Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Mozart's Last Aria"

Matt Rees is an award-winning crime novelist and foreign correspondent. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed Omar Yussef crime series, including The Collaborator of Bethlehem. He is also the author of Cain’s Field, a nonfiction account of Israeli and Palestinian society. Rees lives in Jerusalem.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Mozart's Last Aria, and reported the following:
As I wrote Mozart's Last Aria, I knew I had to create a sense of Imperial Vienna in 1791 and of the real people who’re the basis for my characters, in particular Nannerl Mozart, the great composer’s sister and my narrator.

But I also had to bring to life Wolfgang Mozart, the genius who dies before the book’s action begins. To some extent, I could do this with recollections of his friends. It was clear, though, that the most effective way would be through Nannerl’s contact with the great man’s music.

On Page 69, she rehearses for a concert with Anton Stadler, a clarinetist who was Wolfgang’s closest friend. At first Stadler has been disturbed by Nannerl’s desire to find out what really happened to her brother, warning her off and saying “For God’s sake woman, do you want us all to end up like Wolfgang?” As they rehearse he’s carried away by the music, only to be reminded of the difficulties of Wolfgang’s last years, when he mentions a piece of music Mozart composed before things started to get risky for him. Since it was written, he and Nannerl realize, Wolfgang and his sister haven’t been in contact.

Nannerl sees Stadler’s change of mood and says:
“I didn’t forget him, Herr Stadler.”


“I had his music, even if I didn’t have him.”
And so do we. I hope I’ve brought that fact alive in my novel.
Learn more about about the book and author at Matt Beynon Rees' website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Mozart's Last Aria.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 28, 2011

"El Gavilan"

Edgar®-nominee Craig McDonald is an award-winning journalist, editor and fiction writer. His short fiction has appeared in literary magazines, anthologies and several online crime fiction sites.  His novels include four entries in the Hector Lassiter series.

He applied the Page 69 Test to El Gavilan, his new standalone novel, and reported the following:
My new novel, El Gavilan, tracks a single murder and its polarizing effects on a region of Ohio struggling to cope with waves of illegal immigrants.

The two primary cops committed to solving the killing are a former Border Patrol sector-head turned small-town-police-chief named Tell Lyon. Lyon’s wife and child died in a firebombing meant to kill Tell.

The other cop is Horton County Sheriff Able Hawk. New Austin, Ohio—Tell’s new jurisdiction—lies largely within the boundaries of Horton County. Tell, still reeling from his family’s death, has come to Ohio with visions of some Andy Griffith, Mayberry-like spin on policing…a place where tensions will run low and crimes of a decidedly Mickey Mouse variety will abound.

It’s a terrific miscalculation on Tell’s part. And, as Able points out to Tell on page 69, the border tensions Tell has fled La Frontera to escape are all too prevalent, even in central Ohio. In an assertion that stands as a kind of theme of El Gavilan, Sheriff Hawk observes to Tell, these days, the border is nearly everywhere.

Tell and Hawk share this exchange in the sheriff’s favored diner. They’ve bonded the night before at the scene of an apartment fire that claimed several lives. The apartment complex was packed with illegal immigrants who spoke no English. Arriving firefighters and EMS techs spoke no Spanish. The ensuing failure to communicate resulted in the needless death of several Latinos. Hawk and the Spanish-speaking Lyon arrived too late at the scene to save those killed in the fire, and so tried to provide comfort and support to the survivors.

Handing Tell a newspaper account of the night’s fire, Hawk says, “We two at least come off as sympathetic. Not that that matters. But, of course, we both know it matters.”

The scene unfolding between Lyon and Hawk is a pivotal one that not only sets the tone for their sometimes uneasy partnership, but also their first, fumbling attempts to find some shared stride that will carry them through an investigation that will exact a terrible toll on not just on the cops working the murder case, but the New Austin community as a whole.
Learn more about the books and author at Craig McDonald's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: El Gavilan.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Hickory Smoked Homicide"

As Riley Adams, Elizabeth Spann Craig writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley. Under her own name she writes the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011.

Adams applied the Page 69 Test to her latest Memphis Barbeque novel, Hickory Smoked Homicide, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Sounds like a good plan,” said Cherry. “How do I figure into it?” She was talking around a mouthful of food, but Lulu managed to make out the garbled parts.

“Distract Dee Dee for me. I’m going to take you in there and say you’re wanting to change your look and I thought that Dee Dee had just the boutique to handle your style makeover.”

There was a spitting noise on the other end of the phone. “That’d be a makeover all right! No offence, Lulu, but Dee Dee’s shop is all floral prints and froufrou, girly looking stuff. There’s not a flashy or cool-looking garment in that whole place.”

“Which is exactly why you’ll need so much help,” explained Lulu.
I was interested in applying the Page 69 test to my recent release, Hickory Smoked Homicide. After finding the page in the mystery, I thought the results were interesting and spoke a little to my focus for that book.

Cherry started out in the series' first book as a bit player who just added some color to scenes. She was a supporting character, nothing special. Then, somehow, Cherry started hijacking my books. She demanded more screen-time, better lines, and a larger part. The next thing I knew, Cherry positioned herself into a sidekick role for my sleuth, Lulu. I think this scene (which sets up a scene where my sleuth discovers clues to the mystery), indicates Cherry's new status in the series and displays some of the moxie that got her there, but also shows that Lulu is in charge...and that Cherry can only be a sidekick.
Learn more about the book and author at Riley Adams/Elizabeth Spann Craig's website and her Mystery Writing is Murder blog.

Writers Read: Riley Adams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"The Edinburgh Dead"

Brian Ruckley's books include the fantasy trilogy The Godless World, which consists of the books Winterbirth, Bloodheir, and Fall of Thanes.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Edinburgh Dead, and reported the following:
I'm a lucky, lucky fellow, because the fabled Page 69 turns out to be a pretty handy little introduction to key aspects of The Edinburgh Dead. Here's the first half or so of it:
The fallen lantern lay on its side, flame still fluttering, still throwing unsteady sheets of illumination across the graves. Quire left it where it lay. Duncan might need it, and Quire surely did not. It would rob him of his night eyes, and you could not shoot into darkness without eyes accustomed to it. He had learned that quickly enough in Spain.

The wall was a head higher than Quire. He threw himself at it, got both elbows hooked over, and dragged himself up, the toes of his boots scraping at stone.

Rough ground sloped away from the foot of the wall. Humps and hollows, their underlying nature disguised by the snow, made an undulating descent towards the banks of Duddingston Loch. Two figures were fleeing across that narrow expanse. The first was already disappearing into the dense, obscuring vegetation at the edge of the ice; the second, bigger, slower, shovel still held loosely in one hand was closer.

A fatter, brighter moon would have helped a good deal, for the world was indistinct. Imprecise. All shapes and shadows and shades of grey. But Quire knew - everybody knew - that the Resurrection Men did not come on the nights of a full moon. They liked the dark. So be it.
There's a lot of stuff that's important to the book wrapped up in there (and fortunately it's fairly representative of the tone and style, too).

'Quire' is one Adam Quire, a physically and psychologically scarred veteran of the Napoleonic Wars that came to an end in 1815 (hence the reference to Spain, which is where the British did most of their fighting against the French in those days), and by the time of the novel - 1828 - he's a sergeant in Edinburgh's police force.

What's he doing chasing mysterious figures through a graveyard at night? Well, he's after Resurrection Men. Graverobbers, in other words; folk who dug up graves, removed the corpses and sold them to the city's esteemed teachers of anatomy for dissection in front of their students. A gruesome trade, and the main inspiration for The Edinburgh Dead.

The book's been described as a ... deep breath ... historical gothic mystery horror urban supernatural thriller, which is fair enough (though I'd add crime high on the list, myself). It sounds complicated, but it all boils down to the one question that prompted me to write the book: What if Edinburgh's infamous 19th century graverobbers were supplying illegally obtained corpses not only to the respected anatomists, but also to other, darker figures, who had rather different purposes in mind for them?

The answer to that questions involves a sinister conspiracy, and takes the doggedly persistent Sergeant Quire on a journey through both the bright, elegant upper reaches of Edinburgh society at the time but also its crime-ridden underbelly. Along the way, plenty of real historical figures put in an appearance, including the most famous bodysnatchers of all: Burke and Hare.

And, by fortunate coincidence, the scene that starts on page 69 - specifically, what happens when Quire catches up with those graverobbers, out on the ice of a frozen loch - is one of my favourite from the whole book. It certainly comes as a surprise to Quire, but of course it's not a surprise I'm going to spoil here...
Learn more about The Edinburgh Dead at Brian Ruckley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"The Sisters"

Nancy Jensen, who received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, has published stories and essays in numerous literary journals, including The Louisville Review, Other Voices, and Northwest Review. She was awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, and teaches English at Eastern Kentucky University.

Jensen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Sisters, and reported the following:
My goal as a writer is to make every paragraph, every sentence, every word earn its keep—a goal I often fall short of, to be sure—so I couldn’t help but be intrigued by (and a little terrified of) “The Page 69 Test.” What if page 69 of my novel The Sisters was nothing but some bit of transitional business—essential, but largely irrelevant to the themes of the book? Or worse, what if page 69 turned out to be one of those pages at the end of a chapter with only two or three sentences sitting on it—a terrible failure, since that would mean not only that there wouldn’t be much to say but also that I had a chapter ending that didn’t snap closed, like chapters should.

But, lucky me! Page 69 of The Sisters turns out to be significant indeed, for at that point in the story, the character Mabel has made the crucial decision to help a stranger, 12 year old Daisy. Earlier in the chapter, Daisy’s father brings her to Mabel’s photographic studio to sit for a portrait, and Mabel is unnerved, believing she recognizes her younger self in Daisy—a girl forced endure sexual abuse in silence. More than 15 years before, Mabel escaped her abusive stepfather, but miscalculations, misunderstandings, and a message gone astray have separated her from her younger sister Bertie, whom she had vowed to protect. Now, Mabel is confronted with a choice: Does she ignore her nagging feelings and mind her own business, or does she take action? Either way, what if she’s wrong? What then? Can she live with the consequences? On page 69, Mabel is on her way to Daisy’s father’s house, ostensibly to keep a prearranged appointment to take a series of casual photos of Daisy, but her real motivation is to discover the truth—and not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Overcome with guilt for the ways she believes she failed Bertie, Mabel is now determined not to let a chance to help Daisy slip away—a sort of spiritual reparation for the unintentional damage she has done her sister.
Learn more about the book and author at Nancy Jensen's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Sisters.

Writers Read: Nancy Jensen.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"The Ionia Sanction"

Gary Corby is a novelist and former systems programmer at Microsoft. He lives in Australia with his wife and two daughters. His debut novel is The Pericles Commission.

Corby applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Ionia Sanction, and reported the following: 
The Ionia Sanction is the story of Nicolaos, the only investigating agent in classical Athens, as he searches for stolen information that threatens the safety of Athens. One man has already died trying to protect the secret, another died trying to recover it. Now it's up to Nico to hunt it down, wherever it might be. His quest takes him out of Athens to Ionia, a province ruled by the Persian Empire, where he could be executed as a spy at any moment.

Page 69 sees Nicolaos on a trireme, having left Athens on his way to the famed city of Ephesus. You might know Ephesus from the Bible (think Paul's Epistles to the Ephesians) but Ephesus was a major trading port, stretching far back into pre-history. It was also home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Temple of Artemis, which Nico will visit when he arrives.

The trireme Nico travels in, on page 69, is no less than Salaminia, a very famous warship. Salaminia was the Air Force One of the ancient world.
The Trierarch stepped easily around or over the various things attached to the deck, and said, "Good morning. I believe our destination is Ephesus. Correct?"

It was all I could do to nod and say, "Yes please," as if it were normal for a young man to be the sole purpose of the most prestigious ship in the most prestigious navy.

The Trierarch nodded back. "The helmsman tells me it should be a fast passage, the weather will be fair. Sit down and relax." He looked down at Asia and added, "And try to keep your slave under control."
Asia's not a continent! In those days it was a girl's name. (And in fact our continent Asia is named for an ancient Greek nymph). This particular Asia looks like trouble on a ship full of men:
My woman-child slave was dressed in a modest chiton of ankle length, but not even the usual extra folds could prevent her curves pressing out the material in interesting places, and nothing could hide her young red lips and those wide, round, dark eyes. It made me glad of the twenty soldiers on board—archers and spearmen—except they too were staring at Asia. The two chiefs of the rowers, one on each side, both shouted at the men to pay attention to their work. I silently prayed to Poseidon for a quick trip.
So that's page 69! You'll be pleased to hear they make it to Ephesus without too many mutinies, but whether they'll succeed in their mission and escape with their lives is anyone's guess.
Learn more about the book and author at Gary Corby's blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Ionia Sanction.

Writers Read: Gary Corby.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 18, 2011


L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Scholar, and reported the following:
Scholar is the fourth book of The Imager Portfolio, but the first in a four-book subseries that takes place hundreds of years before the first three books. It features the junior scholar Quaeryt, and page 69 of Scholar is both representative and unrepresentative of what lies in the rest of the pages. It’s very typical in that Quaeryt is in a strange city, trying to avoid local corrupt authorities who dislike scholars, as do most people throughout the entire continent of Lydar, especially a great many in positions of power. Quaeryt is also trying to find a place to employ his abilities as an imager to create legitimate coinage because he prefers to keep his talents hidden, a trait that continues throughout the book. And, typically, he finds himself stranded in Nacliano because he took a route to his destination that would allow him to discover more about the problem he is trying to resolve, rather than the safest means of travel.

Page 69 is atypical because Quaeryt is without any resources except himself and his abilities, whereas, prior to this, and often later, he is usually been able to insinuate himself into positions requiring moderate ability, where he draws neither interest for great ability nor adverse attention for lack of ability, but it is a foreshadowing of the greater and greater trials he will face.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Stephen Beachy is the author of the novels The Whistling Song and Distortion, as well as the twinned novellas Some Phantom/No Time Flat. His writing has appeared in BOMB, The New York Times Magazine, Chicago Review, Best Gay American Fiction, New York magazine and elsewhere. Raised by an ex-Amish father in Iowa, he now lives in California and teaches at the University of San Francisco.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, boneyard, and reported the following:
Page 69 of boneyard rather freakishly suggests, in a footnote, the novel's premise, which is that it was written by a young, disturbed Amish boy, distraught over his mother's suicide (by drowning) and the shootings in the Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines. Jake then decided his book was evil and threw it into the fire. At that point, I rescued it and lovingly reconstructed Jake's text. P. 69 includes both Jake's text and one of my own footnotes. Jake's text suggests his mother's suicide: “Her footprints clearly lead to the pond but never exit. The pond is red and cloudy. The farm-boys continue to swim there regardless, playing their rough games with the rubber inner-tube.” In my footnote, I explain Jake's conclusion “that his stories were magic and had somehow caused the murders. The distinction between mere prophecy and sympathetic magic is perhaps too nebulous for a guilt-racked child. While Jake claimed that he'd written the story years earlier, he didn't give me the stories until after the shootings at Nickel Mines. It seems equally possible that he wrote or heavily revised this scene after the murders and his confusion was actually in the distinction between writing and current events, between a psychotic break and the process of revision.”
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Beachy's website; view the boneyard trailer.

My Book, The Movie: boneyard.

Writers Read: Stephen Beachy.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 14, 2011

"How the Mistakes Were Made"

Tyler McMahon received his MFA in fiction from Boise State University. His stories have appeared in Threepenny Review, Sycamore Review, and Surfer’s Journal, among others, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a professor of fiction at Hawaii Pacific University.

McMahon applied the Page 69 Test to How the Mistakes Were Made, his debut novel, and reported the following:
My heart sank a little as I flipped to page 69 of How the Mistakes Were Made. It’s literally four lines long—the end of a chapter, possibly the shortest page in the book. But as I reread those sentences, I came to realize that they did, in fact, represent a pivotal moment. The novel is about a fictional punk rock band called The Mistakes. It’s narrated by Laura Loss, the female drummer who will one day be blamed for the group’s destruction. The other two members are Nathan, the hardworking bassist and songsmith, and Sean, the lead guitarist who suffers from a rare condition known as synesthesia which allows him to experience music as color. Page 69 closes the evening of their first show together—in which they discover a chemistry nobody expected. It’s the night that plants the seeds of their musical success. But more specifically, page 69 ends the book’s first sex scene, between Laura and Sean. This late-night indiscretion will, in a sense, lead to the band’s unraveling. In those final sentences, Laura is contemplating Sean’s talent as well his condition, trying to imagine what it would be like to possess either.

So in spite of the brevity, all the key elements of the novel—a bit of envy, some ill-advised sex, the tension between outward success and inner turmoil—are all present in those four short sentences on page 69.
View the trailer for How the Mistakes Were Made, and learn more about the book and author at Tyler McMahon's website.

My Book, The Movie: How the Mistakes Were Made.

Writers Read: Tyler McMahon.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"The Lost Women of Lost Lake"

Ellen Hart, “a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre” (Entertainment Weekly), is also a Lambda and Minnesota Book Award winner.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Lost Women of Lost Lake, her 19th mystery featuring Jane Lawless, and reported the following:
I’ve heard about this “test,” but never actually performed it on one of my books. Here’s a bit of background to what I found:

The Lost Women of Lost Lake, the newest Jane Lawless Mystery, takes us to a small town in northern Minnesota, where two of Jane’s old friends, Tessa Cornell and Jill Ivorsen, life partners for over twenty years and co-owners of a premier resort, Thunderhook Lodge, are in trouble. Jane is a part-time sleuth who lives in Minneapolis, where she owns a couple of restaurants. Along with her on the trip is her theatrical friend, Cordelia Thorn. They arrive at the resort ready to offer what help they can, but are stopped in their tracks when a woman in town, a good friend of Tessa’s, dies suddenly and suspiciously. Was it an accident? A suicide? Murder? More importantly, was Tessa somehow involved, as her partner suspects?

On page 69 we are introduced to two characters: Jonah and his aunt, Tessa. All we know is that Tessa has asked him to run into her study and unlock a cedar chest. She tells him to bring her a rusted metal box he’ll find inside. Jonah does as she asks, but instead of simply taking the box, he pilfers one of her journals, one that’s labeled “1968.” He runs upstairs to a loft and hides it under a couch, then returns downstairs to deliver the box. The end of the page leaves us with a big question--a zinger for a mystery novel:
“Now,” said Tessa, smiling up at him, “if you don’t mind, this would be a perfect time to make coffee.”

“Happy to.” What he really wanted was to stay and get a firsthand look at the gun.
Learn more about the book and author at Ellen Hart's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Alan Lazar is a platinum-selling musician/composer whose career began in his native South Africa. He lives in Los Angeles, where he has composed music for more than 30 films and TV shows.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Roam, his first novel, and reported the following:
I was rather surprised when I checked to find Page 69 is in fact a major turning point page in my novel. It’s the page when Nelson, canine protagonist, makes a discovery which sets in motion the events which lead to him being lost and wandering in the wild for eight years. At two years old, he has spent most of his life with Katey, concert pianist, and her husband Don. He is particularly close to Katey, who becomes the Great Love of his life (all dogs have one). On page 69, Nelson is sniffing around in their bed and detects an alien smell. It turns out to be a piece of silver underwear which belongs to a woman Don has been having an affair with. Nelson barks loudly, and alerts Katey to the underwear. So, she discovers her husband has been cheating on her.
Learn more about the book and author at Alan Lazar's website.

My Book, The Movie: Roam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Gun Church"

Reed Farrel Coleman has been called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan. He has published fourteen novels. Coleman is the three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year and has been twice nominated for the Edgar Award. He has also won the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. He is an adjunct professor of English at Hofstra University and lives with his family on Long Island.

Coleman applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Gun Church, and reported the following:
As Gun Church is an exclusive audio book available only at beginning November 8, 2011, I used the manuscript for this test. Gun Church is the story of Kip Weiler, an 80s literary wunderkind, who, through his own demons and devices, has fallen to the bottom of the barrel. He’s now nearly 30 years past his prime and exiled to a small, rural mining town where he teaches creative writing at a community college. When he prevents one of his students from taking his class hostage, Kip gets a second fifteen minutes of fame. He also gets something even more important—the inspiration to write again. But what Kip doesn’t know is that his world is about to spin completely out of his control and that his life is about to become a version of Wonder Boys meets Fight Club with guns. Here on page 69, Kip is struggling with an assessment of his old writing and worries about what his new work will be like. Kip often refers to his old self in the third person as the Kipster.
The Kipster was a cynical bastard, full of high sentence, but never obtuse: a poet, a prince looking down upon the great unwashed with only contempt. He was above it all, untouchable and untouched. He was the master of his instrument, so much so that it was all an inside joke to him. I didn’t recognize the writing [Kip’s new work] because it came from a very different place than where the Kipster’s art had come. It all came too easily to the Kipster, which is why I foundered when the words stopped coming. I had nothing to hold onto but the empty shell of the Kipster. His old protagonists were whimsies and strawmen, put up like bowling pins only to be knocked down. They were sacrifices meant as meat for the elitist nobs. His protagonists were soulless, ironice follies to be run up the flagpole like a fat girl’s underthings.
Kip’s new book is based upon a chance meeting in the 90s with a former IRA assassin. But like any artist who has for so long lost his muse, Weiler isn’t quite sure how to go about dealing with the idea he’s had kicking around in his head. The assassin, know only as McGuinn, has haunted Kip.
I wasn’t a biographer, not in temperment or by training, but what McGuinn had given me was basically the details for the biography of a murderer. The killings—their mechanics, the reasons and rationalizations behind them, the stories of the victims—as fascinating as some readers might have found those things, weren’t what interested me. Nor do I think were they what motivated McGuinn. It was his emotional journey and evolution from teenage murderer to soldier to assassin to target that got my attention. Besides, I spent all of two months in Ireland and the North. I didn’t know the place or the people and I certainly had only a superficial understanding of the conflict. I had been a glorified tourist, nothing more. A mostly drunk one at that.
But what Kip doesn’t know is that the book he’s about to write will be a blueprint for his own destruction.
Learn more about the book and author at Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"The Territory"

Tricia Fields lives in a log cabin on a small farm with her husband and two daughters. She was born in Hawaii, but has spent most of her life in small town Indiana where her husband is a state trooper.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel The Territory, winner of the 2010 Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery, and reported the following:
New to the Rule, I’ll admit that I expected little, but then found it applies brilliantly to my own book. Page 69 is the end of a scene that is pivotal to the plot, reveals character, and sets up crucial information regarding the murderer. In the scene below, Chief of Police Josie Gray and a fellow officer discover a tub of photographs located in the basement of a recently murdered man. The man was a 2nd Amendment proponent and leader of a group of gun fanatics called, ‘The Gunners.’

To the officers' surprise they discover nude photos of the woman who discovered the man’s body, bullet through his head, on her living room couch. The nude photographs prove critical to the investigation several hundred pages later. The scene also reveals that the murdered man had a relationship with the same Mexican cartel that the police suspect has infiltrated their small border town. This fact confirms their suspicions and will greatly impact the investigation. Beyond the plot issues, we see a vulnerability to Josie who puts up a tough public front, but who has personal issues she struggles with. She is a determined cop willing to fight the big battles, but personal relationships mystify her. In this scene, she identifies with the loneliness that she notices in another young woman. That’s a lot to ask of one page!
They found around forty pictures of Winning, mostly undressed, getting ready for bed or getting out of the shower. The pictures had obviously been taken on multiple days. One picture particularly bothered Josie. Winning stood completely naked at the kitchen counter, looking toward the window as if she heard a noise, with a shot glass held just up to her lips. Her expression was distant, the look of someone trying to deaden her loneliness through a bottle. Josie wondered what she might look like through a camera lens in the privacy of her own home at night. The thought depressed the hell out of her.

Otto pulled another manila envelope out of the green tub and dumped the pictures onto the table, then laid them out in rows. The photos all appeared to be of Gunner members at various meetings and activities.

He pointed to a picture and leaned closer to the table to examine it. “Those fellas aren’t Gunners. Look at the three men in the background, all wearing desert camouflage.”

Josie picked up the picture and studied it. Two of the men had what appeared to be automatic machine guns strapped over their shoulders, and all three appeared to Mexican.

“Bingo.” Otto clapped Josie on the back. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”
Learn more about the book and author at Tricia Fields's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 4, 2011

"A Corpse’s Nightmare"

Phillip DePoy is the author of a number of mysteries, including the Edgar Award winning play Easy. He has published short fiction, poetry, and criticism in Story, The Southern Poetry Review, Xanadu, and Yankee, among other magazines. As a folklorist, he has worked with Joseph Campbell and John Burrison. Depoy is currently the director of the theatre program at Clayton State University.

DePoy's Fever Devlin novels include The Drifter's Wheel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Corpse’s Nightmare, the latest Fever Devlin novel, and reported the following:
Here’s page 69 from A Corpse’s Nightmare:
A dream is a telegram composed in baffling poetry, I told myself. Decipher the poetry: get the message.

But these dreams were influenced by actual events. They weren’t purely Freudian or Jungian. They were half-remembered stories, dim angles on true history. And how could I decode their message without the attendant facts?

I would have to start by trying to recall the historical data. I pulled the bed sheet up a little, tried to relax and dig into the world’s most uncomfortable exercise: remembering things my mother told me.

The first thing that came to me, oddly, was her indignation at the very word history.

“Why isn’t it herstory in my case? In my personal case? It’s my story and I’m her.”

“If the word history is gender biased,” I had responded, “and maybe it is, then the mere word herstory is not sufficient to balance the long centuries of unfairly-tipped scales concerning the events on our planet—to date.”

“Then I think,” she fired back, “that a person might be forgiven for referring to an account such as mine by using the word mystory.”

“I see what you’re doing,” I told her with a growing ire. “You’ve done it before. I see that that the difference between mystory and mystery is only a single vowel.”

“Ergo,” she would conclude, “my story is in fact, a mystery.”

Difficult as it might have been for most people to believe, my mother and I had indulged in variations of that same dialogue perhaps a hundred times.

Then, for no reason I could discern at that moment, another conversation came back to me.

I remembered sitting in our kitchen eating grits. I couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve. It was early morning, the lights weren’t on, and ambient glow from the rising sun was rosy and gold.
This page is a perfect representation of the book, in part because it begins with one of my editor Keith Kahla’s favorite lines: “A dream is a telegram composed in baffling poetry.” I’m saying that if you like that line, you’ll like the book. If you hate that line, you should probably get something more useful—which is the way Saroyan used to tell people to buy his books only if they had some amount of Armenian blood in their veins. This page also contains the idea that “my story” and “mystery” are only separated by a single vowel, ergo all your stories are mysteries. Plus, the author actually uses the word “Ergo”—which, in itself, is pretty funny. Finally, the page includes a mention of food. For some reason, there are a lot of mentions of food in these books, the whole series. Usually it’s something a bit more entrancing than grits, but, then, grits are, in fact, serious, serious food. So. In this particular case, the Page 69 Test is perfect litmus.
Learn more about the book and author at Phillip DePoy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Drifter's Wheel.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Jack McDevitt is a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer, and motivational trainer. Many of his works--Infinity Beach, Ancient Shores, “Time Travelers Never Die,” Moonfall, “Good Intentions” (cowritten with Stanley Schmidt), “Nothing Ever Happens in Rock City,” Chindi, Omega, and Polaris, "Henry James, This One's for You," and Seeker--have been Nebula Award finalists.

His first novel, The Hercules Text, was published in the celebrated Ace Specials series, and won the Philip K. Dick Special Award. In 1991, he won the first $10,000 UPC International Prize for his novella “Ships in the Night.” The Engines of God was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and his novella “Time Travelers Never Die” was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula. Omega received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel, 2003.

McDevitt applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel Firebird, and reported the following:
In the far future world of Alex Benedict, a physicist had returned from a brief jaunt off world, was dropped off outside his home on Virginia Island, but somehow never made it inside. Years later, he is still missing.

Chase Kolpath, representing antiquarian Alex Benedict, is on Virginia Island looking for a clue to what might have happened. On page 69, she is questioning Father Everett, the local priest. Father Everett recalls that the physicist had been an atheist with exquisite musical taste. The police suspected his wife of being involved in his disappearance, but no evidence ever surfaced. And there was something odd: He kept buying yachts (interstellar vehicles) and losing them. He and his associate would take them out and just lose them. They’d ride back in the associate’s yacht. The story always was that they’d broken down or something. But of course it made no sense.
Learn more about the book and author at Jack McDevitt's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"The Devil's Ribbon"

D.E. Meredith read English at Cambridge, then ran the press office and the land mines campaign for the Red Cross, travelling extensively to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Rwanda during the conflicts. She worked as a consultant on media relations for Greenpeace and other worthy causes before embarking on "The Hatton and Roumande Mysteries" series for St Martin's Press (Devoured, October 2010, The Devil's Ribbon, October 2011).

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Devil's Ribbon and reported the following:
From Page 69:
He’d be angry with her and she’d only kiss him and tell him, “It’s of no matter, Addy. A hundred years ago. All forgiven and forgotten.”

He should have headed his father’s warning.

The accusation came on the brow of a hill. Eddy Stoates had come out of nowhere, red faced, spitting, “That Irish bitch of yours is stealing. Her whole family is. Our milks gone sour, the hens ain’t laying, my Ma’s silver brush has been taken from the dresser.”

Eddy Stoates was leering at her. “So, what have you got to say for yourself? But I’ll let you off a thrashing, if you give me whatever your givin’ Addy Hatton, here...”

Hatton rounded on him saying he would give him a pummelling if he didn’t take every word back and for good measure, Mary said, “He’ll not be bothering me, Addy. Pogue mahone, Stoat face...”

“Irish bitch”

Addy was quick, running at Eddy Stoates, levelling him, his fists raised for more, “Apologise, right now -”

Mary was quicker, laughing her head off and grabbing some itchy hay, sticking it down the boy’s shirt and calling him a scarecrow. “That’ll teach you a lesson.” The boy kicked her and wrestled himself free and slunk off, “You’ll pay for this...”

Addy brushed himself down, “Are you alright, Mary? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

She smiled, “In Troid e an Saol! Life’s a fight, Addy. We saw him off though, didn’t we?”

If only he had seen her home, back to the bosom of her family but after talking for a while, he gave Mary a farewell kiss and left her on the path. He had studying to do, he said. September loomed and his Pa had finally raised the capital for boarding school. “Of course you must go,” she squeezed his hand. “Grab this opportunity with both hands, Addy. You can be whatever you want.”

“I want to be a doctor. To study science, chemistry, anatomy and go to Edinburgh, where the best work is done.”
Well, well, well. How very interesting. This is a flash back moment when Hatton is remembering his first love because she reminds him of the murdered MP’s wife – Sorcha McCarthy. This tiny moment shines a light on why Hatton becomes a forensic scientist in the first place (If only he had seen her home, back to the bosom of her family), his humble background, his passion for right and wrong, his relationship with his father, with women and these are major drivers for The Devil's Ribbon and his troubled character so I’d say Page 69 and what its hinting at, lies at the very heart of the book. Would the reader read on? Yes, I think they would because there’s some romance, a drama, unfinished business, a future longing (his wish to be a doctor), a fight (!!!) and an over-riding sense of brooding menace. Eddie Stoates isn’t just going to slope off, after that humiliation, is he?

Only one bit missing here, I guess in that we don’t get to meet Monsieur Albert Roumande (his very able “Assistant” and dear friend) but we do learn “In Troid e an Saol! Life’s a fight, Addy. We saw him off though, didn’t we?” And that slightly beleaguered, then To-Hell-With-It spirit, is very central to the relationship between Hatton and Roumande and the narrative drive. I think this is a great snap shot for the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Denise Meredith's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue