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