Friday, March 30, 2012


Robert J. Sawyer is one of only eight writers in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world's top Science Fiction awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Triggers, and reported the following:
From page 69:
the president, it was the FBI that investigated attacks on him. But the two FBI agents dispatched to Danbury's home had asked Cheung to join them, since he'd been familiar with the deceased. Gordo lived an hour's drive southwest of DC, in Fredericksburg, Virginia -- far enough away that his place hadn't been affected by the electromagnetic pulse.

It didn't take long to find what they were looking for. Danbury had an old Gateway desktop computer, with a squarish matte-finish LCD monitor, an aspect ratio that was hard to get these days; both were connected to a UPS box. He'd left them on, with a Microsoft Word document open on the screen. The document said:

You'll never understand why I did this, I know, but it was the right thing. They won't let me get away, but that doesn't matter. I'm in heaven now, receiving my reward.

Praise be to God.
Cheung glanced around; there was no sign of a printer. "He expected to die today," he said. "And he knew we'd find this."

The FBI agents were both white, but one was stocky and the other thin. The stocky one said, "But he ran."

"If he hadn't, he'd have been gunned down," said Cheung. "Sure, Gordo was a sharpshooter, but he'd have been facing a swarm of armed Secret Service agents; they'd have had no trouble taking him out, and he had to know that. Once he shot the president, he knew he'd be neutralized."

"Did you know he was religious?" asked the thin FBI man, whose name was Smith, as he pointed at the glowing words.

"No," said Cheung. "Never heard him mention it."

"`Praise be to God,'" Smith said. "Odd way to phrase it."

Cheung frowned, then gestured at the computer. "May I?"

"Just a minute," said the heavier agent, Kranz. He took a series of photos of the computer as they'd found it, and dusted the keyboard for
Triggers is my 21st novel, and the first new one I've written since FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name, went off the air. That series brought me more new readers than anything else in my career. My original FlashForward novel was a philosophical exploration of fate and free will, but ABC made it into a slam-bang conspiracy-theory thriller (with my blessing and participation -- I wrote one of the episodes and consulted on all of them).

Because of the big new influx of readers who associate me more with thriller than science fiction, I decided to make Triggers a novel that might please both audiences: the readers who have been with me for years, and the new ones. Page 69 gives a good sense of some of the thriller elements in Triggers: an attempted assassination of the president, a conspiracy in the Secret Service, and more.

What's missing from it is anything science fictional, but, trust me, that's in there, too (indeed, the novel was serialized prior to book publication in Analog, the world's #1 bestselling English-language science-fiction magazine), although the whole thing should be readily accessible to people who don't normally read science fiction.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert J. Sawyer's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The Games"

Ted Kosmatka was born and raised in northwest Indiana and spent more than a decade working in various laboratories there before moving to the Pacific Northwest. His short fiction has been nominated for both the Nebula Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He now works in the videogame industry where he’s a full-time writer at Valve, home of Half-Life, Portal and Dota 2.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Games, his first novel, and reported the following:
The scene isn't necessarily representative of the novel as a whole, but it is a nice snapshot of Evan, the savant responsible for the creation of the Brannin computer. The scene describes the last moments before Evan disappears into virtual space to commune with Pea, the secret splintered personality hidden within the computer. Dangerous authority figures look on, but they will be powerless to interfere with what they don't understand. Just as Evan was responsible for the creation of the computer, the computer is responsible for the design of the U.S. gladiator. Both the computer and the gladiator are flawed creations and yet at the same time are far more than what they seem to be on the surface.

From page 69:
It didn't take long to attach the probes and strap him into the booth. The cloth pinched a little at his crotch, but by shifting his weight, it was tolerable. The nice-teeth woman in the jumper lowered the faceplate, and his vision lost its reds. He caught Baskov's critical eye in the crowd just before his vision opaqued. Well, to hell with him; he wasn't going to ruin Evan's day. The old gimp could glare all he wanted, but Evan would have his two minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Almost an eternity.
Learn more about the book and author at Ted Kosmatka's website and blog.

Writers Read: Ted Kosmatka.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Rizzo’s Daughter"

Lou Manfredo, author of Rizzo’s Fire and Rizzo’s War, worked in the Brooklyn criminal justice system for twenty-five years. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Brooklyn Noir.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Rizzo’s Daughter, his third novel, and reported the following:
The Page 69 Test for Rizzo’s Daughter catches Sgt. Joe Rizzo in the midst of a tense, high pressure investigation into the car-jacking of a young mother and child. Although the case is secondary to the broader theme of the book, the page manages to prove reflective of the novel’s essence.

In this, the third of my Rizzo trilogy, the narrative tension and general pace of the over-riding story line has been considerably increased from the earlier two books. The ancillary investigation captured on page 69 serves as a good barometer for the novel itself: Quicker, crisper and more power punched than its precedents, the book represents a gear shift which I had long planned. One example, Rizzo no longer has a rookie partner to mentor. Instead, he is teamed up with the savvy, seasoned Sixty-second Precinct veteran, Detective First Grade Mark Ginsberg. Sadly, we don’t see too much of Mark on page 69, but trust me on this: He’s a guy to watch, an extremely entertaining character. I had a great amount of fun playing Mark against Joe Rizzo, and I hope my readers will have a similar experience.

On a personal note, as much as I’ve loved watching Joe work over the course of the first two novels, Rizzo’s Daughter has become my favorite. The ultimate verdict, of course, as always, lies with my readers. I’ll await their feedback and hopefully they’ll agree that Rizzo’s Daughter is a solid, fast read with a stark and darker tone.
Learn more about the book and author at Lou Manfredo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Rizzo's War.

Writers Read: Lou Manfredo (April 2011).

My Book, The Movie: Rizzo's Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"The Reeducation of Cherry Truong"

Aimee Phan grew up in Orange County, California, and now teaches in the MFA Writing Program and Writing and Literature Program at California College of the Arts. A 2010 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, Aimee received her MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where she won a Maytag Fellowship. Her first book, We Should Never Meet, was named a Notable Book by the Kiryama Prize in fiction and a finalist for the 2005 Asian American Literary Awards. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, and The Oregonian among others.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Reeducation of Cherry Truong, and reported the following:
I was so happy to discover what scene I landed on for this test, because it fortuitously foreshadows the central conflict of the novel: how my main protagonist Cherry grapples with the unfair expectations her Vietnamese immigrant family thrusts upon her, her brother, and cousins to succeed in America.

On page 69, we join Cherry, age 8, and her older brother Lum, 13, at their grandmother’s birthday party, where they are promptly confronted with a surprise palm reading by their grandmother’s closest psychic friend Ba Liem. While Cherry’s horoscope is rather uninspiring and sexist (she can be a nurse to her doctor husband!), Lum’s prediction sadly confirms the boy’s worst fears of inadequacy:
“This one is murky,” she pronounced. “I can’t get a clear reading on him. He is too impressionable, easily influenced by his peers. He must be watched very carefully...his eyes are good now, but he may require reading spectacles when he is forty-two.”

Both Grandmother Vo and Ba Nhanh leaned forward, as if to examine Lum with a new perspective.

“I suspected this one may be more troublesome,” Ba Nhanh said.

“He doesn’t do as well in school as his sister,” Grandmother Vo said to the twins. “His parents say he has poor reading skills, but perhaps it’s more than that.”

Lum withdrew his hand. “I’m doing fine in school.”

The old ladies stared at him with oval mouths.

“Impudent child!” Grandmother Vo said. “Ba Liem is honoring you with a reading and you disrespect her like this?”

“We shouldn’t be surprised,” Ba Liem said, nodding in satisfaction. “I will speak with his mother later. We will stop it, Ba Kim, before he gets too unruly.”
And of course, readers know at this point that he will be very unruly! But I love how this scene not only shows the significance of superstition in this family’s biases against each other, but it also reveals the children’s resistance of these preordained fates. Yet, this silly fortuneteller’s words will cast a large shadow over these children, no matter how much they try to deny it.
Learn more about the book and author at Aimee Phan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Towman's Daughters"

David J. Walker is the author of eleven mystery/suspense novels.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Towman’s Daughters, the sixth book in his “Wild Onion, Ltd.” series, and reported the following:
Most people (including the editors of Microsoft Word’s dictionary) don’t even know “towman” is a word. But ask the folks at American Towman magazine, and then check out the prestigious Order of Towman award given each year to operators (some of them female, by the way) of vehicle towing operations for outstanding service to their communities. I’m not kidding; you can Google it.

The Towman’s Daughters stars Chicago private eye Kirsten and opens with her lawyer husband Dugan, who’s not totally wasted at the time, going to Wancho’s Towing at one a.m. to ransom his towed car. At Wancho’s he stumbles across an obvious crime in progress. His Sir Galahad instincts kick in and he rescues the beautiful young Isobel Cho from an armed abductor. This being a crime novel, though, the obvious isn’t what it seems. The rescued Isobel, a recent graduate of a prestigious east coast university, is handed over to her father, Mr. Juan Cho, the decidedly low-life owner of Wancho’s. Two days later she goes missing, and it’s up to Kirsten and Dugan to find her.

What about page 69? Well, by then Kirsten has tracked down Isobel and has her stashed away with a bodyguard named Cuffs Radovich, hopefully safe from whoever it is who’s stalking her. And on page 69 we find Kirsten accusing Cho of being less than forthright—well, OK, lying through his teeth—not just about Isobel, but also about the threat to his other daughter, nine-year-old Luisa.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Cho sat upright again, and put his palms flat on the table and leaned toward her. “It’s time for me to leave. I don’t know you, and I don’t know that you’re really working for Isobel.”

“Ask her yourself. Does she know your cell number?”


Kirsten took out her cell phone and called Cuffs. “I’m with Isobel’s father. Have her call him. Right now.”

Cho already had his cell in his hand. It rang almost at once and he answered.

“Yeah, it’s me. Hold on a minute.” Then he stood up and walked outside. She watched through the window as he paced back and forth and spoke into the phone.

It was pretty clear, both from his body language and his expression, when she could see his face, that Isobel had quickly verified that Kirsten was on her side, but the conversation didn’t end there. Cho was arguing with her. In a few minutes he gave up, and came back inside and sat down across from her again.

“Did she tell you where she was?” Kirsten asked.

Of course she didn’t. She’s following Kirsten’s orders, and Kirsten believes the thuggish Juan Cho, though he clearly loves his daughters, may be the real source of their troubles.

So what does page 69 give us? A glimpse of a smart, resourceful, female private eye, faced with an archetypal private eye problem: a witness who ought to be on her side, but who obviously isn’t telling her what he knows. The question is…why?

And the answer to that…hidden beneath layers of greed and betrayal, politics and murder… may reveal just how far a father’s love for his daughters will take him.
Learn more about the book and author at David J. Walker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Throne of The Crescent Moon"

Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Dearborn, Michigan.

He holds a BA in American Culture from the University of Michigan, an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College, and an MA in English from Rutgers. His poetry has received several fellowships, and he has taught writing at universities and colleges for over ten years.

His short stories have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards, and have appeared in Year’s Best Fantasy and numerous other magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, as well as being translated into five foreign languages.

Ahmed applied the Page 69 Test to Throne of the Crescent Moon, his first novel, and reported the following:
Well, huh. As it turns out, page 69 of Throne of The Crescent Moon is both a representative and atypical moment in the novel.

It's representative because it's dedicated to depicting the city of Dhamsawaat, my sort of Lankhmar/medieval Baghdad hybrid, and the setting for the great bulk of the action in Throne. A number of reviewers and readers have described Dhamsawaat as being one of the main characters of the novel. and I'm inclined to agree.

The atypical part here is that the King of Cities is being seen through the eyes of a desert tribeswoman, the teen werelioness Zamia, who has just entered Dhamsawaat for the first time. Before we get to this scene we spend a good forty pages in the head of the old Dhamsawaat native Adoulla watching, smelling, and listening to the Jewel of Abassen's festivals, traffic jams, and executions.

And yet, even in this, perhaps there's something representative: Allowing the reader to see the same scene and setting through different sets of eyes - allowing them to walk the same streets in different shoes - is a technique I use a fair amount...

From page 69: was terrifying. Men’s and women’s scents bled together with a thousand others, and countless people darted in and out of her peripheral vision.

How could she scent out enemies in a crowd like this?

“There are so many people here!” she said without meaning to.

“You should have seen it on our way out of here!” the old man bellowed. He turned to Raseed. “We’ll get home twice as quick, I think.”

Zamia had trouble imagining the streets being any more crowded. Veiled Rughali women lined the street, grinding sweet-smelling spice with pestles the size of war clubs. Girls in gemthread half-robes walked arm-in-arm with soft, wealthy-looking men. Two boys led small goats along the edge of the crowd. She even saw two men wearing the camel calf suede of Badawi tribesmen. She avoided their eyes, but they seemed more interested in the city itself than in the odd sight of a young tribeswoman alone in the Jewel of Abassen. Zamia tried to ignore all of the beast- and people-scents as best she could—the sights were confusing enough.

A hard-faced man jumped in her path. Zamia tensed for a fight, weighing the risks of taking the shape in this unfamiliar place. The man, smelling of deceit, shook a leather cup and screamed about triangle dice. Before Zamia could do anything, the Doctor elbowed the man away, spitting something about rigged games of chance. The man bowed mockingly and turned to his next potential player.

Again she resisted the urge to turn on her heel and run at lion-speed back into the desert. But she thought of her father, who had been to Dhamsawaat once in his youth. This gave her strength—If Nadir Banu Laith Badawi had visited this monstrous place and lived to tell the tale, surely his daughter could honor his memory by doing the same. Thoughts of her father and of his fate filled her with increasing resolution. She reminded herself that the path to vengeance— the only thing she lived for now—moved through this sandstorm of a city and its colorful carpet of…hundreds of people? Thousands? She did not have
words for the number of people who must live in such a place.

They continued down the street slowly, the press of the crowd preventing them from moving any faster...
Learn more about the book and author at Saladin Ahmed's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2012

"The Reconstructionist"

Nick Arvin is the award-winning author of the novel Articles of War, named one of the Best Books of the Year by Esquire, and the story collection In the Electric Eden. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he also holds degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and Stanford, and has worked in both automotive and forensic engineering.

Arvin applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Reconstructionist, and reported the following:
It turns out that page 69 of The Reconstructionist is a great introduction to the book's themes and two of the principal characters, Ellis Barstow and his boss John Boggs. Here is the complete page 69 text:
“I don’t really know what an accident is.”

This -- or a version of this -- was one of Boggs'’s themes.

“Everything,” Boggs would say, “depends on the contingent and the adventitious” -- Boggs, liking that word, drew it out -- “and if some people make some decisions that result in the physical interference of one vehicle with another in an intersection, and that can be called an accident, then what can'’t be called an accident? Where my footsteps fall, where I place my hands, where I sit, where I stand, how I appear in the world, who I speak to, the kind of work I do, who I befriend, who I fall in love with?” Boggs pouted. “Accident?”

It had taken Ellis a long time to realize that Boggs didn'’t generally keep friends. He could be too overbearing, too blunt, too indifferent, too chatty, too silent. But somehow, because Ellis worked for him and because Boggs loved the work, Ellis was shielded from the worst of these traits. Moreover, by the nature of the work they were often seated side-by-side for long periods -- in airports, airplanes, rental cars, and hotel bars as they traveled to inspect accident scenes and vehicles -- and the demands of the work curtailed other relationships even as the two of them were pushed together. They talked about books, and they joked easily, and they could be silent easily.
The title of the novel comes from the type of work that Ellis and Boggs do: they reconstruct how and why car crashes occurred, using forensic engineering techniques. I'm an engineer myself, and I worked in accident reconstruction for a while. It's very interesting work but discomforting in the way that it applies cold, analytical techniques to examining situations that are full of coincidence and human drama.

The Reconstructionist represents my effort to explore this conflict inherent in the work. The problems of accident and fate that Boggs describes on page 69 run through the novel, as do the problems of the uneasy friendship between Ellis and Boggs. The only big things that are missing on page 69 are the two other principal characters: Ellis' half-brother, Christopher, who died in his youth and haunts everyone, and Heather, a young woman who comes to a difficult position at the center of the knot that ties all the characters together in their tragedies and struggles.

The story also involves an illicit love affair, Legos, a zombie pig, and of course a couple of car crashes. I hope you'll check it out.
Learn more about the book and author at Nick Arvin's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Lauren Groff is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Monsters of Templeton and the critically acclaimed short story collection Delicate Edible Birds. She has won Pushcart and PEN/O. Henry prizes, and has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers. Her stories have appeared in publications including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, One Story, and Ploughshares, and have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories 2007 and 2010, and Best New American Voices 2008.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Arcadia, and reported the following:
Possibly apropos for a post called "Page 69," Arcadia's page 69 is a climax (of sorts). The first half of the novel takes place in a utopianist community in upstate New York called Arcadia. My main character, Bit Stone, is five at the time and has just been lost in the terrifying winter woods all afternoon. He is cold and it's dark and he was frightened enough to pee his pants, and now he feels as if he's being chased, and he sees glowing across the pond that the ancient building that his community is restoring, open for dinner for the first time. He runs toward its warmth and light and his mother, Hannah, who is helping to cook the community meal.

From page 69:
He bursts inside, into the overwhelming warmth. Here, too, is a thicket of legs like birch trunks, and he almost runs into one. Hey, there, man, someone says. Whoa, where's the emergency, someone else says. What the hey was that? someone asks, and someone else says, Oh, just your average forest elf, and there is laughter and he screws his fists and pushes harder.

The kitchen blasts with heat, hurts him. It smells so good he wants to cry. It is something fried, vegetable stew. He finds Hannah stirring vinegar into the roasted beets in a huge steel bowl, and clutches her knees. She smiles down at him. She lifts him and washes his face with warm water at one of the sinks. She says Brr, when she touches his hands, and picks the leaves and twigs out of his hair and lifts him to sniff at his rear end, and makes a little face, shrugging. We all have accidents, she whispers. It's okay once in a while to piss yourself, I'd say.

He puts his face close to his mother's warm mouth, and like that, the chasing thing in the woods draws away and dissolves back into the night.
Learn more about the book and author at Lauren Groff's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: The Monsters of Templeton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"The Devil's Bones"

Larry D. Sweazy's first western, The Rattlesnake Season, a Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger novel, was released in 2009. Book #2 in the Josiah Wolfe series, The Scorpion Trail, followed in 2010. Book #3, The Badger's Revenge, was released on April, 2011, and Book #4, The Cougar's Prey, followed in October, 2011.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Devil's Bones, his first mystery novel, and reported the following:
Interestingly, this page definitely reflects the book. It captures the environment, the overgrown, unkemptness of the pond where a severe drought has exposed a skeleton—the event that drew the marshal and Jordan McManus, the main character, to the pond in the first place. It also introduces the sheriff, who is suspicious of Jordan, and the story he tells about the unfolding events. And it is the first up close viewing Jordan actually gets of the skeleton. Like everybody else, he think the skeleton belongs to Tito Cordova, a half-white, half-Mexican boy who disappeared nineteen years earlier.
Jordan walked away from Hogue, restraining himself from striking out, and took his first close-up look at the skeleton. The butterscotch brown bones were covered with dried mud, but everything looked intact; the rib cage poked out of the ground perfectly, even the fingers were still attached. Flies had lost the opportunity to lay their eggs in the flesh long ago; there were no signs of insects anywhere, except the ever-present cloud of mosquitoes that swarmed over the pond. It looked like the bones…
I hope a reader would want to know more, since this section of the book is pretty much the catalyst for everything that follows. Who is the skeleton? Is it really Tito Cordova? Who lured the marshal to the pond and shot him? And why? All of the questions that Jordan has about what’s going on, are reflected on this page. This is more than a revenge novel, and it could be confused to be a child-in-peril novel, but it’s not, though it does have that feel to it in the beginning. I hope in the end, page 69 reflects the mystery, and the heart of the story. Honestly, I didn’t plan it that way, but I think it does.
Learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy and Brodi and Sunny.

Writers Read: Larry D. Sweazy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Murder at the Lanterne Rouge"

Cara Black is the author of the best-selling Aimée Leduc series. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son and visits Paris frequently.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Murder at the Lanterne Rouge, the 12th book in the Aimee Leduc Series, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book? Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?

Sure. A character has a Glock bulging in their pocket and a clue is revealed. You're compelled to turn the next page and find out what it is.
Learn more about the book and author at Cara Black's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Poison Flower"

Thomas Perry is the author of 20 novels including the Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act, Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, and Poison Flower), Death Benefits, and Pursuit, the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for best novel.

He won the Edgar for The Butcher’s Boy, and Metzger’s Dog was a New York Times Notable Book.

A repeat contributor to this site, Perry applied the Page 69 Test to Poison Flower and reported the following:
Back to the page 69 test. Yes, I'm satisfied that page 69 is representative of Poison Flower, and that most readers would be intrigued enough by it to read on.

At the start of the book, Jane saves an innocent man named James Shelby by sneaking him out of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Court Building in Los Angeles. She is immediately captured by men who want Shelby to stay in custody so they can get him murdered in prison. When Jane escapes from their car, one of them shoots her in the leg. After they torture her, trying to make her reveal where Shelby will be hiding, she succeeds in escaping.

The problem on page 69 after her escape is that Jane is now wounded, burned, cut, and bruised. She's alone on foot in Las Vegas, has no money, no identification. She's wearing ill-fitting men's clothing she stole from her captors. She's exhausted, hungry, and dirty. She's being hunted by the men who hurt her and by every law-enforcement agency in the western United States. In other words, she is in a position much like her most unfortunate runners, only a bit worse.

On page 69 we see her at this low point, and watch her begin to work her way out of it. She decides to present herself as a terribly abused victim who has been abandoned after a weekend in Las Vegas, and ask for help at a battered women's center. She knows they'll help her and also preserve her anonymity. At the end of this page the door opens and she steps in out of the searing heat and glaring sunlight and becomes invisible again.

It's a fair representation of the book as a whole--Jane can be hurt, she can be surrounded by obstacles, but she's always thinking, always working to get past them, and she's the smartest person in the room.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2012


Liz Moore is a writer and musician. Her debut novel, The Words of Every Song, was published in 2007, and she subsequently released her album Backyards. She is a professor at Holy Family University in Philadelphia, where she lives.

Moore applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Heft, and reported the following:
Magically, page 69 of Heft is the shortest page in the book. This is the whole of it:
I wrote out a transcript. It went, "Charlene, this is Arthur. I know it's you, Charlene, and I'm worried. I want to help you. Can I help you?" I waited a week & called Charlene again & there was no answer. Then I waited another week & called Charlene & there was no answer.
Here's the context: what sets the novel into motion is that Arthur Opp, a reclusive, 550-pound former academic who hasn't left his house in a decade, receives a phone call from a former student of his--Charlene, of the passage above. She wants to introduce him to her son, Kel, who she says needs help with school. But after making her initial request, Charlene disappears once more, and Arthur spends a large part of the rest of the book trying to figure out what happened to her.

Page 69 represents a low point for Arthur Opp. He's started to get his life in order in preparation for his meeting with Charlene, and he feels hopeful for the first time in years; so it is particularly devastating to him realize that his hopes might once again be dashed. Furthermore, he genuinely cares about Charlene, and feels both concerned for her welfare and trapped by his own immobility--he can't go rushing off to Yonkers (where she lives) to investigate, because he simply cannot act.

A lot of the characteristics of Arthur's voice and personality are contained in this brief excerpt, so I'll talk about those too. First, that he would write out a transcript before a telephone call seems very right for Arthur--he is incredibly self-conscious, perhaps self-loathing. He's certainly not the type to jauntily pick up the telephone and phone an old friend. Second, he understates things--he cannot bring himself to admit when he's been hurt or disappointed, but rather tries to convince himself that he's unscathed by stating just the facts, and letting the feelings go unsaid. Finally, his use of ampersands--which many readers have asked about--comes out of my idea that Arthur's is a written voice, somehow. He's been so isolated, for so long, that I can't even imagine him speaking aloud--which is how I imagine most characters' first-person voices (including Kel's). Rather, I had this idea in mind of Arthur writing in a sort of diary, jotting down his thoughts, abbreviating words here and there, and--yes--using ampersands.
Learn more about the book and author at Liz Moore's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Adrian Magson is the author of 11 crime and spy thrillers and 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, which brings Harry on the trail of the Protectory, a renegade group who seek out British army deserters and drain them of technical and other secret data to sell to the highest bidder.

Magson applied the Page 69 Test to Deception and reported the following:
The Protectory promise the deserters a new life and documentation in return, but this is just a scam, and one of the deserters has been murdered by the Protectory’s killers while trying to get across the border from Germany into Poland. His passport and cellphone have been found by a local man, who takes them to Sylvia Heidl, once a worker for the Stasi. As Sylvia knows only too well, such items can be sold, if you know the right people to approach. But the paranoia of her former profession is working against her.
A sound outside brought her head up, fear clutching at her breast. Then she relaxed, recognizing old Bendl’s asthmatic coughing. He shuffled down the foul smelling stairs in the darkness each morning, on his way to the refinery where he worked as a clerk. Like the few who had jobs here, he started early and finished late, eager to work punishing hours for next to nothing, since earning nothing was simply to fade and die.

As the footsteps receded, she wondered what Ulf would say. Her brother was a doctor, although not the kind who could help her. An army medic for many years, he knew a lot about battle wounds but precious little about cancerous growths caused by the toxic air which attacked you as you breathed. But with his part-time job at the hospital, he knew people he could ask … people with access to drugs which help manage the pain she is suffering with increasing regularity.

She reached over and picked up the mobile phone, and brushed off a thin smear of mud, where old Wilhelm had handled it.

‘See if Ulf can sell these in town,’ he’d suggested tentatively, pushing the mobile and the slim red book into her hands. He had come straight round after his walk and woken her up, pounding on the door as if his life depended on it. ‘He might even be able to return them to the owner … for a reward. We can share in whatever he gets.’ He’d gone on to explain where he’d found the jacket and, in the pocket, the mobile phone and the British passport. ‘I would do it myself, but I don’t know who to speak to. I don’t get into town much these days.’

What he meant, Sylvia thought cynically, was that Ulf had been in the East German army and Sylvia had been in the … the job she’d been in. To Wilhelm, that meant they had contacts … people who knew things. He was one of very few people who knew about Sylvia’s past, although he cared nothing about it. History is history, he often said pragmatically, best forgotten.
It’s another clue in the trail for Harry Tate, hired to find a high-value British officer who has disappeared from her post in Afghanistan. Lt Vanessa Tan is thought to have been targeted by the Protectory. But Sylvia’s brother Claus is about to bring Harry another step closer… and unwittingly, closer to the Protectory’s killers. And Harry is running out of time.
Learn more about the book and author at Adrian Magson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"The Helios Conspiracy"

Jim DeFelice’s new book, The Helios Conspiracy (Tor/Forge), received a starred review from Kirkus, who called it “complete success with its appealing investigator, rapid-fire dialogue and convincing storytelling.”

He is the co-author of American Sniper, the New York Times number one best-seller.

DeFelice applied the Page 69 Test to The Helios Conspiracy and reported the following:
If you opened to page 69 in The Helios Conspiracy, you’d get a little information about the murders that drive the main character of the book, Andy Fisher. It’s there that he learns that there’s been a second suspicious death, a discovery which starts him on the road to uncovering (duh) a conspiracy to sabotage a planned satellite solar energy system.

But more to the point, you’d learn something critical about “Fish” – who hates to be called that, by the way.

Andy is in California, and unfamiliar with the local terrain, asks his informant where they can meet to talk. Someplace with food and coffee, he adds.

It’s very late, far past the time when Starbucks and its ilk have shut down the espresso makers. So the informant is hard-pressed to make a suggestion.

“The only place I can think of is the Throwback Diner,” she tells him finally. But then she warns, “The coffee’s not good – it’s always burnt and acidic.”

“Sounds like the gods’ nectar to me,” he answers. And for once in the book, he’s not kidding. Fisher is a connoisseur of bad coffee – the more putrid the better.

I don’t know if that would sell The Helios Conspiracy, but it does sum up Andy, and one of the subthemes of the novel – the world needs more places where you can get a cheap cup of coffee and an over-generous piece of banana cream pie.
Learn more about the book and author at Jim DeFelice's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Leopards Kill.

Writers Read: Jim DeFelice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Dying in the Wool"

Frances Brody lives in the North of England, where she was born and grew up. Brody started her writing life in radio, with many plays and short stories broadcast by the BBC. She has also written for television and theatre. Before turning to crime, she wrote sagas, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin award for most regionally evocative debut saga of the millennium.

Brody applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dying in the Wool, and reported the following:
The search to discover what happened to her husband Gerald, missing in action in 1918, draws Kate Shackleton into sleuthing. In 1922, she takes on her first professional case. Tabitha Braithwaite seeks Kate’s help. Tabitha hopes and dreams that her millionaire mill owner father, who vanished in 1916, will be found within the next six weeks, in time to walk Tabitha down the aisle when she marries.

Page 69 sees Kate in the village of Bridgestead, talking to the village bobby, who shows Kate newspaper cuttings of the old case. The cuttings suggest that Joshua Braithwaite attempted suicide. This was, of course, a crime. Constable Mitchell waits until Kate has finished reading an account of Braithwaite being pulled from the beck (stream), and then he says:
‘It was one of the worst days of my life, having to arrest Joshua Braithwaite for attempted suicide. And the man was in no fit state.’

‘Tell me about it.’

‘I’ll do better than that. I can give you my report from the time.’ He opened a desk drawer and lifted out several notebooks, looking at the covers for dates. ‘It didn’t help that he was found in a spot where a suicide had happened three years earlier.’

The image made me shudder. ‘How awful. By the waterfall?’ This was what Mrs Kellett had said, although Tabitha had pointed out the shallow area near the stepping stones.

‘Yes, by the waterfall. If Braithwaite hadn’t been pulled out when he was, he would have drowned, like the weaver and her children.’
Kate spots discrepancies between the different accounts of what happened that fateful day. Has the fact that a previous soul in despair ended her days at this spot coloured interpretations placed on Braithwaite’s actions? Tabitha had insisted her father would not have attempted suicide. Kate pushes the constable a little.
‘I can imagine a woman might seek to end her life in that way, if she is truly despairing. Perhaps it’s my prejudice, but it seems to me a more female method of dying. Would Mr Braithwaite have chosen that way out?’

‘Men are just as likely to drown themselves. Mills are all built by the water. Canals and becks have made a last resting place for many a poor labourer.’

He found the page in his notebook. ‘My writing’s not very legible. I’ll read it to you.’
Kate will have a great deal of unravelling to do before she finds out what really happened, and whether she will make Tabitha’s wish come true by finding her father.
Learn more about the book and author at Frances Brody's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 12, 2012

"The Boiling Season"

Christopher Hebert graduated from Antioch College, where he also worked at the Antioch Review. He has spent time in Guatemala, taught in Mexico, and worked as a research assistant to the author Susan Cheever. He earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan and was awarded its prestigious Hopwood Award for Fiction. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his son and wife, the novelist Margaret Lazarus Dean.

Hebert applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Boiling Season, and reported the following:
Page 69 makes for a tough introduction to my main protagonist, Alexandre. He’s a young man from the slums of a turbulent Caribbean island. His dream, which is just being realized at this point in the book, is to escape his past, in which he sees only poverty and ignorance and violence. A few pages earlier he is hired by Mme Freeman, a wealthy American businesswoman, to act as caretaker of a derelict estate she’s purchased in the remote hills outside the capital. Derelict or not, the estate represents for Alexandre the place of peace and tranquility and beauty that he’s been searching for.

Page 69 consists of a conversation between Alexandre and his new employer as they drive through the countryside to their new estate. Alexandre, not the most reliable of narrators, spends the ride caught up in shame over what he sees. In his desperation to distance himself from it, he ends up projecting his own prejudices onto Mme Freeman. As an outsider to his world, she’s completely baffled by his apparent cold-heartedness.

If you read only this page, you wouldn’t leave it with many warm and fuzzy feelings toward Alexandre. But he’s a complicated guy living in a difficult place.

The excerpt:
[How] must all of this look like to her? I wondered. What must she think of us? And I felt shame, sitting there, watching the peasants outside my window. Everything about their struggle for survival seemed to me a manifestation of their deadly ignorance. How could you help not looking down on these people when you knew a world where none of this existed?

After several minutes, in an effort to ease her discomfort, I said, “It’s a disgrace.”

My voice appeared to shake Madame from whatever thoughts were preoccupying her.

“It makes me wish I could do something,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “But what can you do with people like these?”

“Surely they can be helped?”

“Of course,” I said. “But they must help themselves, too.”

“Are there schools?”

“Yes,” I said. “But not all the children go. How can you expect to improve your life if you don’t go to school?”

“Why don’t they go?”

“Their parents don’t think it important enough. They save no money.”

“School isn’t free?”

“Of course not. Everyone pays.”

“What if you can’t afford it?”

“One must find a way,” I said. “My father did. It’s the most important thing.”

She continued to look out the window, seemingly deep in thought. And then she turned to me with a puzzled expression. “I’m surprised you don’t have more compassion. These are your people, after all.”

“My people?” I said. Could she really not see the differences between them and me? I stammered on for a moment, but I saw no way to correct her without giving offense. All I shared with such ignorant people was an island. I did not see how the accident of my birth in this time and place compelled me toward loyalty with others simply because they shared the same fate.
Learn more about the book and author at Christopher Hebert's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Tupelo Hassman graduated from Columbia's MFA program. Her writing has been published in Paper Street Press, The Portland Review Literary Journal, Tantalum, We Still Like, ZYZZYVA, and by and Hassman is a contributing author to Heliography, Invisible City Audio Tours' first tour and is curating its fourth tour, The Landmark Revelation Society. She is keeping a video journal of girlchild's book tour for the short documentary Hardbound: A Novel's Life on the Road.

Hassman applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, girlchild, and reported the following:
The girlchild in girlchild is Rory Dawn Hendrix. Rory Dawn is a young girl playing a constant game of 52-card pickup with the mess of stories she’s been dealt about who her family is, who she is, and who, therefore, she’s destined to become. She gathers up the tales of her mother’s misadventures, reads the gleam in the school administrators’ eyes as they jealously chart Rory’s high test scores, dives into the reports from the welfare system that has long been keeping a close eye on her mother’s every move, and tries on the mythos of both the white underclass and the American Dream as represented by Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and the dirty history of Eugenics. Rory is guided through all of this by a 40-year-old copy of the Girl Scout Handbook, which offers advice impractical but comforting, and by her grandmother, Shirley Rose. Grandma Shirley fights for Rory to believe in a future still wide open, despite what the slew of stories say. On page 69 we find out how girlchild got its name as Rory reflects on Shirley Rose’s words of encouragement and takes just a moment of breath to believe there might be worth in her inheritance after all.

From page 69:
…Grandma succeeds in reminding me of one thing, a small thing that lets me know that she is telling a truth in there somewhere. That there is a tenderness that runs quiet but sure in our blood and reveals itself as dependable a bedtime. It is the memory of Mama tucking me in at night, a name she had for me in the darkness. In the mornings when she woke me for school, I was always Sunshine, but at night I was always always girlchild.
Learn more about the book and author at Tupelo Hassman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 9, 2012

"The Starboard Sea"

Amber Dermont received her MFA in fiction from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Dave Eggers’s Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope: All-Story, and Jane Smiley’s Best New American Voices 2006. A graduate of Vassar College, she received her Ph.D. in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston. She currently serves as an associate professor of English and creative writing at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.

Dermont applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Starboard Sea, and reported the following:
What a brilliant concept, to flip inside a book in the hopes of discovering whether a single page contains the entire world of the novel or just some sandy shoal. The Starboard Sea is the story of Jason Prosper, a young man who has transferred in his senior year of high school from Kensington Prep to Bellingham Academy. Jason is haunted by the mysterious suicide of his best friend and sailing partner, Cal. Page sixty-nine is significant to the narrative because it marks the first time that Jason shares a moment of friendship with Coach Tripp, the sailing instructor at his new school. An accomplished sailor, Jason quits the Bellingham sailing team during tryouts after a near fatal accident with his crewmember. The scene on page sixty-nine begins with Jason going down to the beach, seeing one of his classmates smoking and asking to bum a cigarette. Up until this point in the novel, Jason has been avoiding Coach Tripp and has found himself unmoored and alone. Jason is surprised to discover that the person sneaking a smoke is not one of his classmates but rather Coach Tripp. Jason apologizes for quitting the team and Coach Tripp admits how much he’d wanted to work with Jason. Tripp confesses to having seen Jason sail with Cal and also acknowledges that he is aware of the circumstances surrounding Cal’s death. The two share a cigarette and a moment of peace by the water. Jason listens as Coach Tripp tells a story about being lost at sea.
“I was out the other morning, alone,” Coach Tripp said. “The winds calm. The sun breaking over the water. Birds quiet. Sailed right into this mass of green fog, moist, lush air. Washed my eyes green. I lost all sense of direction. I forgot that I wasn’t a novice. Actually thought that I might have drifted off. Thought I was trapped for good in some strange ether.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Nothing. I just kept her steady.” He stubbed his cigarette out against the seawall. “Fell out of the fog.”
The two go on to discuss ghost ships, circumnavigating the globe, and the history of celestial navigation. Throughout the novel, Jason must reconcile a series of losses and must contend with his own guilt and culpability. Bellingham Academy is not an easy place to call home especially not after the school is hit by a literal hurricane. Page sixty-nine is a quiet reprieve. The scene ends with Jason reflecting back on his talk with Coach Tripp and realizing, “I slept well that night because someone had been kind to me.”
Read more about The Starboard Sea, and visit Amber Dermont's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Three Weeks in December"

Audrey Schulman has published four novels including The Cage, Swimming with Jonah, A House Named Brazil and, most recently, Three Weeks in December.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
With Three Weeks in December, I had three main aims.

1. I wanted to write a gripping story set in Africa. So in the foreword of the book I promise many violent deaths involving a major predator. I don’t even wait for page one.

2. I wanted the story to be so accurate and vivid the reader would trust me absolutely and feel as though s/he were there. So I visited Africa and read over 70 books. I read everything from novels to very dense history books. I wove what I learned seamlessly into the plot so there were no huge information dumps, but just fascinating tidbits all the way along, mostly conveyed through descriptions using all five senses.

(As a side note, I’ve never understood why more writers don’t use the oh-so-powerful sense of smell. A smell can summon emotion so quickly and, since it is underused in fiction, a succinct description of a familiar aroma can surprise a reader, yanking the imagination viscerally into the story.)

3. I wanted the protagonists to not be the normal characters put in adventure stories. No Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone. So I created two very untraditional main characters.

The main character I’m describing on page 69 is called Max. She has Asperger’s (a form of autism) and trusts her sense of smell more than her other senses. She is my hero and I make her tough in a highly unconventional way even Bruce Willis couldn’t match.

She has just arrived in Rwanda. I am describing a country most people haven’t experienced, through a perspective most have a hard time imagining.

First I describe the highway and traffic:
Here, it was startling how many people and belongings could fit on a moped. On the back of one were strapped two young goats, swaddled tightly as babies, eyes narrowed into the wind. Tied on another was an industrial-sized sink, a child peeking forlornly out of it.

Everyone wove from lane to lane, with little regard for the direction of traffic, unless the oncoming vehicle was bigger.
Then Max sits back, closes her eyes and starts smelling the many smells of Rwanda:
…wood smoke, rotting meat, cow manure, human feces and something that kept reminding her of cough drops until she opened her eyes to identify a passing tree as eucalyptus.
I am starting to pull the reader into her body, using her perceptions to make the reader feel everything she feels, so in spite of all the differences between the reader and Max, by the end of the book, as the plot tightens and the dangers build all around, the reader cares for her deeply.

The glowing reviews of my novel say I achieved all three of my aims very very well.
Learn more about the book and author at Audrey Schulman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"By Blood"

Ellen Ullman is the author of a novel, The Bug, a New York Times Notable Book and runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the cult classic memoir Close to the Machine, based on her years as a rare female computer programmer in the early years of the personal computer era.

Ullman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, By Blood, and reported the following:
I don't think that page 69 represents the book; nor that a reader, starting here, would be happy to go on. There are too many antecedents for that one page to make much sense.

Now, in defense of page 1 from the test of page 69:

By Blood breaks page at the end of every short, numbered "scene." This results in a good deal of white space. So the first point in my defense is to say: My page 69 is not really page 69!

In further evidence of my case, I'll mention two sentences on page 10, where the narrator defends his decision to keep eavesdropping because he can't possibly understand what he's overhearing:
But it all meant nothing to me. I was like a person who had happened upon a novel opened at random.
Read more about By Blood at the Farrar, Straus and Giroux website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Remain In Light"

Collin Kelley is the author of the novel Conquering Venus and the poetry collections Better To Travel, After the Poison, Slow To Burn and the forthcoming Render. His new mystery/suspense novel, Remain In Light, is a 2012 finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction.

Kelley applied the Page 69 Test to Remain In Light and reported the following:
Page 69 isn’t representative of the mystery and intrigue of Remain In Light, but it does give a glimpse into the complicated personal lives of the main characters. Young expat American writer Martin Paige lives with Parisian widow Irène Laureux. They are searching for the man, Frederick Dubois, who killed Irène’s husband 30 years earlier during the 1968 student/worker riots, but have been road blocked by government cover-ups and sinister elements of France’s organized crime syndicate. Martin is casually involved with his neighbor, bookstore owner Euan McEvoy, but despite Irène’s urgings Martin isn’t interested in a committed relationship. When Diane Jacobs, Martin’s mouthy best friend from America, shows up looking for a place to live, it creates tension.

Irène has encouraged Martin to move across the hall and live with Euan, but Martin believes it will give Euan false hope about their relationship. Instead, Martin proposes something else.
“Martin, you spend many nights at Euan’s,” Irene said. “What is the difference?”

“There is a difference,” Martin said. “It may seem like a small gesture to you, but to Euan it will be huge. I said we were going to try and make it work. ‘Try’ being the optimum word. I don’t want to give him false hope.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Diane muttered. “Well, I’ll just trot back over to the hotel and give them my last shekels. Don’t mind me.”

“This is insane,” Irène said. “You can’t live at the hotel.”

They heard a knock at the front door and Euan called out a greeting as he let himself in. Euan came into the kitchen and stopped short when he saw the three of them standing there. “I changed my mind about the cinema,” he said. “I thought you were flying back across the pond today, Diane.”

“I think I might be staying on a little longer.”

“How long?”

“Forever,” Diane said in a looming voice.

“Oh...really…” Euan said, forcing a smile.

“Yes, indeedy. The Jewess is here to stay and needs a job and a place to live.”

Euan, always taken aback by Diane’s brassy ways, had no comment.

“You have an extra bedroom, Euan,” Martin said. “Why don’t you rent it out?”

Euan cut his eyes at Martin. “Well…I…I barely know Diane. Couldn’t she stay here with Irène?”

“We’ve come full circle,” Diane said. “This hot potato is going back to the hotel and cut a deal with the old man there. Maybe I can scare him into hiring me as a maid.”

Diane left the kitchen and they all stood staring at each other until they heard the front door close.

Euan was outraged. “Staying at my flat for a few nights is one thing, but offering it to her permanently is outrageous. Just because she arrives with no resources doesn’t mean we have to accommodate her.”
Diane is actually in Paris working with a detective to find David McLaren, who happens to be Martin’s unstable ex-boyfriend. Diane doesn’t want David to interrupt Martin’s new life in Paris and reignite their volatile affair, but she discovers that David’s disappearance is connected to drugs, government secrets and possibly the elusive Frederick Dubois.
For more about Remain In Light and the author, visit Collin Kelley's website, his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"The Technologists"

Matthew Pearl is the author of the novels The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, The Last Dickens, and his newest work, The Technologists. His books have been New York Times bestsellers and international bestsellers translated into more than 30 languages. His nonfiction writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and He has been heard on shows including NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition Sunday," and his books have been featured on Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning.

Pearl applied the Page 69 Test to The Technologists and reported the following:
From page 69:
"If I could but live to see it, I hope that we might make a small but important accomplishment: that our institution be understood rather than feared so that our students can step forward into the world outside and proudly call out a promise, 'We are Technology.' ... If I could but live to see it," Rogers repeated, in softer tones, his eyes meeting Marcus's as the student perched back on the edge of his stool. For a moment, it seemed they were the only two present, and that they were testing each other.
In this scene, William Barton Rogers, the founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, meets with his faculty to discuss a series of scientific disasters that are plaguing Boston. Our protagonist Marcus is one of the first students, part of the Class of 1868 which had been busy enough preparing to graduate when everything seemed to go haywire around them. Marcus is a "charity scholar," picked out from a factory floor to attend the experimental and controversial M.I.T. Instead of tuition, Marcus performs various functions for the college, including attending to the needs of the professors at faculty meetings like this
one. This is a pivotal moment for Marcus, internalizing the words Rogers says, presumably not to him but to the faculty members, as a call to action. Will Marcus decide to enter the dangerous path he has in mind, to investigate the unseen menace in Boston?

I love underdog stories. In this case something we associate with power, wealth and impact--technology--was thought to be a dead end pursuit. It made for an interesting reversal that, in my mind, makes great material for historical fiction.
Learn more about the author and his work at Matthew Pearl's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Poe Shadow.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Dickens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Catherine McKenzie was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. A graduate of McGill University and McGill Law School, McKenzie practices law in Montreal. Her novels Spin and Arranged are International Bestsellers. They, along with her third novel, Forgotten, will all be published in the US by William Morrow in 2012.

McKenzie applied the Page 69 Test to Spin and reported the following:
If I do say so myself I think page 69 is very representative of the rest of the book. Katie – the main character – is getting a tour of the rehab facility and all the elements of her personality at that point are on display – cynicism, sarcasm, humor (I hope) and bucking against authority. I think (hope) if a reader read this page at random they’d want to read on: you can tell she’s being shown around a rehab facility, but why is she there? There is also a hint that there’s a celebrity in the facility at the same time, who is it? Katie doesn’t seem to want to be in rehab, so why is she there? Read on to find out…
Learn more about the book and author at Catherine McKenzie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 2, 2012

"The Healing"

Jonathan Odell is the author of the acclaimed novel The View from Delphi, which deals with the struggle for equality in pre-civil rights Mississippi, his home state. His new novel, The Healing (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), explores the subversive role that story plays in the healing of an oppressed people.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Healing and reported the following:
What a perfect place to land, page 69! The first 68 pages are the build-up to a new character unlike anyone on this 1860 slave plantation has ever seen before. She is an ancient black woman, and she is a “bought” slave, unlike the other 300 slaves who were born and raised on this isolated stretch of drained Delta swampland. Besides being an outsider, they quickly sense she possesses a confidence like no other slave they have encountered. And thirdly, they know, since she cost the the Master the amazing sum of $5000, she had to be bought for some special function that none could guess. Page 69 sees everyone on the plantation, cooks, weavers, dairymen and even the white Mistress and her son, watch this mysterious woman drive her wagon of supplies into the yard, handling the mules like a man. Thus enters Polly Shine, a slave healer, and with her begins the mystery that plays our over the next 300 pages—is Polly a magician, a conjurer, a witch or a redeemer?

Page 69:
ond-guessed herself. It couldn’t be woman. The driver handled the four-mule wagon like a man, spitting tobacco off the side of the wheels and popping the reins sharply. A Choctaw Indian maybe!

Little Lord took off down the steps and Granada took off after him. At the foot of the stairs Granada came to a stop, but Little Lord continued to race toward the galloping horse. Master Ben grasped the boy under the arm and hoisted him up into the saddle. From his perch between his father and the pommel, Little Lord found Granada’s eyes and then stuck his tongue out at her. They both exploded into fits of giggles.

A spirit of hilarity hung over the entire plantation. For days servants had been in a state of high anticipation. Like Granada, the younger ones had never seen a bought Negro before, and the older ones thought they might never see one again, especially one from as far away as the Carolinas.

The whole yard came out to watch. Washwomen and spinners and weavers, dairy and stable hands, the children too young to work and the old ones too feeble, they all gathered in the yard. From inside the mansion, house slaves peeked out from French plate windows. Even Mistress Amanda stepped onto the upstairs gallery with Daniel Webster perched upon her shoulder and watched as the wagon rolled into the yard.

The driver jerked back on the reigns and the horses pulled to a stop in front of the new four-room cabin while everybody stood there with chins nearly touching the ground.

It was a woman after all!

“Lord, she a sight!” Granada whispered to herself. She had never seen anything like her. The stranger was reddish brown with pointed cheekbones and amber eyes. Bird feathers stuck out of her braids this way and that, and around her neck she wore a ponderous necklace made of gleaming white shells. She was as skinny as a river bird, and draped over her shoulders was a mangy wrap made from the fur of some animal Granada imagined being too ugly to ever have lived.
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Odell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Fifth Victim"

Zoë Sharp is the author of the Charlie Fox series of crime thrillers which have been twice nominated for the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel.

Sharp applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Fifth Victim and reported the following:
Fifth Victim finds Charlie Fox bodyguarding Dina, the wayward daughter of rich Long Island businesswoman, Caroline Willner. A number of Dina’s social circle have been through kidnap ordeals, and Charlie quickly discovers that the girl seems fascinated by the clique formed by the ex-victims.

Page 69 is the last half-page of chapter nine in both the UK and US editions, so I didn’t even have any regional variation to play with. As such, it’s a fairly brief section of a scene, but part of an important one. At a lavish birthday party for billionaire’s son, Torquil Eisenberg, Charlie hopes to meet the former kidnap victims Dina seems so enamoured of – Orlando, Benedict and Manda. To avoid any awkward questions Charlie has been introduced as a family friend, which works out fine until she’s forced to tackle the birthday boy to prevent him getting out of hand with her principal. Dina and Charlie are being hustled out by security when Manda and Benedict make their grand entrance. They seem dismayed to find Dina leaving…

From Page 69:
“I’m real sorry, Manda,” [Dina] said hastily. “But I don’t want to spoil Torquil’s birthday, so we’ll—”

“Oh, that’s so sweet of you,” Manda interrupted. “Well, honey, our limo’s still here. Tell you what, why don’t the three of us go find somewhere to have a drink? Tor won’t mind if we skip out, I’m sure.”

But it didn’t take an expert in body language to tell that Tor did mind. He minded like hell.

The two security men he’d sent to escort us out were hovering with their mouths open, unsure what to do next. The other partygoers who’d received their special invitations had emerged from the yacht club and were closing fast on their way to the Eisenberg liner…

Torquil must have known that for Benedict and Manda to leave now, so soon after arriving and with Dina so publicly in tow, would be the ultimate humiliation. He only had one realistic option, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

“It would spoil the party if you left, Dina,” he said, with an almost credible attempt at sincerity. “Stay.” I’m sure it was only shock that made her keep him waiting for a response, but he flushed at her silence and added through clenched teeth. “Please.”

“I … er … yes,” Dina said faintly. “Of course. Thank you, Torquil.”

He glared at her. “Don’t mention it,” he said, his tone ominous. His gaze swung to me. “But your friend still needs to leave.”
Learn more about the author and her work at Zoë Sharp's website.

The Page 69 Test: Third Strike.

--Marshal Zeringue