Monday, January 30, 2012

"The Exterminators"

Bill Fitzhugh is a writer. He’s published novels and short stories, has written television and film scripts, and he writes, produces, and hosts a show on the Deep Track Channel of Sirius-XM Satellite radio.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Exterminators, and reported the following:
Hmmmm. Hard to put myself in everyone or anyone else's head. Page 69 of The Exterminators is early in the introduction of one of the assassins who is on his way to find and kill Bob Dillon and Klaus. What follows is (in my opinion) very funny, but what's on page 69 is strictly set-up to the funny around the corner. That's in the nature of writing a comedy, be it a screenplay or a novel. You have to have moments of calm and normalcy followed by something wild and or abnormal. If everything that happens is way up here, you get exhausted. You need the roller coaster of reality and the absurd. Up and down….
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Fitzhugh's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"The Silent Oligarch"

For eleven years Christopher Morgan Jones worked at the world’s largest business intelligence agency, Kroll International. He has advised Middle Eastern governments, Russian oligarchs, New York banks, London hedge funds, and African mining companies.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Silent Oligarch, his first novel, and reported the following:
At a recent crime writers' event in a bookshop in Cambridge (England, where the book came out a few months ago) a prospective reader picked up a copy and told me she was carrying out the Page 70 test - apparently over here we're a page out. I didn't pass, evidently, because she didn't buy it, but that was the UK version, and maybe she'd have felt differently about the US edition. Page 69 finds Ben Webster, one of the main characters in the book and the closest thing it has to a hero, talking with one of his sources in a shabby London cafĂ©. Webster is a corporate investigator – part detective, part spy, as he puts it – who has been charged with destroying the reputation of a shadowy Russian bureaucrat, rumoured to be highly corrupt, who for the last ten years has been the power behind Russia’s energy industry. The man he’s meeting is Alan Knight, an English journalist who twenty years earlier went to Siberia to cover the oil industry, met and married a Russian and went native. Knight knows more about Russian oil than any Westerner alive, but clearly doesn’t want to talk about this: either he’s fantastically paranoid or he understands better than anyone how delicate and dangerous Webster’s questions really are. On the page in question he’s cagey and on edge, insisting that they change venue because he can’t be sure the original one is safe, and when they finally settle somewhere making Webster take the batteries out of his phone in case someone might be listening. I hope that anyone dipping in at this point would want to know why he was so afraid to talk and what he might be prepared to say. Webster certainly does:

“Webster put up with this degree of caution because Knight was good and because he had no competitors. If Russian business was famously opaque, energy was its dark centre, and Knight was one of the few peering in from the very rim.”
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Morgan Jones's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"The October Killings"

Wessel Ebersohn is an internationally published author who was born and lives in South Africa.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The October Killings—the first book in a new series marking his return to crime fiction—and reported the following:
Page 69 contains perhaps the key moment in the story. It is here that the two central protagonists meet for the first time. Abigail Bukula, a prosecutor in the South African justice department, has sought out Yudel Gordon, an aging Jewish prison psychologist, because she needs access to a prisoner in C-Max, the region’s maximum security prison.

This meeting sparks an odd-couple relationship in which Abigail’s attractiveness and force of personality combine with Yudel’s intuition and knowledge of the criminal mind. According to Library Journal, “Ebersohn vivdly portrays a divided nation in which a national hero may also be a contract killer – still at large. Highly recommended.”

On the subject of my two central characters: Yudel Gordon appeared in three earlier novels, but the arrival of the South African revolution brought with it the need for a new hero (or heroine) and Abigail Bukula was born. Not that I invented her. Abigail ambushed me while I was busy with other matters. Suddenly she was there, and I knew she belonged with Yudel, not as a lovers, but as an ally.
Learn more about the book and author at Wessel Ebersohn's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Slash and Burn"

Colin Cotterill is a London-born teacher, crime writer and cartoonist.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Slash and Burn, his latest novel, and reported the following:
I checked out page 69 of the Quercus hardback edition of Slash and Burn, number eight in the Siri Paiboun series. It contained a nice little mystery within a mystery. Photographs have been sent to the US embassy in Bangkok with no attached note and no sender ID. This could have led to an investigative cul-de-sac were it not for Siri and his team. They amaze the American interpreter by going over all the points that can be gleaned from photos.
‘It might help to identify the area,’ Phosy put in. ‘Vegetation.’

‘Different plants growing at different elevations,’ added Commander Lit.

‘If there are any locals in the pictures we might be able to identify their clothing,’ said Daeng. ‘At least we’d know what ethnic group we’re looking for.’

‘Even the pilot himself,’ Siri added. ‘After all these years he’d be wearing the clothes they provided. That could give us a clue.’

‘The weave of a sarong,’ said Daeng.

‘Just the style of putting together the bamboo hut,’ Phosy suggested. ‘Unique to different regions.’
My word, if you get that much value for money on just one page, imagine what a bargain the whole book would be.
Learn more about the book and author at Colin Cotterill's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 23, 2012

"When She Woke"

Hillary Jordan received her BA in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and spent fifteen years working as an advertising copywriter before starting to write fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.

Mudbound, her first novel, won the 2006 Bellwether Prize, founded by Barbara Kingsolver and awarded biennially to an unpublished debut novel that addresses issues of social justice, and a 2009 Alex Award from the American Library Association. Mudbound was also the 2008 NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Assoc.) Fiction Book of the Year and was longlisted for the 2009 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Paste Magazine named it one of the Top Ten Debut Novels of the Decade.

Jordan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, When She Woke, and reported the following:
When She Woke takes place in a right-wing American dystopia of the near future. On page 69, my heroine, Hannah Payne, has just been released from the Chrome Ward of the Crawford State Prison after a 30-day imprisonment. Like her literary forebear, Hester Prynne, Hannah has been severely stigmatized for having broken society’s rules. Her crime was abortion, for which she was convicted of second-degree murder; her punishment, to spend 16 years as a Red, her skin genetically altered to broadcast her offense to the world. In this scene, she’s waiting for her father to pick her up and worrying that he won’t come. This is where her journey begins, the moment when she has her first inkling of how vulnerable she will be as a Red in the outside world. But she has no idea of the trials and terrors that await her...

From page 69:
She’d been waiting for perhaps twenty minutes when a yellow van pulled into the lot and headed toward the gate, stopping right in front of her. A sign painted on the door read: Crawford Taxi Service, We’ll Gitcha There. The passenger-side window rolled down, and the driver, a middle-aged man with a greasy gray ponytail, leaned over and said, “You need a taxi?”

She stood up. “Maybe.” In Crawford, she could get something to eat and find a netlet to call her father. “How far’s town?”

“Fifteen minutes, give or take.”

“What’s the fare?”

“Well, let’s see now,” said the driver. “I reckon three hundred ought to just about cover it. Tip included.”

“That’s outrageous!”

He shrugged. “Ain’t many cabs’ll even pick up a Chrome.”

“See what I’m talking ’bout, gal?” drawled the guard from behind her. “It’s a tough ole world out there for a Red.” He was standing in front of the booth now, grinning, and Hannah realized that he must have called the cab. He and his buddy the driver had no doubt played out this scenario many times, splitting their despicable proceeds after the fact.

“Well?” said the driver. “I ain’t got all day.”
Learn more about the author and her work at Hillary Jordan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"The Hunter"

John Lescroart's many novels include Damage, Treasure Hunt, The Betrayal, The Suspect, The Hunt Club, The Motive, The Second Chair, The First Law, The Oath, The Hearing, and Nothing But the Truth.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his newly released novel The Hunter, and reported the following:
I’d say the Page 69 test is very representative of the prose and the tone of The Hunter, and would certainly tempt a reader to turn the page – forward or backward – and keep going. And this is my opinion even though page 69 is actually the last page of a chapter, and hence quite a bit short of a full page. But if you cheat (even just a little) and go back to page 68, you will certainly be hooked.
Learn more about the book and its author at John Lescroart's website.

Writers Read: John Lescroart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 20, 2012

"An Appetite For Murder"

Lucy Burdette is the author of nine mysteries, some of them written as Roberta Isleib.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the recently published An Appetite For Murder, the first in the Key West food critic mystery series, and reported the following:
As I write the first draft of a mystery, I constantly have to remind myself to up the ante on the trouble the character finds. As I've been taught, I try to think about what could be the worst thing that might happen, and then write something even worse. Because being kind to a character only leaches the tension out of the story.

On page 69, the police suspicions that my protagonist murdered her rival are starting to snowball in an ugly way. Hayley's been hauled in by the cops for breaking and entering, and possibly murder. And she's infuriated her best friend by using her cleaning service as a cover for snooping through a crime scene.

I kind of like the way things are going downhill, and fast:
"The detective pulled the newspaper from his pocket, smoothed it out on the table, and tapped my byline. “Is there anything you’d like to tell us about this?”

“Just that it might be a long time before I have a craving for key lime pie?” I tried. No one smiled. “The timing was not fortuitous,” I said. “But you can ask the editor at the paper. That piece was in the queue for almost a month—I sent it in even before Chad and I broke up.

I wrote it on spec and there was no guarantee they were going to publish it, never mind when. But it’s not like I wrote it last week and then got the bright idea to poison Chad’s new girlfriend.” I stopped to take a deep breath. “Why aren’t you looking at him?”

He ignored my question. “I thought your editor was the deceased Kristen Faulkner.”

“She was the co-owner of the magazine I hope to work for—a different entity from the local newspaper,” I said stiffly.

He made me hash through another series of questions about my aspirations to become the food critic at Kristen’s magazine and her aspirations to win my boyfriend. And I did my best to explain why these connections were unrelated to the murder.

“Where does your job stand in relation to Ms. Faulkner’s death?”

"That's a darn good question," I said."
Learn more about the book and author at Lucy Burdette's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Vulture Peak"

John Burdett practiced law for 14 years in London and Hong Kong until he was able to retire to write full time. He has lived in France, Spain, Hong Kong and the U.K. and now commutes between Bangkok and Southwest France.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Vulture Peak, the fifth and latest novel in his series featuring Bangkok police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, and reported the following:
In this case the Page is a perfect ambassador for the whole book. I'll have to be careful not to give too much away. Suffice to say that two very beautiful - and very ruthless - Chinese twins, Lilly and Polly Yip, are travelling first class with Sonchai on the way to Monte Carlo. Our fun-loving girls, though, cannot wait for the casino, they have to get the gambling fix right there in first class, where a fly has appeared on Lilly's window and, for a long moment, evades each twin's attempt to predict, for very high stakes, what it's next move will be.
Learn more about the book and author at John Burdett's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Godfather of Kathmandu.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 16, 2012

"From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant"

Alex Gilvarry is a native of Staten Island, New York. He has been a Norman Mailer Fellow and has written for The Paris Review, among other publications. He is the founding editor of the website Tottenville Review, a book review collaborative.

Gilvarry applied the Page 69 Test to From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Even though I know in my heart of hearts that the page 69 test shouldn’t work, I still feel like I failed the exam. In fact, on the night I first came upon this blog, I had my usual anxiety nightmare. I’m walking through the halls of my high school, arriving late for homeroom, where a test of unspecified origins is being taken. It’s the final. I can tell by the way Anthony Lebecci is cheating over Mike DeSorentino’s shoulder. And there’s that son-of-a-bitch Artie Polakis giving me the finger with his tongue out. Miss Mora, the Spanish teacher, is seated next to him with her arms wrapped around Polakis’s fat neck. Then the bell rings. Test’s over.

On page 69 of my novel, we’re caught mid-scene. It’s a moment between our hero, Boy Hernandez—fashion designer, immigrant, and soon to be enemy combatant—and a man named Ahmed Qureshi, a Pakistani salesman. Boy’s being roped into a fabric deal by Ahmed, one that will set off a series of events that leads Boy into the hands of homeland security. It’s a hard-luck story of post-9/11 paranoia, part political satire and part coming-of-age tale (though our narrator is a 25-year-old man).
[Ahmed] was a persuasive salesman… So there I was, looking after my own interests. But isn’t that why we do anything? As citizens of modernity we’re always trying to better our social status, right down to the smallest detail. Luxury, comfort, it’s all a part of getting ahead. If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty as charged.
Here, Boy is trying to justify his own actions—to himself, to his interrogator in Guantanamo Bay prison, and to the reader—and his admission of outright social climbing is quite evident, too. “I was desperate to move into Williamsburg, where I knew I truly belonged.”

My page 69 is mostly dialogue, so the reader will tend to feel a bit lost. You’ll be entering my high school anxiety dream, walking into a final, head first, without a clue in the world. As the author, I definitely recommend sampling page one first (for context) then perhaps hop to page 69. Only then will it pass the test.
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Gilvarry's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Three-Day Town"

Margaret Maron grew up on a farm near Raleigh and lived in Brooklyn for many years. Returning to her North Carolina roots prompted Maron to write a series based on her own background, the first of which, Bootlegger's Daughter, was a Washington Post bestseller and swept the major mystery awards for 1993.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Three-Day Town, the seventeenth book in the acclaimed Deborah Knott series, and reported the following:
Three-Day Town is the 17th in my series about NC District Court Judge Deborah Knott, who lives and works in a semi-rural area of eastern North Carolina. All of the previous books were set in the state but when her new sister-in-law offers her a week in a New York apartment, Deborah quickly accepts. She and Major Dwight Bryant of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Department have been married a full year without having taken an honeymoon. New York in January with its ice and snow and sub-freezing temperature may not seem like the best choice for a belated honeymoon, but they have to take what I give them.

Almost immediately they are invited to a winter party down the hall. When they return to the apartment a couple of hours later, they find the door on the latch and a body chilling on the balcony. The first officer on the scene is Lt. Sigrid Harald of the NYPD, the main protagonist of my first mystery series.

My readers have long wanted to see the two meet and this gave me the opportunity. Although Sigrid is a cool professional and a New Yorker through and through, she has Southern roots. Long before I ever created Deborah Knott, I had given Sigrid a North Carolina grandmother. On page 69 of Three-Day Town, it has snowed heavily the night before. Sigrid’s in the Greenwich Village house she shares with her housemate, a would-be mystery writer who keeps trying to pick her brains for plot ideas. This scene shows her worry about her elderly grandmother and how she interacts with her team, both important factors in this book:
“I doubt it. And it’s not that interesting except that the murder weapon is probably a little bronze thing my grandmother sent up for Mother.” Knowing that [her housemate] would not leave it alone until she defused his interest, she gave him a bare bones synopsis of last night and then went down to her room to dress.

9:15 and Grandmother Lattimore had always been an early riser, so she dialed the 919 area code. After two rings, a soft Southern voice answered. “Lattimore residence.”

“May I speak to Mrs. Lattimore?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” said the unfamiliar voice. “Mrs. Lattimore is sleeping. May I take a message?”

Surprised, Sigrid identified herself. “Grandmother’s not sick, is she?”

“She said she was just a little tired, ma’am, but I’m sure she’ll be awake soon.”

“Tell her I’ll call back this afternoon after church.” Her grandmother might be past ninety, but she had an iron will and Sigrid doubted that a little tiredness would keep her from Sunday morning services.

Moments later, she was speaking to a desk sergeant at a nearby precinct house who promised that he would have a car meet her at the corner of the closest uptown street.

# #

At the office, Sam Hentz gave a tight smile when he saw her and held out his hand to the others, who groaned and handed over their dollar bills.

Sigrid seldom bantered with them, but their chagrinned looks amused her and she paused to push back the hood of her white parka and unwrap the fleecy turquoise scarf that had protected her face from the worst of the icy wind sweeping off the Hudson when she made her way to West Street earlier.

“What?” she said. “You thought a little snow would keep me home?”
Having taken Deborah to NYC in this book, my next book The Buzzard Table, will bring Sigrid down to Deborah’s turf. Turnabout, etc.
Learn more about the book and author at Margaret Maron's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"The Boy Who Shoots Crows"

Randall Silvis is a novelist, screenwriter, essayist and teacher.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Boy Who Shoots Crows, and reported the following:
It is such an interesting notion—and such a useful exercise for writers—to test whether a page chosen at random, any page, in this case page 69, fulfills its purpose, justifies its existence. Does that page illuminate character? Advance the plot? Provide necessary exposition? Or, at the least, establish setting and, in doing so, suffuse that setting with a palpable atmosphere of expectation, menace, dread, false gaiety, impending doom? Any page that fails to provide at least one of those elements should be excised, ripped out.

And so, I tested my novel not once but twice—first with page 69, and then with page 96.

And whew! I’m happy to answer yes to both pages. Yes, you can stay. Seven paragraphs in total, all working, colluding, all are welcome to remain.

Nearly all of the action on page 69 is interior action, but it casts an illuminating light on the protagonist. It shows that, even in happier times, Charlotte is quick to turn reality into an impressionist painting, part Norman Rockwell, part David Lynch.

First paragraph, page 96: Happy times no more. The search begins. We are deep in the pines, but where is the missing boy? Where is the helpless child? The gray mist of morning—not sun-limned but gray. No rosy glow this morning, no quiet ebullience of a new beginning. A pallbearer’s trudge through the scene of the crime. Also in this paragraph we get another indication of the protagonist’s proclivity for distancing herself emotionally from unpleasant circumstances.

Paragraph 2: The camera pans to a wide shot. Then tightens to a medium shot, then to a reaction shot on the protagonist as she sees what the reader sees.

Paragraph 3: She retreats into a memory, relives her therapist’s words of advice, and tries her best to implement them.

Paragraph 4: She is unsuccessful.

And so, just what does my page 69 do? It reveals character, and shows the protagonist’s desire to escape mundane reality. And page 96? It moves the plot forward a lurch or two, but, more importantly, it establishes the sense of crushing dread that will envelop the protagonist over the next 300 pages.

Am I completely happy with these pages, or with any of the 356 pages? Is a writer ever completely happy with his work? Yes—five minutes before he starts writing the story.

After that? Probably not.
Learn more about the book and author at Randall Silvis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"A Vine in the Blood"

Leighton Gage lives in a small town in Brazil where he writes police procedurals set in that country.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Vine in the Blood, his new Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation, and reported the following:
Two different newspapers have used the same word to describe my work.

The word was “irresistible”.

The New York Times used it, last year, to describe Every Bitter Thing.

And last month, the Toronto Globe and Mail applied the same adjective to A Vine in the Blood.

The book also got a star from Publishers Weekly.

But it failed the page 69 test.

The words on the page aren’t representative of the book as a whole.

Nor would they inspire you, if you were skimming that page, to read on.

Oh, yeah, they advance the story, and I need them, but they’re not particularly clever, or funny or shocking, or…much of anything.

So that, for me, is a big, fat zero as far as the Page 69 Test is concerned.

The beginning, on the other hand…

Here are the very first words in the book:

“Less than an hour after Juraci Santos was unceremoniously dumped into the back seat of her kidnappers’ getaway car, Luca Vaz crept through her front gate and poisoned her bougainvilleas”.


Maybe I can get my publisher to start numbering from page 69 when they bring out the paperback.
Learn more about the book and author at Leighton Gage's website and the Murder is Everywhere blog.

The Page 69 Test: Every Bitter Thing.

Writers Read: Leighton Gage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Point, Click, Love"

Molly Shapiro is the author of Eternal City, winner of the Willa Cather Fiction Prize. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown and a master’s degree in creative writing from Columbia.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Point, Click, Love, and reported the following:
I’m happy to report that page 69 of Point, Click, Love is totally representative of the book. It’s the scene where Katie, one of the four main characters, is on her first date with a man she met online named Ed. Katie is a 34-year-old divorcee with two small children who’s reluctantly decided to go to an Internet dating site to satisfy her need for male companionship of the physical nature.

Ed is older than Katie, kind of aggressive, and already appears to be quite enamored with her. Katie hasn’t yet let her guard down, and is maintaining somewhat of a sarcastic distance from her suitor.
“So, Katie,” said Ed. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what are you looking for from”

Katie hadn’t prepared for this type of question. She felt like a contestant on The Bachelor, being asked if she was “there for the right reasons.” Katie had a feeling that “needing to have sex” was not “the right reason” for a woman of her age to go on, so she figured she should say something more innocuous. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just looking to meet new people.”
When Katie asks Ed why he’s on, he says he’s looking to meet single women, but always holds out hope that he might find “The One.”
The One? Katie was a bit taken aback by this forty-six-year-old man with graying hair talking about finding The One. Having already found and dispensed with her first “One,” Katie no longer believed in that little fantasy. There was “That One,” and then there was “The Other One,” and maybe, if she was lucky, there would be “Yet Another One.”

“Good luck to you now,” said Katie, lifting her cosmo and taking a swig.

“Are you really so cynical?” asked Ed.

“Of course not!” said Katie with mock indignation. “Just because I spent my entire adult life with one man thinking he was the love of my life and now I’m a 30-something on a first date with a guy I met online, why would I be cynical?”
I love Katie because, on one hand, she’s wise to all the crap that guys like Ed shovel out, but on the other, deep down she is looking for more than just sex—she’s looking for love like everyone else out there. It’s fun to see how Katie’s attitude toward this whole online dating adventure changes as she confronts a string of men who bring her joy, grief, annoyance and, potentially, love.
Learn more about the book and author at Molly Shapiro's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 6, 2012

"A Walk Across the Sun"

Corban Addison holds degrees in law and engineering from the University of Virginia and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. In researching A Walk Across the Sun, his first novel, Addison traveled to India and spent a month with a team of investigators, attorneys and social workers from the International Justice Mission. During his visit, he went undercover into the brothels of Mumbai and met trafficking victims face to face. In addition, he spent time with activists in Paris and with a senior official from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Addison applied the Page 69 Test to A Walk Across the Sun and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Walk Across the Sun lies at the core of one of the most dramatic sequences in the novel and stands as a defining moment in the lives of Ahalya and Sita Ghai, the Indian sisters whose story of loss, peril, exploitation, and rescue carries the lion’s share of the narrative.

Set behind the closed doors of a brothel in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s infamous red light district, page 69 describes the sale of a virgin girl to a wealthy customer for sex. The transaction is a study in contrasts: the cold negotiation of Suchir, the brothel owner, and Shankar, the customer, over terms; and the terror of seventeen-year-old Ahalya whose innocence is on the auction block.

The scene opens in the attic room where Ahalya and Sita are imprisoned. Sumeera, the madam, issues them a summons:
“Wake up, children,” she said nervously. “It’s time to dress.”
She gives the girls luxurious clothing and jewelry to wear, for the transaction, to be profitable, requires the illusion that the girls are free and desire the customer’s affection. The sisters dress and follow Suchir downstairs. In the hallway of sex rooms, older prostitutes whisper about the premium the girls’ virginity will bring:
“Fifty thousand,” a tall girl guessed. “More,” said her neighbor.
At the brothel owner’s command, Sita stays in the hallway while Ahalya follows Suchir into the lobby where Shankar is waiting.
He was forty-something, with a head of black curls and a gold watch on his wrist. He eyed Ahalya appraisingly while Suchir pulled the window shades. Suchir flipped a switch, and a bank of recessed bulbs installed above the mirror flooded the room with light. In a gentle voice, he directed Ahalya to stand beneath the glare and to look at the man. Ahalya obeyed for a brief moment, and then her eyes fell to the floor.
For an instant Ahalya’s humanity halts the inexorable march of the transaction. Then the brokering begins, the haggling, the inspection, and finally the bargain. For sixty thousand rupees (roughly $1,200), Shankar purchases Ahalya’s innocence. Back in the attic room, he greets her with the unforgettable words:
“Tonight is your wedding night.”
More than perhaps any other page in the novel, page 69 reveals the horror of human trafficking, the fastest growing criminal enterprise on Earth. And while A Walk Across the Sun has many additional dimensions—the unbreakable bond between the sisters, the transcontinental search undertaken by Thomas Clarke, an American lawyer, for Sita after she is separated from Ahalya, the story of Thomas’s love for his wife, Priya, nearly undone by tragedy, yet ultimately redeemed, and the future of promise that all of them discover in the end—the tale of the novel is the tale of the trade in human beings.

At its heart, A Walk Across the Sun presents a truth and a question: Children like Ahalya and Sita are not fiction. They are real. What are we going to do about it?
Learn more about the book and author at Corban Addison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Bone Worship"

Iranian-American author Elizabeth Eslami was born in Gaffney, South Carolina. She attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she received her B.A. in 2000. She went on to earn an M.F.A. from the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Bone Worship, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Excerpt from page 69:
People began to gather around the snake handler, but they were not like his boys with their amber eyes and the pressure of their eager concentration. They stood and shifted their weight, some looked back to the fountain, their attention elsewhere. The snake handler circled his coiled cobra. It was still, throwing its head at him just twice.

How many times have you been bitten? a young girl asked him. I bet you’ve had the fangs removed, someone said. They don’t even have to do that, they milk out the venom, someone else replied.

The snake handler returned to his family with less money than he had when he left. He told his wife what happened. She nodded and painted her lips. He looked at himself in the mirror and was glad he had married a woman who did not speak. Outside, his sons played with the cobra. It won’t eat, they told him. It seems sick.

It is old, the snake handler said.
Bone Worship is a hybrid, a story of the relationship between an American daughter and her Iranian father, and a story about stories. It looks at why we tell ourselves what we do and what it means for that kind of storytelling – especially about the ones we know and love best – to function medicinally, doing good things for a troubled heart.

This micro-tale about the snake handler, which comes to an end on page 69 and into page 70, is representative of that fantasy half of the novel, another in a series about Jasmine Fahroodhi’s father that might or might not be true, along with stories about wolves and Eskimos, ominous pistachio trees, and dead brides. While this passage might seem on its face to traffic in the exotic, (an Indian snake handler, no less!) it’s really a snapshot of a man after a bad day at work, albeit a man whose work involves dancing around a cobra. Like anyone else, he has to come home to his family, to his quiet wife and his worried sons, knowing that the future is uncertain.

Would someone want to read on, you ask? I hope so. If readers enjoy being transported to a world of animals, tame and wild, of human deeds strange, loving, and cruel, I think they’ll like this novel. Mostly, I just want people to connect to the idea of embracing the mysteries of those we love. Sometimes, in the end, we have to fill a wound with stories.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth Eslami's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 2, 2012

"One Hundred and One Nights"

Benjamin Buchholz served as a Civil Affairs Officer in Safwan, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006. His nonfiction book Private Soldiers was published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in 2007.

He applied the Page 69 Test to One Hundred and One Nights, his first novel, and reported the following:
When I opened to Page 69 of One Hundred and One Nights my first reaction was 'ughh . . . not this page.' It's a section from a slightly off-kilter thread of backstory in the book. In that light, it doesn't fit very well as a representation for the main thrust of the novel, missing the spritely Layla character altogether. It is also a page I tinkered with in several revisions, mostly because it provides a lot of information in a short amount of space. In brief, the narrator's big brother comes back from training in Saddam's army prior to the Iran-Iraq war. He's boastful. He and his father renew their confrontation with the father providing a bit of foreshadowing in a silent, but hopefully creepy, way. I suppose that is the best part of page 69, a couple of lines of dialogue out of which a reader could parse a lot of fine distinctions between the various wars in Iraq and between the characters in this scene. Here are the relevant bits:
"The war will be over in three weeks," Yasin boasted.

"Don't be so sure," my father replied.

"We have the latest Soviet tanks on the ground, the latest MiGs in the sky," said Yasin.

"But they have religion," my father said...
In our largely secular Western mindset, what value does religion play when it comes to war? Is this father-character commenting on jihad, the legitimate Qur'anic compulsion to not only fight the 'lesser jihad' of physical war but also the 'greater jihad' of self-improvement and self-surrender to God's will? And how does the narrator's brother, this Yasin, in his adherence to technology, set himself up to seem false in comparison to his father's quiet doubt? These questions would be useful to a reader even when they think about and read about the young lady Layla who is fascinated with American pop culture, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madonna, and The Beverly Hillbillies. Page 69 is a good counterpoint to Layla, laying out something very different, something much darker than her daydreams and fantasies and childish aspirations.
Learn more about the book and author at Benjamin Buchholz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue