Saturday, December 31, 2011

"The Unexpected Miss Bennet"

Patrice Sarath is the author of the fantasy novels Gordath Wood and Red Gold Bridge.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Unexpected Miss Bennet, and reported the following:
Interesting! Page 69 of The Unexpected Miss Bennet occurs at one of the turning points for Mary Bennet, the protagonist. As readers may remember from Pride & Prejudice, Mary Bennet was the plain sister who read sermons and pontificated, and most certainly did not dance. As Jane Austin wrote in Pride & Prejudice,
And even Mary could assure her family that she had no disinclination for [the Netherfield ball].

“While I can have my mornings to myself,” said she, “it is enough. -- I think it no sacrifice to join occasionally in evening engagements. Society has claims on us all; and I profess myself one of those who consider intervals of recreation and amusement as desirable for every body.”
Yup. Spoken like a sister who was so shy that she hid behind a façade of being too intellectual to enjoy a simple dance.

In The Unexpected Miss Bennet, I imagine that Mary Bennet has become dissatisfied with her role as the pedantic sister. She is beginning to wonder what life holds in store for her. Her world begins to open up when her older sister Lizzy invites her to come to visit at Pemberley. On page 69, an interesting young man invites her to dance – possibly for the first time ever in her life – and Mary Bennet has fun.
“Mr. Aikens danced much as he did anything, without stopping and with great enthusiasm. Mary found herself alternately laughing and scandalized at his performance. Everyone would be looking at them! Soon others in their set were laughing as well, and all of the couples swung their partners with abandon. Mary could almost not keep up but the fun was infectious. Years of reserve were broken down in minutes of lively music.”
I didn’t want to completely change Mary Bennet’s character. She remains a serious, pious young woman who loves books and sermons and thinking deep thoughts about human nature and society. But I open her up and allow her to experience some more of the world, limited though it is for a young Regency lady, and in the process Mary discovers that she can be serious and happy. Page 69 is where the growth begins.
Learn more about the book and author at Patrice Sarath's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"True Shot"

True Vision, the first in Joyce Lamb's True trilogy, won a Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in single title romantic suspense from the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA. True Vision was also awarded the HOLT Medallion for Best Book by a Virginia Author from the Virginia Romance Writers.

Lamb applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, True Shot, and reported the following:
True Shot is my favorite in the True trilogy (which includes True Vision and True Colors). I flipped the hero and heroine roles, so that she's the bad-ass government spy and he's the innocent, somewhat naïve civilian. By the time we get to Page 69, our heroine, Samantha, has been on the run from her employer, whom she's learned has gone rogue. She's always thought she worked for the good guys and has discovered that that's not the case. She was shot while trying to make a run for it and arrives at her family's secluded cabin, where she thinks she'll be safe. Our hero, Mac, is also at the cabin, sent there by his friends (who are also Sam's sisters) for some rest and relaxation after a particularly stressful time in his life. At the cabin, the bad guys show up, sending Mac and Sam on the run together. Sam surmises that the bad guys found her because there's a tracker implanted under her skin. She talks Mac into removing it, which releases a drug into her system that wipes out her memory. On Page 69, Mac is reaching out to Sam's sister Charlie, who hasn't seen Sam in more than a decade, to find out what he should do about the injured and on-the-run Sam. He's trying not to get Charlie involved in a dangerous situation while also seeking her counsel. I'd say this page is the perfect representation of the whole book: Mac's uncertain about what to do but is absolutely certain that he needs to protect Sam.

Page 69 of True Shot:
“What’s this about, Mac?” Charlie asked. “Why are you so interested in Sam?”

“I, uh, well ...” He trailed off, on the hunt for the right words. And then he decided to just tell the truth. He was a terrible liar anyway. And he was way out of his element here. “Look, I arrived at the cabin, and Sam was there.”

“What? Are you kidding? She’s with you now? That’s great!” Charlie’s excitement seemed to vibrate the phone in his hand. “Can you put her on so I can talk to her?”

“The thing is ... she’s—” He cast a glance at Sam. He couldn’t tell Charlie that her sister was a spy. That was Sam’s story to tell. But he also couldn’t leave Charlie in the dark. She had a right to know that her sister needed help. “There was an ... incident at the cabin. Some bad people are after her.”

“Bad people?”

“She’s on the run, Charlie. She’s involved ... in something.”

“Tell me where you are. Noah and I will come—”

“I don’t think we can stay in one spot for too long.”

“God, Mac, what the hell? Is Sam there with you? Can I talk to her?”

“She’s sleeping.” He winced, but it had seemed better than saying, She lost consciousness after being drugged out of her memory.

A long beat went by in which Mac knew Charlie debated how to respond. “Is she okay?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You need to tell me where you are. Noah—”

“We can’t stay here. We need to keep moving.”

“Mac, please. If Sam needs help—”

“I’m helping her. I’m—”

“Noah can get law enforcement involved. And so can—”

“No! No law enforcement. Seriously. I know this is crazy, but I’m not sure who to trust right now.”

“You can trust me and Noah.”
Learn more about the book and author at Joyce Lamb's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Adrian Magson is the author of a 5-book crime series set in London, a YA ghost book, and a writer's help book (Write On!). He is now working on a French crime series set in Picardie in the 1960s and a contemporary spy series featuring former MI5 officer Harry Tate. His latest thriller in the Harry Tate series is Deception (November 2011). Red Station, the first Harry Tate book, has been optioned by Benderspink in Hollywood, about which he is tying not to get too excited… but enjoying the buzz, anyway.

Magson applied the Page 69 Test to his second Harry Tate novel, Tracers and reports the following:
Page 69 of Tracers is about Harry Tate making a phone call. I know, hardly riveting stuff. But Harry’s activities are not entirely gunfire and mayhem. As a former MI5 (Security Services) officer, his work has generally been low key, with a mix of counter-espionage, tracking enemies of the state and fighting serious crime. After leaving MI5 (when a rogue senior officer tried to have him terminated by an assassin known as The Hit - see Red Station), he’s now working in the private sector, but still with links to the Intelligence community. In fact he’s ‘carded’ – authorised to carry a weapon, but on call if the government needs him.

This time he’s trying to find a so-called professor who has disappeared from his home in Israel and turned up in England, and tracks him to an isolated farmhouse. The phone call is to a rental agency to find out who’s inside before potentially walking into a fire-storm.

In writing the Harry Tate series, I wanted to have a believable, human ex-Intelligence officer who wants to do what he’s good at and what’s right, but finds himself constantly at the sharper end of the business. He’s no Bond, but he does know how to look after himself, and in Tracers he’s hired to find three high-level runaways, two of whom end up very quickly dead, and the third is the professor (who turns out not to be an Israeli but with links to terrorism). And in tracing people, asking questions is one of the things you have to do.

But so is carrying a gun… and using it when you have no option.
Learn more about the book and author at Adrian Magson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Tony D'Souza's first novel, Whiteman, received the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His second novel, The Konkans, was called a "best novel of the year" by the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Poets & Writers Magazine.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Mule, and reported the following:
Page 69:
“I have to know right now.”

“I’ll take a break and call Henry,” she said, still whispering.

There was a coffee shop a few doors down from the WaMu, I went in and ordered a drip. I bought a copy of the Herald Tribune, scanned it with my phone out on the table as I waited. The front page above the fold was about the Sarasota real estate implosion, the massive condo project was indeed about to go bust. I couldn’t care about any of that. In a minute, my phone rang.

Rita said, “How much if we get a pound this time?”

“Five grand.”

“Then we’ll have the money ready.”

I hung up and did the math on my phone. Now I needed the rest of the baby’s college money. A minute later, Mason was calling. I held the phone to my ear, glanced at the other people sitting at their tables. They had no idea what I was doing. Mason said, “I want two this time.”

“Can you really handle that much?”

“I met new people because of what we did.”

“You have to send me half the money.”

“No problem, James.”

“It has to be cash.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

I remembered what Darren had said. I said to Mason, “Money orders. I’ll explain it later, but do it just like I say. Go to three different places and get an order at each place for one and a half. Then go to one more place and get a final one for five hundred, and mail them all to me. You have to get them in the mail today to give me enough time.”

“I’ll get on it right after work. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”

I crunched the numbers on my phone, calculated the gross and net. Could I really make that much? I called Darren as I
I really like this exercise of dipping into my book at page 69 and seeing how it captures/reflects/shares the tone of the complete story I was trying to tell. In a lot of ways, this is the sort of thing I do at this stage of my career anyway. Every night before writing, I get nervous, wonder if I can do it, if the words and story will still be there, if the Muse will come to me yet again. Butterflies in my stomach and endless doubt. Sometimes I take a book down from the shelf, one that I’ve written in the past, and open it to a random page. I have been publishing for 13 years. There are stories I’ve forgotten I’ve written, passages from my novels that I no longer recall. When I reread whatever random page it is, I remember the night I wrote it, what that felt like, what the Muse felt like, and I take some succor from it. I also see the unity of my work, that there is a marriage of theme and language in my writing that is only mine. It’s like looking in the mirror at my own face.

Page 69 from Mule is a rather mundane one in a book with lots of tense events. Here, James is putting together his first major cross country deal, involving dope peddlers in three states. All the major elements of Mule are on this page, from the mention of the failed condo project in passing in the newspaper—the recession is the ever-present backdrop this story is told against. James’ recognizing that none of the other people in the café know he’s setting up a drug deal on the phone captures how this adventure will isolate him from the world, empowering him at times, and ultimately leaving him utterly alone. And the lingo and specific details of the trade that make the book feel real are here in James’ explaining to Mason how to use different money order shops to avoid leaving a paper trail. Not an explosive page, but a necessary one. This page ‘turns,’ and moves the story along. A writer couldn’t ask for more.
View the trailer for Mule, and learn more about the book and author at Tony D'Souza's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 23, 2011

"The Plume Hunter"

Renée Thompson writes about wildlife, her love of birds, and the people who inhabit the American West. Her first novel, The Bridge at Valentine, received high praise from Pulitzer Prize-winner Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove. Thompson lives in Northern California with her husband, Steve, and is at work on a collection of short stories.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her novel, The Plume Hunter, and reported the following:
In 1885, more than five million birds were killed in the United States alone for the millinery industry. This figure astounded me, and prompted my desire to write a novel showcasing the plume-hunting trade in the American West. The result is The Plume Hunter, a story about men who shoot birds at the turn of the nineteenth century to sell feathers for women’s hats. In crafting my tale, I created two men – best friends – who love both birds and the land: the first is a plume hunter, the other a man stalwartly opposed to pluming. I knew that their differing philosophies would not only provide conflict, but help propel the plot. My protagonist, Fin McFaddin, is the plume hunter – the story’s dark hero – while Aiden Elliott is the bird’s savior and a prominent figure in the formation of the Audubon Society.

On page 69, the reader sees the shift Aiden has made from his boyhood days, when he shot birds and collected eggs with Fin; we realize he’s positioning himself as a career photographer, and also understand this is the preliminary step to his role as a politician and proponent of the Audubon Society. Here’s the page in its entirety:
…Chapman also encouraged Aiden to take part in the proceedings of scientific societies, serve on committees and directorial boards, and delve deeper into politics. “You do that, and your contributions to the Movement will be handsomely rewarded.”

Aiden embraced it all. He believed it was possible to further enlighten the public by exposing them to photographs of birds they’d not seen before, at least from the perspective of a telephoto lens. He’d had a lot of practice, hauling his camera up Douglas firs, and photographing tanagers and flickers and various birds’ nests. One sunny weekend in March 1898, he placed his camera and lenses in a hard leather case, which he’d stuffed into a satchel containing a dozen glass plates. Slinging the pack across his back, he strapped his tripod to his bicycle and boarded a train for San Francisco. High above the city, on Mission Ridge, he planned to photograph a pair of golden eagles nesting in a sycamore.

Hopping from the train, he jumped onto his bicycle and steered toward the hills, pedaling until the shops and houses gave way to rustic wooden fences. Cows blinked as he rode past. He tipped his hat, eliciting stares from their liquid brown eyes while they stood and worked their cuds.

After another mile or so, he veered onto a rutted path that cut through a pasture. Bumping along, teeth rattling, he worried for a time about the glass plates in his pack. When he reached the end of the road, he propped his bicycle against a barn, checked the contents of his knapsack and found the plates intact. Adjusting his satchel, he set out the rest of the way on foot, since it was now too steep to cycle.

Photography was a hobby he’d come to adore, as it allowed him to traipse the countryside, just as he’d done as a boy. A stand of eucalyptus trees swayed in the distance, filling the air with menthol, and scores of insects buzzed. A mud hen called from a puddle.
Thanks for reading. I hope you like it!
Learn more about the book and author at Renée Thompson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"The Spy Who Left Me"

Gina Robinson's books include Spy Candy, Spy Games, and The Spy Who Left Me.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Spy Who Left Me and reported the following:
The Page 69 Test is a fun exercise to run on a book. It certainly makes a writer think about making every page exciting. Page 69 of The Spy Who Left Me is the last page of Chapter Five. Because the page begins in the middle of Tita's block of dialogue, I've put in her entire dialogue paragraph, including a few lines from the page before, so that it will make more sense.

Here's the setup—the hero, Ty, is a spy on a mission in Hawaii. He's undercover as a tour guide working for Tita at her wedding plantation. Tita has no idea Ty's a spy. Treflee is his wife. Although she's still in love with him, she's trying to divorce him without blowing his cover.

Due to circumstances beyond their control, Treflee and Ty must pretend that they just met at the plantation and have no prior relationship. Mrs. Ho runs the neighboring wedding plantation and is Tita's fiercest competitor in the wedding industry. Unknown to Tita and Treflee, Mrs. Ho is also a dangerous member of an international group of terrorists that Ty is trying to stop.

The night before this scene, an assassin has tried to strangle Treflee with a plastic lei in her room. Ty is trying to pass off the bruises on her neck as having come from an accident on Mrs. Ho's property. Suspicious, Mrs. Ho has sent a basket of Hawaiian goodies to Treflee to make amends and to plant a listening bug in Tita's establishment.

The Spy Who Left Me, Page 69:
Tita waved a hand. “Thoughtful?” She shook her head. “No, Mrs. Ho thinks only of harmony and avoiding a lawsuit. You got hurt on her property. Her harmony is out of balance. For her own sake, she owes you something to make you whole. She should have come herself to make sure you’re okay, not sent a boy with a basket.”

“Speaking of the basket, I’ll just take this upstairs for you.” Ty turned.

“Wait! I’d like a look.” Treflee tried to stop him.

“It’ll be in your room.”

This was the problem with being married to a spy. They were suspicious of everything. He was probably going to paw through it looking for bugs or who knows what. And she’d just bet he’d take the good stuff for himself.

Treflee let him go. She’d find out what he was up to later. She smiled at Tita. “Even so, I’d better write a thank-you.”

“First, you eat. Or you’ll never make it through your surfing lesson today.”
Page 69 is only a half-page, but even in this brief scene some of the humorous feel of the book comes through. And it's clear that Treflee isn't pleased with being married to a spy and is suspicious of all his actions. She's also being pulled into his world of intrigue and used as a pawn to get to his enemy. That's good.

The rivalry and dislike between Tita and Mrs. Ho also comes through, as well as a hint of the tropical Hawaiian vacation feel of the book. Pick up a copy of The Spy Who Left Me and discover for yourself the humor, suspense, and romance that make this book a fun spy romp.
Learn more about the book and author at Gina Robinson's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Egypt: The Book of Chaos"

Nick Drake's critically acclaimed novel Nefertiti was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award; his Tutankhamun was a Publishers Weekly top 100 books selection. He has published two award-winning collections of poetry, and his play Success was performed at the National Theatre in London, where he is a literary associate. Drake's screenplays include the critically acclaimed Romulus, My Father (starring Eric Bana), which won Best Film at the Australian Film Awards in 2007.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the final novel in his trilogy featuring Rahotep, Egypt: The Book of Chaos, and reported the following:
On p69 of Egypt: The Book of Chaos, detective Rahotep is on a boat, crossing the Nile, returning to the great city of Thebes; he's just been to the Royal Palace for an interview with Queen Ankhesenamun and her Chief Advisor, Nakht - who happens to be one of Rahotep's dearest friends. Rahotep's life has long been entwined with the Royal Family; he found Nefertiti, the mother of Ankhesenamun, when she vanished, and brought her back alive (in Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead); and he tried to defend her husband, Tutankhamun, against the death threats that ultimately brought his life to a premature end (in Tutankhamun: The Book of Shadows).

The Queen has instructed Rahotep to undertake a highly secret, perilous mission for her; he and Nakht must travel north, across the Egyptian borders, through the dangerous and unstable territories of the Levant, to deliver a letter containing an audacious offer, to the King of the Hittites, whose base is in modern-day central Turkey. She asks the King to send her one of his sons for her to marry, and to join her on the throne of Egypt. The stakes could not be higher, for if they fail, or if the offer is refused, her dynasty will almost certainly be crushed by Horemheb, the General of the Army.

The Hittites were Russia to Egypt's America at this time; their power was expanding rapidly, and they were taking control of kingdoms and principalities which had for long been dominated by the might of Egypt. On p 69 Nakht explains to Rahotep the secret reasons for their journey into this unstable world; but what Rahotep doesn't tell Nakht is that he also has a personal reason to go; his side-kick Khety has been murdered in the most barbaric way by the mysterious leader of a merciless and powerful opium cartel; Rahotep has reason to think he might discover more of the identity of the killer outside Egypt; so, breaking a promise to his wife and children not to leave them again, in the pages that follow, he decides to accept the Queen's command, and undertake a journey into the great unknown.
Learn more about the book and author at Nick Drake's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Dark Men"

Derek Haas is the author of the bestselling novel The Silver Bear. He also co-wrote the screenplays for 3:10 to Yuma, starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, and Wanted, starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie. His forthcoming film, The Double, starring Richard Gere and Topher Grace, is directed by his screenwriting partner Michael Brandt and will be released in 2011.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Dark Men, and reported the following:
The 69th page, eh? Good choice! For my three books, I have the same first-person narrator, a contract killer known as Columbus. But in the course of the books, other characters tell stories at times, and on the 69th page of Dark Men, a character named Smoke tells the story of his time in prison. I love to tell stories within stories… been fascinated with the idea since reading the Canterbury Tales in college, where Chaucer would have a story within a story within a story within a story. It gives me a chance to throw a different voice at the reader, and I think Smoke's tale is quite entertaining.
Learn more about Dark Men at Derek Haas's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Men.

Writers Read: Derek Haas.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Murder Season"

Robert Ellis is a former filmmaker and political media consultant from Los Angeles. His bestselling crime novels include Access to Power, The Dead Room, City of Fire, and The Lost Witness.

Ellis applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Murder Season, and reported the following:
Murder Season is my personal favorite of the three Lena Gamble novels. It’s a bigger than life Hollywood murder mystery, dark and twisted, very fast and very spooky. The tip of the iceberg is exposed quickly. There’s been a double murder at Club 3 AM, a private nightclub that caters to the Hollywood A-list. The media is feeding on rumors and swarming the police line at the club. LAPD brass and the DA’s office have their stingers out. And unfortunately for homicide detective Lena Gamble, she’s just been assigned a case so hush-hush no one would give her even a single detail over the phone.

The first victim is the powerful Johnny Bosco, owner of Club 3 AM and keeper of Hollywood’s greatest secrets. But it’s the second murder victim who’s way too hot to handle. 25-year-old Jacob Gant, acquitted just weeks ago in L.A.’s latest trial-of-the-century for murdering his 16-year-old neighbor, the beautiful and innocent Lily Hight.

The obvious suspect for the double murder is Lily’s father, Tim Hight, a strange, edgy man who has more than one monkey on his back and refuses to talk. On page 69 Lena is just finishing a search for the murder weapon in his home office when she realizes that Hight is a former film director who would have been familiar with the gunshot wounds to Jacob Gant’s head.

Lena had seen the same wounds in a John Ford western called The Searchers, and remembered it as she examined Gant’s corpse at the crime scene. It was the fact that the killer had shot out Jacob Gant’s eyes just the way it happened in the movie. It was the fact that the Comanches believed that without eyes a victim couldn’t enter the spirit world. Without eyes, Jacob Gant would be forced to wander between the winds forever...

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in Murder Season. The twists and turns and roller coaster ride are yet to come.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Ellis's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: City of Fire.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Witness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Autumn: Disintegration"

David Moody is the author of Hater, Dog Blood, and four-going-on-five books in the Autumn series. He grew up in Birmingham, England, on a diet of horror movies and post-apocalyptic fiction. He started his career working at a bank, but then decided to write the kind of fiction he loved. His first novel, Straight to You, had what Moody calls “microscopic sales,” and so when he wrote Autumn, he decided to publish it online. The book became a sensation and has been downloaded by half a million readers. He started his own publishing company, Infected Books. He lives in Britain with his wife and a houseful of daughters, which may explain his preoccupation with Armageddon.

Moody applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Autumn: Disintegration, and reported the following:
Autumn: Disintegration was originally conceived as an afterthought to my Autumn series of zombie novels. I began writing the books back in 2001, long before the zombie overkill which has a stranglehold on the horror genre today; long before people started rolling their eyes and groaning like the undead at the very mention of the ‘z word’.

It’s ironic, because the Autumn books are not about zombies at all. They’re about the people who’ve survived: those poor, helpless, desperate individuals left to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of an infection which has killed billions.

As I’ve hinted, the Autumn books aren’t your typical zombie stories: I’ve tried to make the characters act like I think you or I might should the unthinkable actually happen. They don’t do what the people in the movies do. They withdraw. They bicker. They struggle. Many people liked the approach I took. Some ‘purists’ definitely didn’t.

So what would happen, I thought, if a few stereotypical gung-ho characters found themselves trapped in the claustrophobic, dead world of Autumn? Page 69 of Disintegration typifies the friction between those who want to confront the dead, and those who simply want to survive. To some, fighting is a last resort. To others, it’s sport. In anticipation of a cull of the corpses gathered around the survivors’ stronghold, two men are sent out into the lifeless city to cause a distraction and draw some of the dead away.

Thing is, as the survivors of the previous Autumn books have discovered to their cost, it’s one thing talking the talk, but the reality of life among the undead is a very different matter:
Jas looked up as Harte approached. ‘You ready for this?’ he asked. He sounded subdued.

‘Suppose,’ Harte mumbled, adjusting the straps of a small rucksack which he then hoisted onto his back. ‘Let’s just get it done, shall we?’

Last night it had sounded like a sensible plan, but now, standing here in the cold light of morning, in full view of the endless devastation that was all that was left of their world, they were beginning to wonder exactly what they’d agreed to. The plan was for them to go out and create a distraction in a bid to reduce some of the pressure at the front of the crowd, but Jas suddenly felt less like a decoy and more like bait.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Autumn website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Storm Damage"

Ed Kovacs has worked for many years as a private security contractor deploying to challenging locations worldwide. He is a member of AFIO, Association for Intelligence Officers, the International Thriller Writers organization, and the Mystery Writers of America.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Storm Damage, and reported the following:
From page 69:
After her shift Honey joined me at Peedy’s Place, a grubby cop hang in a dismal little mini-mall on Cleary in Jefferson Parish. Peedy’s doesn’t serve food, which is probably a good thing, so I’d stopped at the Swamp Room on Veterans, which had just reopened for business, to get us “dressed” Swamp Burgers and cheese fries.

About a dozen off-duty coppers were getting hammered in Peedy’s, where a Jack and Seven cost three bucks, not the nine bucks you’d pay in the Quarter, and you could blow off steam among peers. I recognized officers from NOPD, and deputies from St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, and Plaquemines Parishes. Two female JP deputies used warped cues to shoot eight-ball on a seven foot table with dead bumpers. Four Hispanic laborers sat at a corner table nursing beers and smiling like their face muscles were frozen. They were probably very nervous illegals who realized too late they had stumbled into a cop bar.

After allowing several coppers to snake some of my fries, Honey and I focused on watching Kendall take a beating in Miami live on Spike TV. The K-1 fight wasn’t even close and ended quickly. So we hunched over the high table, returning our attention to the junk food and cheap cocktails.

“Your guy didn’t look too good. Bet I could kick his ass,” said Honey as she took a bite of her huge burger.

“You want to go pro, I’ll coach you.”

“Haven’t been in a fight since the Storm. I’m ready for one.”

“Careful what you wish for.” I had already filled her in regarding the day’s developments. She hid her disapproval of how I handled Duplessis and had no idea who Tommy Boudreaux was.

“Ever hear of Jimmy Nguyen?” she asked, licking cheese dip from her finger.

“That’s a pretty common Vietnamese name. It’s like John Smith,”
Even though a Page 69 “test” might be somewhat arbitrary, I kind of liked the idea and was happy to post my entire page 69 above for examination. Storm Damage is hard-boiled American noir, and here we find ourselves in a very noir locale, “a grubby cop hang.” My hero and heroine are present, swilling cheap drinks while eating junk food. They’re talking about fights and about the case. Their banter is indicative of their relationship and some of the dialogue gives us info about what kind of people our characters are. There is reference to the “Storm,” which of course, plays almost like a character in the book. At the bottom of the page, the dialogue leads us into some plot advancement.

So while we don’t have an action scene or a major plot point revelation, we have good setting, characterization, thematic elements and plot development. Check, check, and check. No quibble from me, but would a reader want to keep reading? There are as many possible answers to that question as there are readers, but I was humbled when Booklist compared Storm Damage to Dashiel Hammett’s Red Harvest. I think readers of crime fiction and mystery fans who like their material with a darker edge will enjoy my novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Kovacs's website.

My Book, The Movie: Storm Damage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 9, 2011

"A Perilous Conception"

Larry Karp grew up in Paterson, NJ and New York City. He practiced perinatal medicine (high-risk pregnancy care) and wrote general nonfiction books and articles for 25 years, then, in 1995, he left medical work to begin a second career, writing mystery novels. The backgrounds and settings of Karp's mysteries reflect many of his interests, including musical antiques, medical-ethical issues, and ragtime music.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Perilous Conception, and reported the following:
Here's most of Page 69 of A Perilous Conception. The speaker is Police Detective Bernie Baumgartner, who's talking to locksmith/lockpicker/sidekick Irwin McKeesport ("Iggy the Key") in Iggy's lock shop. Bernie wants Iggy's help in opening a wooden box the detective had found among the possessions of a person who had disappeared.

The selection below represents a key (so to speak) point in Baumgartner's investigation. What he finds in the box will be of major importance as he carries his probe forward. There is also a reminder that the detective is obligated to work quietly, since influential people are trying to get the case closed quickly, with no embarrassment to the University.
I set the wooden box on the table in front of him.

The little guy had you-gotta-be-kidding-me all over his face. He jabbed a finger at the box. "Mr. B, I gotta say, I don't believe this. You need the help of a professional to get this piece of shit open?"

"I could crack it with a knife blade, or stomp it into splinters, Ig. But I've got no idea what's inside, and whatever it is, I want to find it in the right number of pieces. And I need to have the job done very privately."

Doubt spread over Iggy's mug. "It ain't gonna blow up on me, is it?"

"I shrugged. No idea what's in there. Tell you what. Get me a key, then stand back, and I'll open it."

He marched off, not another word, down the stairs into the basement. Not three minutes later, he was back, holding up two flat keys. "If at least one of these don't do the job, I'll eat that box." He slid the first key into the slot, wiggled it, twisted his wrist. "Close." Then he withdrew the key ever so slightly, and worked it gently back and forth. "I can feel...yeah." The key spun 180 degrees. He threw the lid open.

We gawked into the box, then at each other. "Dip me in shit," Iggy whispered. He chugged out from behind the counter, threw the lock on his front door, turned the cardboard sign to CLOSED, and pulled down the shade behind it. Then he came running back to stand beside me and rubberneck over the box.
Learn more about the book and author at Larry Karp's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: A Perilous Conception.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Hurt Machine"

Reed Farrel Coleman has been called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan. He has published fourteen novels and 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. Coleman 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, Hurt Machine, and reported the following:
Hurt Machine is the seventh installment in the multi-award winning Moe Prager Mystery series, following last year’s release of Innocent Monster. Unlike earlier in the series when there were long gaps of time between events in each book, the events in Hurt Machine take place roughly a year after Moe successfully, if not happily, resolves the case he was working on in Innocent Monster. His daughter is two weeks away from her wedding when Moe receives grave news about his own health. A few days after receiving the bad news, Moe’s ex-wife and former PI partner, Carmella Melendez, shows up to ask a desperate favor of Moe. Moe, who hasn’t seen or heard from Carmella since their marriage fell apart a decade earlier, is none too pleased, but can’t help but be curious. It seems that Carmella’s estranged sister had been murdered on the street outside a popular Brooklyn eatery. The thing of it is, no one in New York City, not even the NYPD, seems very keen on finding the killer. Why? That’s the question, isn’t it? On page 69—a brief coda at the end of a chapter—Moe is in a philosophical and reminiscing about his childhood.
I realized I hadn’t called Pam [Moe’s current girlfriend] or Sarah [his daughter] in a few days. Although Pam was a PI, she wasn’t Brian Doyle’s [tough guy] type of PI. She wasn’t big on surveillance, but she did kick the occasional ass. I wasn’t going to risk waking her, not at that hour. So I looked out my front window at Sheepshead Bay and thought back to when I was a kid and crossing the Ocean Avenue footbridge over the bay to Manhattan Beach seemed like a walk into another world. I was thinking about that kind of walk a lot lately, a walk into another world.
I like this brief passage because it is so Moe. It is grounded in the geography of Brooklyn and its neighborhoods. There is working class Sheepshead Bay just across a small bridge from the more well-to-do Manhattan Beach. On the one hand he is worried about meeting his commitments, to doing the right thing. Yet on the other, he is dealing with childhood memories and contemplating his own mortality.
Learn more about the book and author at Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Redemption Street.

The Page 69 Test: Empty Ever After.

My Book, the Movie: The Moe Prager Mystery Series.

The Page 69 Test: Innocent Monster.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause"

Mignon F. Ballard grew up in a small town in Georgia, and now lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause, and reported the following:
What an interesting concept! Usually if a book hasn’t held my interest for the first chapter, I won’t make it to page 69, but of course there are exceptions.

Page 69 of Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause takes the reader to the beginning of Chapter Eight with an intriguing introduction involving threats, secrets and a desire to look over one’s shoulder. The reader goes directly from this to a crowded bus filled with servicemen on leave; mothers, babies, and young teacher, Charlie Carr, who is on her way to meet her young air cadet in training for a longed-for evening together. Although I didn’t plan it this way, I think this particular page plops the reader right in the middle of events that consumed the home front in 1943 – with a mystery thrown in for good measure!
Learn more about the author and her work at Mignon Ballard's website.

My Book, The Movie: Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"The Butterfly Forest"

Tom Lowe's Sean O'Brien mystery/thriller series includes A False Dawn, The 24th Letter, and The Butterfly Forest.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Butterfly Forest and reported the following:
Imagine not smelling the scent of a pine tree, a flower, or rain for forty years. Page 69, in The Butterfly Forest, is where Luke Palmer's five senses are all engaged at the same moment, a moment he hadn't experienced in four decades. After spending most of his life in a 6x10 cage in San Quentin for a crime he didn't commit, Palmer is released, and the first place he goes is to the center of a vast, ancient forest. It's a place full of birdsong, clear running creeks, blue sky and horror.

Palmer is carrying an worn map, a payback for saving an inmate's life in a knife fight. The map points the way to a fortune buried by the Ma Barker gang before they were killed in the most volatile shootout in the history of the FBI. Palmer is searching deep in the national forest when he's approached by a park ranger who is suspicious and tells Palmer the national forest is no place for the homeless. On page 69, Palmer responds. "I'm not homeless. I'm here 'cause I haven't smelled a pine tree in forty years."
"What's with the steel rod? That some kind of primitive weapon?"

"I heard there's lots of Civil War artifacts, you know, mini-balls in the forest."

"You can't be digging up the national forest without a permit."
The next day the body of a young woman is found in a shallow grave. She's dressed in a gown from the Middle Ages, fairy wings folded behind her back. Sean O' Brien is thrust into the investigation by default when the daughter of a woman he likes goes missing in the same forest. Palmer is an immediate suspect. O'Brien finds reason to believe there's more to the murder than what appears on the surface -- something that nurtures a present terror with a connection to a shootout in 1935.

Page 69 delivers to the reader a sense of the recurring nightmare Luke Palmer has lived for forty years. The taste of freedom, the sights and smells of nature to be swept away again for a crime he did not commit. He's an innocent man in the heart of a forest with dark secrets.

In my novels, I've used issues such as the death penalty and human trafficking to add relevant texture to the stories. Page 69 opens two doors: one is to the inner demons - the post traumatic syndrome of the innocent jailed and then freed. The second is a door to a buried secret and how a horror from the past can intersect with greed in the present and create a dark crossroads to follow.

I hope you enjoy the story.
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Lowe's website.

The Page 69 Test: The 24th Letter.

My Book, The Movie: The Butterfly Forest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 2, 2011

"The Silence"

J. Sydney Jones is the author of a dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, including the first two novels of the Viennese Mystery series, The Empty Mirror and Requiem in Vienna. He lived for many years in Vienna and has written several other books about the city, including the narrative history, Hitler in Vienna: 1907-1913, the popular walking guide, Viennawalks, and the thriller, Time of the Wolf.

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Silence, and reported the following:
The Silence is the third book in my mystery/thriller series set in Vienna 1900. My protagonist, Karl Werthen, is a lawyer who also dabbles in private inquiries. A fictional creation, Werthen is usually joined in his investigations by the real life father of criminology, Hanns Gross, who yearns to test his investigative theories with actual cases.

In The Silence, Werthen is investigating a missing-persons case: the oldest son of powerful industrialist Karl Wittgenstein has disappeared and Werthen is brought in to solve the matter in the quietest and most discreet manner possible. But this investigation soon morphs into a much larger case, leading to the corridors of Vienna's City Hall and to a conspiracy that threatens the very rule of the aged Emperor Franz Josef.

Page 69 of The Silence finds Werthen just beginning to tug at a loose thread that will ultimately unravel this entire skein of deception and conspiracy. Werthen is often and ably accompanied in his inquiries by his wife, Berthe. But in this installment, she has just given birth to their daughter, and Werthen is on his own. Well, not quite.

On page 69 he arrives at his law office in Vienna's First District to discover a visitor waiting for him: his old friend and colleague Gross has come to Vienna from his post at the Franz-Josefs University in distant Czernowitz, where he holds the chair in criminology. Gross, usually quite bluff of manner, seems restrained today, downcast even, and no wonder. Werthen soon discovers that his former mentor has been impressed into escorting his wife Adele through the Vienna ball season of Fasching.

Indeed, the eminent criminologist has already attended the first of what is meant to be many balls, and he was not impressed. Here is Werthen and Gross's exchange on the matter:
‘Well, I for one think it is damn fine of you, Gross. Poor Adele has been pining to attend the Vienna ball season ever since I first met her in Graz.’

‘Oh, long before that, my dear friend.’

‘And you finally consented.’

‘Relented,’ Gross corrected. ‘And there was the plumiest band of dandies and swells in attendance at the ball. Insipid and bored lower aristocracy with too much drink taken. All they could think of doing to entertain themselves was wager thousands of crowns on snail races. My God, what an occupation.’
But Gross's spirits pick up once he learns of the case Werthen is working on. His time in Vienna will not be wasted after all. And Werthen can, indeed, use the help of this pioneer of criminology. Page 69 is thus a crucial turning point in The Silence, setting our investigative team into action.
Learn more about the book and author at J. Sydney Jones' website and blog.

Read "The Story Behind the Story: The Silence,” at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: The Empty Mirror.

The Page 69 Test: Requiem in Vienna.

--Marshal Zeringue