Thursday, June 30, 2011

"A Spark of Death"

Bernadette Pajer is the author of the Professor Bradshaw Mysteries.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Spark of Deaththe first book in the series, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative? When I first drafted this post, all I had was the ARC (advanced review copy) and yes, page 69 read like a mini-introduction to the book so far, showing Bradshaw's world and the scene of the crime. The actual books just arrived, and page 69 is the next page. It's technical and directly addresses the investigation into the "how-dunnit," but I wouldn't say it's representative of the majority of pages. The story is driven by characters and hidden motivations and Bradshaw's personal struggles as he tries to get inside the mind of a killer.

Would a reader skimming the page be inclined to read on, you ask? That is, of course, my goal as a writer, for a reader to want to turn the page, every page. For every reader, the reaction will be different. That's the magic of books; we read the same words but go on unique journeys. Since page 68 ends with Bradshaw asking Tom Hill to "help me look," I'm hopeful a reader would be curious to know what it is they're looking for on page 69, and if it will solve the mystery of Professor Oglethorpe's death.
...approached the apparatus and began inspecting. The job would have been easier had the Machine been left intact. The guilty wire or component that actually caused Oglethorpe's death may have been inadvertently moved into some unsuspecting position.

They examined first the Leyden jars. Bradshaw even used a magnifying glass to peer at the connective metal knobs, but there was nothing whatsoever to indicate that the jars had discharged a fatal blow. Bradshaw and Tom moved slowly on to other components.

"What exactly is it that we're looking for, Bradshaw? A loose wire? A wire that doesn't belong?"

"Yes, anything that strikes you as being in any way out of place, but also look for dried ink."


"India ink. It will look like black, sparkling dust or grit. There won't be much, the police have already looked." He explained to Tom what he'd learned this morning about the dried ink in Oglethorpe's hair and on his clothes.

“What does it mean?”

“I wish I knew. What other lethal sources of current are down here, Tom?”

They both scanned the room.

“We've got a couple induction coils, batteries, the generator, and of course big Stan.” Tom was referring to the Stanley transformer on the wheeled dolly in the corner. Crucial to alternating current distribution, Big Stan was used to demonstrate step-down and step-up voltage, but it wasn't used indoors. Yes, it could conceivably deliver lethal current, but in what circumstances might Oglethorpe have been enticed to encounter such current? That was the unfathomable mystery of his death. He was far too knowledgeable to do anything stupid with any of the equipment in the room. And if Big Stan had been connected to the building's electric system, the lights would not have flashed and dimmed but gone out. The transformer would have blown the main building fuses. Bradshaw turned up his left palm, remembering the burn pattern on Oglethorpe's palm.
Learn more about the book and author at Bernadette Pajer's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"You're Next"

Gregg Hurwitz is the critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling author of The TowerMinutes to Burn, Do No Harm, The Kill Clause, The Program, Troubleshooter, Last Shot, The Crime WriterTrust No One, and They’re Watching.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new thriller, You're Next, and reported the following:
Page 69 of You're Next gives us my intrepid hero, Mike Wingate, walking through a cemetery, looking at graves. A hobby of his. Okay…a strange hobby.

Let me rewind.

As a young boy, Mike was dropped off by his father at an unfamiliar playground and told to go play. Climbing out of the station wagon, he notices a drop of blood on his father’s sleeve. And You're Next opens there on that playground with morning turning to afternoon, as it slowly begins to dawn on a four-year-old boy that he has been abandoned.

By the time we meet Mike again, he’s grown up in foster homes and managed to put his life together. He has a job he enjoys and a wonderful wife and daughter. But as you can imagine, he’s spent his life haunted by the memory—and the mystery—of what happened so many years ago. When he was abandoned, he was too young even to recall his own last name and so he never was able to put together why his parents left him—or even who they were. They simply vanished. And so from time to time when he drives past a graveyard, he pulls over and walks around, looking at those cold headstones that stand for a finality he was never able to find. And of course, this tugs at a wound he can never heal:
He passed the aftermath of a service, people breaking off in solemn twosomes and quartets. A rubbed-raw exhaustion hung over the gathering, all those universal fears and vulnerabilities laid bare. And Mike at the periphery, traipsing between gravestones like a zombie, trying to convince himself that he came from somewhere, anywhere. Trying to convince himself that as a four-year-old boy, he might have been something worth keeping.
Little does he know that soon enough, those lifelong secrets will erupt, putting his family at risk and threatening to shatter everything he’s built.

He’s about to learn that the past isn’t gone. It’s just waiting.
View the You're Next trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Gregg Hurwitz's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"The Girl in the Garden"

Kamala Nair was born in London and grew up in the United States. A graduate of Wellesley College, she studied literature at Oxford University and received an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin in 2005.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Girl in the Garden, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Girl in the Garden features a pivotal scene, where Rakhee first discovers a mysterious hidden garden and finally comes face to face with the “monster in the forest,” which she has been warned about by the grown-ups. I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t yet read The Girl in the Garden by quoting the page, but this scene is the culmination of the mystery that has been building until now, and represents a turning point in the story, guiding the direction in which it will head moving forward. This scene encapsulates a greater theme of the novel, dealing with perception versus reality, and the blurred distinction between dreams and consciousness. On page 69 Rakhee first confronts the symbolic heart of darkness in the story and begins to discover the fallibility of the adults whom she has trusted all along. This is the point where she begins to see them as human beings with weaknesses, who are capable of deep cruelties, and with this realization comes the loss of innocence.
Learn more about the book and author at Kamala Nair's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Damage Done"

Hilary Davidson is a travel journalist and the author of eighteen nonfiction books. Her articles have appeared in more than 40 magazines, including Discover, Reader’s Digest, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Her short fiction has been widely praised and included in anthologies such as A Prisoner of Memory & 24 of the Year’s Finest Crime & Mystery Stories and Thuglit Presents: Blood, Guts, & Whiskey. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in New York City.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Damage Done, her first novel, and reported the following:
How much can one page of a novel tell you about a book? Quite a lot, it turns out. Page 69 of The Damage Done offers a snapshot of the relationships in the book. On the pages just before it, the main character, Lily Moore, was mistaken for her missing sister, Claudia; she was attacked as a result. The woman who assaulted her is a dead-ringer for Claudia, right down to the tattoo on her shoulder. The woman is also romantically involved with Tariq, Claudia’s ex. Tariq has set up a strange romantic triangle: at one point is the woman he really wants but can’t have; at the other is the woman he has but doesn’t really care for. Lily is creeped out by seeing what appears to be a substitute for her sister, and she can’t help but worry about what it says about the state of Claudia’s relationship with Tariq.

Page 69 also touches on Lily’s love-hate relationship with Claudia. When Lily tells her best friend, Jesse, about what just happened to her, he’s furious at Claudia:
“It’s some kind of dirty trick your sister’s playin’… She gets herself into some kind of jam, then counts on you to bail her out. Again and again and again.”

“That’s not fair. Claudia hasn’t asked me for anything this time. She probably doesn’t even know I’m in New York.” It was one thing for me to criticize Claudia, but I hated to hear anyone else do it, even Jesse. It was a holdover from childhood, when my sister wouldn’t go to sleep at night unless I got rid of the monsters under her bed. She was convinced that I was the only person who could do it. I’d always been flattered by her belief in me and willing to banish monsters wherever she saw them. But now, the job had gotten too big for me.
Another thing the reader glimpses on page 69: Lily has always played the role of the good girl in her family, while Claudia has been the bad girl who has been “a magnet for trouble,” as Lily puts it. But Lily has a darker heart than she’s willing to acknowledge, and when it peeks out, she tries to blame her sister for it:
I wondered if I really had damaged [the woman’s] nose. I hoped I had and immediately felt rotten to the core. That was the kind of thing Claudia would say, not me.
As Lily continues to search for Claudia, she’s forced to confront her own dark impulses. Page 69 is just the beginning.
Learn more about the book and author at Hilary Davidson's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Break the Skin"

Lee Martin is the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Bright Forever; a novel, Quakertown; a story collection, The Least You Need to Know; and two memoirs, From Our House and Turning Bones. He has won a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, a Lawrence Foundation Award, and the Glenna Luschei Prize. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he directs the creative writing program at The Ohio State University.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Break the Skin, and reported the following:
My novel, Break the Skin, has two narrators—a nineteen-year-old girl, Laney, in Illinois, and a thirty-something tattoo artist, Miss Baby, in Texas. They don’t know that they share the same man, Lester Stipp, an Iraq war veteran who suffers from dissociative fugues that occasionally make him forget who he is and where he lives. Miss Baby finds him outside her tattoo parlor one evening, and when he says he doesn’t remember his name, she seizes an opportunity and tells him he’s her husband, Donnie. On page 69, a police officer has come to Miss Baby’s house looking for her brother. Lester has been asleep in the bedroom, and in the middle of this scene, he comes out into the living room and the police officer asks him who he is. “I’m Donnie,” Lester says. “Donnie True.” He goes on to say that Miss Baby is his wife. This page is representative of the novel in the respect that it dramatizes the book’s main concern—how far will someone go for the sake of love? Has Lester really forgotten who is he? Miss Baby will wonder after she finds out he’s wanted for questioning in regards to a crime in Illinois that involves Laney, but for the time Miss Baby is happy to believe that she and “Donnie” are starting a life together. She says,

“I didn’t think anything at the time about how easy it was for him to say this and everything that followed. I just fell into the gentle tone of his voice, gave thanks for his story. Somehow in his sleep he’d dreamed it all, or else he’d carried the truth of his real life into the one he was now making with me.”

Miss Baby, like Laney, hopes for true love, but Lester has secrets from his time with Laney. As the two storylines intersect, a tale of deceit and revenge unfolds, one that will haunt Miss Baby forever—“A story of love, no matter how ugly and roughed up and stained.”
Learn more about the book and author at Lee Martin's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"The Rock Hole"

Reavis Z. Wortham recently retired from 35 years in public education, the past 25 in the Communications Department of the Garland ISD in Texas, and the final 4 as the Director. He is now a full-time freelance writer and novelist. His first book, Doreen’s 24 HR Eat Gas Now CafĂ©, was released in 1999.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Rock Hole, the first mystery in The Red River Series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Rock Hole, is the end of Chapter 8.
Grandpa shot him a look and then pulled a ‘toe sack to the side to reveal what was left of a dog. Everyone looked in silence for a moment. “You think a mama lion did this?”

“Nope. Not unless she’s learned to build a fire and skin her meat. Someone spent quite a while working on this poor thing.”

Uncle James and Grandpa exchanged glances. The men in the lot exploded in conversation and wondered aloud who could have done such a thing.

Pepper saw grandpa’s look and slithered off the cab. In an instant, Grandpa’s good mood evaporated.
Though extremely short, this quick glimpse into the story gives us a chilling insight into the horrible events that have occurred so far and a disturbing direction the story has just taken. Someone is mutilating animals and Grandpa (who is both a farmer and constable) knows that things are going to get worse before they get better. What he doesn’t know, is that the psychopath has targeted his own grandchildren, ten-year-old outgoing Pepper, and her same-age cousin, Top.
Learn more about the book and author at Reavis Z. Wortham's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 20, 2011

"The Wedding Writer"

Susan Schneider has over 10 years of experience as a bridal magazine editor; formerly she was executive editor at Bridal Guide Magazine, a national consumer magazine for engaged women, and she was also executive editor at Conde Nast's Modern Bride and at Elegant Bride. She covers everything wedding, from fashion to flowers to food to stationery, etiquette, registry and honeymoons. She especially enjoys writing true-life wedding stories.

Schneider applied the Page 69 Test to The Wedding Writer, her debut novel, and reported the following:
The Page 69 Test made me nervous. I was actually afraid to look at the page! What if it was dull? What if I found typos? Come on, I told myself, confront what scares you!

So, page 69 of The Wedding Writer: This is exactly where my main character, Lucky, starts to deepen. Until now, we've seen her as the smart, ambitious, hardscrabble protege of her wonderful boss, the editor in chief of Your Wedding magazine. Lucky has just pushed said boss out of the way and taken her job. You could really hate this girl. However, on page 69 we find Lucky on Christmas Eve traveling in a noxious bus through the Lincoln Tunnel, on her way to visit her crazy, working class family in Clifton, New Jersey, a million miles away from Manhattan and the life Lucky is painstakingly putting together. Our heart starts to go out to her. By her feet sit glossy shopping bags packed with holiday offerings for her mother and her sister: high-end beauty products that have streamed into her office as gifts from Chanel and Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy. Her thoughts are hopeful: She wants to see the looks on their faces as she showers them with gorgeous stuff. She wants to make them happy, to see them glow in the midst of the dark little house. She knows she'll be showing off, but she's worked hard and she knows she deserves their accolades. In her mind she tots up the price of the clothes on her back: over $3,000 worth! The reader then feels a sense of dread: Lucky's hopes are way too high, and we're morbidly attracted to finding out just how bad her family is and how very wrong everything will go.

Thank you for this chance to think the scene through with more detail than I ever consciously gave it before! And yes, do confront what gives you a nervous stomach. Interesting things happen.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan Schneider's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"What Alice Forgot"

Liane Moriarty is the author of three novels: Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary and most recently, What Alice Forgot (Amy Einhorn/Putnam). What Alice Forgot is the story of a woman who loses ten years of her memory. She thinks she’s 29, pregnant with her first child and blissfully in love with her husband. In fact, she’s 39, the mother of three children, and she’s in the middle of a bitter divorce. Publishers Weekly described it as "moving, well-paced and thoroughly pleasurable," and Fox 2000 have optioned the film rights. Book clubs love it because it gives everyone a chance to reflect on how their lives have changed over the past decade and what their younger selves would think of the people they’ve become. Moriarty is also the author of the Nicola Berry series for children, and all her books have been published around the world. She lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two small children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What Alice Forgot and reported the following:
I turned to page 69 with much trepidation, worried that it would be the most boring page of the whole book, and wondering if I could get away with cheating and picking a better page. (This exercise reminded me of the peculiar way my mother reads books. After she’s read the first chapter, she flicks to the last page and then tries to guess what happened in between, picking pages at random to work out if she got it right. As an author, I am horrified by this approach.) Page 69 of What Alice Forgot (and I’m not cheating) features a conversation between the main character Alice, and her sister, Elisabeth. Alice is in hospital after suffering a head injury that has caused her to lose ten years of her memory. She thinks she’s 29, pregnant with her first baby and blissfully in love with her husband. In fact she’s 39, the mother of three children, and in the middle of a terrible divorce. In this scene she is discovering that her relationship with her sister has also subtly but mysteriously changed over the last ten years. It’s important to the story because it shows how people change in ways that would seem completely baffling to their younger selves. I have no idea if a reader skimming this page would want to read on because I’m incapable of reading my own writing objectively. I hope they would, but the good news is that if not, there’s only a .02% chance that they’d read page 69 anyway.

Page 69:
But it was more than that; there was a deep, slumping sort of sadness about her. Was she not happy being married to that grizzly bear man? (Was it possible to love a man with a beard? Childish. Of course, it was possible. Even if it was a remarkably bushy beard.)

As Alice watched, Elisabeth’s throat moved as she swallowed convulsively.

“What are you thinking about?” asked Alice.

Elisabeth started and looked up. “I don’t know, nothing.” She swallowed a yawn. “Sorry. I’m just tired. I only got a couple of hours sleep last night.”

“Ah,” said Alice. She didn’t need an explanation. She and Elisabeth had both suffered from bouts of terrible insomnia all their lives. They had inherited it from their mother. After their Dad died, Alice and Elisabeth would often stay up right through the night with their mother, sitting in their dressing gowns in a row on the couch, watching videos and drinking Milo, and then they’d sleep the next day away, while sunlight streamed through the muffled, sleeping house.

“How has my insomnia been lately?” asked Alice.

“I don’t know actually. I don’t know if you still get it.”

“You don’t know?” Alice was baffled. They always kept each other up to date with their insomnia battles. “But don’t we – don’t we talk?”

“Of course we talk but I guess, you’re pretty busy, with the kids and everything, so our conversations are maybe a bit rushed.”

“Busy,” repeated Alice. She didn’t like the sound of that at all. She had always had a slight mistrust of busy people; the sort of people who described themselves as “Flat out! Frantic!” What was the hurry? Why didn’t they slow down? Just what exactly were they so busy doing?

“Well,” she said, and felt unaccountably awkward. It felt like things weren’t exactly right between herself and Elisabeth. There seemed to be a sort of stilted, friendly politeness, as if they were good friends who didn’t see each other so often anymore.
Learn more about the book and author at Liane Moriarty's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Daniel H. Wilson earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. His books include How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Where’s My Jetpack?, How to Build a Robot Army, The Mad Scientist Hall of Fame, Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown, and A Boy and His Bot.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel Robopocalypse, and reported the following:
I’m as nasty as the day is long and I know every trick
in the book. If I want you, mate, I’ll get you.
Page 69 of Robopocalypse is the first page of a chapter called Phreak.

This chapter is about a teenaged phone hacker who goes by the call sign Lurker. This kid likes to wreak havoc on his enemies by “swatting” them: the process of calling the police from the faked phone number of your enemy, convincing the cops that you’re about to kill somebody, and then laughing as a SWAT team arrives at their house and smashes in the front door.

Yeah, Lurker is a jerk.

This rotten teenager gets his comeuppance when he stumbles across the sentient machine that is quietly plotting a robot uprising – Archos R-14. In a series of events that are representative of much of the first part of the book, the action in this chapter is eerie and mostly psychological. No giant robots, blood, or gore. Instead, Lurker realizes he has stumbled into a hornet’s nest, with implications that could impact all of humankind.

Lurker is the last person you’d choose to save humanity, but how he reacts will shape the fate of billions.
Learn more about the book and author at Daniel Wilson's blog.

My Book, The Movie: A Boy and His Bot.

Writers Read: Daniel H. Wilson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Missing Persons"

Clare O'Donohue worked on the HGTV show, Simply Quilts for four seasons, eventually becoming the Supervising Producer, and has written and produced for a lot of other shows as well. In the last twelve years, she worked on shows for The History Channel, truTV, Food Network, A&E, Discovery, TLC, and others.

In 2008 she published The Lover’s Knot, the first in the Someday Quilts series, and followed the debut with A Drunkard’s Path and The Double Cross. The Devil’s Puzzle, the fourth novel in the series, arrives in the fall of 2011.

O'Donohue applied the Page 69 Test to Missing Persons, the first novel in her new, edgier mystery series, and reported the following:
In Missing Persons, Kate Conway is a freelance TV producer working on a true crime show. I know something about this as I'm also a freelance TV producer, and I've done my fair share of true crime. It's a hard type of show to produce. On one hand, you spend a fair amount of time with the friends and family of a murder victim so you get to know them, and often like them. On the other hand TV is about entertainment, so the job comes with a fair amount of manipulation. On page 69, Kate is in the middle of setting up a situation in which she hopes to catch the mother of missing 22-year-old nursing student at a vulnerable moment so Kate can tape this for the show. She's feeling a little icky about putting a family through any more and she has a load of problems herself. Her about to be ex-husband has died, and Kate is the number one suspect in his possible homicide. Now that she finally knows what it's like to lose someone in unusual circumstances, exploiting other people's misery isn't as much fun - but on page 69, Kate has a mortgage to pay, so she does what she has to.
Learn more about the book and author at Clare O'Donohue's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Wire to Wire"

Scott Sparling grew up near railroad tracks in Michigan. He now lives outside Portland, Oregon, with his wife and son.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Wire to Wire, his first novel, and reported the following:
One of my favorite pages in the book – seriously – and one I almost always include in readings. Okay, it doesn’t have any of Charlie’s vulgar humor (Charlie is a Northern Michigan drug-dealer who talks constantly about sex, but never has any). And Lane’s sensuality is only there indirectly. But what it has got is Slater in his beat-up Ford Ranchero and Harp in a boxcar – both on the road to Michigan.

Here’s Slater, driving all night to the beat of a conga tape and heading, unknowingly, into a tangle of love, murder, and drugs:
“Along the roadside, another billboard rose up for The Thing. The Inevitable is Coming, this one said. 300 Miles.”
And here’s Harp with an interior monologue prose-poem that captures his love for the road – and why he’s riding trains while his lover waits alone:
“Ride: past scrap heaps and factories and beaten bums waving, past the ends of towns, through empty fields and junkyards, past everything man has made and the things man can never make, eventually past light. At night Harp stood in the boxcar and a halo rode the train, low above the engine, while landscapes turned amber, half-finished, pristine, and never glimpsed again.”
That’s pure Harp. And pure Wire to Wire.
Learn more about the book and author at Scott Sparling's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Hell is Empty"

Craig Johnson has received high praise for his Sheriff Walt Longmire novels The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins, and The Dark Horse, which received a superfecta of starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and was named one of Publishers Weekly's best books of the year (2009). Keir Graff, in a Booklist starred review of last year's Junkyard Dogs, called Johnson "a born storyteller if ever there was one."

Johnson applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Hell Is Empty, the seventh Walt Longmire mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter 5

I threw myself sideways, multiplying the speed of my descent by slipping on the ice.

The report of the .223 was very loud, along with the sound of my grunt when I hit the ground immediately following the sharp SPAK of the bullet going through the back window of the closed half of the van where I’d been standing.

I rolled over and looked at the bullet hole in the glass, small shards and snow still floating down on me as I reconsidered what an intelligent man would’ve done in this situation. I had an image of my smarter self, seated in the relative warmth of the Suburban parked at the road head, munching on a year-old Snickers bar.

Usually in these situations, it’s a maxim that the first person to move is the first person to die. It was possible that the shooter thought they’d hit me, and I could wait to see if they’d show, but that meant lying in the snow, exposed for longer than I really cared to be. I rolled back over and tried looking from under the Suburban, but the snow was too deep.

If I wanted a clear view, I was going to have to crawl out along the sides, which meant really showing myself; something I was loath to do. I reached over and picked up my hat, dusting it off and placing it back on my head.

Small comforts, but I always felt better with my hat on.
This excerpt is pretty indicative of the novel with the exception that this particular page doesn’t have any Dante on it—how did that happen? When I set out to write Hell is Empty, I knew it was going to be reminiscent of Walt’s adventures in the twelfth chapter of my first novel, The Cold Dish, but that it was going to have to be different. I didn’t want to do a repeat of what I’d already done, and I started thinking about what the new novel was really about; cycles of life, death, redemption—and when I started casting about for a seminal piece of literature that would address these issues, I quickly came to Dante’s Inferno.

I didn’t want the book to descend (pardon the term) into a simple manhunt, and the other thing I counted on was Walt’s sense of humor, which comes across in this segment pretty well. My sheriff is in a tight spot, but he’s always thinking. I had a Captain tell me one time, “You can lose you badge, hell, you can even lose your gun—but just don’t lose your sense of humor and you’ll be fine.”

As long as you’re laughing, you’re thinking, and as long as you’re thinking, you’re living…
Learn more about the book and author at Craig Johnson's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Stolen Lives"

Jassy Mackenzie was born in Rhodesia and moved to South Africa when she was eight years old. She lives in Kyalami with her partner, Dion, two horses and two cats. Her novels include Random Violence.

Mackenzie applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Stolen Lives, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Stolen Lives, my heroine PI Jade de Jong and her conflicted love interest Superintendent David Patel are doing what they do best… fighting. This is no superficial argument, but something that will end up shattering their already strained relationship.

The trouble was started by Jade commenting on a news story about a rap artist who killed two pedestrians while driving drunk, and subsequently managed to walk free without doing any jail time. Jade told David that if one of her family had died, she would hunt down the rapper and kill him.

As a police detective, David is duty-bound to oppose the actions of vigilantes. He is aghast by her attitude – and more than that, he is afraid. He knows that Jade is a killer who has little regard for the law, and that her comment is no idle threat. He fears her dark side and everything it represents.

This argument between Jade and David has interesting parallels with the situation in South Africa, where the novel is set. Vigilantism is a huge problem, especially in the poorer communities, where known criminals and sometimes even suspected criminals become victims of mob justice when the police do not act in time.

The theme that is introduced on page 69 plays out through the entire novel. Towards the end, David is forced to reconsider his own stance on the subject when his young son is kidnapped by a ruthless gang of human traffickers. He realizes then that as a father he will do whatever it takes, murder included, to get his boy back unharmed.
Read an excerpt from Stolen Lives, and learn more about the book and author at Jassy Mackenzie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Random Violence.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Devil’s Plaything"

Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times technology journalist and novelist. His first book, Hooked, was a critically acclaimed bestseller. His fiction, like his journalism, focuses on the impact of technology on how people live, behave, and love in the 21st century. He won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for his series on distracted driving.

Richtel applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Devil’s Plaything, and reported the following:
Thank you, font deities. This time, you have blessed my page 69.

The page 69 test, in case you haven’t realized by now, owes to the vagaries and vicissitudes of font. Font, of course, dictates which words appear on which pages. A bigger font can push back a pivotal scene a few pages, a smaller one can move it up.

But in this case, the font fates conspired in my favor. Page 69 is a doozy.

But a subtle one. And you won’t understand why until you finish the book.

On its face, page 69 seems relatively innocuous. It is a conversation between the book’s two main characters: Nat Idle, a commitment-phobic but talented investigative journalist in San Francisco, and his 85-year-old grandmother Lane, who suffers severe dementia.

The conversation takes the form of a brief flashback that Nat is having to a time before his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s become so pronounced. Nat is imploring his grandmother to tell her stories of her past. She is sidestepping him.

To my pleasant surprise (I’ll explain in a moment), the page includes no fewer than three major clues regarding different pieces of the secrets at the heart of this book. Without giving away too much, those secrets revolve around (1) a conspiracy to use technology to control our memories, (2) revelations about Grandma's own hidden past, and (3) a recognition by Nat, our protagonist, about his own struggles with intimacy.

I don't want to say more, for fear of giving too much away. But I will explain why I’m pleasantly surprised by what I read on page 69: it is heartening to me that I succeeded, at least on this page, in planting seeds and creating subtle momentum in the mystery but in the course of a seemingly innocuous exchange.

As a reader, I relish reading a book in which neither the mystery nor the clues are obvious. As a writer, I do not succeed nearly as much as I’d like in creating such an environment for my readers. In this case, on page 69, I may just have succeeded.

Thank you, fonts.
Learn more about the book and author at Matt Richtel's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Murder One"

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

Dugoni applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Murder One, and reported the following:
Page 69 marks the end of an important scene. David Sloane, my protagonist is meeting with Rebecca Han, an Assistant United States attorney. Sloane meets with Han to obtain information about a Russian drug dealer his client and soon to be lover believes responsible for the overdose death of her daughter. Han recently had a criminal case against the dealer thrown out on an evidence technicality. She advises Sloane she’s willing to help, but before Sloane can even thank her she gets a phone call advising that the dealer is dead.

I had two goals for Murder One. I wanted to write a courtroom trial book, a criminal case. I also wanted to keep the reader guessing about the plot path throughout the book with multiple twists. My goal was not to provide the final reveal until the very last pages. Page 69 represents the second of these goals, providing the reader, and Sloane, with the first twist. Unlike all of Sloane’s other cases, this will not be a civil action. There is something much more at stake here for him and his soon to be client – life in prison for first degree murder. Critics and bloggers are calling Murder One a cross between Presumed Innocent and Basic Instinct which is exactly what I had hoped to achieve.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 3, 2011

"Secret of the White Rose"

Stefanie Pintoff is the Edgar® award-winning author of three novels, most recently Secret of the White Rose. Her work has also won the Washington Irving Book Prize and earned nominations for the Anthony, Macavity, and Agatha awards. A former attorney and academic, she now writes full-time and lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side with her husband, daughter, and their family dog.

Pintoff applied the Page 69 Test to Secret of the White Rose and reported the following:
From page 69:
The General’s blue eyes were alert behind his wire-rimmed spectacles, and though his words continued to be abrupt, there was now genuine curiosity behind them. “I understand your point. But no one has a more compelling motive than Drayson. Good God, man – his very life is at stake.”

“Yes,” I replied calmly, “but the problem is: Drayson doesn’t value his own life.”

“What do you mean?”

“I interviewed him this morning, sir. I admit, it’s hard for rational men to understand – but I believe he’s prepared to die for his cause. In fact, he wants to become a martyr – as he puts it.”

“The city is happy to oblige him,” the General groused. “That doesn’t mean his followers don’t want to save him.”
In the exchange above, Detective Simon Ziele is speaking with “The General” – as New York City Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham was usually called. The year is 1906. And they are discussing the anarchist Alexander Drayson.

Drayson has been the defendant in a sensationalist murder trial, charged with killing five innocents when a dynamite bomb intended for Andrew Carnegie exploded prematurely. Outraged citizens believed that Drayson’s trial could have only one result: conviction followed swiftly by death in the electric chair. So when the presiding judge is killed on the eve of jury deliberations, Drayson is the obvious suspect, accused of orchestrating the murder from his jail cell.

The police brass have tapped Ziele to help with the case, hoping to take advantage of his connections to his old immigrant neighborhood, which is now a breeding ground for anarchists. And early criminal profiler Alistair Sinclair is also involved: the murdered judge is a long-time friend, and Alistair is soon consumed by the rare opportunity to analyze how the terrorist mind is formed. (The early anarchists were often called terrorists, and there are some marked similarities between their tactics and those used by terrorists today).

The conversation above highlights the conflict between Ziele and the General (who refuses to consider other theories or alternative suspects) as well as the need to understand the anarchist mindset if this case is to be solved. Both issues are only going to complicate Ziele’s investigation further – as more violence unnerves the city and the body count continues to rise.

So yes, page 69 is a fair representation of the novel as a whole – and I’d like to think readers would continue on.
Learn more about the book and author at Stefanie Pintoff's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Pitch Dark"

Steven Sidor is the author of the critically-acclaimed dark thrillers Skin River, Bone Factory, and The Mirror’s Edge.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Pitch Dark, and reported the following:
Pitch Dark is a supernatural thriller set on Minnesota’s northern border during a Christmas Eve blizzard. A young woman, Vera Coffey, is on the run from an apocalyptic cult. She has something they want badly. She’d give it up if it weren’t the only thing keeping her alive.

On page 69, we meet Vera’s boyfriend, Chan, a professional thief who’s about to run into the worst kind of trouble:
Chan told her about this special assignment. A freaky group needed him to steal something for them. They couldn’t do it themselves. It wasn’t the danger involved that bugged them, it was freak rules. They were a kind of sect and another sect took their stuff. They wanted it back. He didn’t ask too many questions. Because it looked like easy money. A decent chunk of coin to bounce them out of this rut. Vera thought it sounded too weird. She didn’t like the name the group called themselves, either.

The Pitch.
After stealing an occult relic that may, or may not, open the gates of hell, Chan finds the mutilated bodies of the Wiccan witches whose home he invaded. Now he’s in too deep with no way out. And Vera’s stuck down there with him:
Back inside their apartment, their security felt weak. Chan cracked the seal on a bottle of Old No. 7. Drank. The bottleneck clinked against his skull rings. She watched his whiskered throat move in jerks. The stolen item sat on the kitchen table. He came up for air. His face sweated rivets.

“Put that thing in the closet. I can’t look at it,” he said. He rubbed the bottle against his flushed cheeks.

He went into the bedroom. Taking the bottle...
It’s up to Vera to save them, to stop the Pitch’s plan, and keep the gates of hell from breaking wide open...
Learn more about the book and author at Steven Sidor's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Steven Sidor's The Mirror’s Edge.

Writers Read: Steven Sidor.

--Marshal Zeringue