Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Passion Play"

Beth Bernobich is a writer, reader, mother, and geek.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Passion Play, her first novel and the first volume in a trilogy from Tor Books, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Footsteps thudded heavily down the hillside. The men, three of them, circled the clearing, whispering and muttering to one another. One paused by Therez's shelter, his boots just inches from her face.

"She's not here," he said.

"Probably got away," said another one. "Damn. Well, there's no use tripping around in the dark. Let's go back and tell Alarik."

"He won't like it."

"Don't I know that."

They walked off, expressing their disgust by kicking the branches and leaves. Therez heard their noisy climb back up the slope. Quiet returned, but she counted to a hundred, then another hundred, before she crawled from her hiding place. By now, the moon was well up, and the sky was clear. It was cold, but she could survive. All I have to do is walk.
Passion Play takes place in a secondary fantasy world, where magic and multiple lives are real. This is not your feudal Europe--it's closer to early Renaissance, with a once-powerful Empire fragmented by civil war into smaller kingdoms. The largest of these, Veraene, would like to recapture that glorious past, but certain influential people understand such a goal would lead to a bloody and useless conflict, and so there is a war-within-a-potential-war taking place in the kingdom.

All that is a backdrop to the true story, however, which centers around Therez Zhalina, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, who has run away from home to escape an arranged marriage. Along the way, she changes her name to Ilse and buys passage on a caravan. Her plans for escape go south almost at once, but eventually she escapes and comes into contact with those involved in high politics.

So does page 69 represent the book? Well, yes and no.

The scene I quoted comes hours after Alarik Brandt, the caravan master, threatens to send Therez back to her father in return for a reward. Two young men she considered friends demand a high price to help her escape. She agrees, because she cannot see any other chance to escape. She's recaptured on this same page. On the next, she faces even more painful choices, but never gives up.

So in that sense, yes, this page does represent the spirit of the book--the obstacles, setbacks, and often horrific choices that Therez faces in her struggle to independence. The key element this page does not show--and cannot, at this point in the story--is the strength and healing she achieves along the way.
Read an excerpt from Passion Play, and learn more about the book and author at Beth Bernobich's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Don't Sweat The Small Stuff"

Don Bruns is a musician, songwriter, advertising executive, and award-winning novelist. His "Stuff" series includes Stuff to Die For, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, and Stuff to Spy For.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the latest book in the series, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, and reported the following:
Take a carnival whose rides come off the tracks, a petting zoo owned by a midget named Winston Pugh (Winnie Pugh's Petting Zoo) who is being sued by Disney for trademark infringement, two twenty four year old guys in Miami who are hired to investigate the carnival and a big English sheep dog named Garcia and you've got Don't Sweat The Small Stuff.

It's a funny mystery novel that involves a very scary ride called the Dragon Tail. Skip and James are both scared to death of carnies and the rides and page 69 points right in that direction. The two carnies who run the Tail decide to let Skip and James get a 'feel' for the big attraction.
"You all should probably take a spin so you'll know what it feels like. Charlie and I had to ride it a couple of times."

James gave Bo a weak smile. "Nah, that's not part of the deal. All we need to do is operate if for a couple of rides."

"No, you need to ride the tail, Jim." Bo wasn't making any points. James hated the name Jim.

"Don't need to."

"Well, Jim, if you're gonna run this ride, then you're gonna ride the tail!"
The ride does not go well.

Learn more about the book and author at Don Bruns' website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 26, 2010


David Wellington is the author of seven novels. His zombie novels Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet form a complete trilogy. He has also written a series of vampire novels including (so far) Thirteen Bullets, Ninety-Nine Coffins, Vampire Zero and Twenty-Three Hours, and in October of 2009 began his new Werewolf series, starting with Frostbite.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Overwinter, the second book on the Werewolf series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of  Overwinter, huh? Yeah, that page is about… uh… well…

Okay, let’s be adults about this. It’s about a werewolf cock-block.

And, yeah, it’s probably the most representative page in the book. Overwinter is a love story, kind of. It’s also a thriller, and a horror novel. It’s the direct sequel to Frostbite, my first werewolf novel. In that book two werewolves, named Powell and Chey, tried desperately to make a connection. They ended up nearly tearing each other to pieces… and then saving each other’s lives. In Overwinter they head north, away from the humanity they can no longer be part of. They’re looking for a way to find some kind of life together. And little by little they start falling in love.

But the course of werewolf love can’t ever run smooth. They’re hounded by a revenge-mad hunter who will go to bizarre lengths to bring them down. They’re followed everywhere by the curse that makes them turn into wolves every time the moon rises. And, right around page 69, they come across another werewolf, one from Powell’s past. Someone he would rather never have seen again. Someone crazy and violent and now… someone jealous.

It’s a weird sort of novel: part paranormal romance, part terrifying body horror. I think it works. Hopefully you’ll give it a chance and see what I mean.
Read an excerpt from Overwinter, and visit David Wellington's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The Pericles Commission"

Gary Corby is a first time novelist, former systems programmer at Microsoft, and lives in Australia with his wife and two daughters.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Pericles Commission, and reported the following:
The Pericles Commission is a murder mystery set in the Athens of 461BC. That year was the birth of western democracy. This part is for-real! The politician who created it, a man named Ephialtes, was in real life murdered only days later. Athens was saved by an up-and-coming political genius by the name of Pericles, and the Golden Age of Greece began. In my version of history, Pericles commissions a young man named Nicolaos to catch the killer.

By sheer coincidence, page 69 happens to show us Pericles, as he confronts his biggest problem in The Pericles Commission. Our hero Nicolaos discusses the suspects, one by one, then says:
“But why reach for the top of the tree when there is low hanging fruit to be plucked?”

“Your meaning?” asked Pericles.

“Your father. He knew the time and place. He has the motive, he had the opportunity.”

Pericles leaned against the wall and shut his eyes. “Could I bring my own father to trial for murder? Should I? Would it count as patricide?”

“You would have to ask a priest that, or a philosopher.”

“Perhaps I’ll have to ask Archestratus to act for me.”
This isn't a spoiler, by the way. The father of Pericles is thrown up as a suspect in the opening scene. The Archestratus referred to was a legal eagle. He was a real historical person who, like Pericles, wanted to lead Athens. Nicolaos says:
“On that subject, Pericles, what would you do if Archestratus is the killer?”

Pericles opened one eye. “Are you saying he might be?”

“He did have a reason for wanting Ephialtes dead. Look at the way he’s behaved since. I think he already has more followers than you do, Pericles. You need to watch out for him. You don’t seem to be doing much to build your position.”

Pericles laughed and said, “Ah, Nicolaos, Nicolaos! How we do change! It wasn’t so long ago, my young friend, a mere four days, that you had to ask me my name. Now you are my political advisor!”

Our meandering had taken us close to where the fishwives were screeching at the tops of their voices, the aroma of warm fish was not enticing, and somewhere close by someone was cooking goat meat in garlic. Pericles screwed up his face and said, “Come, let’s go for a walk elsewhere.”
I cannot resist cheating a trifle. The top of page 69 is the middle of a discussion of another suspect, which on page 68 begins:
“Ephialtes left his mistress Euterpe that morning. She says she doesn’t know where he was going, but we have only her word for that. Of course it’s ridiculous to think she could have pulled the bow, but she could easily have sent a man.”

“A man willing to commit murder just because she asks? Is that realistic?”

“I see you haven’t met her.”

“It sounds like I should.”
One of my favorite short jokes.
Visit Gary Corby's blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Julie Metz is the author of the New York Times bestselling Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection for 2009. The recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship, her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Glamour, Hemispheres, and the New York City storysite Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Perfection and reported the following:
As it happens, Page 69 of my memoir Perfection falls at an important turning point in the story. In the previous pages, I witnessed my husband’s sudden death and made my way through a foggy period of grief. During these months I began an affair with a much younger man who inspired me with his creativity and sense of adventure.

On page 69, I decide to take a chance, run away from home for a while, and have an adventure of my own. I plan a trip with my then six and a half year old daughter. My husband had hoped to make this same trip as part of a book project he was working on at the time of his death.

The destination was Paris, an annual foodie event called the White Dinner. On a day in late June, the brainchild of the event selects a public place and friends are gathered via cell phone. The group arrives at the location—without a police permit—sets up tables and chairs, and eats a meal: a picnic, guerilla style, with everyone dressed fashionably in summer white. At first, the White Dinner numbered fewer than a hundred people, now the event gathers many thousands. In June 2003, the year my daughter and I attended, the group numbered 1500 or so.

The meal took place at La Place de Pantheon as the sun set, the stone walls changing from glowing orange to violet in twilight. One man strolled through the crowd dressed like a modern day Jay Gatsby, I took photographs of women in airy summer gowns and expansive hats with flowers and flowing scarves. I held the hand of an old friend I’d brought along as my escort while my daughter played at our feet with a friendly dog. The French police arrived, the crowd cheered and we waved our white napkins. A woman’s hat floated upwards, carried away gently on a light breeze, like my heart.
Read an excerpt from Perfection, and learn more about the book and author at Julie Metz's website.

The Page 99 Test: Perfection.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Empress of Eternity"

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is the bestselling author of over forty novels encompassing two science fiction series and three fantasy series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction genre.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Empress of Eternity, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Empress of Eternity, the effective head of the security detail for the “Executive Administrator of the Caelaaran Unity” states to one of the protagonists of the novel:
“Oh…it’s nothing personal, Maertyn. I’m sure you understand that.”

Maertyn did…

“It’s never personal to others, Ashauer, but it’s always personal to those it affects, and yet through the ages, men have persisted in insisting that actions adverse to others are not personal.”
This conversation underlies and underscores one of the sub-themes of the book, because Maertyn – as are the other protagonists [and there are three sets of protagonists in different time periods in the future of Earth] – is required not only to suffer impersonal decisions that have very intense personal effects, but to look far beyond those personal effects and eventually to make choices that will have profound effects on a personal and universal level. Unlike most people, he understands profoundly and personally that decisions which are not “personal” do destroy unique lives and that all too often those who make such decisions have neither empathy nor understanding – and then he is faced with exactly those kinds of decisions… as is every set of protagonists in the book.

In a larger sense, the scene of which page 69 is only a part examines quietly the kinds of apparently low-key and off-scene political interactions that have determined governmental and political actions and policies throughout most cultures, as well as the limitations of governmental decision-making, and the unrealistic expectations placed on a few people and programs when those in power are unwilling to make difficult political choices.

In all three cultures depicted in the book, in very different scenarios, the protagonists are faced with horrendous situations not of their making as a result of what can only be described as unrealistic public expectations combined with political cowardice and short-term thinking and policy-making.

How they deal with their differing difficulties, while trying to find a technological solution by attempting to unravel the science that created an enigmatic and indestructible ancient artifact that is far more than the canal it appears to be, is the crux of the book… with, of course, the additional questions of whether time and myth are in reality what we – and they -- believe them to be.
Read an excerpt from Empress of Eternity, and learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website and his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"The Demon's Parchment"

Jeri Westerson is a journalist, author of Veil of Lies and Serpent in the Thorns, and noted blogger on things mysterious and medieval.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Demon's Parchment, her third medieval mystery featuring Crispin Guest, and reported the following:
From Page 69 of The Demon's Parchment:
“Who but a monster would commit these horrible crimes?”

Who indeed? “What are you implying? That this...this Golem...has murdered these children?”

“I saw what was done to those boys.”

“How did you know that I am investigating?”

“One hears things. But that was after I had decided to seek you out.”

Crispin narrowed his eyes and looked across the room, peering into the shadows of the alcoves, trying to discern the strange beakers and jars from the shapes of alchemic apparatuses. “What is a...Golem?”

Jacob rose and returned to his table, unrolling a scroll with shaking hands. “This, Maître Guest, is the Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation.”

Curious, Crispin strode across the room and looked over the man’s shoulders. He gritted his teeth when he beheld the page of strange symbols interspersed with Stars of David. “These seguloth,” said Jacob, pointing to the symbols, “explain the book. Our Father Abraham was given the divine revelation of these pages by the Lord—blessed be His name—and the rabbis of old have discussed it and analyzed it for centuries. This,” he said, spreading his fingers over the tan parchment, “is the understanding of Creation itself. How the universe was created through the Sefirot, the Ten Sacred Numbers—”

“Enough!” The room felt close suddenly. This talk of Jewish magic made Crispin’s skin crawl. “This monster. This Golem. What is it? Did you make it?”

“Me? Oh no! Never! Only in extreme circumstances and only with the counsel of many wise rabbis would I attempt it. You see, Maître, the word ‘Golem’ means a ‘shapeless mass.’ It is made from mud or clay. The Golem is created to protect the Jewish people from harm.”
In this exchange, Crispin is talking to Jacob of Provencal, a Jewish physician called to the court of Richard II to minister to the Queen to discover why she had not yet conceived an heir. Jacob has hired Crispin to find parchments stolen from him that he believes are responsible for unleashing a demon, a Golem, on London, and who has been murdering young boys.

The relic aspect is so important to the Crispin Guest series because it adds dimension to Crispin's finding something lost or discovering a murderer. It’s the Maltese Falcon, the McGuffin, that propels the plot forward. And relics there were aplenty in the Middle Ages. But in this novel, I wanted to touch on the lives and plight of medieval Jews. Yet in England, they had all been exiled since 1290, almost one hundred years before the action of the novel takes place. How to bring them into the story and with a relic too boot? Enter a Jewish physician from France looking for the lost pages of the Kabbalah.
Read an excerpt from The Demon's Parchment, and learn more about the book and author at Jeri Westerson's website, her "Getting Medieval" blog, and the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir blog.

Westerson wrote about Crispin Guest's place among fictional detectives for The Rap Sheet.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"The Spirit Thief"

Rachel Aaron is the author of The Spirit Thief and all the other Eli books forthcoming from Orbit. She lives in Athens, GA, (which, she always stresses, is not really Georgia, but a small island nation all its own adrift in the vast sea of East Georgia farmland) in a seventies house of the future with her husband, her son, and Lettie, a small, brown dog.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Spirit Thief and reported the following:
When you dig underneath the magic, sword fights, and fantastical setting, The Spirit Thief is a character driven novel. The idea for the book started with the characters, and all of the action derives from the fallout of their choices. But while the main character and driving force of the novels, the charming wizard thief Eli Monpress, sprung into life fully formed, his foil and sometimes-enemy-sometimes-ally, the always moral Miranda, took a lot more time. She began out of necessity as the cop to Eli's robber, but as she took over more of the story it was clear that being a reflection of Eli wasn't enough. Miranda needed a personality every bit as strong as Eli's if she was going to believably stand up to him.

When I applied the Page 69 test to the US edition of The Spirit Thief, Miranda was the one in the spotlight. I won't quote it directly as I couldn't have picked a more context dependent scene if I'd tried, but I will try to lay it out as briefly as possible so you can get the idea. In this scene Miranda's forcing her way into a royal event after information she believes will help bring Eli, whom she rightly believes has stolen the king, to justice. Time is of the essence, and nothing, not protocol or politeness or the fact that she is not at all welcome in these lands, is going to stand in her way.

This scene is very typical of the book in that it shows a character being resourceful and determined. More specifically, it's one of the many small scenes that I put in to show Miranda for what she really is: a professional wizard nearing the height of her craft and a mature woman with a strong sense of right and wrong who isn't afraid of, or apologetic about, using her power to get the job done.
Read the first two chapters of The Spirit Thief, Book 1 in the Legend of Eli Monpress, at Rachel Aaron's website. Book 2, The Spirit Rebellion, is out now from Orbit books, and Book 3, The Spirit Eater, launches December 1st.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Mr. Toppit"

Charles Elton worked as a designer and editor in publishing before becoming a literary agent. Since 1991 he has worked in television and for the past ten years has been the executive producer in drama at ITV. Among his productions are the Oscar-nominated short Syrup, The Railway Children, Andrew Davies’s adaptation of Northanger Abbey, and the recent series Time of Your Life, all produced in association with WGBH Boston's Masterpiece Theater.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Mr. Toppit, his new novel, and reported the following:
Mr. Toppit is about an eccentric, dysfunctional English family and their brush with fame in America. At the beginning of the book, the father, Arthur Hayman, is run over by a cement truck and is dying in hospital. He has written an obscure series of children's books which are about to become world-renowned through the intervention of Laurie, an overweight radio presenter from Modesto, California, who was passing by when Arthur was run down. The mother, Martha, and their two children, Luke and Rachel, all head separately to the hospital, believing that Arthur has simply broken his leg. On Page 69, there is rather a chilling encounter between Martha and her 13-year-old son, Luke who run into each other by chance in the hospital lobby. It's a good page, as you realise for the first time that this is a very odd family indeed. Soon after page 69, they meet Laurie, also waiting at the hospital, and the strange confluence of events that changes all their lives is set in motion.
Read an excerpt from Mr. Toppit, and learn more about the novel at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"The Severance"

Elliott Sawyer was an officer in the 101st Airborne Division. He saw action as a combat patrol leader in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and during a second deployment in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and an Army Commendation Medal. Now, back in the United States, he commands a training company of up to 240 soldiers.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Severance, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69? I’m so glad you asked because that’s the best page of my new book, The Severance. You couldn’t have picked a better page.

Page 69 Is the start of Chapter 8. It offers a transition between a flashback sequence and the present narrative. The flashback is that of a tragic death scene and I wanted to transition back to the present with a little dark comedy. That’s where one of my favorite characters, Wesley Parker, gets introduced. I like Wesley, I actually see a lot of myself in him. He represents the establishment, but not in an “evil corporate lawyer” kind of way. He’s a nice person and kind of a dullard. Just a guy plugging away at his daily grind. Writing his dialogue is just a stick for me because whenever I read a line back I like to imitate what I think he sounds like. Kind of a Frank Hill meets Eeyore. Wesley sleeps like a baby every night because he stays on the straight and narrow without question. For all these reasons, Wesley Parker is the polar opposite of my main character, Jake Roberts. I use him as my story’s punching bag, and, again, I think it’s hilarious.

What I also find funny is that on Page 69 the diligent, hardworking Wesley Parker has to come and present the rapscallion Jake with award paperwork. I really like the irony of this situation (almost as much as I like the word “rapscallion.” Try reading it aloud, it’s fun! Rapscallion!) This is theme in the book manifesting itself and that theme is: “Crime pays, well… sort of.” In some way, Wesley is my way of injecting myself directly into the story as I’m nothing like Jake Roberts.

In fact, I liked Wesley so much that I made a special place for him when I was writing The Severance’s prequel The Burnout. If I ever write a third book I might make Wesley the hero and give him someone else to kick around.
Visit Elliott Sawyer's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 12, 2010

"The Fat Man"

Ken Harmon has been an advertising copywriter or over fifteen years.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Fat Man, his debut novel, and reported the following:
In The Fat Man – A Tale of North Pole Noir, Gumdrop Coal is a hard-boiled elf framed for murder. In the dark shadows of Kringle Town, someone is playing reindeer games for keeps. Getting Gumdrop out of the way is only part of the scheme. Santa, the Fat Man, is next and then Christmas.

Page 69 is part of an interview between The Marshmallow World Gazette’s ace reporter, Rosebud Jubilee, and Charles “Candy” Cane, the elf that had Gumdrop fired from managing the Naughty List through The Coal Patrol. From Rosebud’s line of questioning and Candy’s evasiveness, the reader would come to the conclusion that there is, indeed, a rat in the figgy pudding.
Jubilee: So, Cane, what can you tell me about this charge of overworked elves?

Cane: Please call me Candy. I find it much sweeter, don’t you?

Jubilee: How is Santa’s health? The scuttle- butt is that you’re working elves’ fingers down to nubs. What gives?

Cane: Truth be told, elves’ fingers are already nubs. That’s a joke, Miss Jubilee, no reason to glower so! Although, I must say the fire in your eyes is positively radiant!

Jubilee: Listen, daisy, if you don’t give me the square right now, I’m gonna use this pen to let a little daylight into that noodle of yours. Start jawing before you learn just how much mightier the pen is over the sword.

Cane: Business before pleasure, eh? Very well. Several weeks ago, I dismantled the entire Coal Patrol organization. I found the practices barbaric and without mercy, so I proposed to Santa that we concentrate on giving children, all children, something for Christmas, regardless of their behavior. We feel that if children know they are loved, and these gifts are a reflection of love, they will behave accordingly.

Jubilee: But some elves think—

Cane: What I tell them to think, Miss Jubilee.
Visit Ken Harmon's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Lipstick in Afghanistan"

A nurse, humanitarian aid worker, and writer, Roberta Gately has served in third-world war zones ranging from Africa to Afghanistan. She has written extensively on the subject of refugees for the Journal of Emergency Nursing, as well as a series of articles for the BBC Worlds News Online. She speaks regularly on the plight of the world's refugees and displaced.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Lipstick in Afghanistan, and reported the following:
The trip was long, so long Parween thought it would never end, but finally, after a full day of travel by rickety bus and weary foot, they arrived at their new home. The fertile green valley, with trees everywhere, was nestled in the shadow of great sand colored cliffs dotted with caves. The gravel and dirt road was filled with people walking or sitting astride donkeys; the buzz of laughter and friendly conversation filled the air. Her eyes grew wide as she spotted two gigantic statues carved into the face of the mountain. Fascinated as she was, she caught only a glimpse before the family reached their destination, and unloaded their scant belongings into their new home.

While her brothers explored every nook and cranny of the compound, Parween stood in the center and peered around curiously. Each of the rooms opened onto a central courtyard that offered an open cooking area, a small well, and, off to the side, an open latrine. The dirt floor of the little room in which she stood was covered by a fading and fraying hand-woven carpet.

How beautiful it is, she thought with delight, and so soft on my feet.

They hadn’t possessed a carpet in Onai, and she squatted to run her hands over the worn fabric, its smooth feel and hint of color a welcome change from her old dirt floor.

Real window frames covered with plastic sheeting broke up the monotony of the mud-brown walls and offered her a murky glimpse out into the courtyard. The nearby well was a luxury, allowing them access to water without forcing Parween to trudge for hours balancing water jugs on poles across her small shoulders as she had in Onai. When the jugs were full, the poles – old sticks really – had gnawed at her bony shoulders, and she’d spent hours rubbing away the soreness. But with the well, all of that was finished, and she smiled, relieved.

Life will be easy here.
Set in Afghanistan, 1988, page 69 of Lipstick in Afghanistan is 2 pages into Part II, the story of Parween, my second central character and the Afghan woman who will befriend Elsa, the American volunteer nurse. On page 69, we follow Parween as she and her family move to their new home in Bamiyan where she is happy to find a bit of luxury in the form of a real rug for the earth floor and a nearby well. The unexpected comforts hint that life will be less about chores and more about adventure for ten year old Parween, who has just learned that already her mother is considering a search for a suitable husband for Parween, her recalcitrant youngest daughter. But even at the age of ten, Parween, a fighter at heart, will not fall easily into the traditional female role, and this page gives us a glimpse into the onset of her rebellion against the life she is expected to lead.
Read an excerpt from Lipstick in Afghanistan, and learn more about the book and author at Roberta Gately's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Next Time You See Me"

Born in France to American parents, Katia Lief moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in Massachusetts and New York. She teaches fiction writing as a part-time faculty member at the New School in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn.

Lief's latest novels are You Are Next and Next Time You See Me.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Next Time You See Me and reported the following:
On page 69 of Next Time You See Me, Karin Schaeffer questions her missing husband’s secretary Tina about a receipt found in a box of personal items sent home from the office. Karin’s husband Mac vanished weeks ago, his car has been dredged up from the ocean, and everyone assumes he’s dead—except Karin. When she finds the receipt for an expensive necklace she assumes was to have been her anniversary gift, but can’t locate the necklace anywhere at home, she decides he must have put it in the safe at work. It’s the only feasible explanation, the one she must discount before allowing herself to veer into suspicions of infidelity. Karin desperately wants to believe that Mac is alive, that he still loves her, and that he’ll be back.

When Tina tells Karin that there is no necklace in the office safe, Karin begins to think that Mac may have kept secrets from her. It’s the first time she allows a crack of doubt as to Mac’s honesty, and the beginning of a thought process that will inspire her to seek more information and ultimately lead her into a life-threatening situation with a Mexican drug cartel.
Read an excerpt from Next Time You See Me and view the trailer.

Visit Katia Lief's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"The Neighbors Are Watching"

Debra Ginsberg is the author of the novels Blind Submission and The Grift, as well as three memoirs: Waiting, Raising Blaze, and About My Sisters.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Neighbors Are Watching, and reported the following:
The question at the heart of this novel is whether or not there can ever be an objective reality--a quandary I've explored in some form or other in every one of my books. Here, all the neighbors on the fictional Fuller Court cul-de-sac watch and judge each other constantly, despite the fact that each one of them has plenty to hide. The novel is told from multiple points of view and it is up to the reader to figure out whose perspective, if any, is the true one--or if a true perspective exists at all. In this sense, page 69 is both representative of the novel as a whole and not at all. The scene takes place at Fuller Court's annual block party, the only time all of these watchful neighbors are together as a group instead of peering through each other's doorways and windows. Because this is such a singular event, I decided to write the scene with no point of view. For these few pages, the reader becomes a purely objective observer of the calm (albeit a tense one) before the firestorm.

From page 69:
Sam was wearing a festive skirt; long, full and decorated with bright yellow and orange geometric patterns which contrasted nicely with the turquoise necklace and bracelet she'd designed and created. The skirt and jewelry were set off by a plain white t-shirt which was simple but of good quality and which flattered Sam's olive skin and slim figure.

Gloria wasn't as dressed up as Sam but had traded her usual yoga pants for a pair of painted on jeans and a purple halter top. Her short gold hair was still damp from the shower. Sunlight bounced off the large silver hoops in her ears and her breasts swayed slightly against the thin fabric of her top. Dick turned his head as she passed him, his eyes quickly taking a full inventory of her hips and thighs.

"That looks good," Sam said, pointing at Dorothy's chicken salad.

"Please try some," Dorothy said. "I made it with these special olives I got down at--you know, that store? I'm totally drawing a blank right now! But help yourself."

"I made a fruit salad," Sam said. "It's kind of my take on Ambrosia, but without all the things that are bad for you."

Dorothy tipped her head, smiling politely. "Oh?"

Dick scraped the grill. Flames rose up and slapped on another patty.

"Don't worry, Dick, we also brought beer," Gloria said and put the two six-packs of Dos XX she'd been carrying on the table. "Good beer," she said.

Dick turned to her, grinning.

"Great," he said. "Burgers are just about there. Time to grab some buns." His eyes flickered quickly to her ass and then back up to his grill.

Gloria rolled her eyes and Sam reached out with her hand, grabbed hold of Gloria's arm and squeezed lightly. Gloria understood and patted Sam on the back. Don't worry about it, I'm fine.

"Okay if I just leave it here for now?" Sam said, placing her fruit salad on the table.

"Sure, of course," Dorothy said, brightness lifting her words. "Oh, look, there's Joe!" She smiled, quickly rubbing a finger across her teeth in case there was any smeared lipstick there.
Read an excerpt from The Neighbors Are Watching and view the trailer; learn more about the book and author at Debra Ginsberg's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"The Insane Train"

A former Oklahoma public school English teacher, Sheldon Russell retired as a professor emeritus from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2000. With The Yard Dog (Minotaur Books, 2009), he introduced the Hook Runyon series. The first book finds Hook investigating a murder at an Oklahoma railroad yard near a German POW camp during WWII.

Russell applied the Page 69 Test to the second Hook Runyon novel, The Insane Train, and reported the following:
He went to bed but couldn’t sleep. After seeing the security ward, he was more convinced than ever that moving them as a group was a misguided strategy. Add in the missing links of a fatal fire, and it all came down to a dangerous assignment indeed.
Page 69 is the end of Chapter 9 and reflects the essence of railroad yard dog, Hook Runyon’s, dilemma. After a devastating fire in an insane asylum, Hook is charged with transporting the remaining inmates by train to an abandoned fort in Oklahoma. To complicate matters, a substantial number of the inmates are from the criminally insane ward, help is hard to come by, and the law prohibits the use of weapons in their management.

Desperate, Hook hires a motley crew of vets who are living under a bridge to assist him, and thus begins one of the wildest train rides in history.
Learn more about the book and author at Sheldon Russell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Yard Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Kind of Blue"

Miles Corwin, a former crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, is the author of three nonfiction books: The Killing Season, a national bestseller; And Still We Rise, the winner of the PEN West award for nonfiction and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; and Homicide Special, a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Kind of Blue, his first novel, and reported the following:
This is how page 69 begins:
A cold, rosy dawn in southern Lebanon. I’m part of a three-man patrol hidden behind a boulder on a rocky promontory. Three Hezbollah guerrillas wearing flowing keffiyehs, aiming Kalashnikovs, pop up on a ridge behind us. A fourth guerrilla is about to pull the plug on a grenade. I swing around, I aim my Gallil at him, but the assault rifle jams. The two other soldiers shout to me: “Esh!” Shoot. But the gun is still jammed. “Esh! Esh! Esh!”

Ring! Ring! Ring! I jumped out of bed and reached for my phone. “Hello,” I said groggily.

“Are you naked?” someone asked in a falsetto voice.

“Who is this?”

I recognized the voice. It was Sergeant Walker of the Harbor Division buy team.

“We just rounded up a passel of ho’s, in addition to some crackheads, junkies, and street-corner dealers. A couple might have something for you.”

“I’m on my way,” I said.
This gives the reader a good sense of the book and the protagonist. As you can tell from the dream, Ash served in a paratrooper unit of the Israel Defense Forces, and he’s still plagued by nightmares and flashbacks.

I think the dialogue also is representative of the book.

When I was a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and when I researched two nonfiction books about LAPD homicide detectives, I paid close attention to the way cops talked. I tried to write realistic dialogue in Kind of Blue. Most homicide detectives joke around a lot. This is a coping mechanism. If they don’t have a sense of humor, I discovered, they burn out quickly and don’t last long in homicide.
Visit Miles Corwin's website.

Writers Read: Miles Corwin.

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

--Marshal Zeringue