Friday, August 31, 2012

"Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend"

Matthew Dicks is a writer and elementary school teacher. His articles have been published in the Hartford Courant and he has been a featured author at the Books on the Nightstand retreat. He is the author of the novels, Something Missing and Unexpectedly Milo.

Dicks applied the Page 69 Test to Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, his new novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 captures several pertinent elements of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend quite well. Budo, the imaginary friend who narrates the story, has left the home of Max, his imaginer, and is visiting a gas station that he especially likes. Dee and Sally, two employees of the gas station, are present, and this page captures Dee and Sally’s relationship well.
Actually, Sally and Dee like each other a lot. But whenever a customer is inside the store, they pretend to fight. Nothing too bad. Max’s mom would call it bickering, which means fighting without the danger of hating each other at the end of the fight. That’s what Sally and Dee do. They bicker. But as soon as the customer leaves, the go back to being nice to each other. When someone is watching, I think they like to put on a show.
Because Budo is invisible to everyone except Max and other imaginary friends, he is able to gain insight into relationships like these that others might not.

But Budo also confuses things rather easily, since he spends the majority of his time with an eight-year old boy who is probably autistic. When Dee tells Sally that her mother had her foot amputated as a result of diabetes, Budo is shocked to discover that a foot could die and is worried that Max might “catch” bad circulation.
Before I came into the store, I didn’t know that a foot could die and get chopped off. I thought that when one part of a human person dies, everything dies. I’ll have to ask Max what bad circulation means, and I have to make sure he doesn’t catch it.
Budo also discusses some of Max’s struggles on this page as well. “Max has a hard time understanding that you have to act differently in different situations,” Budo explains. He goes on to describe one of Max’s play dates with a friend. Max was unable to understand why his mother would allow him to play videogames with his friend since they had not eaten dinner yet. When Max’s mom tries to explain that having a friend over changes the rules, Max is unable to adapt, forcing his friend to finally offer to play catch outside instead. “That was Max’s last play date,” Budo says.

Page 69 offers an unexpectedly comprehensive look at Budo, Max and some of the secondary characters who populate the novel.
Visit Matthew Dicks' website and Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Matthew Dicks & Kaleigh.

The Page 69 Test: Unexpectedly, Milo.

My Book, The Movie: Unexpectedly, Milo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen"

Bill Crider's new novel, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, is his 19th Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the book and reported the following:
I hoped that when I opened Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen to page 69, there’d be an explosion, or maybe a gunfight between Sheriff Dan Rhodes and some super villain come to destroy the earth.

That didn’t turn out to be the case, however. Instead I see that Sheriff Rhodes is in the middle of a conversation with Mikey Burns, one of the county commissioners. Burns is a man given to wearing loud Hawaiian shirts, and he drives a red Pontiac Solstice convertible. He’s also been involved with the murder victim, a young woman about town who had worked in the Beauty Shack until her sad demise.

It’s an awkward situation for Rhodes, since Burns is supposedly dating his secretary, a certain Mrs. Wilkie, who once had designs on Rhodes. She won’t be happy if she knows Burns is sneaking around on her. What if she’s the one who did in the beauty shop queen?

It’s also awkward since the county commissioners are technically Rhodes’s bosses, and things become even more awkward when Rhodes discovers that a different suspect in the murder is the mayor of Clearview, who’s another of the people to whom the sheriff’s department has to answer.

Naturally I hope that this little conversation with Commissioner Burns will make readers wonder about whether he’s really involved in the murder. Or if Mrs. Wilkie is. The browsers might think that since Burns is clearly a continuing character in the series that he’s surely not guilty. But if they think that, [SPOILER ALERT] they don’t remember an earlier book, the details of which I’d better not get into right here. [END OF SPOILER ALERT].

I’d like to think that some of the snappy patter on page 69 would catch a browser’s attention, and I’d also like to think it would cause someone to take more than a casual interest in the rest of the book. Next time I write a book, though, I’m going to make sure there’s an explosion on page 69. Either that or a gunfight.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, and The Wild Hog Murders.

Writers Read: Bill Crider.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"False Friends"

Stephen Leather was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as the (London) Times, the Daily Mail, and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. He began writing full-time in 1992. His bestsellers have been translated into more than ten languages.

Leather applied the Page 69 Test to False Friends, the ninth book in the bestselling Dan "Spider" Shepherd series, and reported the following:
Page 69 [inset left; click to enlarge] is typical of False Friends - and indeed most of the Spider Shepherd series - in that the scene takes place in a pub. A lot of my police characters, and villains, discuss events over a drink. On this page my special forces soldier turned undercover cop turned MI5 agent Dan "Spider" Shepherd is being briefed on a new undercover operation by his former boss, police superintendent Sam Hargrove. Shepherd is to play the role of an arms dealer hoping to entrap a racist group who are planning mayhem. Shepherd has two ongoing operations in False Friends, he also has to babysit two young British Muslims who have infiltrated an al-Qaeda group. There are new to the intelligence game so Shepherd is assigned as their handler. It's the first time he's tried the role and he doesn't find it easy.

The two Muslim students - Harveer "Harvey" Malik and Manraj "Raj" Chaudhry are great characters and I'm thinking of bringing them back in a novel of their own. I've written Muslim characters before but this is the first time I've had them as heroes. In False Friends they put their lives on the line for their country and I think they could well go on to work for MI5. It's a difficult time for British-born Muslims and I'd like to explore that in future books. They don't drink, of course, which would put an end to my pub scenes.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Leather's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: False Friends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Lake Country"

Sean Doolittle's novels include The Cleanup, Rain Dogs, Burn (winner of the gold medal in the mystery category of ForeWord Magazine's 2003 Book of the Year Award), Dirt (an Top 100 Editor's Pick for 2001), and Safer. His short stories have been collected in Plots With Guns and The Year's Best Mystery Stories 2002.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Lake Country, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Lake Country, Minneapolis television news reporter Maya Lamb has just come out of a breaking-news report about a missing young woman, Juliet Benson, when she spots a familiar car parked at a curb near the spot where she's been shooting a live stand-up with her camera man, Deon:
She took one last long look at the beat-to-shit Skylark at the curb.

Then she turned and started running. Maya ran back up the sidewalk, back into Third Avenue, not waiting for traffic this time. Tires squealed. A horn blared. She hurried across, as fast as her heels would carry her, all the way to where Deon stood smoking a Parliament, watching her with interest.

"This morning," she said. "You shot roll outside Benson's house, right?"

Deon nodded. "You know I did. We cut it in the pack."

"The master. Is it in the truck or at the station?"

"Brought it with," Deon said. He tossed his unfinished cigarette in the gutter, where it died with a hiss. "Why?"
The answer to that question--which attentive readers will already know by this point--is that the beat-to-shit Skylark in question probably belongs to Juliet Benson's kidnapper. By page 70, things have only gotten more complicated.
Learn more about the author and his work at Sean Doolittle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Safer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Heron's Cove"

Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, with translations in 24 languages. When she’s not writing, Neggers loves to travel, hike, kayak, garden, and, of course, dive into a good book. She lives with her family in Vermont, near Quechee Gorge.

Neggers applied the Page 69 Test to Heron's Cove, her new novel featuring FBI undercover agent Colin Donovan and FBI art crimes expert Emma Sharpe, and reported the following:
The Page 69 test…I decided I'm game, but I had no idea what I'd find on Page 69 of Heron's Cove. Turns out it's just after Colin has narrowly escaped death at the hands of arms traffickers in south Florida. He and Emma have fallen for each other but he knows she received a tip about him…and she's holding back on him.

Here's an excerpt from Page 69:
Emma sat up slightly. "You're describing them because you think I might recognize them."

"Do you?"


"They could be anywhere. They could have split up, or they could still be together. They could have new IDs. Another boat. They could have had a car or a plane waiting for them. I had to bail too soon—"

"It sounds as if you bailed in the nick of time."

"You mean before they fed me to the alligators?"

She gave him a faint smile. "Your sense of humor is a coping mechanism."

He leaned in close to her. "What's funny about alligators?"
We can see Colin's trying to pry information out of her and she's resisting. We also, I think, can see their affection for each other. For her part, Emma knows that Colin's been through a difficult ordeal and needs time to decompress. She's also a private person, analytical by nature and not used to sharing details about herself. In fact, she is holding back: She received a tip about Colin from a Russian security expert, a man from her past.

Although it's almost all dialogue, Page 69 is representative of Heron's Cove in terms of both the suspense—who are the men who tried to kill Colin, where are they and what do they have to do with Emma?—and Emma's and Colin's relationship—the questions, the humor, the physical closeness.
Learn more about the book and author at Carla Neggers's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Ten Girls to Watch"

Charity Shumway received an MFA in Creative Writing from Oregon State University and a BA in English from Harvard University. After graduate school, she spent nine months reporting on the 50th anniversary of Glamour’s "Top Ten College Women" contest. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, Ladies Home Journal, Fitness, and Garden Design, and her short fiction has been honored by Glimmer Train and Slice magazine, among others. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York.

Shumway applied the Page 69 Test to Ten Girls to Watch, her new, debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is actually one of my favorite pages in the whole book! In Ten Girls to Watch, Dawn’s job is to track down all the women who’ve won Charm Magazine’s “Ten Girls to Watch” contest over the past 50 years. Between each chapter, a “historical” magazine profile appears, complete with a photo. Page 69 is the profile of a winner named Jean Danton. I read dozens of 1960s women’s magazines and tried my best to match the slightly flowery overdone tone:
Jean Danton, Radcliffe College, 1960
The Elegant Orientalist

A true world traveler, Jean has visited more than 30 countries. Growing up in Hong Kong helped (her father is in international business). A political science major, she has a keen interest in international relations. This summer, she will study painting and language in France. Free-time pursuits: art, poetry, and sewing. “I was wholly unprepared for Massachusetts weather.” She quickly adapted, sewing herself an enviable collection of conservative wool dresses and tweedy British jackets, spiced with Oriental silks and real jewelry. In sum, her style is both artistic and mature. Above all, Jean impresses with a real womanliness —at 20, she seems truly wise beyond her years.
I love the photo of “Jean.” I tracked it down scrolling through microfilm of old Mademoiselle’s in the periodicals archive at the New York Public Library. (My huge thanks go to Conde Nast for granting me permission to use this and many of the other images in the book). Our gal is wearing a plaid skirt suit, gloves, and a fabulous little hat. She’s even standing in front of a bridge over the Charles River -- perfect for Radcliffe. I wrote the text before I found the image, and I was thrilled to find a photo that matched so well.

In the chapter that follows, Dawn finds Jean and catches up on the last forty odd years. Turns out Jean spent years and years stationed in Russia (then the USSR) with her husband and children. At first she hated it and wanted to get back to East Asia, but they just couldn’t seem to get away. Finally, she gave in and learned Russian, and once back in the U.S., devoted herself to translating Russian poets, female Russian poets under Stalin in particular. “What you grow to love...,” she tells Dawn. “That might be one of life’s biggest surprises.”
Learn more about the book and author at Charity Shumway's website.

My Book, The Movie: Ten Girls to Watch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"You & Me"

In Padgett Powell's new novel, You & Me, "two loquacious gents on a porch discuss all manner of subjects, from the mundane to the spiritual to the downright ridiculous."

Powell applied the Page 69 Test to You & Me and reported the following:
Page 69, mirabile dictu, is the book. Look at nothing else.
Learn more about Padgett Powell's You & Me at the HarperCollins website.

My Book, The Movie: You & Me.

Writers Read: Padgett Powell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Bride of New France"

Suzanne Desrochers grew up in the French-Canadian village of Lafontaine on the shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario. Now based in Toronto, she is currently writing a Ph.D. thesis at King's College, London, comparing the migration of French and British women to North America in the early modern period. She has lived in Paris and Tokyo and traveled extensively throughout Asia. Her travel writing has appeared in Toronto's Now Magazine, and she has presented her history papers at academic conferences and seminars.

Desrochers applied the Page 69 Test to Bride of New France, her first novel, and reported the following:
At this point in the story, Laure realizes she will be sent by the Salpêtrière administrators to Canada. Her feelings are shock and terror. In writing, Bride of New France, I wanted to explore what the concept of choice would have meant for the historical women known as the Filles du roi. I also wanted to make it clear that many did not choose to come to the new world, despite what later historiography or public opinion may have said to the contrary. Finding out she will be sent to Canada makes Laure, who is quite brazen at the hospital, seem much smaller and more powerless.
Learn more about the book and author at Suzanne Desrochers' webpage, and learn more about Bride of New France at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bride of New France.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Jack 1939"

Francine Mathews is the author of over twenty novels of mystery, history, and suspense. Her historical thriller The Alibi Club was named one of the 15 best novels of 2006 by Publishers Weekly. A graduate of Princeton and Stanford, she spent four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA, and presently lives and works in Colorado.

Mathews applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Jack 1939, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
She looked canny and cool, as though she’d apprenticed as a gangster’s moll and was accustomed to hysterics in the night.

She slung a leg over the armchair next to Jack’s and clinked her glass against his. “Cheers.”

And that quickly, the singing tension was back, the awareness of her throbbing in his veins. He fought the impulse to set down his drink and reach for her—slide the silk off her shoulders and his mouth along her collarbone—and remembered instead why he was there.

“The guy showed up,” he said. “At my stateroom door.”

“The chap who slugged you?”

“He’s picking the lock. Probably inside by now.”
Ah, yes. The femme fatale and the college kid—Diana Playfair and Jack Kennedy, drinking in a Queen Mary stateroom at three in the morning, while a Gestapo killer hunts them down. Page 69 of Jack 1939 presages essential bits of the story: Jack’s fascination with Diana, a British nightclub dancer-turned-Foreign Office wife, who may or may not be a Fascist spy. His sick fear and impossible excitement at the game of espionage he’s so new at playing. His passage from boy to man, during the spring semester of his Junior year.

The guy picking the lock turns out to be Jack’s nemesis—and Diana’s. She turns out to be something like Jack’s conscience, in the end. And Jack? He learns he’s more valuable for his wits and his courage than his sick body ever allowed him to believe.

Diana Playfair never met Jack Kennedy, of course. She exists only in my mind. But in that way, too, page 69 is representative of the entire book: a shared drink between Fact and Fiction, a mosaic of what-ifs and coulda-beens, a fantasia on one of the twentieth century’s most enduring men.
Visit the Jack 1939 Facebook page and Francine Mathews's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Last Lawyer Standing"

Douglas Corleone is a former New York City defense attorney and winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition for One Man's Paradise. His second novel, Night on Fire, came out in 2011.

Corleone applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Last Lawyer Standing, and reported the following:
Taking the Page 69 Test is one of my favorite things about releasing a new novel – and that’s why I’m so pleased to report that Last Lawyer Standing receives a passing grade.

The first full paragraph on Page 69 represents the novel perfectly; in fact, Page 69 is representative of the entire series:
The mere mention of [Assistant US Attorney] Boyd’s name caused me to deflate, to think of the last lawyer to truly get under my skin: a young state prosecutor named Luke Maddox. Maddox had made the Erin Simms trial personal, and somehow every matter I’d handled since felt the same way. That feeling could destroy a trial lawyer, could burn him into nothingness at a young age.
This book and the two that preceded it are very much about Kevin Corvelli’s human responses to his professional life as a high-profile criminal defense attorney. Kevin initially fled New York City following the death of an innocent client. Over the next three years, every major criminal case Kevin took on in Hawaii represented another shot at personal and professional redemption. In Last Lawyer Standing, Kevin Corvelli is afforded the ultimate shot at redemption and faced with the greatest challenge of his career. Leaving us with the question: Will Kevin Corvelli risk everything to win an acquittal for Turi Ahina, the career criminal who once put himself on the line in order to save Kevin’s life?
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: One Man's Paradise.

The Page 69 Test: Night on Fire.

My Book, The Movie: Night on Fire .

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"The Messenger"

North Carolina born and raised, Stephen Miller is an actor on stage, film, and television as well as the author of plays, screenplays, and novels. Unforgettable moments in his acting career include swimming with Hume Cronyn, improvising for a day with Robert De Niro, carrying Bette Davis down a flight of concrete stairs, stunt-driving with Burt Reynolds, and delivering Laura Dern’s child, as well as three appearances on The X-Files.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Messenger, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the tail end of a section, where Sam Watterman is being recruited back into the clandestine world by the FBI and has yet to make his decision to join the effort, and the start of a section where Daria is sitting in a cafe in the New York City municipal City Hall complex. She is realizing her power as a bio terrorist, secure in the knowledge that she is perfectly hidden in plain sight. It's an interesting place, the book is really taking off at that point.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Miller's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Messenger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 20, 2012


Kathleen George is the editor of Pittsburgh Noir and the author of Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds (Edgar finalist, best novel), Hideout, and the newly released Simple. The novels are set in Pittsburgh. The author teaches theatre and writing at Pitt.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Simple and reported the following:
On page 69 Cal Hathaway is having his first meal in the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh. He’s just confessed to the murder of a woman he admired, even adored, but the police kept coming at him and he thought, “maybe they know something, maybe I did it.” He said yes to make them stop yelling. He fell onto his cot and slept through breakfast. In spite of the warnings that no valuables be kept in a cell, he insisted on keeping his watch, a good one, a gift from his mother.

He’s used to being alone. The thing that frightens him most about jail is all the people, the din, the noise. He plans to eat his lunch and not come out of his cell for dinner.

How could he have confessed to the murder of a woman he loved and who was kind to him? He frets through this question though he knows the answer. It’s because he was beaten as a boy by bullies; the brain damage he sustained led to blackouts—and to a slow and considered speech pattern. He’s not stupid. People think he is. They think he’s simple.

In the scene on p. 69 he finds a place to sit with his lunch tray. He soon understands that the inmates he is sitting with are not friendly. They are already beginning to make fun of him, already taunting him. And the one named Sydney wants his watch.

I loved writing Cal. He’s a quadroon who keeps passing for white in spite of the fact that he doesn’t want to pass at all. He’s sweet tempered and pure of heart. I think I was influenced in naming him by the Cal in East of Eden. He’s only one character in a large cast of characters. We mostly get to know the murdered woman, Cassie Price, through other’s memories of her. She was deeply in love with her boss, gubernatorial candidate Mike Connolly. She said he reminded her of a saint. Is that simply crazy? Not exactly. Connolly may be married and having an affair with Cassie, but there is also something good about him. Simple also features my usual cast of detectives.

But Cal gets page 69. And he’s important. He’s as much of a victim as Cassie is.
Now Cal got his tray and sat down at the only seat he could see at a quick glance. There were small white metal tables around the pod floor—each seated four men. The man sitting directly across from Cal was middle aged, white, or looked white, and he was neat-looking about his person, and alert, but at second glance that alertness was the nasty sort. His eyes glittered. His smile was mean. He said, “Nice watch.”

Cal didn’t answer. Lunch was two hot dogs on a bun, a pile of greasy fries, and some kind of Jello thing that seemed to have fruits tumbled in it. Cal began on the meal, planning to eat it all because he wasn’t at all sure he wanted to come out of his cell for dinner. For a long time now, he’d been a solo guy, doing everything on his own. All these people talking and looking at him made anxiety rise in him. It took the form of a ball of anger and nervousness making its way up his digestive tract, fighting the food that was on its way down.

“So this is the badass came in last night?” the question came from the man to his right. He was large, pale, and sloppy, with messy long hair.

The man who had commented on his watch said, “Can’t you tell?” And the two laughed.

“He doesn’t want to talk,” said the guy with the braids, passing. “I tried him.”

“That’s Levon,” said the man across from him, pointing to the one with dreads. Cal could see Levon went to sit with other African American men. There were significantly fewer white guys here, no surprise.

“I’m Sidney,” the man continued. “This here joker next to me is Boreski. Some guy named Shiron is going to come up to you sooner or later and ask what you need to buy. Whatever you buy, I get half or the whole. I watch out for you. That’s all you need to know for today. Otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed.”

The two men laughed.

There was a lot of noise, but Cal was pretty sure he heard Sidney ask, “You ever think you’d end up here?”
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

The Page 99 Test: Afterimage.

The Page 99 Test: The Odds.

The Page 69 Test: Hideout.

My Book, The Movie: Hideout.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"The Exceptions"

David Cristofano has earned degrees in Government & Politics and Computer Science from the University of Maryland at College Park and has worked for different branches of the Federal Government for over a decade. He currently works in the Washington, D.C. area where he lives with his wife, son and daughter.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Exceptions, and reported the following:
My 2009 novel, The Girl She Used to Be, tells the story of Melody Grace McCartney, a woman who has been buried in the Federal Witness Protection Program since the age of six, how she lives a tedious existence devoid of real choice, of real consequence: the government resolves both for her as needed. Her only authentic moments are those where she is hunted by the people determined to kill her.

In The Exceptions, the story is told once more, this time from the perspective of Jonathan Bovaro, the young mafioso sent to terminate her, and how during the course of the years he stalks her, he slowly transforms from her killer to her protector. And on page 69 -- one of the first pivotal moments of his transformation -- we see the mafioso's heart begin to break when he watches her from afar as she tries to garner anonymous attention at a city park:
I lit another cigarette with the smoldering end of the near-dead one in my mouth, snuffed the stub with the heel of my shoe. Melody sat in the hot sun for fifteen minutes, never looking for anyone, never checking a cell, never even looking down other than to readjust her dress to a more suggestive manner.

Not long after that, though, her demeanor changed and, in the process, exposed her purpose. As the people of Lexington continued to pass her by, she started watching them pass her by. I sat in my safety zone, unable to take my eyes off of her -- for a multitude of reasons now -- and this is when it struck me: I was the only one looking.
In the subsequent pages, and over the length of the book, Jonathan realizes she is a woman sentenced to a lifetime equally split by fear and ennui, the consequence of her being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And as the Bovaro empire ascends into great power, Jonathan knows he has little time left; he agrees that Melody must be liberated from this life she is destined to live -- the question he must answer is ... how?
Learn more about the book and author at David Cristofano's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl She Used to Be.

My Book, The Movie: The Exceptions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 17, 2012

"The Twenty-Year Death"

Ariel S. Winter is the author of the picture book One of a Kind (Aladdin) illustrated by David Hitch, the novel The Twenty-Year Death (Hard Case Crime), and the blog We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Twenty-Year Death, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Twenty-Year Death happens to contain a succinct synopsis of the book up until that point. The detective, Chief Inspector Pelleter, is reviewing his notebook. He reads aloud to the Verargent chief of police:
“This is what we know…Tuesday, April 4, just after eight pm: A man is found dead in the gutter by Monsieur Benoît outside of his house. At first it is believed that he drowned in rainwater while drunk, but it is later discovered that he had been stabbed several times and then had his clothing changed to hide the wounds.”
If you like murder mysteries, then reading page 69 is almost like reading the inside flap of the dust jacket, and you should be hooked. What you wouldn’t know, however, is that my novel is comprised of three interconnected novels, one set in 1931, one set in 1941, and one set in 1951, each with a different protagonist, and each written in the style of a different crime author: Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson. So page 69 is an intro to only the first novel.

Perhaps The Twenty-Year Death also calls for the Page 318 Test:
“‘I take it you can’t come to my office?’

‘I was hoping you would come here.’


‘They’ll expect you at the door,’ he said and he hung up.

Everyone wanted to keep me in this movie business. Everyone but the person who got me into it in the first place. I went through the routine with the lock and took the stairs so I wouldn’t have to wait for the automatic elevator.”
And the Page 532 Test:
“I took of my jacket, and I bent down to wipe up the spot of blood. I wouldn’t have even noticed it, it was so small. It had dried so I wet my finger with spit and then rubbed at the spot until it was gone and wiped my finger on my shirtsleeve near the cut.”
Now you’ve got two more intriguing mysteries. What movie business? And why is there blood on the floor? When you remember that this is in reference to Chandler and Thompson, you know that the answers to both of those questions are going to hardboiled action and a dark outlook.

Have I hooked you yet? All the pages are like this. Bodies, and dirt, and blood.
Learn more about the book and author at Ariel S. Winter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Devil’s Gate"

F.J. Lennon is a novelist, screenwriter, and veteran of the video game industry. In addition to his paranormal thrillers Soul Trapper and Devil’s Gate, he is the author of the 2001 business book, Every Mistake in the Book: A Business How-Not-To.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Devil’s Gate, the second novel in a series that follows the turbulent life and times of rogue ghost hunter and wannabe rock star, Kane Pryce. Lennon made the following observations:
Re-reading page 69, I’m pleased that, in my opinion, it’s representative of the book. And I’d like to believe that a reader skimming this page would be inclined to read on.

Page 69 opens Chapter 7. To summarize briefly, my protagonist, Kane Pryce, is awakened by a phone call from the client who recently hired Kane to conduct a paranormal investigation on her behalf. Reviewing the page now, I recognize that it foreshadows many of the themes of the novel as a whole.

First, page 69 says a lot about my protagonist Kane Pryce. Kane is wickedly hung over when the phone rings. He is trying to sleep off an epic night of partying with his band mate and a troupe of groupies. A coherent conversation is barely in the realm of possibility. Anyone who has read Soul Trapper or Devil’s Gate can recognize that Kane is a young man wrestling with substance abuse. Though he stubbornly thinks he has his drinking and drug use in check, Kane doesn’t. And it’s evident on this page.

Second, page 69 clearly demonstrates the inner conflict Kane wrestles with in the novel—his frustration and inability to truly change his life. At the end of the first novel, Soul Trapper, Kane swears off ghost hunting to focus on a music career. In Devil’s Gate, Kane is on the verge of success as the lead guitarist in a Hollywood band about to break out. But reluctantly, he is lured back to the realm of the paranormal with a lucrative offer to investigate a haunted bridge. The client who wakes up Kane from his drunken stupor is a demanding, controlling, impatient, and powerful billionaire heiress in her late nineties. She lets Kane know who’s boss; she informs him that she’s been snooping around and knows all about his music aspirations. She demands assurances that his music career won’t supersede the paranormal investigation she just hired him to conduct. The call unnerves Kane; it’s a clear reminder to him that he isn’t yet in control of his own destiny.

Lastly, page 69 gives us a good look at Millie Barrington, the rich and powerful old woman who lured Kane out of paranormal retirement. She’s a character that hopefully keeps readers on their toes. Is she good or bad? You won’t know until the end. On page 69, it’s impossible to predict if she’s a hero or villain, but it’s one of her more odd and darkly humorous moments in the book.

So I think page 69 actually accomplishes a lot. I hope readers of Devil’s Gate agree.
Learn more about the book and author at F. J. Lennon's website, blog, and Facebook fan page.

My Book, the Movie: Devil’s Gate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"The Coyote Tracker"

Larry D. Sweazy's Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger western novels include The Rattlesnake Season, The Scorpion TrailThe Badger's Revenge, The Cougar's Prey, and The Coyote Tracker.

Sweazy applied the Page 69 Test to The Coyote Tracker and reported the following:
Is page 69 relevant to the story in The Coyote Tracker? Absolutely. Josiah Wolfe’s friend, and fellow Texas Ranger, Scrap Elliot, finds himself accused of murder and in jail. While there, a jailbreak occurs, that may, or may not, be related to a string of murders occurring in town. Josiah must use all of the resources he has to get Scrap out of jail before his friend finds himself dangling at the end of a hangman’s noose. Of course, everything is not as it seems, and Josiah’s quest to free Scrap is fraught with more danger than he realizes. There’s a new railroad coming into Austin, and there’s a lot money to be made or lost, if things don’t go as they should. Weakening the Texas Rangers is advantageous to those behind the plot to protect themselves, and see an innocent man hanged.

From The Coyote Tracker:
Scrap was laying on his cot at the back of the cell, staring at the ceiling. A veil of silence had come over the jail as two deputies patrolled the hall, their weapons brandished firmly in wait for the slightest reason to use them.

The hole still gaped and would have to be protected until it was closed up. That wasn’t Josiah’s problem. It was Rory Farnsworth’s—along with rounding up the men who had busted Abram Randalls out of jail in the first place.

What was Josiah’s problem was Scrap and the situation at hand. Most importantly, whether or not the story Farnsworth had told him was true: Did Scrap stab a whore, run away, and did somebody see him do it? The sheriff seemed pretty confident that Scrap was as guilty as guilty can be.

“You come back with a key?” Scrap asked, hoisting himself up, spinning his legs over the side of the cot.

Josiah shook his head no. “Looks like you’re stuck for the moment.” He faced Scrap and dropped the volume of his voice to just above a soft whisper.

“I gotta get out of here, Wolfe.”
Learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger’s Revenge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Goodbye for Now"

Laurie Frankel was recently named one of ten women to watch in 2012. She is a proud core member of the Seattle7Writers. Her first novel, The Atlas of Love, came out in August 2010.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Goodbye for Now, and reported the following:
Hmm, interesting. In my first book, The Atlas of Love, page 69 was the perfect encapsulation of the whole novel. It was amazing. This one isn’t quite as spot on, but it’s good too in a different way. Goodbye For Now’s page 69 is a turning point. Two, actually. Two things begin on page 69 that change the course of everything going forward.

The first half of page 69 is a warning: NO ONE CAN KNOW.
“You can’t tell your mom,” said Sam.

“I know.”

“You can’t.”

“I know.”

“Seriously, Merde. No one can know.”

“I know.”

It wasn’t out of the realm that Livvie wouldn’t have heard from her daughter in a while—it was entirely in character which was the only reason she had been able to comment on it. Kyle and Julia had cell phones and TV and an internet connection just like everybody else. But unlike everybody else, they ignored all of it for weeks and weeks at a time. Meredith hadn’t seen them in a few months, not since the funeral, but they were coming for Thanksgiving, for the whole weekend in fact, and though Meredith was looking forward to seeing them, she was a little anxious about the four days it meant she had to be out of touch with her grandmother.
Sam, computer genius, has developed some software, an algorithm so that his girlfriend Meredith can video chat with her recently deceased grandmother. In this scene, Meredith’s parents are coming for Thanksgiving. Sam is worried that she won’t be able to keep the software a secret. Sam is worried that she must keep the software a secret. Meredith is worried about being “out of touch” with a dead person. Those concerns, and their fallout, launch pretty much all of the book’s central conflicts and crises.

Then there’s this interaction with Meredith’s parents, Julia and Kyle, when they show up for Thanksgiving later on page 69.
Julia had lost some weight, but otherwise she seemed well. Kyle looked as he always did in “The Big City”—game, glad to see his kid, and oddly out of place somehow. They arrived late Thursday morning bearing island cheeses and yams and pies. Meredith was making soup, turkey, salad, beets, and a valiant attempt at steering the conversation away from what Sam was up to these days. It wasn’t easy.

“So, Sam, what are you up to these days?” Kyle asked genially.

“Don’t ask him that.” Julia swatted Kyle’s butt with a dish towel and then added sotto voce, but not quite sotto enough that Sam missed it, “He’s unemployed.”

Sam was not offended though he could hardly answer the question. “I’ve been running a lot in the mornings. Down along the waterfront. Sometimes in the Arboretum. It’s beautiful out there. I’ve been learning to cook, making a lot of meals. Getting settled in here. Getting caught up. I’ve also been doing some ... projects. For a friend.” He added this last so as to suggest freelance work and the ability to financially support Kyle’s daughter—who shot him a warning glance—but he worried her parents might have follow-up questions he couldn’t answer.
Meredith’s parents are worried about why Sam lost his job. (It’s because of the secret software they can’t know about.) They’re worried about what he’ll do next. (He’ll work more on the secret software they can’t know about.) This scene is about gaps in communication that spring up even among the living...never mind the ones that happen among the dead. And again, the seeds that get planted here between Sam, Meredith, Julia, and Kyle bear weighty fruit throughout the rest of the book.

Cool, no? This page 69 test always takes my breath away.
Learn more about the book and author at Laurie Frankel's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Laurie Frankel and Calli.

My Book, The Movie: Goodbye for Now.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 13, 2012

"Kill You Twice"

Chelsea Cain is the New York Times bestselling author of Heartsick, Sweetheart, Evil at Heart, The Night Season, and the newly released Kill You Twice. Both Heartsick and Sweetheart were listed in Stephen King’s Top Ten Books of the Year in Entertainment Weekly.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Kill You Twice, and reported the following:
Gretchen Lowell is definitely my favorite character to write. Sure, she slaughters people, but she’s also an excellent conversationalist. She knows how to deliver a zinger. She’s smart. My favorite scenes are the ones between Gretchen and Archie, my beleaguered detective protagonist—sometimes they kiss, sometimes they try to kill each other, but they always break out the witty rejoinders. Page 69 of Kill You Twice is a scene between Gretchen and journalist Susan Ward. Gretchen loves to toy with Susan--and when you’re locked up in a mental hospital you have to get your entertainment where you can. She agrees to tell Susan about the first person she murdered, knowing that Susan won’t be able to resist the story. But Gretchen, as always, has an agenda. She knows that Susan will share their conversation with Archie and that Archie will be compelled to investigate, pulling him deeper into Gretchen’s sphere of manipulation. The scene is basically one long monologue. Gretchen drags out every gory detail, relishing in Susan’s discomfort. Susan doesn’t say anything on the entire page. She just listens and tries not to vomit. This is one of the more graphic scenes I’ve written. It was important that Gretchen describe the violence deliciously, because Susan starts out with the power in the scene and this is how Gretchen wins it back. On page 69 alone, she describes cutting off her victim’s nose (“flesh always looks so much smaller once it’s been dismembered”), and then disemboweling him (“He was fat and the blade got dull”). Is it representative of the book? No. I’m not sure I could sustain that! It’s too dark and intense. I think that this scene represents what some people assume my books are like. But Kill You Twice is also very funny in places and sexy in places and there is plenty of mystery solving and adventure. Plus, Archie is the protagonist. Any scene that would be representative of the book would have to have him in it.
Learn more about the book and author at Chelsea Cain’s website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Sweetheart.

The Page 69 Test: Evil at Heart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"The Black Isle"

Sandi Tan was born in Singapore. She attended University of Kent in the UK and received an MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University. Her short films have shown at major festivals and museums around the world, including the New York Film Festival and MoMA.

Tan applied the Page 69 Test to The Black Isle, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
...The Depression had left this part of the world tattered and raw. Walking to and from St. Anne’s, I saw rickshaw coolies squatting in the shade, some without fares for days. Beside them were construction workers (many of them Chinese women), wharf laborers, beggars, all stooping together in what at first appeared to be silent solidarity but, at a second glance, was clearly bewilderment so deep as to have rendered every single one of them speechless. Only their children had the enterprise to beg, filling the district with their ubiquitous cry: “No mother, no father, no supper, no soda!”

After school, I often sat on a stone bench in the traffic island dividing Spring Street, the main artery of Chinatown. This island was tiny: just a small, raised slab with barely enough room for the bench, a hibiscus bush, and the pedestal where Mr. Singh, the Sikh policeman, stood directing traffic with oversized canvas sleeves fastened to his arms like wings. It was here, watching the throngs in cars, trams, buses, and on foot, that I received my practical education.

The Chinese, who made up a little more than half of the populace, came in a wide variety, from slave to millionaire. The ones known as Peranakans, whose families had been in the Nanyang for generations and proudly spoke no Chinese at all, fared the best...
Whoa! My page 69 represents a lull in the dark 469-page sweep of The Black Isle. It's the early 1930s here, and this section comes after the sinister prologue and opening chapters, all chock-full of Very Bad Happenings! At this point, my heroine Cassandra is still a young girl--barely twelve--and since my book charts her progress from unruly immigrant urchin to mature, powerful conjurer, there's still a long way to go. Cassandra is, of course, already gifted--or cursed--with the ability to see the dead, though there's no mention of the dead on this page!

Instead, what we have here is a segue into social anthropology--a guide to the flora and fauna, living and dead, of the Black Isle--following the ghostly roller-coaster ride of the earlier pages and before the terrors soon to follow (the haunted girls' school returns on Page 72). The next chapter recounts the even greater horror of going through puberty on an isolated rubber plantation, where the thin gray trees resemble skeleton armies in the dark.

Hopefully, my Page 69 will tell serious readers that The Black Isle's not just about phantoms but also ghosts of a more pernicious kind: the past.
Read an excerpt from The Black Isle, view the book trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Sandi Tan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2012

"The Book of Jonas"

Stephen Dau is originally from western Pennsylvania. He worked for ten years in postwar reconstruction and international development before studying creative writing at Johns Hopkins University and Bennington College, where he received an MFA. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on MSNBC, and elsewhere. Dau lives in Brussels, Belgium, with his family.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Book of Jonas, his first novel, and reported the following:
I'm not sure if page 69 of The Book of Jonas is representative or not. It takes place after Jonas comes to America, just after he begins college, and it recounts his first love. This is truly dangerous territory for a writer, as it's a subject that has been done so many times that finding anything fresh and un-clichéd to say is difficult. At the same time, familiar love-story tropes can be appropriate, especially in a book that is not, at it's core, a love story. It gives the reader something to hang onto. So this then, was my best stab at describing the exhilaration and exclusion of Jonas falling in love.

Page 69 excerpt:
He soon finds that, except to those in the middle of it, being in love is the most boring thing, the most incomprehensible thing in the world.

They dine at a secluded corner table on a red-and-white paper tablecloth, upon which the food before them either loses all meaning or becomes their entire existence. Her hands fly around as she talks, seeming to push the words through the air in front of her, and he hangs from them like a strand of over-cooked fettuccini.

She tells him that, were the earth the size of an apple, its surface would be as smooth as its skin. This bit of trivia feels vitally important to him, as though it says something fundamental about their lives. He finds it amusing when she tries to show him the correct way to hold a fork. He tells her that if you hold your hand at arms length out to the night sky, an area of the night equivalent to the space of your thumbnail would contain a million stars, most of which cannot even be seen by the naked eye. By which he means that present between them are infinite possibilities.

And they are only dimly aware that, to an outside observer, someone lacking their interest or enthusiasm or imagination, they are talking a kind of silly code, a special language known only to them.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Dau's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns"

Margaret Dilloway was inspired by her Japanese mother's experiences when she wrote The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, and especially by a book her father had given to her mother called The American Way of Housekeeping.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a short page, the beginning of a chapter. It finds my character, Gal Garner, at the end of a tutoring session with her students. Though it has nothing to do with the roses that have a strong theme in much of the book, the page shows several important Gal-elements:
  • Her sort of curmudgeonly attitude
  • Her illness
  • Her fear of talking to other people and asking for help
  • Her attraction to Mr. Morton, which she denies to herself repeatedly
Here’s part of page 69:
I am going to Mr. Morton’s room. Tomorrow the Science Olympiad team meets, and I will ask him to be the other coach. Though he is brand-new and he could be the worst teacher on the planet for all I know, I cannot handle the team alone anymore. Last month, I had to cancel two practices due to my own illness. Though I was fine moments before, I shiver and pull my cardigan closer around myself. It’s too cold in here with all the students gone. My heart rate increases. I realize I am nervous about asking him to help me out.
I’d want to keep reading, to find out more about what’s going to happen next. Why does talking to Mr. Morton make her so anxious? What’s wrong with her health? She seems lonely to me here—“It’s too cold in here with all the students gone,” yet resistant to seeking out interaction.
Learn more about the book and author at Margaret Dilloway's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Daniel H. Wilson earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. His books include How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Where’s My Jetpack?, How to Build a Robot Army, The Mad Scientist Hall of Fame, Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown, A Boy and His Bot, and Robopocalypse.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Amped, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Do you ever wish that you were a regular kid? A Reggie?” I ask.

Nick snorts. “I could barely see before I got retinal. Could barely think without Autofocus. And you’re asking me if I want to have the dumbs? No thanks. I’d rather be weird and know it than be a stupid ass.”

I can’t help but feel like I’m speaking to an adult.

“What about you?” asks Nick.


“Yeah. You want to be a reggie?”

“It would make life a lot easier.”

Nick stops, frowns at me. “Would it?” he asks.
Amped is about a civil rights movement sparked when people with disabilities begin using neural implants that make them smarter than average people. The characters, young and old, have to come to terms with being ostracized by "regular" members of society. It's an issue being dealt with on page 69, and an issue that leads to violence and mayhem by page 269.
Learn more about the book and author at Daniel Wilson's website.

Wilson earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. His books include How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Where’s My Jetpack?, How to Build a Robot Army, The Mad Scientist Hall of Fame, Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown, A Boy and His Bot, and Robopocalypse.

My Book, The Movie: Amped.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Death of a Schoolgirl"

Joanna Campbell Slan’s first novel—Paper, Scissors, Death—was an Agatha Award finalist. It features Kiki Lowenstein, a spunky single mom who lives in St. Louis The sixth book in that series will be released Summer 2013.

The author applied the Page 69 Test to Death of a Schoolgirl, the first novel in her newest series—The Jane Eyre Chronicles, which features Charlotte Brontë’s classic heroine Jane Eyre as an amateur sleuth—and reported the following:
Here is Page 69 of Death of a Schoolgirl, almost in its entirety:
"Here." Cook poured from a teapot with a chipped spout, a delicate vessel on which pale roses had been painted, her chapped red hands thickly incongruous against the translucent white of the pot. She pressed a mug of lukewarm tea on me. I took a tentative sip. I wished it had milk and sugar, but I was grateful nonetheless.

I closed my eyes to savor the brew. One more image impressed itself on my brain-a flapping sheet, the spectral silhouette I'd witnessed from the walkway.

I squeezed the thick mug, trying to transfer its warmth. I was cold, and hungry and tired. When the senses are over-stimulated, the imagination naturally attempts mediation, doesn't it? I decided that my mind had taken my concern for Adèle, my guilt at not visiting, her fearful letter, my own memories of Lowood, and woven all these separate occurrences into a new and fantastical tale. Mixed together with the sight of a sheet flapping in the wind, I'd invented a dramatic intrigue. My mind had merely woven disparate visions together, hoping to create a narrative, even where none existed.

That couldn't have been a dead body that I had seen.

Taken in tandem with the threat to Adèle, it conjured up all sorts of wild imaginings.

Don't go there, Jane, I warned myself. Keep to your plan. Surely Adèle is fine!

Industry. I wanted motion and purpose to keep my emotions in check. I drained the mug. Before I could thank the cook, she took the cup from me and turned her back on me.

"Hamburg. That's a long way away, eh? You been running from someone. He done you harm, eh?"

She had confused me with someone else. I opened my mouth to correct her, but before I could, she said, "No matter. Miss Miller will be happy to see you. Especially after what happened this morning. She is going to need all the help she can get, I'll warrant."
I couldn't have chosen a better page if I'd skimmed through my book looking for a sample. This short excerpt captures Jane's cerebral nature. She's very internal, and she questions what she experiences. When I think of Jane Eyre, I think of how resolute she was in Brontë's classic. After all, Jane left Edward Rochester without any plan, any resources, but with a grim determination that she could not live in the same house with him after she learned he was a married man. Over and over again, Jane values what is right over what is expedient or easy.
Learn more about the author and her work at Joanna Slan's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Joanna Slan & Rafferty and Victoria.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Larceny in My Blood"

Matthew Parker recently earned an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and has been drug- and crime-free since 2002. Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he now lives in New York City.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Larceny in My Blood: A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education, and reported the following:
On page 69 of my book there is a comparison of prison bureaucracy with university bureaucracy, and how the costs—and by that token, the profits—of both have risen dramatically over the past 30 or so years. I also talk about how strange it was for me to go from an Arizona State Prison to an Arizona State University:
“I went from a prison yard to a college campus.”

“From muscular men to women with fake tits.”

“And cell phones.”

“There are lots of fake tits and cell phones at Arizona State.”

“It’s a wonder that they haven’t yet combined the two.”

“There were no tits in prison, but lots of pecs.”
The drawings that accompany these lines are satirical, highlighting how obsessed many of us can be with our chests. In prison, most guys work out their upper bodies only, leading to what is known as the “prison build;” massive torsos mounted precariously on scrawny waist and legs, so that it often looks like they will tip over at any minute. Women with breast implants, by comparison, often conjure the same top-heavy image, and I was both surprised and dismayed to witness the prevalence of so many young women who felt that they needed to surgically augment their bodies in order to feel attractive. Added to this was the sheer ubiquity of cell phones and you had a very confused ex-con walking around the campus of ASU.

Page 69 is somewhat representative of the book in that it shows how prison can often be a microcosm of society, a theme repeated throughout the book. But it also underscores the tax dollars being spent to imprison so many nonviolent drug offenders; tax dollars that would better serve the public on more worthwhile institutions.

Like education.
Learn more about Larceny in My Blood at the publisher's website, and visit the Larceny in My Blood Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"The Thing About Thugs"

Tabish Khair is an award-winning poet, journalist, critic, educator and novelist. A citizen of India, he lives in Denmark and teaches literature at Aarhus University.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his novel The Thing about Thugs, and reported the following:
The Thing About Thugs, released on 24th July 2012 by Houghton Mifflin in North America, is basically about a young Indian man, Amir Ali, who is taken to London by a Captain Meadows in the 1830s. Meadows wants to record Amir's life story as a member of India's dreaded 'cult' of thugs, and also use him to settle some 'scholarly' matters in phrenological circles. But when the underclass of London starts losing its heads, Amir the Thug becomes the prime suspect, and his only defenders are a ragtag army of ayahs, lascars and ex-slaves in foggy, crowded early Victorian London.

On page 69, Amir -- made to dress up as a 'real Indian' (turban and all), which is not his normal attire, is returning from a meeting of Meadows' phrenological society and passes -- unknown to him -- the murderers depriving the London underclass of its heads. So, does that 'represent' the rest of the novel? Yes and no, I hope. I imagine the different pages of all my novels to be tiles on a wall that is coherent and complete. No two tiles are or should be entirely alike, for that would make one redundant. And yet, every tile has to be necessary in order to make the wall complete and coherent. I believe page 69 is such a tile.
Learn more about the book and author at Tabish Khair's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 3, 2012

"City of the Lost"

Stephen Blackmoore is a Los Angeles-based writer of crime and horror.

He applied the Page 69 Test to City of the Lost, his first novel, and reported the following:
I'm not sure how indicative of the rest of the book page 69 is. It's one of the few pages that isn't full of profanity, brutal violence, or undead face munching.

City of the Lost is about a thug, Joe Sunday, who gets murdered and brought back from the dead. In this chunk of scene set in a bar he meets a woman whose appearance is a little too convenient.
“So what brings you out here tonight?” she asks. “Tragedy or comedy?”

“Does it have to be either?”

“In my experience it usually is.”

That one’s easy. “I’d say tragedy.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. The two aren’t really all that different from each other, you know. All depends on whether the ending’s happy.”

“You don’t say.” I know she’s linked with the stone somehow and what’s happened to me, but there’s something about her that sets me at ease.

“I think your problems could probably yield some pretty interesting opportunities,” she says.

I’m sure you do. “Is this where you try to sell me on Amway?”

“Unitarianism, actually, but I can see you’re not the cultish type. Besides, they kicked me out.”

“Funny. I had the same problem with the Methodists.”

I’d like to say this is the weirdest conversation I’ve had in a while, but the last twenty-four hours have been a lesson in freakish. Besides, she’s so damn comfortable to talk to. It’s easy, and fun. And for a few minutes, at least, I can forget about immortality and zombies and not breathing.

“What about you?” I ask. “What brings you out here?”

“Got bored, decided to check this place out. Nice vibe.” She gives me that dazzling smile again. “Nice people.”

“So you’re not a regular?”

She shakes her head. “Oh, hell no. Though I must say I’ve been enjoying the show.”
She seems to see my scotch for the first time. “If I’d known you were a serious drinker, I wouldn’t be trying to ply you with this crap. What are you drinking?”

“Nothing.” I slide the glass over to her. What’s the point if you can’t get drunk?

She reaches over, takes a sniff, a delicate taste.

“Oban. Pretty expensive nothing.”

“You know your scotches. Consider it the obligatory drink I buy you.”
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Blackmoore's website.

My Book, The Movie: City of the Lost.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Small Damages"

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books. She teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Pennsylvania.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Small Damages, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Small Damages, we are not in southern Spain, where most of the novel takes place. We are not on the cortijo, not in the company of the stubborn old cook, not near the beautiful young man who tends the cortijo horses, not near the acres of bulls, and the roads are not dusty. We are, instead, in suburban Philadelphia, a flashback moment for my heroine, Kenzie. She is remembering a late night with her best American friends. The stories they would tell to each other. The comfort they took from each other. The comforts of what Kenzie always knew as home. They have climbed through an abandoned shelter, having fled the prom. They are settling in among bat droppings and wings. They are thinking about the future, imagining all the changes that will come with graduation.

Kenzie has no idea, as she sits—none, yet—that her future is beyond all imagining. That she will not head off to Syracuse University in the fall. That she will not stay with her boyfriend. That she will not summer with these best friends on the Jersey shore. Her future is different. Her future is already beating within. Her future is the baby she doesn’t know she’s having yet.

Turn the page, and we’re back at the cortijo. But on page 69, the future hasn’t happened yet.
Learn more about the book and author at Beth Kephart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Castro's Daughter"

David Hagberg is a former Air Force cryptographer who has traveled extensively in Europe, the Arctic, and the Caribbean and has spoken at CIA functions. He has published more than twenty novels of suspense, including Allah's Scorpion, Dance With the Dragon, The Expediter, and Abyss.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Castro's Daughter, and reported the following:
I guess I’ve been reading the Page 69 Test for too long—or maybe not long enough—because damn if page 69 of Castro's Daughter doesn’t lay out what Kirk McGarvey’s next quest will be.

Louise Horn, the wife of McGarvey’s best friend Otto Rencke, has been kidnapped by agents of the Cuban intelligence service—the DI--and the ransom is Otto showing up in Havana to attend the funeral of Fidel Castro. Of course Otto agrees.

Mac who is hiding out on a Greek island licking his wounds after a particularly hurtful assignment in which his wife, daughter and son in law were brutally assassinated is approached with the news by Marty Bambridge, the CIA’s Deputy Director of Operations.
“Is the Bureau making any progress finding Louise?”

“They’re looking for the Caddy the kidnappers used, but it’s disappeared. No one at the day care got a tag number.”

“Has the White House been informed?”

“No, it was one of Otto’s conditions.”

“Good, and we’re going to keep it that way,” McGarvey said. “Because they’re not interested in Louise or Otto, it’s me the DI wants, and luring Otto to Havana was the only way they could dig me out.”


“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”

“Just how do you plan on doing that?” Bambridge asked.

“I’m going to Havana to ask the woman why her dying father’s last wish was to make contact with me. And then I’m bringing Otto home.”
Learn more about the book and author at David Hagberg's website.

Writers Read: David Hagberg (July 2011).

My Book, The Movie: Abyss.

The Page 69 Test: Abyss.

--Marshal Zeringue