Sunday, April 29, 2012

"One Red Bastard"

Ed Lin is the author of several books and is an all-around standup kinda guy. Waylaid and This Is a Bust were both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively, and both were widely praised. Both also won the Members’ Choice Awards in the Asian American Literary Awards. His third book, Snakes Can’t Run, was published by Minotaur Books in April 2010; it was loved by many and also won an Asian American Literary Award. Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards.

Lin applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, One Red Bastard, and reported the following:
What really pops out on the page is a reference to Wacky Packages stickers stuck all over an apartment door. One Red Bastard takes place in 1976 and at the time there were few things as funny, subversive and obnoxious as "Wacky Packs." The functional component put them overthe top. Nothing took down a mean teacher or jerk principal better than a slew of Duck and Hide, Ajerx, Hawaiian Punks and Cap'n Crud stickers on their school doors (or car windshields). A Camals Jerkish Blend slapped on a neighborhood watch sign did more than take it down a few notches -- it completely invalidated the sign's message. I had a whole bunch of Wacky Packs when I was a kid but I never stuck them on anything. I saw my friends use them up on stupid things while I waited for a *really good* target. I think the closest I came to using one was on the "Drug-Free School Zone" sign. Alas, I never did find that awesome thing to nail and I traded my Wacky Packs along with my baseball cards for Quiz Wiz. Biggest mistake of my life. (Image courtesy of Topps.)
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Lin's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 27, 2012

"A Surrey State of Affairs"

Ceri Radford grew up in Swansea, studied English literature and French at Cambridge and started her career with Reuters. She has since written about books, TV, culture, society, male strippers and many other things besides for publications including The Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement, and Red Magazine. She currently lives, confusingly, very close to Geneva, but in France.

Radford applied the Page 69 Test to her first novel, A Surrey State of Affairs, and reported the following:
How do I even begin? Page 69 does indeed give a pretty representative insight into the nutty world of my heroine, 53-year-old wife, mother and bell-ringer Constance Harding, but it takes some explaining. Constance believes that her housekeeper, Natalia, allowed her beloved parrot, Darcy, to escape in a fit of (entirely understandable) pique. Constance’s husband Jeffrey, a corporate lawyer, is telling her not to jump to conclusions. The book is written in the style of Constance’s blog, and this is how she recounts the incident on page 69:
Apparently, there was no prima facie evidence to prove beyond all reasonable doubt to a fair-minded group of people that Natalia had indeed released a parrot named Darcy. There were no fingerprints, no DNA evidence, nothing beyond assumptions and suspicions. This young girl, who had an unblemished record and her whole life in front of her, could well have been framed.

Sometimes I think Jeffrey is wasted on tax. Once he had finished, he took a long swig of wine, and said, in a normal, quieter, voice, “Besides, the economy’s buggered, my pension’s on thin ice, and she’s cheap.”
I think this captures the humour of the book, which skates between all-out farce and a satirical look at British middle class life. It also points to the context. A Surrey State of Affairs is set in 2008, the year of the financial crisis, and the economic maelstrom underscores the sense of Constance’s many certainties crumbling. Not that Constance is aware of it at this point. By the end of the novel, she has had her big adventure and gained some self awareness, but here she is still merrily clueless.

I love using the first person form to play around with unintentional irony. After Jeffrey’s warning, Constance, reflecting on the offers for platinum credit cards that keep arriving in the mail, and the waiting list for a Mulberry handbag, concludes that all is well after all:
As long as it is so easy to borrow money to buy unaffordable things, I’m sure the economy will perk up soon.
Visit Ceri Radford's website and like her Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Susan Woodring grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her publications include a first novel, The Traveling Disease, and Springtime On Mars: Stories. She has been published in Passages North and a variety of other literary publications. She won the 2006 Isotope Editor's Prize, has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and was a notable mention in Best American Short Stories 2010.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Goliath, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Goliath, Marty and Janice Pickard are having yet another marital spat. This time, Marty has positioned himself on the roof and is threatening to jump if Janice continues with her plan to leave him. I think this scene is representational of the book even though Marty and Janice are not main characters and even though the event is not hugely consequential to the lives of the main characters or of the town. Yet, it does show an aspect of small town life that I think is really central to the book: there's a crowd milling about in the street, watching. In small towns like Goliath, private arguments often become town spectacles. Also, there's something about Marty's misguided but heartfelt attempt to avoid a painful end--in this case, it's the end of his marriage he's trying to avoid. In the scope of the book, it's the entire town, led by Rosamond Rogers, the book's main character, trying to save the factory and therefore save the town through their own somewhat misguided, heartfelt attempts.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan Woodring's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 23, 2012


Rosamund Lupton lives with her husband and two sons in London. She is the author of the widely praised New York Times bestseller Sister.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Afterwards, and reported the following:
On this page an unwelcome intruder into a school’s prize-giving finishes threatening the teachers and parents. He’s a teacher, Mr Hyman, who’s been recently fired. When two men go to restrain him, a child – seven year old Adam – stands up and tells the adults to leave his old teacher alone. The teacher leaves the church where the prize-giving is being held and Adam sits down. End of p69. Out of context it doesn’t seem much at all, but I remember where I was in the novel when I wrote it and how pivotal this scene was in so many ways. (I saw it as a scene with the stone floor of the church echoing, the pews filled with identically dressed children.)

This page is actually a flashback, during a police investigation of arson. A school has been set ablaze, and two people terribly injured. Mr Hyman is one of the suspects. Should the threats he finishes on p69 have been taken seriously? “You won’t fucking get away with it.” If they had been taken seriously, could this disaster have been averted? The boy who stands up for him, Adam, has been mute following the fire. It was his mother and sister who were terribly injured. His muteness in the pages up until p 69 makes his few lines in the silent church all the more striking. “Leave him alone!. It’s also an important moment in the portrayal of Adam’s character – depicting his loyalty and his courage. Adam is a boy who’s scared of being late to school, of not doing his homework; a boy who seems so easily intimidated. But here he is, literally, standing up to everyone. Characters in the novel are more than they first seem, and this is Adam’s moment to show it.
Learn about the book and author at Rosamund Lupton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"A Deeper Darkness"

J.T. Ellison is the international award-winning author of eight critically acclaimed novels and multiple short stories.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Deeper Darkness, her first novel featuring medical examiner Samantha Owens, and reported the following:
Sometimes, it’s the supporting cast who makes a book complete. In A Deeper Darkness, that happens on Page 69, where Detective Darren Fletcher steals the show, as he is wont to do. Fletch is a dark character, prone to melancholy, a cop who’s seen too much, made too many mistakes, and just wants out. He’s also rather interested in Dr. Samantha Owens, and she is drawn to him as well. They mirror each other’s hurt, though they are most likely destined to be friends. On page 69 of A Deeper Darkness, Fletch and his partner, Lonnie Hart, are on their way to do a notification, a terrible experience for all cops. He’s thinking of his own lost family, alive, but strangers to him. This exchange is truly indicative of the partner’s dynamic. It is from Fletcher’s point of view, and speaks loads about the characters.
His ex wouldn’t speak to him outside of the grunted hello if they accidentally saw each other during their infrequent child exchanges. And now that Tad could drive, Felicia never came near him. She hated him with a passion.

Maybe it was for the best. Maybe Felicia was right—he was poison. He wasn’t a good man. Good men didn’t cheat on their wives and stay out late with strangers. Good men didn’t drink too much scotch and lose interest in their chosen career paths. Good men didn’t—

“Earth to Fletch.”

He glanced to his right, where Hart was pointing to the light. “Buddy, light’s green. Has been. Where the hell were you?”


“Ah. Enough said. Let the self-flagellation continue. I’ll stay quiet.”

He flipped Hart the bird. “Sit and spin.”

Hart did his best breathy Marilyn. “Oh, Daddy, can I?”

They both started to laugh. Count on Hart to drag his ass back from the doldrums. He really needed to think about taking that prescription the station shrink gave him at his last annual evaluation.

“Sorry, man. I’m just tired.”

“Join the club. I think that’s it on the right.”
Learn more about the novel at J.T. Ellison's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 20, 2012

"How to Eat a Cupcake"

Meg Donohue has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, daughters, dog, and a weakness for salted caramel cupcakes.

She applied the Page 69 Test to How to Eat a Cupcake, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of How to Eat a Cupcake finds Annie walking through the tony Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. For only the second time in a decade, she's headed back to the St. Clair's enormous home--the home where she grew up as the daughter of Lucia, the St. Clair's nanny and cook. She has a complicated, difficult relationship with this neighborhood, and with the St. Clair's daughter, Julia.
Mom had loved living on this block. The views, the magnificent homes, the well-dressed neighbors, the suburb-within-a-city feel never lost their luster for her. Everything remained new and sparkly and surreal for her, but as I grew older, I began to realize just how much was lost in translation. Where Mom saw glamour and beauty, goodwill and gaiety, I saw bulimic fourteen-year-olds and a perilous social ladder littered with casualties and boys who already behaved as if they owned, had somehow earned, the world.
The descriptions on this page are a good representation of how I tried to make San Francisco come alive in the novel. I thought of the city almost more as another character than as a backdrop, and I think page 69 shows that. However, there's no dialogue on this page, which is rare for the book, and it has a slower, more ruminative quality than much of the novel. Also, there's no humor on this page! Especially for a chapter in Annie's voice, which is sharp-tongued and sarcastic, this is an anomaly. Still, you do get a strong sense of place, a hint of suspense, and a developing understanding of the relationships between these characters and how they changed over time.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Donohue's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Mary Anna Evans is the author of the award-winning Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries: Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, Floodgates, and Strangers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Plunder, the 7th Faye Longchamp novel, and reported the following:
Ah...the Page 69 Test. It's terrifying. What if I open my book to page 69, preparing to write something cogent and life-affirming about its contents, but I find a full page of drivel? Even worse, what if I find only a half-page of drivel?

I just opened my new release, Plunder, to page 69, and found that it is the last page of Chapter Eight, and that it consists of even less than half a page of text. It is a mere 17 lines long. Please, God, don't let it be drivel. What are the odds that I found something substantive to say in 17 lines? Hang on a minute while I read it...

Okay, I'm back. There's actually a lot happening in those 17 lines, which only makes sense. A chapter-ending scene had best pack a punch, unless the author is actually hoping that readers will put the book down and walk away. In the case of Plunder, page 69 details the final moments of a conflict that is central to the story. A tiny old woman, Miranda Landreneau, is having a shouting match with a large and scary-looking stranger, Steve Daigle, and she's holding her own. He has arrived on the doorstep of the houseboat where she lives with her teenaged granddaughter, claiming to be the widower of her estranged step-daughter. To make matters worse, he says that he is now half-owner of her houseboat and that she and the girl will be needing to find another place to live. Joe Wolf Mantooth, husband of my protagonist Faye Longchamp-Mantooth, is standing at Miranda's side, wanting to help but not sure how to do it.

No stranger to bullies, Miranda sets Steve straight, saying, "You'll get this boat when you're man enough to throw me overboard." Because they're in Louisiana bayou country, her position is a bit stronger than her scrawny body would suggest. She is widely believed to be a voodoo mambo, and people who know Miranda do not dismiss her casually. She can intimidate without saying a word: "Her hand went to her apron pocket....People who believed that Miranda could curse them would cower at the possibility that her hand would come out of that pocket full of hexing powder or graveyard dirt. Nonbelievers couldn't care less what a woman half their size did with their hands."

And this is where page 69 leaves Miranda and Steve. It does not say whether she has graveyard dirt in her pocket. It does not reveal whether Miranda actually does have voodoo powers. It does tell us that Steve stops short of throwing her overboard, but there's no indication that he refrains because he fears her powers. It leaves the conflict unsettled and in limbo. This is not a bad thing on page 69 of a book with 296 pages. Somebody will throw the valiant woman's little body overboard, leaving her granddaughter homeless, and throwing Faye's family and business into chaos, but page 69 is too early for me to be telling you all the details. For that, you'll need to turn to page 70...
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Floodgates.

Writers Read: Mary Anna Evans.

The Page 69 Test: Strangers.

My Book, The Movie: Strangers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 16, 2012


Joseph Olshan is the award-winning author of ten novels including Nightswimmer and The Conversion. He spends most of the year in Vermont.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Cloudland, and reported the following:
I feel very lucky that p. 69 is quite representative of my novel Cloudland. The page falls in the middle of a scene where the principal detective investigating the serial murders of women in the "Upper Valley" of Vermont and New Hampshire visits the novel's heroine to question her a bit more in depth about the night of a blizzard during which the victim she subsequently found disappeared. There is quite a bit of dialogue on the page, and the dialogue itself is following the pattern of the way people tend to speak in New England. All sorts of things -- wind, weather, even local gossip -- are discussed as a prelude to a serious exchange of information. Here, the discussion involves the local "knacker man" who drives around picking up the carcasses of dead animals and brings them back to his farm for rendering. The "knacker" is one of the prime suspects for the serial killer.

But also on this page, there are a few descriptive snippets that are an example of the sort of the lyrical tilt of the novel in which murder and and heartbreak are described in poetic terms.
“Speaking of winter,” Prozzo said, “might we go back to the night of the snowstorm ... what you saw and heard?”

Six weeks ago, when the body was found, I’d ended up being questioned by Woodstock police chief O’Reilly, and not by Prozzo,
who’d merely read my testimony.

“Sure, if we have to.”

“If you don’t mind.”

I once again recounted how I’d been preparing my column, transcribing a list of nineteenth- century medicinal preparations
largely unavailable in most of the country but sold by mail order at a pharmacy in Nebraska, the price lists of sassafras oil, witch hazel gel, spring tonic, coal tar ointment, when I heard the plow plundering the road.

“And where were you sitting?”

I pointed to the green leather love seat in my television room, which was visible from where we were clustered at the kitchen table and where Mrs. Billy was sprawled and snoring with some of the teeth showing from her black boxer’s mask of a face.
Learn more about the author and his work at Joseph Olshan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Conversion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"The Rook"

Dan O’Malley graduated from Michigan State University and earned a Master’s Degree in medieval history from Ohio State University. He then returned to his childhood home, Australia. He now works for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, writing press releases for government investigations of plane crashes and runaway boats.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel The Rook, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Rook is the first page of Chapter Six, and much to my chagrin, it really is not the best representative of the book. In fact, when it came time for me to look at the page for this blog, it had me tearing my hair out in frustration. Page 69 is a pleasant little page (it’s just my luck that so much of it would be taken up by the chapter heading), but it is conspicuously lacking in most of the key elements of the book.

What page 69 does convey is an air of the slightly odd. We are shown an organization, the Checquy, that is not at all standard-issue. A group is meeting in a luxuriously appointed room with a lavish buffet, there are strange customs, and for some reason, several of the people are dressed in purple. The main character, Rook Myfanwy Thomas (‘Rook’ is apparently her title), is taking all of this in, and she is approached by a large man of obnoxious demeanor.

Whereupon, we smash cut to page 70.

The problem is what’s not explained on page 69. These people in the lavishly appointed room are there to witness an interrogation. The Checquy is a secret government agency that polices (and is staffed by) the supernatural. Rook Myfanwy Thomas has amnesia. And she can control people with her mind. Plus, there’s hardly any snide humour.


To make matters worse, on the next page our heroine smacks down a bully and we meet the third body from a hive-mind of four creepy siblings. All of which would be much more intriguing to the casual reader.

All of this has left me resolved to make sure that the sixty-ninth page of the sequel is far more interesting.
Learn more about the book and author at Daniel O'Malley's website and blog.

Writers Read: Daniel O'Malley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"The Expats"

Chris Pavone grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Cornell. For nearly two decades he was a book editor and ghostwriter.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Expats, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is very representative of The Expats, defining the life of ex-spy Kate Moore: the isolation and heartbreak of adjusting to life as a stay-at-home expat mother, tending to emotional, innocent little children alone while her husband isn’t coming home for dinner; Kate’s vague suspicion of him; the creeping sense that she is being manipulated by someone; and the pushiness of her friend Julia. These elements are typical of Part I—setting up the book’s premise, and asking the questions that propel the plot, and introducing the anxiety and paranoia that accompany Kate in her journey through this story about a marriage, wrapped in the cloak of an espionage thriller. Here’s page 69, beginning midsentence—
his chest, his brother silent at his side, both boys cold and tired and wanting their dad, again.

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Kate said. “He won’t be home till after you’re asleep.”

Ben turned angrily, quickly, and walked away. But Jake stayed. “Why?” he asked. “Why can’t he be home?”

“Oh, he wants to, sweetie. But he has other things he needs to do, sometimes.”

The boy wiped a tear from his cheek. Kate gathered him in her arms. “I’m sorry, Jake. But I promise that Daddy will give you a kiss when he gets home. Okay?”

He nodded, fighting back more tears, then sulked off and joined his brother, who was already busying himself with Lego.

Kate sat down at the computer. She moved aside files—luxembourg rental furniture and luxembourg schools and luxembourg utilities. She waited for the machine to locate the wireless signal. She stared at the screen, second-guessing what she was about to do. What she was hoping to find, and whether or not she wanted to.

It didn’t occur to her that she was doing exactly what she was expected to.

But before she could do anything, the phone rang again.

* * *

“Thanks so much,” Julia said. “I feel completely lost with the Internet down.”

“No problem.” Kate shut the door behind Julia. “I know exactly how you feel. Boys, say hello to Julia.”



They ran back into the kitchen, the excitement of the doorbell finished, to their kitchen service: Ben was peeling carrots, Jake cutting the into chunks. Both were standing on stepstools at the counter, concentrating hard, being careful with their sharp tools.”

“You’ve got sous-chefs,” Julia said.

“Yes.” The boys were prepping for a poule au pot, the cookbook open on the counter, under a shelf containing a half-dozen other cookbooks, all mail-ordered from Amazon’s warehouses in England.

Julia wandered into the living room. “Wow!” She’d noticed the view. “This place is great.”
Coincidentally, this page also references the real-life reason that I lived in Luxembourg—my wife took a job at Amazon—as well my old career: I was a book editor, mostly of cookbooks. I prepared more than one chicken-in-a-pot while we were in Europe, and my little sons did on occasion help me—that is, when they could be torn away from Lego. So page 69 is not only representative of the fictional plot, it also reflects my nonfictional life. Doubly satisfying, as it were.
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Pavone's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"The Gilly Salt Sisters"

Tiffany Baker is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Little Giant of Aberdeen County and the newly released The Gilly Salt Sisters.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Gilly Salt Sisters and reported the following:
This page covers a scene where Whit Turner, the richest man in Prospect, is picking up on Dee Pitman, a teenage waitress in a diner, new to town. Her father is standing at the counter, but Whit, despite being married to the formidable Claire Turner, is so brazen and smooth, he doesn’t care. Naturally, Dee is suckered right into the relationship, but she’s driven as much by her curiosity about the haughty Claire as she is by her desire for Whit. This novel is largely two stories put together. There’s the “real time” story of the fallout of the relationship between Whit and Dee (because a married man seducing a teenager is never going to work out well), and the backstory of the relationship between Claire and her estranged sister Jo, who is tied to the salt marsh they grew up in, for better or worse. When the three women come together, so do their fates. I’m fascinated by how history repeats itself through the generations, and also how the secrets one generation keeps trickle out in later years, and the transformations that occur when those things are thrust into the light. Sometimes, the past is more present than we even know. All we have to do is pay attention to what’s happening around us right this minute.
Read more about The Gilly Salt Sisters, and learn about the author and her work at Tiffany Baker's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County.

Writers Read: Tiffany Baker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans"

Gerry Bartlett is a former teacher and now writes full time.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans, and reported the following:
I love doing this test because it really lets me know if I’m getting my message across in the book that’s just been released. Okay, so it’s a little late once it’s in print, but I can use the lesson as I forge ahead on the next installment in the Real Vampires series. Skinny Jeans is number eight in the set about a vampire, Glory St. Clair, who was bloating when she was turned in 1604. Readers have followed her through adventures as she runs her vintage clothing store in Austin, deals with a tumultuous love life, and has some near misses with vampire hunters. I set up in book seven that Glory might not have been the simple actress she had seemed back in the day when she met her sire. Now, in this book, we discover that it is all too true that she was a different paranormal creature before she was left in the mortal world on her own with no memory of her past. Page 69 is a scene with a demon who previously inhabited Glory’s body. She’s letting Glory know that, yes, she saw some interesting things when she was stuck inside the vampire.
“Relax. For a vampire you are way too uptight. Anybody ever tell you that, Glory?” Alesa stopped and looked me over. “I read your thoughts. So Ian told you something about being a super freak. Never human. I know he’s right. You’re a weird combo. When I was inside you, I did a little poking around. You’ve got powers you’ve never even tried to tap, girlfriend.”
This scene does two important things: confirms Glory’s fears that she has a past she never knew about and leads to Glory’s discovery of powers that she will need to help her survive later in the book. Who knew page 69 would turn out to be so important? You see why I love this test? I’m at work now on Real Vampires Know Hips Happen, a March, 2013 release from Berkley Publishing. Yes, Glory is still rocking along.
Learn more about the book and author at Gerry Bartlett's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Real Vampires Have More to Love.

My Book, The Movie: Real Vampires Have More to Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 6, 2012

"Skeleton Picnic"

Michael Norman is a Salt Lake City mystery author who has written four novels. His Sam Kincaid novels include The Commission and Silent Witness. His mysteries featuring Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Law Enforcement Ranger J.D. Books include On Deadly Ground and his latest novel, Skeleton Picnic.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
In Skeleton Picnic, the Page 69 Test is somewhat difficult because it’s the last page of a chapter and contains only four lines of dialogue. The passage reads:

“Illegal, it’s not, unethical, maybe. I won’t lose any sleep over it I can promise you that. Bad guys have plenty of rights. I don’t mind using whatever tricks and tools are available so long as we play by the rules.”

Admittedly, this snippet of dialogue doesn’t give the reader much to go on. It does, I think, represent the larger book on a couple of levels. But first, here’s the context. The book’s protagonist, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Law Enforcement Ranger J. D. Books, has been drawn into a joint investigation with the local sheriff’s department. The case involves the mysterious disappearance of a prominent southern Utah couple, who, for decades, have been involved in looting Native American ceremonial and burial sites in search of ancient artifacts. When they fail to return from a weekend “skeleton picnic,” the hunt is on.

In the above passage Books and rookie deputy sheriff Beth Tanner, who Books is mentoring, have arrested a suspect and are preparing to transport him to police headquarters for questioning. Deputy Tanner wants to immediately advise the culprit of his constitutional rights, commonly known as the Miranda Warnings. Books, however, insists on transporting the prisoner without giving him his Miranda Warnings hoping that he says something incriminating on the drive to the station. The two have a testy exchange with Tanner accusing him of engaging in unethical behavior. The experienced, if somewhat cynical Books, puts an end to the disagreement by telling the rookie cop that he will use whatever tools he has available so long as they stay inside the rules.

Is the above passage on Page 69 representative of the larger book? I think it is. Here’s why. The protagonists in both of my mystery series (Sam Kincaid in The Commission, and Silent Witness, and J.D Books in On Deadly Ground, and Skeleton Picnic) are cops, not amateur sleuths or PI’s. Hence, they have to know the rules and understand proper police procedure. As a former cop myself, I want my books to convey to readers a sense of authenticity and procedural correctness.

As to whether the Page 69 passage is sufficient to keep readers engaged, I hope so. At least it will for mystery readers who enjoy a fast-paced police procedural that will keep them turning pages well into the night.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Norman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Skeleton Picnic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Amelia Gray grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Her first collection of stories, AM/PM, was published in 2009. Her second collection, Museum of the Weird, was awarded the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. She lives in Los Angeles.

Gray applied the Page 69 Test to Threats, her first novel, and reported the following:
This page happens to introduce a new setting, one of only a few in the book. It's a laundromat, where our strange main character, David, meets another strange person, a woman who is washing the same clothes over and over again:
The laundromat was the same as it has always been. The brand of detergent stocked in the automatic dispenser had changed, but the dispenser itself remained original to the space. The old pinball machine remained, wherein the silver balls had been tasked with escaping a haunted house.
I was thinking of an old laundromat in San Marcos, TX, which had (I think) a Galaga machine. The pinball machine is in another San Marcos locale, the Showdown, which was always so thick with smoke that you'd re-up any hangover you'd had in the past four days. Anyway, that pinball machine is a pretty good metaphor for the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Amelia Gray's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"The Gods of Gotham"

Lyndsay Faye is the author of critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow, and is featured in Best American Mystery Stories 2010. Faye, a true New Yorker in the sense that she was born elsewhere, lives in Manhattan with her husband.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Gods of Gotham, and reported the following:
I am delighted to report that, quite by accident, page 69 is the moment that marks the first absolute turning point for my protagonist Timothy Wilde, a reluctant recruit of the inaugural 1845 NYPD. It also kicks the plot into high gear, which quite tickles me. Tim lost his job, his home, his life savings, and a portion of his face when a devastating fire destroyed 300 buildings in downtown Manhattan, and his brother Valentine landed him a spot with the untested and unpopular “copper stars.” Desperate, Tim took the job, even though it’s grueling and harrowing work.

On page sixty-nine, returning from his shift at the Tombs with every intention of quitting the following day, a little girl wearing a blood-drenched nightdress runs into his knees. And Tim, almost in spite of himself, makes a life-changing choice: he decides to take her into his own home.
“My God,” I murmured. “Are you hurt?”

She didn’t answer me, but her square face was working on something other than words. I believe she was trying not to cry.

Maybe a professional policeman, like the ones in London, would have marched right back to the Tombs and delivered her for questioning even though he was off shift. It’s possible. Maybe a professional policeman would have rushed her to a doctor. I don’t know. It ought to be clear by now that there wasn’t much in the way of professional policemen in New York City. But even if there had been, I was through with them for good and all. Aidan Rafferty was being buried by that time, so was his mother at the Tombs in another sense; I was a man used to pouring gin in a glass for double the money, and the copper stars could go hang themselves.

“Come with me,” I said. “You’ll be all right now.”
What follows is Timothy trying to determine where the blood—for there isn’t a mark on the little girl—came from, and why the child was fleeing the scene. Her name is Bird Daly and she tells a series of fantastical lies that ultimately lead to the truth. I hope very much, therefore, that page sixty-nine meets with approval from readers. It’s what The Gods of Gotham is all about.
Learn more about the book and author at Lyndsay Faye's website.

Writers Read: Lyndsay Faye (April 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Helsinki White"

James Thompson is an established author in Finland. His novel, Snow Angels, the first in the Inspector Vaara series, was released in the U.S. by Putnam and marked his entrance into the international crime fiction scene. Booklist named it one of the ten best debut crime novels of 2010, and it was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Strand Critics awards. His second Vaara novel, Lucifer’s Tears, released in March, 2011, earned starred reviews from all quarters, and was named one the best novels of the year by Kirkus. The third in the series, Helsinki White, was released 2 weeks ago, on March 15.

Thompson applied the Page 69 Test to Helsinki White and reported the following:
Unfortunately, page 69 is the beginning of a chapter and a set up for it, with a bit of exposition in it. Not a good representation of the book. I’ll give you a tidbit that others feel reflect the book a bit more. It’s been quoted several times. This is from a review by Leighton Gage, esteemed author of the Inspector Mario Silva series:
"There's a great myth believed by nearly everyone that Finland is corruption-free. Police and politicians are scripture pure, dedicated to the good of the nation beyond all things. Foreigners even write about it in travel guides for tourists." That's Kari Vaara, telling us about his country in the first pages of James Thompson's new novel, Helsinki White. Shortly thereafter, he goes on to say, "I run a heist gang. I'm a police inspector, shakedown artist, strong-arm specialist and enforcer...Three months ago, I was an honest cop."
What a way to kick-off a book!

Helsinki White is Bible black noir. Its themes are corruption and racism, and there’s no sugarcoating. Overall, it’s gotten great reviews, but almost all of them say something like, open with care, it will scorch your hair off. I’m tempted to write more here, but I think I’ll keep myself in check. It’s such a controversial book that I think writing it was enough on my part. I prefer to leave the judgments of this book to the readers and reviewers and unaffected by my comments for now.
Learn more about the book and author at James Thompson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Snow Angels.

--Marshal Zeringue