inside The Hanging Tree, and learn more about the book and author at Bryan Gruley's website and The Hanging Tree website.

The Page 69 Test: Starvation Lake.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 13, 2010

"I'd Know You Anywhere"

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, I'd Know You Anywhere, and reported the following:
Page 69 of I'd Know You Anywhere is definitely representative of the book, a conversation between its two main characters, Walter and Elizabeth. She's his captive, which becomes implicit at the end of the page, when she wonders how she might get away from him. But the meat of the page is their conversation about music. It is 1985 and Elizabeth is a Madonna fan, down to the lacy fingerless mitts on her hands. When Walter asks her what other music she likes, she says "Whitney Houston. Scritti Politti. Kate Bush."

As it happens, I used the names of popular songs from the 1980s for the various sections of the book. I didn't offer any explanation in the text, but I chose songs that were popular the summer of 1985, when Elizabeth was held captive for six weeks. For most of us, an '80s greatest hits station is an annoyance at worst, or maybe even a fun boppy time machine. For the grown-up Elizabeth (who now uses the name Eliza) those songs catapult her back into the worst time of her life. Walter tells her that Whitney Houston is a "bad girl" because "Saving All My Love for You" is a song about an affair. When Elizabeth asks why the man isn't to blame, given that he's the one who's married, Walter replies: "Women are better than men. Most, anyway." That seemingly chivalrous notion is at the heart of Walter's sociopathic nature. He places women on a pedestal -- and kills them when they fail to live up to the romantic notions in his head. Elizabeth is the only girl he won't kill. As an adult, she continues to wonder why this was and feels guilty for wondering. But part of the answer lies on page 69. From the first day on, Elizabeth is thinking about how to speak to Walter, how to gain control within a relationship where she has almost no control.
Browse inside I'd Know You Anywhere, and learn more about the book and author at Laura Lippman's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Dracula in Love"

Karen Essex is an award-winning novelist and journalist and a screenwriter. Her books include two acclaimed biographical novels about the queen of Egypt, Kleopatra and Pharaoh, which she adapted into a screenplay for Warner Bros., as well as the novels Leonardo’s Swans, about the rivalries among the powerful women painted by the great master when he was employed by the Duke of Milan, and Stealing Athena, which chronicles the story of the controversial Elgin Marbles from the points of view of two fascinating women, Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin, and Aspasia, mistress to Pericles.

applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dracula in Love, and reported the following:
He [Morris Quince] was Arthur’s height but had a more substantial frame. His neck did not want to be contained by his collar. His hands, which were large, with long elegant fingers and nails cut razor straight, fascinated me. Though they were perhaps the most manicured male hands I had ever seen, they seemed to have great power. The wineglass almost disappeared in his palm as he picked it up.
Dracula in Love reimagines Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the female perspective. In the above passage, my heroine and protagonist, Mina Harker, is describing Morris Quince, a character I created to replace Stoker’s lone American character, Quincey Morris. From the first time I read Dracula as a teen, I was certain that Mina was not satisfied with her role as the quintessential Victorian virgin rescued from the vampire’s kiss by a team of wooden heroes, and that Quincey was not happy being a facile American stereotype. I decided to retell the story in Mina’s voice, and in the process, turn it inside out and expose its seething underbelly, expressing much of what could not be said in the 1890s.

On page 69, Mina has just met Quince at a dinner party and becomes fascinated with his masculinity, embodied in his beautiful hands. She later has a disturbing erotic dream in which those hands are on her body, arousing her. Still later, she sees her friend Lucy with loosened clothes and disheveled hair and she knows that it was those hands that untied the bodice and pulled out the hairpins.

Though Dracula was a brilliant and harrowing creation, Stoker wrote like a man of his time when it came to gender. To overturn his good girl (Mina, who resists the vampire) versus bad girl (Lucy, who succumbs to Dracula) paradigm, I endowed Mina with deep, dark desires and a preternatural past of her own, all of which she must learn to own. I allowed her the full range of her sensuality, restoring an element of female power and magic to a story in which women had been cast as mere victims. On page 69, Mina’s eyes riveted to Morris’s hands is an early sign of her unfolding sexuality, which she will eventually claim for herself, and reclaim for her gender.
Read an excerpt from Dracula in Love, and learn more about the book and author at Karen Essex's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 10, 2010

"The Gendarme"

Mark Mustian, an author, attorney and city commissioner, lives in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife and three children.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel The Gendarme, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Gendarme finds the main character, Emmett Conn (Ahmet Khan), in the midst of a series of dreams. Emmett, 92 years old, is a Turkish émigré who fought for the Ottomans in World War I, lost much of his memory, and only later in life begins to recall, through repetitive visions, some of the things that happened at the beginning of the war. He served as a gendarme in 1915, escorting Armenian women and children on the long, dusty trek out of Turkey. During the trip he becomes enamored with one of the deportees, a young woman named Araxie. On this particular page, she has disappeared, and he can’t find her.
Perhaps she has left with the others, although I am relatively certain she has no valuables. She spoke little at the boardinghouse, nodding or shaking her head at questions, eating almost nothing. She went with me to the pit each day, to the stares and knowing looks of my fellow gendarmes (including, one day, a black-faced Mustafa), to the sneers of her fellow deportees. Boz, some called her. Whore. Dönme. Turncoat. She did not shrink from them, or hang her head, but instead seemed to look through them, as if they no longer existed, as if she, or they, were now dead. After one such visit she spoke to me, one of the few direct exchanges during our days there together.

‘Do something,’ she said.

But I was at a loss as to what to do.
Ahmet’s infatuation with Araxie brings him both peril and a manner of redemption. Through his attraction he comes to sympathize with her plight, and that of her fellow deportees, to the point he seeks to protect rather than harm them. But what I like about the passage on page 69 is the focus on her, on the bravery she shows when almost all options are negative. Her fellow deportees shun her, the other guards label her an infidel, and yet still she seeks mercy, but for others, not herself--it’s one of the reasons Ahmet is so attracted to her, and why we as readers are, too. The Americanized Emmett Conn is a fascinating character, what with his guilt and anguish and memories and passion. But I find her equally compelling, if not even more so—a young woman chained to history, beaten and bowed but still fighting, still strong.
Read the backstory to The Gendarme, and view the video trailer.

Visit Mark T. Mustian's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Danse Macabre"

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill and the newly released Danse Macabre.

Elias applied the Page 69 Test to Danse Macabre and reported the following:
Once again Page 69 contains information critical to understanding the entire book. Maybe in my next book I'll just write one page and call it 69 and call it a day. In Danse Macabre we have the first argument between super-amateur-sleuth, Daniel Jacobus, that irascible, blind, aging violin teacher; and BTower, the young, rebellious African American crossover artist, who has been convicted of brutally murdering the beloved virtuoso and BTower's former teacher, Rene Allard. Jacobus--who idolized Allard and who had testified against BTower at his trial--and BTower yell at each other, not bothering to listen to what the other is trying to say:
(BTower): "When I run up the stairs after him, it wasn't to apologize anymore. I wanted to tell him off. But I wasn't going to kill him."

(Jacobus): "Prove it."

"I'm not the one supposed to prove what I didn't do!"

"That argument certainly made for one helluva defense."
Over the course of the book, the slow evolution of this antagonistic relationship and the corresponding light that is gradually shed upon the victim, Allard--all the result of Jacobus's reluctant investigations--is the crucial dimension of Danse Macabre. If there is a moral to the story, it is that a person's true self is not always consistent with the way he or she is perceived by society--in fact, it's often quite the opposite.
Visit Gerald Elias' website.

The Page 69 Test: Devil's Trill.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Judgment and Wrath"

Matt Hilton is the Cumbrian author of the Joe Hunter thriller series, including Dead Men’s Dust, Judgment and Wrath, Slash and Burn, and Cut and Run, with further books in the series coming soon. He is a high ranking martial artist and has been a police officer and private security specialist, all of which lend an authenticity to the action scenes in his books.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Judgment and Wrath and reported the following:
Following the events of Dead Men’s Dust - shortlisted for the ITW Best New Book Award 2009 – where Joe Hunter arrived in the USA in search of his wayward brother, the ex-counterterrorism agent has now settled in Florida where he is doing occasional “work” for his friend and brother at arms, Jared ‘Rink’ Rington. Hunter is approached by a grieving father who asks Hunter to bring home his daughter, Marianne. He claims that her boyfriend, millionaire Bradley Jorgenson, is a twisted, abusive man, and hints that Hunter should use whatever force necessary to rescue the girl. Hunter hates bullies, particularly men who hurt women and children and accepts the job willingly. The problem is, when Hunter finds the couple, Marianne appears happy and refuses to leave her lover. Things get more complicated when a remorseless contract killer who goes by the name of Dantalion shows up at Jorgenson’s exclusive island residence with his sights set on the couple. Dantalion – named after a fallen angel - has an agenda of his own, and nobody is going to stand in his way. Not even Joe Hunter.

Page 69 of Judgment and Wrath is indicative of the kind of action that drives the book. It follows events where a disguised Dantalion has made his first attempt on the lives of Jorgenson and Marianne, where Hunter has intervened, forcing a vicious gun battle that culminates in the fiery destruction of Jorgenson’s house. In it Hunter is still reeling from the effects of the explosion and misses an opportunity to finish the killer once and for all, setting up the subsequent action. What started as a simple matter of snatch-and-grab turns into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that sets Hunter and Dantalion on a gruelling chase deep within the Florida swamplands.

Here’s an excerpt from page 69:
Making it to my feet, I limped through the bushes, making my way round the building, looking in hope for any sign that Marianne had got out of there alive. As I went I wiped the SIG clean on my sweater sleeve.

Jorgenson’s house was devastated. The entire upper floor had collapsed onto the ground floor; the roof was a burst-open wreck pushing splintered joists skyward. Flames and smoke broiled against the sky. The condominium I’d leased next door wasn’t in much better shape, with the whole front of the building spilling out towards the parking area. The golf buggy I’d rented to get me here from the ferry landing was flattened beneath fallen masonry.

Two cash deposits I wouldn’t be getting back, I thought idly.

There was rubble heaped everywhere. Thankfully there weren’t any chunks of burnt flesh or bones poking from the mounds. That didn’t negate the possibility that Marianne was buried beneath the wreckage of the house.

Movement nearby caught my eye. A shadow moving away from me. Wearing a dark suit, neither Jorgenson nor Marianne. The killer, I thought, making his escape. I lifted the SIG, drawing a bead on him. But then I let the barrel drop. The figure had longish fair hair, whereas the killer’s had been jet black. For all I knew this was an innocent passer-by caught up in the fury of the explosion and staggering away.
Read more about Judgment and Wrath, and visit Matt Hilton's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Men's Dust.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Murder in the Air"

Bill Crider is the author of more than fifty novels, including the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. He is the winner of the Anthony Award and has been nominated for both the Shamus and Edgar Awards.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the new Dan Rhodes novel, Murder in the Air, and reported the following:
Here’s the final paragraph on page 69 of Murder in the Air. It continues onto page 70, but I think that’s acceptable here:
When he’d finished reading Jennifer Loam’s story, Rhodes laid the paper on the table. Hack and Ivy hadn’t been kidding. The article was a powerful indictment of factory farming. Loam said that Hamilton had managed to make such great profits because he’d shifted a lot of his costs to the taxpayers, and that he’d done great harm to the environment. She said that while the chicken farm generated as much pollution as many regulated industries, it was exempt from anti-pollution laws because it was considered “agriculture.”
I could hardly ask for a better paragraph to represent what the book is really about. That one pretty much says it all. Of course the book is a crime novel, not a treatise on factory farms, but my brother’s complaints about a factory farm near his house are what got me started on the book.

In the novel, a man named Lester Hamilton (he’s mentioned on page 69, too) is killed. Sheriff Dan Rhodes, who’s appearing here in the 18th novel about him, believes Hamilton has been murdered, though his death appears to have been accidental. The suspects are all people opposed to the factory farm, and Rhodes has to sort through their alibis while dealing with a mysterious anti-farm activist called Robin Hood, who shoots arrows into the air and occasionally into automobile tires. Since the sheriff has been in office now since 1986, you know he’s going to find the killer, but this time in addition to having to deal with the usual oddball cast of characters, Rhodes has a mystical experience that involves a turtle. I can say no more. To find out about that, you’ll just have to read the book.
Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, and Murder in Four Parts, as well as an excellent write-up about Dan Rhodes on the big screen at "My Book, The Movie."

Visit Bill Crider's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 3, 2010


Susanna Daniel was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where she spent much of her childhood at her family’s stilt house in Biscayne Bay. She is a graduate of Columbia University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and was a Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing.

Her stories have been published in Harcourt’s Best New American Voices Anthology, One Story, Epoch, The Madison Review, and

She applied the Page 69 Test to Stiltsville, her first novel, and reported the following:
Stiltsville spans three decades and is structured into seven sections, each of which covers a pivotal moment in the narrator's marriage and South Florida history. The intervening years are telescoped at the start and end of each chapter. Page 69 covers the years between the second chapter (in which the narrator falls in love) and the third chapter (in which the narrator first recognizes the fragility of her own marriage).
We married in Atlanta, in the Baptist church I'd attended as a child ... Back in Miami, Dennis's parents threw us a reception at their yacht club, and then we spent a week in the Keys, hopping from island to island in his father's boat and camping on the shallow beaches. One night we woke to the sight of hundreds of glowing anemones drifting by. In the morning, dozens had washed ashore and lay sickly at the foot of our tent ... We had a little girl and named her Margo, ostensibly after Dennis's grandmother but really because I loved the name: I thought it was earthy and wise and unmistakably South Floridian.
Stiltsville is a fictional memoir of a basically -- but not purely -- successful marriage, which did not turn out to be what the narrator had imagined for herself. Throughout the years, the characters are forced to readjust their expectations, of each other and themselves and their surroundings, in order to move forward. This page represents the novel in the way it encapsulates the narrator's wedding (and, later on the page, the chaotic years of new parenthood), leaving the remainder of the chapter to focus, in scene and dialogue, on the messier and less predictable moments of life.

Though the page doesn't touch on the main themes of the novel, it does represent the way Stiltsville handles time, expanding and contracting it the way a memoir does, always with a focus on the details that enriched the experience of an event.
Learn more about the book and author at Susanna Daniel's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Georgia’s Kitchen"

Jenny Nelson grew up in Larchmont, NY and graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Denver. A former web editor and producer, she worked for companies such as iVillage, and

She applied the Page 69 Test to Georgia’s Kitchen, her first novel, and reported the following:
Georgia’s Kitchen is about the thirty-three-year-old head chef at a trendy New York restaurant who loses her job and her fiancé and travels to Tuscany to open a trattoria. While there, she sharpens her cooking skills, finds romance with a winery owner and embarks on a crash course in self-discovery. Packed with food, restaurant and travel scoop, as well as a healthy dose of humor, Georgia’s Kitchen also tackles complex family dynamics and the risks and rewards of holding out for what you believe in.

Page 69 kicks off a pivotal scene in Georgia’s Kitchen. Chef Georgia Gray has learned that her career-making review has turned into a career-breaking hatchet job. All too aware that her days as head chef at Marco are over, and with nothing left to lose, she’s just completed the best dinner service of her career. The kitchen is on fire (in a good way), each station perfectly in synch, the dishes lovely to behold and lovelier to eat; the restaurant is sparkling with energy. Despite Georgia’s impending sacking, the mood is sanguine.

The first two sentences of the first full graf sum up the self-important attitude at Marco, the white-hot New York restaurant where Georgia is head chef.
Huggy Henderson held court at table nine, a corner banquette bathed in a soft glow. Far enough from the bar and the server station to seem almost intimate, yet central enough so fellow diners couldn’t help but crane their necks to see who graced the table at which they’d never be seated, it was the undisputed best table in the house.
Huggy, a philanthropist and lady who lunches, whom Georgia recently met and invited to Marco, has requested a tableside visit from the chef. Though uncomfortable stepping out of the (relative) safety of the kitchen and into the dining room, Georgia takes a deep breath and plunges forward.
She marched through the dining room, eyes straight ahead, hoping she didn’t look like a girl heading for the guillotine, which was how she felt. She wouldn’t miss these at-table appearances, rare though they were. Some chefs loved them, basking in the spotlight, beaming as they sauntered through the crowd of adoring diners. Not Georgia. She was delighted when Marco told her he believed the chef belonged in the kitchen and the front of the house was his and the manager’s domain. Marco didn’t go much for anything that took the limelight from he felt it rightfully belonged: on himself. In this case, Georgia happily agreed with him.
Page 69 gives a strong sense of the restaurant, of Marco the man, Georgia’s slick, attention-hording boss and owner of the eponymously named restaurant, and of Georgia, who’s a departure from the stereotypical ego-driven chef. Georgia cooks for the purest reason: because she loves creating tasty, tantalizing dishes, not because she thrives on the adulation of her customers, and this is illuminated on the preceding pages. On the pages that immediately follow, a significant character is introduced and Georgia’s world – professional and personal – begins to disintegrate, forcing her to hatch a plan to re-build it from the ground up. Page 69 and the surrounding pages offer a voyeuristic glimpse into the inner workings of a top New York restaurant, both the glamorous and the seamier sides, and allow readers to see Georgia in her true light. Tough and vulnerable, she’s the take-charge chef who rules the kitchen and the self-effacing woman who greets her customers in the dining room. While Georgia realizes that life as she knows it is about to end, she’s determined to make the next phase of her life count.
Read an excerpt from Georgia’s Kitchen, and learn more about the book and author at Jenny Nelson's website and blog.

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--Marshal Zeringue