Friday, September 30, 2011

"Luminous Airplanes"

Paul La Farge is the author of the novels The Artist of the Missing and Haussmann, or the Dis­tinction; and a book of imaginary dreams, The Facts of Win­ter. His short stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, Harper’s Magazine, Fence, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. His nonfiction appears in The Believer, Bookforum, Playboy, and Cabinet.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Luminous Airplanes, and reported the following:
Luminous Airplanes is a novel about a young computer programmer who’s been living in San Francisco through the dot-com boom. When his grandfather dies, in the fall of 2000, he returns to a small town in upstate New York to sort through his grandparents’ possessions. He does some mental sorting of his own while he’s there, and page 69 of the book finds him thinking about his first encounter with a real computer, in his friend’s bedroom, circa 1982:
Computers belonged, at that point, more to my imaginary world than to the world I shared with other people. Computers were 2001 and Forbidden Planet; they were big, blinking cabinets, sinister friends who did what you wanted to but couldn’t, like causing the New York subway to trap your enemies in perpetual darkness, or could but didn’t want to, like math homework. They looked nothing like the Heathkit H88 on Kerem’s desk, a gray box like a bulbous TV set, devoid of lights and switches, an appliance that was no more exciting in appearance than my grandmother’s microwave oven, and considerably less exciting than her electric toothbrush, which, with its rocket-ship styling and brightly colored interchangeable heads, its three speeds and warm rechargeable battery, seemed truly to announce the beginning of a new era.
This computer is going to change the narrator’s life. It will earn him his first kiss, and get him expelled from the Nederland School for Boys. Many years later, he’ll drop out of a graduate program in American History and begin a new life coding databases for a Web startup: the seduction of the world behind the screen proves impossible to resist. And years after that, after Luminous Airplanes the novel ends, when the narrator has already ruined everything, and finds himself living a hermit’s life in New Haven, CT, he will undertake once again to fulfill the dream he had when he was working on this Heathkit H88, to make a “world of words without end,” a theoretically limitless story in which the mysteries of his heart and his world ramify like the passages of a cave. He’ll make it, too. It’s online.
Learn more about the book and author at Paul La Farge's website and Luminous Airplanes.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Bright and Distant Shores"

Dominic Smith holds an MFA in writing from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly.

His awards include the Dobie Paisano Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize, and the Gulf Coast Fiction Prize. In 2006, his debut novel The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre received the Steven Turner Prize for First Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters.

Smith's second novel, The Beautiful Miscellaneous, was optioned for a film by Southpaw Entertainment.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his newly released third novel, Bright and Distant Shores, and reported the following:
Bright and Distant Shores takes place in the 1890s, amid Chicago’s early skyscrapers and in the far-flung islands of the South Pacific. An insurance magnate has just built the world’s tallest building and to commemorate it—and sell more insurance—he envisions an ethnographic exhibit at the apex of commercial America. He also wants to compete with Marshall Field, who in real life donated $1 million to set up the Field Museum after the World’s Fair of 1893. To stock his rooftop display, the insurance man commissions a collecting voyage into the Pacific. In addition to gathering thousands of tribal artifacts, the voyage is to bring back “several Melanesians related by blood.”

Caught up in this scheme are two men, each in a different hemisphere. Owen Graves is the son of a demolitionist and an itinerant trader from Chicago’s South Side. He accepts the post of head trader on the voyage to gain a foothold in the middle classes—the success of the expedition comes with a handsome trading bonus—but also to win the hand of the educated woman he loves.

Argus Niu—the character we follow on page 69—is a missionary houseboy working for a Presbyterian minister. After six years away from his family, he discovers that his employer has died unexpectedly and sets off to reconnect with his family. After learning “a butler’s English and how to recite psalms and read Kipling and Dickens” he finds himself caught between two worlds, between the tribal and the Christian worldview.

The novel traces the collision course between the collecting voyage and Argus as he tries to reclaim his family. I don’t think I’m giving too much away to suggest that Argus is among the Pacific islanders who come back to Chicago for the insurance tycoon’s crazed scheme.

Page 69 of Bright and Distant Shores:
And somewhere along the way he’d learned to covet things, despite the Reverend Mister’s homilies about simplicity and the emptied cup of man. In his portmanteau there were books and drawings, a watch that ran slow, shirts and ties, a spare pair of trousers and flannels, clean socks, a gun rag with money coiled inside, a gilt-edged Bible, a set of cutlery and a silver serviette ring. He remembered his boyhood on Poumeta and how the children played with bark, raffia, and reeds, keeping them only as long as the game itself, improvising dams and sailboats on the muddy river. They watched their fathers return from their epic trading voyages to the island of Tikalia, hundreds of miles to the east, armlets and dogteeth gathered in the bows of the outriggers. They rushed to the beach to cheer for the bounty. But for Argus it was playacting. He had never understood the thrill of the bracelets that connected them to the distant island. They were frequently tarnished and chipped. His father recited the provenance of each strand of shells, naming the hands through which it had passed. Meanwhile, the children kept twigs and leaves for half a day, never once amassed a bowery of fish spines or gold-flecked stones. They watched the women wash each other’s hair, bathe in mallow-scented pools, and argued in the shadows over who was the tallest, oldest, or fastest. They watched the adult affairs of the village with a dedicated lack of interest. The dull litanies to the dead, the stupid haggling over pigs and brides. They were allowed to stay out until dark and were beaten only if they damaged property. The water pots and limed jugs, the shell and tooth empire, so many things were hallowed and beyond reach back then. He leaned against the schooner bulkhead, wending his way home after six years, his new life revealed in the props he carried, in the leather suitcase that belonged to a dead priest.
Learn more about Bright and Distant Shores at Dominic Smith's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 26, 2011

"A Killer's Essence"

Dave Zeltserman was born in Boston and educated at the University of Colorado. A former software engineer, he is the author of nine horror and crime novels including Outsourced and Pariah.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Killer's Essence, and reported the following:
On page 69, my homicide detective, Stan Green, is questioning the adult daughter of a murder victim, and later fuming about his ex-wife and how she's been poisoning his kids against his new girlfriend. As it turns out this is very representative of the book, both in the mood, and in how it shows how impotent Stan is in offering any comfort to this woman.
I’ll have to be there,” I said.

She gave me a questioning look.

“In case anyone shows up who you don’t know ...”

I didn’t spell out that her mother’s killer was the person I was concerned about showing up at the funeral, but she got the idea and her mouth started to tremble. She put a hand to her face as tears leaked from her eyes. I sat frozen, wanting to comfort her, but not sure how to do that, not even sure if it was possible. In the end, I sat silently drinking my coffee and feeling like a fraud and a coward. Eventually she fought back her grief and composed herself. When she could talk, she gave me the time and place of her mother’s funeral. I left her then.
While A Killer's Essence is ostensibly a supernaturally tinged crime thriller, it's also very much about the chaos and confusion that blinds us in over everyday lives. Stan Green is a good guy and a dedicated police detective, but his personal life is spinning out of control, and he's swallowed up in so much anger, and this next paragraph shows a hint of this:
While walking to my car, I held my jacket collar closed and lowered my head against the rain. It was a miserable day, and it pretty much matched my mood. While on I-95 North heading back to Manhattan, I almost called Cheryl to let her know how much I appreciated her poisoning my kids against me and Bambi, but I had just enough wits about me to realize what a mistake that would be. Instead I fumbled with my notepad until I found Zachary Lynch’s number, then called him. First time I got his answering machine. I left a message that I knew he was home and for him to pick up to save me a trip to his apartment. I called again afterwards, and this time he picked up.
Learn more about the author and his work at Dave Zeltserman's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Or the Bull Kills You"

Jason Webster was born in California and was brought up in England and Germany. After spells in Italy and Egypt, he moved to Spain in 1993, where he was inspired to write a number of highly acclaimed nonfiction titles. He lives near Valencia with his wife, the flamenco dancer, Salud, and their son.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Or the Bull Kills You, and reported the following:
There is both tension and surprise on this page: Chief Inspector Max Cámara of the Spanish National Police loses a suspect in the murder case that he’s working on, and discovers the identity of the man who attacked him in the street the night before.

A heavy pulse thudded in his stomach, as the bruise where the kick had landed seemed to come back to life, like a dog sensing the presence of its owner.

Spain’s top bullfighter, Jorge Blanco, has been found dead in the middle of Valencia city’s bullring, and Cámara, who hates bullfighting, is having to investigate. Since the killing, Blanco’s manager, Ruiz Pastor, has been a hard man to find, but Cámara has just seen him race past in a taxi and has unsuccessfully tried to catch up with him.

Now, as he appears under the old city gates to see the taxi disappear, he catches sight of a man in uniform on the other side of the road.

The pain was insistent: he’d seen that face before, and it spoke to him of violence.

The surprising thing is, however, that this man, his attacker, is also a policeman, a member of the local force run by the Town Hall (Cámara works for the national police force run from Madrid).

If that had been the one who attacked him - and part of him was already convinced, despite his attempts to reason otherwise - then there could be only one person responsible. The only question was, why?

Cámara heads back to the bar where he first saw Ruiz Pastor pass by in the taxi. The journalist he was having a drink with there - Alicia Beneyto, a women he’s attracted to, but whose views on bullfighting he disagrees with - has gone. He’d been wondering about asking her out for dinner.

Cámara makes his way home, kicking at newspapers lying in the street with headlines blazing about the Blanco murder case.

On balance I’d say p.69 is very representative of the rest of the book. There’s tension, surprise, the city of Valencia is very present, my main character Max Cámara is central to the action, and there’s a reference to Alicia, a character who plays a significant role in this book and subsequent ones in the series.
Learn more about the book and author at Jason Webster's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Or the Bull Kills You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"The Unincorporated Woman"

Dani Kollin lives in Los Angeles, California and Eytan Kollin lives in Pasadena, California. They are brothers, and The Unincorporated Woman is their third novel. Their first novel, The Unincorporated Man, won the 2009 Prometheus Award for best novel.

Dani Kollin applied the Page 69 Test to The Unincorporated Woman and reported the following:
Page 69 would land the reader in the middle of a kidnapping attempt. It’s certainly representative of the book’s intrigue but not its heart which ultimately asks the question, what price freedom?. Having said that, it’s clear that something unsavory has just happened and IMO the reader would be inclined to turn the page just to see if the mission gets pulled off successfully.

Keep in mind; I’m an advertising copywriter by trade so I look at every single page of every single one of our books as if they’re each a single-page print ad--i.e., the text needs to flow and the content needs to pull you effortlessly along.
Learn more about the book and authors at Dani Kollin's blog and The Unincorporated Man website.

My Book, The Movie: The Unincorporated Woman.

Writers Read: Dani Kollin.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Sand Queen"

Helen Benedict is the author of six novels and five books of nonfiction. Her latest novel, Sand Queen, set in the Iraq War, was published in August 2011 by Soho Press. Culled from real life stories of female soldiers and Iraqis, Sand Queen offers a story of love, courage and struggle from the rare perspective of two young women on opposite sides of a war.

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to Sand Queen and reported the following:
Sand Queen tells the story of Kate Brady, an army specialist who is guarding an American prison in Iraq at the start of the war, and Naema Jassim, a medical student from Baghdad whose father and little brother have been arrested and thrown into that same prison. The two women meet at the prison entrance, after which they come to affect each other’s lives in deeper ways than either can ever imagine. It is a story, I hope, that confronts what war does to families, love, integrity and hope.

On p. 69 of Sand Queen, the reader would see my main character, the young soldier Kate, and her only two women companions at war playing a trick on a male soldier who has been taunting and harassing Kate ever since they arrived in Iraq:

Excerpt from page 69:
When I get back from my run with Yvette and Third Eye, Mack’s still asleep. He always grabs every last second of shut-eye he can, usually sacrificing a wash to do it—no doubt why he stinks so bad—but it’s just what we want right now. Yvette winks at us, puts her finger to her lips and quietly fishes out some dental floss from her duffle bag, gesturing at us to get ours. Then, quick as a flash, she wraps the floss around Mack’s legs, tying them down to his cot, while we do the same to his arms, stomach and chest—he sleeps like the dead. The guys in the tent gather around silently, grinning. In no time at all, ol’ Macktruck is tied up tight as a pork roll.

The next thing Yvette does is pure genius. She points her rifle at an open flap in the tent, screams “Attack!” And fires.

Mack’s eyes fly open in terror and he tries to jump up. But he can’t, of course. The look on his face! He struggles for a few minutes in such a panic I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. The rest of us fall around, laughing.
© 2011 by Helen Benedict, reprinted with permission
This scene – funny to the characters, disturbing to readers -- captures the way war and harassment brutalize both victims and perpetrators. Or to put it another way, it shows, as does the book, how victims can be turned into bullies.
Learn more about Helen Benedict and her work at her official website.

My Book, The Movie: Sand Queen.

Writers Read: Helen Benedict.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Simon Toyne has worked in British television for twenty years. As a writer, director, and producer, he has worked on several award-winning shows, one of which won a BAFTA. He lives in England with his wife and family.

Toyne applied the Page 69 Test to Sanctus, the first volume of the Ruin trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Sanctus is a rare quiet moment where two of the main characters are reflecting on the single most dramatic event at the start of the book and trying to decide what the significance of it is. It’s a phone conversation so it’s almost all dialogue, with just impressionistic descriptive notes here and there to dictate the rhythm a little. In effect it’s a slight pause, giving the reader a small breather and a change of pace after what has happened and what is to come. On every page my main intention is to make the reader want to read the next one, so if this one doesn’t do that, then I’ve failed.
“Did you hear?” She didn’t quite know how to frame the question. “Did you hear that he ... that the monk...”

“Yes,” he said. “I heard.”

She swallowed hard, trying to hold back the emotion.

“Don’t despair,” her father said. “We should not give up hope.”

“But how can we not?” She glanced up at the door and lowered her voice. “The prophecy can no longer be fulfilled. How can the cross rise again?”

The crackle of the transatlantic line filled the long pause before her father spoke again.

“People have come back from the dead,” he said. “Look in the Bible.”

“The Bible is full of lies. You taught me that.”

“No, that I did not teach you. I told you of specific and deliberate inaccuracies. There is still much in the official Bible that is true.” The line went silent again save for the rising hiss of long-distance interference. She wanted to believe him, she really did; but in her heart she felt that to carry on blindly hoping everything was going to be OK was not much different from closing your eyes and crossing your fingers.

“Do you really believe the cross will rise again?”

“It might,” he said. “It’s hard to believe, I admit. But if you’d told me yesterday that a Sanctus would appear from nowhere, climb to the top of the Citadel and make the sign of the Tau, I would have found that equally hard to believe. Yet here we are.”

She couldn’t fault him. She rarely could. It was why she wished he had been around to talk to when the news had first broken. Maybe then she wouldn’t have thought herself into such a melancholic state. “So what do you think we should do?”

“We should watch the body. That is the key.”
Learn more about the book and author at Simon Toyne's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Sanctus.

Writers Read: Simon Toyne.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Guardians of the Desert"

Leona Wisoker began writing when she was eight years old, with a story about all the vacuum cleaners in the world breaking down. Ever since then, she has successfully used the excuse of needing to write in order to avoid housework.

Her first novel, Secrets of the Sands, was published in 2010. She is a regular reviewer for Green Man Review and its spinoff, The Sleeping Hedgehog.

Wisoker lives in Virginia with an extraordinarily patient husband and two large dogs, all of whom often try to drag her into physical activity. They usually fail.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Guardians of the Desert, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Guardians of the Desert is actually only composed of four lines; so I'm going to cheat a little and use part of page 68 to give perspective to those four lines.
"Oh, gods," Alyea breathed, horrified, and found she didn't care about offending custom any longer. "No. No! That's enough. Get out. Out!"

[The kathain] scrambled to their feet, bewilderment returning to their expressions, and retreated a few steps.

"Out! Out!" She found herself on her feet, a heavy wooden bowl in her hand, with no memory of having grabbed it from the side table. She raised it to throw, too angry to consider common sense; their expressions went sullen, and they bolted from the room without further argument.

She threw the bowl anyway, just to relieve her too-tight nerves. It hit the wall by the door as Deiq stepped into the room. The bowl cracked into three splintered pieces; he ducked just in time to avoid the fragments.

Her fury turned scorching at the sight of his ever-smug face. Untrustworthy, manipulative, deceitful bastard--



His expression was honestly shocked. She took a savage satisfaction in that, and threw a thick-walled glass vase. This time he snaked out a hand and caught it, wincing a little.

"You'll run out of objects soon enough," he observed, his dark humor returning, and set the glass vase carefully aside on the floor.

She glared at him. "Get out," she said again, low in the back of her throat, as near to a growl as she'd ever come. "I will not talk to you right now. And take them--" She pointed a shaking finger towards the outer room. "Take them with you! I've had enough. Enough!"

He studied her face for a long, intense moment, as though judging her sincerity; Alyea gave him back the most menacing glare she could summon.

"You have a great deal to learn," he said, clearly disapproving.

"Well, that won't happen tonight!"

"Obviously," he remarked. With a shrug that came as much from his eyebrows as any shoulder movement, he retreated from the room. She stood still, listening; heard him, low-voiced and entirely too calm, urging the kathain from their quarters out into the hallway.

The door shut behind them. In the silent relief of being alone at last, she dropped to sprawl across the rumpled bed and promptly burst into tears.
The first time I went through the Page 69 Test, I looked at another scene involving Alyea, in which she began facing up to her new, politically charged surroundings. I'm amused to find that this scene hits exactly the same theme, with more intensity.

Kathain are personal servants assigned to visiting desert lords. They tend whatever needs might, uhm, arise. That might be as innocent as a back rub or turn to something more intimate. It's considered a high honor to be the first of a new desert lord's kathain. Alyea handles the moment with a remarkable lack of grace and intelligence by southern standards--but by northern standards she did exactly the right thing.

This sort of cultural conflict is very representative of my writing, overall. I love playing with the grey areas where customs clash and characters snap under strain. This series is rife with such moments, and this particular scene is a perfect combination of the two angles. Within
the last ten days or so, Alyea has been betrayed by people she trusted, forced to trust people she was always taught would betray her, tricked into multiple dangerous situations, is horribly aware of how little she really knows and how costly ignorance could be; she's nearly been killed, she's had to kill a man, and she's repeatedly being faced with alien and (to her) obscene customs and situations.

I'd be throwing things and screaming myself...
Learn more about the book and author at Leona Wisoker's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Secrets of the Sands.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Leona Wisoker & Leo and Shadow.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Little Black Dress"

Susan McBride is the author of Little Black Dress and The Cougar Club, selected by Target Stores as a Bookmarked Breakout Title and named a Midwest Connections Pick by the Midwest Booksellers Association. The Cougar Club also made More Magazine’s list of “February Books We’re Buzzing About.”

McBride applied the Page 69 Test to Little Black Dress and reported the following:
Little Black Dress is the tale of two sisters, one daughter, and a magical black dress that changes all their lives forever. It’s told in alternating points of view, with Evie—the older sister—speaking in first person and recounting the history of the magical dress—and Evie’s daughter, Toni, revealing the contemporary storyline in third person. So ultimately, past meets present. But in the beginning, Evie’s younger sister, Anna, has purchased the vintage dress and has worn it to her rehearsal dinner the night before she is to wed Davis Cummings, the son of a well-to-do local vintner in Blue Hills, Missouri. The dress does something odd to Anna—it gives her a glimpse of her future—and she disappears the morning of her wedding, leaving Evie to pick up the pieces of her destroyed family and to try to destroy the black dress. Only getting rid of the mystical frock isn’t quite so easy. And, in the process, Evie gets a peek at her own future as well.

On page 69 of Little Black Dress, Evie is being asked to dinner by a young man she met after falling into the Mississippi (something the black dress may or may not be responsible for--well, I don’t want to spoil it for you!). She has the dress in hand, recently returned by Jonathan. It’s been cleaned, pressed, and wrapped in a layer of tissue. And still, just touching the dress affects her.
…as I held it, I could sense its energy washing through my skin. Though it seemed illogical to say so, I knew the dress wanted me to go. And, to be honest, so did I.

In the end, I told him, “All right, yes, I’ll have dinner with you. If you’ll please call me Evie,” and the prickling sensation ceased.
Evie decides not to tell her parents that she’s going out with Jonathan, as things are still uneasy after Anna’s vanishing act. She merely mentions she will be going out to supper with a friend to take her mind off Anna.
Not surprisingly, they appeared to only half-listen. They were too busy fretting over the destruction left in my sister’s wake to worry about what I was doing. They’d begun to fight about Anna in front of me, once at the breakfast table where my mother had burst into tears.

“It’s your fault!” she had accused my father. “You drove her off!”

Daddy had turned red down to his collar. “The girl is vain and self-absorbed. Do you blame me for that, too?”

Sadly, I’d noticed they’d started sleeping in separate rooms. It was no wonder when I was home, I’d begun hiding out in mine, the door closed and my record player on to drown out their voices.

The only time I could escape was when I left the house to teach, so I was honestly glad when the evening of my date with Jonathan rolled around.
Evie debates whether or not to wear the black dress, as Jon had requested of her.
Not only was I wary because of its unnatural qualities, but I was sure it wouldn’t fit, considering how snugly it had hugged Anna’s petite though shapely frame. Since I was taller than my sister by a fist, not to mention lanky and angular as a boy, I expected it to fall far short of my knees and hang like a deflated tent.

But Jon wanted me in it, and I was curious.
That’s all you get! Does the odd little black dress fit Evie? Will she catch a further glimpse of her future if she wears it?

Ahh, for that you’ll have to turn to page 70 and keep reading!
Learn more about the book and author at Susan McBride's website.

Writers Read: Susan McBride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"City of Secrets"

The first book in Kelli Stanley's Miranda Corbie series, City of Dragons, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was also named one of the 2010 Top Ten Mystery Thrillers by Oline Cogdill and one of the Top Ten Best Fiction by Bay Area Authors by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Stanley applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, City of Secrets, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
The phone woke her at nine. She groped for it, tongue thick.


Heart was beating too hard, slowed down at Rick’s voice.

“Miranda? Did I wake you up?”

She struggled to sit up, rubbed her eyes. “What is it?”

“I can’t talk long— called you before writing the story— you owe me—”

“Get to the fucking point!”

“They’ve made an arrest— for both murders.”

She swung her legs over the side of the bed. Fully awake.

“Was it Kaiser?”

Rick paused, News typewriters in the background drumming like Krupa.“No, not Kaiser. Someone else who likes to beat up on women.”

“Who the hell—”

“Your old friend. Ex- inspector Duggan. Arrested early this morning— no bail.”

She said good- bye to Rick, shock making the words perfunctory and pleasant. Hung up the phone. Stared at the forget- me- nots on the wallpaper, periwinkle blue.

Gonzales. Gonzales told her Duggan had been demoted.

After the Takahashi case. After her bruises healed.

She was still staring at the phone when it rang again. Her hand hesitated before picking it up.
The Miranda Corbie novels are built on a classical five-act structure, and page 69 marks the beginning of Act II. Dialog propels quick action and unexpected revelations, but the novel is actually much more a mixture of staccato beats and longer, lyrical exposition, so this page isn’t typical in terms of style.

What is typical, however, is Miranda’s personality: her anxiety, her impatience, her involvement and her passion for justice. We also see characters from City of Dragons ... reporter and friend Rick Sanders, and the unexpected mention of ex-Inspector Gerald Duggan.

In City of Secrets, Miranda tackles America fascists, becomes embroiled in the ugly and brutal reality of American eugenics, and stalks an anti-Semitic killer of women through 1940 San Francisco and the rural Napa Valley.

Along the way, she risks more than her life to find the murderer of Pandora Blake.
Learn more about the book and author at Kelli Stanley's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dragons.

My Book, the Movie: City of Secrets.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Jillian Lauren is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Some Girls and has an MFA from Antioch University. She lives in Los Angeles with her son and husband, Weezer bass player, Scott Shriner.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Pretty, and reported the following:
Page 69:
I clock out with confidence. Stop believing in one thing and you make room for believing in something else. Hopefully something that works a little better.

A hairdo can change the course of your whole day. Maybe your whole life, I tell myself, if you let it.

1536 hours down. 64 hours left to go.
Page 69 of Pretty is a short one. This is the entirety of it.

Bebe Baker, Pretty's narrator, is counting down the final 72 hours until her graduation from the purgatory that is beauty college. Bebe has survived a disfiguring car accident that killed her boyfriend and she is living at a state-sponsored halfway house, trying to stay sober and rebuild her life. This passage is representative of the book because Bebe's insistence on the possibility of transformation is what gives her the tenacity to walk her tortuous path.

Bebe is a self described ex-everything: ex-Christian, ex-stripper,ex-drug addict, ex-pretty girl. She describes herself by what she's not because what she is, is still unclear to her. This passage demonstrates her desire to define a faith that is relevant to her changing sense of self. Bebe's search for that faith is the central journey of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Jillian Lauren's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: Some Girls.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Good Graces"

Lesley Kagen is the author of Whistling in the Dark, Land of a Hundred Wonders, Tomorrow River and Good Graces.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Good Graces and reported the following:
In Good Graces, this page gives the reader a good sense of the O'Malley sisters' character: younger sister Troo's acting out, and the big-heartedness of eleven year old narrator, Sally. The page also captures some of the feel of the blue collar Milwaukee neighborhood and the time period.

The girls are walking down Vliet Street on their way to the Five and Dime, talking over their plans for the upcoming Fourth of July:
"What I'm doin' is for me to know and for you to find out," she says with a flip of her ponytail. "But I'll tell you one thing, I'm gonna win that decoratin' prize this year hands down. No ties. And I'm gonna be Queen of the Playgournd again, the same way I was the first year we moved here." She starts up the game for real very loudly, "A my name is Annie and I come from..."

"Whatever you're doin', you better get busy. Time's runnin' out," I tell her when we come to the front of the Kenfields' house.

When we first moved into the city, it was into the house next door. Late at night horrible sounds would come out of a bedroom that was across from mine and Troo's. I thought the place was haunted and I guess in a way it was. Mr. Kenfield would moan into his daughter's pillow that probably still had the smell of his precious girl's perfume hidden in the seams the same way that Daddy's blue shirt still has Aqua Velva. After he was cried dry, he would go sit on the front porch of his house and smoke his Pall Malls, rocking until the church bells rang twelve midnight. After Mother went into the hospital, some nights after Troo would fall asleep and I was sure that Hall had passed out, I'd slip outta our bed and go sit with our neighbor. We didn't talk much. We held hands and listened to the creaky sound the porch swing made. I'd like to do that again, but I'm not sure Mr. Kenfield would. Sometime between last summer and this one, he got a reputation for being the neighborhood crank.
Learn more about the book and author at Lesley Kagen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Good Graces.

Writers Read: Lesley Kagen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"The Dog Who Knew Too Much"

Spencer Quinn lives on Cape Cod with his dog, Audrey.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Dog Who Knew Too Much, the fourth book in the Chet and Bernie Series, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Dog Who Knew Too Much, Bernie Little of the Little Detective Agency is questioning a trail guide named Turk about a camper named Devin who has gone missing on a hike in the back country. Chet, a mix-breed hundred-plus pounder with one black ear and one white ear - and Bernie’s partner in the Agency, at least in his own mind – is sniffing around the campsite. The questioning of a witness is a detective fiction standard, and this is a detective series, so page 69 is doubly typical. Having said all that, the important thing is how you do it. In this case, Chet narrates the action. But he’s a dog, not a human in a dog suit, like many other members of his species in fiction.

Mystery fiction plots and the solving of crimes share a design, a conjunction which has proved convenient for so many writers in the field. Namely, they both follow a chain of clues – some false, some true, of course - but the point being it’s a logical process, and Chet is incapable of that, certainly in our terms. That makes him an unreliable narrator, and a challenge for the writer. But this particular writer likes challenges, and has a strong interest in unreliable narrators. In this respect, too, page 69 is typical. Here’s a sample:
“I don’t doubt it,” Bernie said. “But see what this does to your theory.”

“What theory?” said Turk, a question I was glad to hear, a little lost myself.

“The theory we’ve been operating on,” Bernie said. “Devin leaves the tent to take a piss and can’t find his way back.”

That was the theory? Theories, whatever they happened to be, I always left to Bernie. But something about this particular theory made me leave our little circle for a moment or two, all the time it took to lift my leg against a nearby rock. When I returned, Turk was saying, “I’m a real heavy sleeper. Is that a crime?”

“Depending on the circumstances,” Bernie said.
Visit Chet the Dog's blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"The Brink of Fame"

It's 1913 in Irene Fleming's new novel, The Brink of Fame, and Emily Daggett Weiss is left stranded and destitute. Film tycoon Carl Laemmle comes to her rescue with a job offer directing a film in Hollywood, provided she can track down and bring back Laemmle’s own missing star actor....

Fleming applied the Page 69 Test to The Brink of Fame and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Brink of Fame, we meet Boris Levin, a Russian method actor whom we've not seen since the other book, The Edge of Ruin, where he was hanging out in a Greenwich Village coffee house looking for work with Melpomene Studios. He is not a major character in The Brink of Fame, but one of a number of people who know things about the star Emily has been hired to find. Emily admires his looks and his acting abilities; as a director, she believes he should have a career in the movies.

Boris is still looking for work in the movies, but at present he is working as a live-in yard man for Ross McHenry, the missing movie star. Emily discovers Levin clipping the star's hedge. She reminds him of their previous acquaintance...
"Are you still acting?"

"As well to ask if I'm still breathing. Unhappily I have no work of that sort."

"You're working here. For Mr....?"

"McHenry. Yes." He brushed a lock of dark hair out of his eyes with the back of his arm.

"What do you think of him?"

"I think he is rotten bastard. Forgive me."
... And so we now know that McHenry is not universally admired, that indeed he may be said to have enemies. Soon we will discover that he is dead.
Learn more about the book and author at Irene Fleming's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Edge of Ruin.

My Book, The Movie: The Brink of Fame.

Writers Read: Irene Fleming.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"The Civilized World"

Susi Wyss's fiction is influenced by her twenty-year career managing women's health programs in Africa, where she lived for more than eight years. She holds a B.A. from Vassar, an M.P.H. from Boston University, and an M.A. in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Civilized World, her first book, and reported the following:
The stories in The Civilized World are primarily set in Africa, and follow five women—two from Ghana and three from the U.S.—as their lives intersect in different configurations and as two of the characters, Adjoa and Janice, deal with the fallout of a shared tragedy. Page 69 falls in the middle of the book’s title story, in which Janice returns to the Central African Republic twelve years after she served there as a Peace Corps volunteer. She has just visited the remote Dzangha-Sangha Park with her fiancé, Bruce, a British aid worker. Before leaving in a car for the capital, they have an argument that ends with Bruce telling Janice to “stop talking out of your arse.” Seated next to their driver while Bruce sits in back, Janice watches the passing countryside for hours, ruminating over their argument, only to discover—once she’s ready to proffer an olive branch—that Bruce has been blissfully sleeping the whole time she’s been stewing over their argument. On page 69, Bruce’s apparent indifference to her feelings prompts Janice to reconsider why she agreed to let him travel with her:
When she’d hinted to Rena that this trip might be a litmus test, Rena had stared at her for several seconds. “He works for a group that supports orphans, Janice. He sounds like a great guy.” Was Janice imagining it or was Rena talking slower than usual, like a grade-school teacher spelling something out to her student?

“If you’re serious about wanting a family,” Rena continued, “you’ll have to accept that there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, or a perfect man.”

Janice thought of Rena’s husband whom she’d met by the Sofitel pool on a recent Saturday: a squat, balding man who worked for the State Department and had complained loudly about the poolside service. Rena had certainly followed her own advice.
Page 69 reflects a recurring pattern in the book: while the female characters deliberate about what happens to them and agonize over how to act in response, the male characters seem to go through life oblivious and unburdened. Only over the course of time—and after many shared moments at Adjoa’s beauty parlor, the Precious Brother Salon—do these women learn to ease their burdens by drawing from their inner strength as well as by relying on each other.
Learn more about the book and author at her website and Facebook page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 2, 2011

"A Bad Night’s Sleep"

Author of the Joe Kozmarski mysteries – including the PWA/SMP prize-winning and Shamus-award finalist The Last Striptease and the critically acclaimed The Bad Kitty Lounge and A Bad Night’s SleepMichael Wiley grew up on the Chicago streets where he sets his books and lives now in northeast Florida.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Bad Night’s Sleep and reported the following:
On page sixty-nine of A Bad Night’s Sleep, Chicago P.I. Joe Kozmarski returns home to an empty house. Page sixty-nine is an interlude, and so are pages seventy and seventy-one. And they are just about the only interlude a reader gets in this book. Joe has already witnessed a shoot out, already shot a cop, already gotten thrown into jail and released, already met up with a gang of bad guys, and already been seduced (or almost). After the little interlude, the book really speeds up.

But first, Joe gets a few minutes of quiet. He returns to his house on the northwest side of Chicago. He has been raising his eleven-year-old nephew Jason, and usually Jason would be there to greet him, but it’s hard to be a responsible parent when you’re shooting cops, getting thrown in jail, etc., so Jason is staying with Joe’s mom, and the house echoes with the boy’s absence. Jailhouse solitary confinement is no worse than a house with no sounds of life.

Joe wanders into the kitchen and sees the mostly empty cereal bowl that Jason left behind: “The milk had dried and the Cheerios had glued together and made a cake more solid than anything else in my life at the moment.” Joe strips off his clothes, takes a stinging hot shower, and climbs into bed. He closes his eyes. There’s nothing that a little restful sleep can’t make better. But he has uneasy dreams:
I was sitting at my office desk looking for a letter. Just a piece of paper with words on it. But I knew in my dream that my life depended on my finding it. I checked the desk drawers, the file cabinets, the carpet under the desk. The letter was gone. I got frantic and looked for my gun instead, stuck my fingers into an empty holster, checked the desk and file cabinets, patted my pockets. Gone too. The phone started ringing. Like it was in front of me on the desk, but there was no phone on the desk. It rang and I knew everything depended on my hearing the voice on the other end.
Then, Joe startles awake, and the phone really is ringing, and soon Joe is back on the street running, chasing, looking for answers that he won’t find for another two hundred pages, if ever.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Wiley's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Striptease.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Striptease.

Writers Read: Michael Wiley.

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

--Marshal Zeringue