Friday, November 30, 2012

"Shadow Creek"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Now You See Her, The Wild Zone, Still Life, Charley’s Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, Puppet, Lost, Whispers and Lies, Grand Avenue, The First Time, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Shadow Creek, and reported the following:
What an interesting concept! I just read over page 69 and it's a really good one! I think any reader who turned to that page would definitely want to read more. Shadow Creek is about an unlikely group of campers who find themselves in the Adirondacks at the same time as a pair of murderous psychopaths. Page 69 takes you right into the killers' warped minds. Here we have the female half of the murderous duo talking about her male lover and accomplice, giving some horrifying details of his past as well as a glimpse into the way her mind works, and what prompts them to do the horrible things they do. It's a look into their twisted psyches and motives, and I think it's both compelling and insightful. It's both representative of the book as a whole, and not. Because it's a multiple person point of view, we get to see the plot unfolding from a variety of perspectives, and I like to delve as deeply into all the minds of the characters as I can while continuing to advance the plot. (Character, after all, is what drives the action.) Since Nikki, the psychopath in question, is only one of four points of view, hers is not the normal perspective. But it was very important to me to represent her fairly, and to make her believable, as well as frightening. And maybe all the more frightening because she is so believable.
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Eleven Pipers Piping"

C.C. Benison is the writer most recently of the crime novel, Eleven Pipers Piping. He has worked as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines, as a book editor, and as a contributor to nonfiction books. A graduate of the University of Manitoba and Carleton University, he is the author of five previous novels, including Twelve Drummers Drumming and Death at Buckingham Palace. He lives in Winnipeg, where he is at work on his next Father Christmas mystery, Ten Lords A-Leaping.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Eleven Pipers Piping and reported the following:
Page 69 of Eleven Pipers Piping nudges one of the themes of the novel, that of marital love and protection and their (sometimes perilous) limits, and illustrates one of the arcs of the Father Christmas series, that of finding and committing to new love. In the first novel in the series, Twelve Drummers Drumming, readers meet the Reverend Tom Christmas, an Anglican priest and recent widower, still coping with his loss. In this sequel, he begins to move on with his life, denoted on this page by his dilemma of what to do with his wedding ring, still on his left hand.

Page 69:
“But you’re a young man …” She didn’t need to say more. The implication was clear: You could marry again.

“Odd,” he said. “You’re the first person to remark on this. At least in my hearing.”

“I don’t mean to offend.”

“Don’t apologize. I have wondered from time to time what I should do with it … the ring. I expect in some way, I’m not really quite ready …” To let go, to move on, he thought, which removing the ring would imply. “I wonder for instance what my daughter will think…”

“You do have your own life.”

“Yes … yes, of course.”

“Don’t mind me. I’m being intrusive.” Judith laughed lightly. “You have other family, I’m sure.”

“Yes, at Gravesend. Shall we?” He gestured in the vicinity of the private dining room toward which the other guests were drifting. “They were all down at Christmas,” he continued happing to abandon the topic of rings. “My wife’s parents live in London and dote on their granddaughter. We were up to London at half-term. And then there’s my wife’s sister—she used to live here in the village, but she moved to Exeter in the summer, which is a pity, but, still, she’s near enough. So, on the whole, I’m not … ill commoded when it comes to rellies.

“And you?” he added conversationally, “do you have children?”

“I have a son,” she said as they passed into the dining room where Kerra was finishing setting out the coffee service.

“And where does he live?”

“My son? Oh! In Shanghai.”

“So far away. That’s a pity. What does he do?”

“Oh, what do they call it? I. T.?”

“Ah, computers.”

“I’m afraid he’s not able to come home very often.” Judith resumed her seat.

Tom resumed his and glanced around the table as the other guests returned to the room, now chilled slightly in the absence of human bodies and the
Learn more about the book and author at C. C. Benison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Edge of Black"

J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels and multiple short stories. She has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel The Cold Room won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original of 2010, and Where All The Dead Lie was a RITA® Award nominee for Best Romantic Suspense in 2012.

Ellison's Dr. Samantha Owens Series includes A Deeper Darkness and the recently released Edge of Black.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Edge of Black and reported the following:
I happen to have both the mass-market paperback and trade paperback versions of Edge of Black to hand, and thought I’d play a game to see how the format affects the Page 69 Test. I didn’t look until I began writing this, just now. And…

Ah. They are bookends of the same scene – the trade paperback the beginning, the mass-market the meat. Washington D.C. homicide detective Darren Fletcher is investigating the murder of Congressman Peter Leighton, a victim of an apparent biological terrorist attack on the D.C. Metro. Fletcher is a no-nonsense cop, and after being kept waiting at the Congressman’s office to interview his Chief of Staff, he finally decides to throw his weight around.

From the mass market paperback:
He went back to the intern sitting at the front desk. She was a timorous thing, eyes wide and staring, probably wondering what she was going to do next. Most likely be sent back home to Indiana, if she’d been from Leighton’s district. If she were local, she might be reassigned, or be out of luck entirely. When he said, “Excuse me,” she jumped a mile.

“Yes, sir?”

“I’m going to have to insist on seeing the chief of staff immediately.”

“I’m sorry, sir. They’re in a meeting, and they said they weren’t to be disturbed. For anyone. He told me that you need to wait outside.”

Fletcher gave her his most charming smile. “You go in there and let him know he has one minute to open the doors or I’ll kick them in.”

Her rabbit eyes grew wide and she made a beeline for the doors. Fletcher didn’t wait, he followed right behind her, and when she opened the door, he touched her on the shoulder.

“Thanks. I’ll take it from here.”

“But, but…” Fletcher left her stammering in the doorway and stepped through into the congressman’s office. He didn’t make a habit of interrupting meetings—he had no right to do so—but there were exigent circumstances at play.

A thin man with precisely cut brown hair and a pristine gray pin-striped suit was sitting behind the desk, with three less dressed people facing him—two men and a woman. If Fletcher hadn’t known the congressman was dead, he would have assumed the man behind the desk held the power. Which, in many ways, he did.
From the Trade Paperback:
“Did the congressman take the Metro this morning?”

Temple sniffed once, hard, then faced Fletcher again. “He takes it every morning. Part of his job, he says, to be with the people, be a part of the populace. Of course, he has security on him, and he only rides it one stop, from Eastern Market to Capitol South. You know. Kisses his wife goodbye, hops on the subway. It makes him feel normal, like a regular guy. Joe six-pack, he liked to say. So yes, he was on the subway today.”

“Where’s his wife now?”

“Gretchen? Flying in from Terre Haute. She’d gone home to get one of their… charities settled. She is devastated.”

“I’ll need to speak to her as soon as she arrives. And I need to speak to his detail. I’ll also need the names of all the supporters who were here this morning.”

“I will have the detail get in touch immediately, and the list of people sent to you.”

“The detail weren’t here, in the office?”

“Not at his time of death. In the building, yes. More than likely. They were scheduled to go out with him at two. The congressman had a meeting this afternoon at the University Club. He was scheduled to speak to the Daughters of the American Revolution, of all things.”

Fletcher appreciated the irony—speaking to a group whose membership could trace their lineage to the first attempts of the country to gain their freedom on the day the most important city in the world was attacked by terrorists was rich.
Two scenes, which in the grand spectrum, look unimportant. And yet, they are vital to the story, and to what happens down the road.
Learn more about the book and author at J.T. Ellison's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Deeper Darkness.

Writers Read: J.T. Ellison (April 2012).

My Book, The Movie: A Deeper Darkness.

Writers Read: J.T. Ellison (November 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of numerous widely praised books—twelve novels and a work of nonfiction—including the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers and the Junior Bender mysteries.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Crashed, the first Junior Bender novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is perfect for this. At the very top, centered, is the number 9, and below that the chapter's title, Thistle.

My hero, a highly skilled burglar named Junior Bender works, on occasion, as a private eye for crooks. (Crooks are less likely than the rest of us to call the cops.) In Crashed, Junior is being forced to identify the person who's been sabotaging a movie and also to prevent future sabotage.

Problem Number One is, it's an adult movie. Problem Number Two is that it's being produced by Trey Annunziato, the beautiful and effortlessly lethal head of the San Fernando Valley's biggest crime operation, a job she got by having someone kill the outfit's previous leader, Deuce. Deuce Annunziato was her father.

Problem Number Three is that the movie stars someone named Thistle Downing, now a drug-addled, impoverished depressive living in a borderline squat in Hollywood, but once America's favorite TV child star, a young actress of incandescent comedy talent who slowly, over the course of years, lost her ability and all her confidence in view of the entire American public. Thistle is so out of it she doesn't even know what kind of a movie she's signed up for. She's thinking art house, an audience made up of guys who go to the movies wearing sandals.

Chapter Nine is the one in which Junior, who never watches TV, learns who Thistle is, and why he's going to have to risk his neck to get her out of the movie while apparently making sure everything moves forward. (Junior's moral code may be improvised and paper-thin, but he lives by it.)

Junior learns all this from his friend Louie the Lost, a former getaway driver with a bad sense of direction. Here's a bit from the page:
Life is definitely not fair. First I had to watch Hacker throw food at his mouth, miss with about half of it, and chew openmouthed on the stuff that found its way in. Then I had to watch Louie cough and spit and pull long dark shreds of wet tobacco off his tongue. When he was finished, he had brown lips and there was a pile of something in front of him that looked like used carnitas.

I decided to skip dinner.

“Thistle Downing?” he finally said. Louie looked at the remnants of his cigar and dropped it, with a surprising concentration of disgust, into the salad bowl. “But ... but ...” His head was shaking back and forth and he was practically spluttering. “They can’t put Thistle into that kind of movie. They can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It’s—it’s sick. Diseased, perverted, just wrong.” Louie is a short, stout guy who has a fat, cheerful little face that’s mostly forehead, and a dark Mediterranean complexion, and he generally looks like a happy olive. But he was actually flushed with indignation, and his lower lip was quivering. “They can't.”

“Louie,” I said. “You’re acting like she’s your kid sister.”

“She is,” Louie said. “She’s everybody’s kid sister."
And that's what sets the rest of the book into motion.
Learn more about the book and author at Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"The Stockholm Octavo"

Karen Engelmann is a writer and designer. She was born and raised in the American Midwest, then moved to Sweden after completing university studies in drawing and design. The city of Malmö was home base for eight years, but she now lives just north of New York City.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Stockholm Octavo, and reported the following:
The covers of The Stockholm Octavo might clap shut with a bang if it was subjected to the page 69 test — a scene between the narrator Emil Larsson and Mrs. Sparrow, a cartomancer who has a primary role in the novel. Unless, of course, the reader is intrigued by the notion of the Octavo, the fortunetelling spread at the center of their conversation. Emil and Mrs. Sparrow are laying a card and talking of romance, which might also be appealing to some, and there is the added bonus of an illustration: a beautiful card from the unique deck used in the process. But the Octavo itself is not the heart of the story, although it provides the narrative structure, and TSO is not a romance novel. The protagonist is on a journey that leads to love and connection in a larger sense, but he also encounters politics, poison, runaways, rivalry, refugees, revolution, obsessed collectors, cross-dressers, folding fans and a killer masquerade ball at the Stockholm Opera house in 1792. I really hope the reader looks at the front flap first!
Learn more about the book and author at Karen Engelmann's website.

Writers Read: Karen Engelmann.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"The Right Hand"

Derek Haas is the co-writer of the films The Double, Wanted, and 3:10 to Yuma, and author of The Assassin Trilogy: The Silver Bear, Columbus and Dark Men.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Right Hand, and reported the following:
I love the page 69 test! In The Right Hand, page 69 focuses on the backstory of a supporting character, the head of one of the CIA's top districts. This character becomes extremely important to the plot, so while the main character, Austin Clay, is not even mentioned on this page, 69 is an important one. The page speaks to writing three-dimensional characters. You have to lay the groundwork for these supporting roles, so that as their importance increases throughout the book, readers will feel like they are that much closer to them, that they understand where these characters came from, and they become either characters worth pulling for or rooting against. Of course, I hope you'll read the first 68 and every page after!
Learn more about the book and author at Derek Haas's website.

Writers Read: Derek Haas (November 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Poison Shy"

Stacey Madden holds a BA from the University of Toronto and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. He lives in Toronto.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Poison Shy, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Poison Shy marks the beginning of chapter seven. It opens with a bang, and plunges right into the mystery, angst, and corruption – both physical and moral – that drift through the whole book like poison gas.

“I woke the next morning in a tangle of bloodstained sheets.”

Brandon Galloway, the loser-hero of the novel, has just survived a night of “sexual aerobics” with the sassy and vulgar Melanie Blaxley, his femme fatale, only to wake and find her gone. This abandonment is nothing new for Brandon, who was frequently abandoned by his father as a child, and who is mentally and emotionally detached from his schizophrenic mother.

He calls out “Hello?”, and the only reply comes from the plumbing in the walls. Isolation is a theme that runs through the novel like the undoing of a zipper.

Brandon then realizes he’s late for work – also nothing new, as he’s always scrambling and fumbling about. He’d had quite a bit to drink the night before, which leaves him with blurry vision and a mouth “dry as cement mix”. As he dresses, he’s overwhelmed with “the vinegary scent of [his] armpits.”

The emphasis on alcohol, blood, and body odour in this scene is representative of both preceding and forthcoming scenes of violence and depravity, not to mention the recurring motif of the ugliness and frailty of the human body. Brandon’s blurry vision is also symbolic of his extremely poor judgement.

All in all, I’d say page 69 provides a brief but powerful taste of what Poison Shy is all about, like a drop of hot sauce on the tongue when your glass of water is empty and your tap isn’t working.
Learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website and Stacey Madden's Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 16, 2012

"The Cassandra Project"

Jack McDevitt is a former naval officer, taxi driver, customs officer and motivational trainer. He is a multiple Nebula Award finalist who lives in Georgia with his wife Maureen.

Mike Resnick has won five Hugos (from a record 35 nominations), a Nebula, and other major awards in the USA, France, Japan, Spain, Croatia, and Poland.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, The Cassandra Project, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Cassandra Project is basically a transition between scenes. If you read nothing else, it wouldn't tell you what the book was about -- but you'd know that at least part of it was set in Washington, D.C., involved the government, and was written by two guys who knew how to push a noun up against a verb with some grace.
Learn more about the book and authors at Jack McDevitt's website and Mike Resnick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Prosperous Friends"

Christine Schutt is the author of two short story collections and two novels, Florida (National Book Award finalist) and All Souls (Pulitzer Prize finalist).

Schutt applied the Page 69 Test to her newest novel, Prosperous Friends, and this is what she found:
What I had hoped to find on page sixty-nine of Prosperous Friends was a recurring note in the novel’s song about love and marriage and ambition, and here it was then: together on a first date, Clive Harris and Isabel Bourne, met at a wedding a year before where Clive first kissed her. Here is part of the melody: the easy, unwise seduction of an uncertain woman by a practiced, dangerous man.
Isabel’s hand was all lily of the valley and clean; her nails were shell. “You are inspiring,” he said, “but this restaurant we’ve found...”

“Is silly,” she said.

Clive smelled her hand once again, and the restaurant turned buoyant, and the service, the service was, well here came the waiter with dessert already: the eight-layer cake, white with red filling, wedding-like and flouncy on a tablecloth scraped so clean that the dinner seemed to be starting again, and Isabel was saying she would like it to start again. “And I’m not fond of Wednesdays.”

“Ah, hah.”

“Would there be anything else?”

“No thank you.”

“I’m baffled,” she said once the waiter had left. “You baffle me.”
And so Clive Harris will continue to baffle her. Thirty-five years older, he will invite her to Maine to live in a second house he owns not far from where he lives and paints with his wife, his second wife, Dinah Harris, a poet. In Maine, Isabel will serve as temporary muse and baffled mistress.
Not a remark to answer, but Clive smiled at the small hook Isabel used to catch him. He, a ravaged carp, practiced in taking advantage of the stunned or wounded, although his appetite, of late, had dulled. And why cloak his intentions so darkly? He wanted to be kind if only Isabel would hold still and let him look at her: bark-brown hair and eyes; eyes wide apart, pale face.
Clive will take advantage of her just as he predicts on page sixty-nine.
Learn more about the book and author at Christine Schutt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2012

"The Small Hours"

Susie Boyt is the author of several acclaimed novels and a memoir, My Judy Garland Life, which was serialised on Radio 4 and will be staged at the Nottingham Playhouse in spring 2013. Since 2002 she has written a weekly column about art and life for the Financial Times. She lives in London with her family.

Boyt applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Small Hours, and reported the following:
Page 69 is probably the most daring page of The Small Hours. It is a few freak paragraphs set twenty years after the book ends, and consists of a conversation between two women who, in the rest of the book, we only see as four year old girls. By chance they find themselves in the same maternity ward, after giving birth to their first babies, and begin to reminisce about their amazing kindergarten teacher. Her extreme kindness they have not forgotten, nor her sudden demise, although they don’t remember exactly what occurred.

The teacher in question, Harriet Mansfield, is the brilliant and disturbed heroine of The Small Hours. The school she creates is designed to be like a little Eden for her precious pupils, filled with the very best that life has to offer. There are chickens in the garden and a Shetland pony, there are picnics and a doll’s hospital and a real street market and a café where the girls are actually allowed to assist the indulgent owners. For her precious pupils who are rich in everything but care there is nothing that Harriet will not do. But what affect will this stunning new venture have on the fact that her real family despises her? How literal can you be about repairing the damage of the past?

From page 69 of The Small Hours:
‘Almost. What was she called again? Margaret?’

‘Harriet! How could you forget?’

‘Because I was like, four?’

‘I remember everything. I remember that big pink room filled with toys. I remember that whatever I said I wanted to do she always said ‘Absolutely!’ I remember when it was Halloween that time she covered the whole place in woolly cobwebs and pom-pom spiders and there were like a thousand pumpkins all flickering, and pink iced buns hanging from the ceiling on strings and we knelt on the floor and tried to eat them wearing black cat costumes. And apple bobbing and then all the parents going Oh my God! Everything’s so amazing. I think I’ve still got a picture of you and me standing next to a gingerbread house we made there. It’s so elaborate. It even has windows. D’you remember? She melted clear mints in a double boiler and left them to cool. I thought if someone is prepared to go to all that trouble on my account, then I can't be that bad.

‘She was really inspired.’

‘I’ll never forget that time I drew all over the piano with green felt tip. I knew I wasn’t meant to, and she didn’t even tell me off. It was one of those indelible markers as well and some guy came a from a piano shop and took half the keys away for a couple of days and brought them back perfect again. And she wasn’t even cross. All she said, was, “I shouldn’t really have left that pen lying about.” I was so moved.’

‘I can’t even remember what happened in the end.’

‘I just remember seeing her face and thinking that her heart had broken. I remember saying that to my mum.’

‘And what did your mum say?’

She just said, ‘Don’t be so idiotic, or something along those lines.’


‘I know, but you know, with my mum, I don’t mean anything nasty by it, but even her biggest fan would say that she’s a total sadist. I mean - Oh hello! I think he’s waking up now. Time to open the milk factory.
Learn more about the book and author at Susie Boyt's website.

The Page 99 Test: My Judy Garland Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Flame of Sevenwaters"

Juliet Marillier’s Flame of Sevenwaters is the sixth book in the Sevenwaters series, a historical fantasy set in early medieval Ireland.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Flame of Sevenwaters and reported the following:
On page 69, seven-year-old Finbar, a budding seer, has just told his older sister Maeve about a terrible event that happened when he was a baby. Maeve has just returned to Sevenwaters after ten years away, and she’s finding this brother she has never met before both unusually gifted and strangely troubled. With them is Finbar’s druid tutor, Luachan.
“Finbar,” said Luachan, “the other baby was not all burned up. Remember? It was not a human baby, and after it was scorched in the fire, your sister mended it and breathed life into it, and then gave it back to its mother. That part of the story had a good ending.” His tone was gentle. It sounded as if they had been through this explanation many times before.

“So you know the whole story too,” I said.

Luachan gave me a crooked smile. “It was deemed appropriate in view of my current duties. Of course, the bare bones of it are common knowledge: the abduction of a chieftain’s son does not go unnoticed. The details I had from Ciarán, who heard Clodagh’s account after her return from the Otherworld.”

“That baby was hurt,” Finbar insisted. “He went all black and shrivelled, and one of his eyes fell out into the flames. Clodagh burned her hand picking it up. And when Cathal poured wine on him to put out the fire, smoke came out of the baby’s mouth.”

“Perhaps you did see it, Finbar,” I told him, and I put my arm around his shoulders. He did not shrink from my touch, but under it he was strung tight. “But you couldn’t remember it. People don’t remember what they saw as little babies.”

“I see it in the water. I see it in the smoke. I can’t help it. It’s there waiting for me.”
Page 69 is quite a representative sample of the earlier part of the book. The later Sevenwaters novels contain an epic over-arching story about a power struggle between Lord Sean (chieftain of Sevenwaters and father of Clodagh, Maeve and Finbar) and Mac Dara, a malevolent prince of the Otherworld. Each novel also has its own story, focusing on individuals within the family. In Flame, Maeve’s relationship with her little brother is critical to the unfolding of both the epic and the personal story – the two will later find themselves on a grand and terrifying quest. This excerpt shows Maeve’s concern for Finbar and the way his visions colour his thinking.
Learn more about the book and author at Juliet Marillier's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Juliet Marillier & Pippa, Gretel, and Sara.

The Page 69 Test: Seer of Sevenwaters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"The Roots of the Olive Tree"

Courtney Miller Santo grasped the importance of stories from listening to her great-grandmother. She learned to write stories in the journalism program at Washington and Lee University and then discovered the limits of true stories working as a reporter in Virginia. She teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she earned her MFA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Irreantum, Sunstone, and Segullah.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Roots of the Olive Tree, and reported the following:
There can be loveliness in the arbitrary. At its core, The Roots of the Olive Tree, is about complicated and fraught relationships of five generations of women. The book is divided into five sections—each told from the point of view of a different one of the Keller women. This structure reveals the truth of their lives by weaving together all the ways in which the women see themselves and each other.

However, page 69 doesn’t deal primarily with this aspect of the novel and instead focuses on Erin (the youngest character) and her decision to leave her job and her life in Rome and return to the small town in Northern California where she grew up. As she’s leaving for the airport, she has a conversation with a cab driver and he uses the phrase “women of my heart” to describe how he loves and misses his own family. For me and for Erin, this is the moment where the arbitrary becomes lovely.

These women are Erin’s heart and they are my own heart. I hope that as the readers work through the year of incredible change with the Keller women that they also become close to their own hearts.
Learn more about the book and author at Courtney Miller Santo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Matthew Costello is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter and video game writer. His best-selling video games include The 7th Guest, Doom 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean. His horror novel, Beneath Still Waters, was filmed by Lionsgate. He also has written episodes and created TV formats for PBS, Disney, SyFy, and the BBC.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Home, and reported the following:
So—is page 69 of Home representative of the novel? Amazingly so.

On page 69, Christie, mom to the two kids, reeling from the horrors experienced upstate, learns that things may not be safe where she is heading, back to her home.

Not only that, she is learning that the big decisions are all hers, that despite bone-crushing fatigue and terrible fear, the safety of her family is up to her.

And one added element leaps off the page…where she realizes that she needs to talk with the kids about those decisions, that they are all in this nightmare together, even though they are just kids. Quite….the page.
Learn more about the book and author at Matthew Costello's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Jepp, Who Defied the Stars"

Katherine Marsh is the author of Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, the Edgar-award winning The Night Tourist, and a sequel, The Twilight Prisoner.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Jepp, Who Defied the Stars and reported the following:
Page 69 of Jepp, Who Defied the Stars:
As the weather grew more temperate—the Infanta’s small orchard in bud, the songbirds on the wing back North, Lia and I moved our lessons from her room to the palace grounds. So as to not to attract inquisitive eyes, we met twice a week in the early morning when even the Infanta’s gardeners were not yet at work rooting out toadstools and propping up wayward flowers and trees. Only the creatures of the garden were full of industry—the ants on a march, the robin darting for her worm—and Lia would narrate their labors as we danced, for she was much taken by even the smallest creatures.

Our afternoons were different, though not without pleasures. Freed from our lesson with Pim, we joined the others. When the sun bathed the gardens in dappled light, Maria and Sebastian would picnic beneath the small pear and apple trees. Hendrika encouraged us to join them in this activity—the Infanta enjoyed coming upon us all with her entourage and the servants made sure we had tables and chairs, and straw sun hats for the ladies, that complemented our stature. Robert joined us only when the Infanta was occupied inside the palace, for word was that she did not care for him distorting our tableau.

But it was the mornings that burn brightest now in my memory. I remember one such dawn when Lia and I danced among the pale yellow lilies and stalks of iris, still speckled with dew from their nightly ablutions. The moon was fading in the purple sky and an orb—perhaps Venus—twinkled faintly. Lia’s hands were snug in mine, her breath warm against my cheek. I held her close before she drew away and sighed.

“What troubles you?”

I feared that she did not care for my embrace, and wished in the urgency of youth to know the worst.

“I am thinking of home.”

That she was not thinking of me at all took me by surprise…
Page 69 of Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is wonderfully representative of my new book, a historical novel for young adult and adult readers. The narrator of the story—the “I” of the above passage--is Jepp, a teenager at the end of the 16th century who leaves his small town home to become a court dwarf. The court of the Infanta in the Spanish Netherlands offers Jepp new opportunities, friendships, and even his first possible romance. But there are hints of a dark side: We see an example of this when Jepp describes how Henrika, the keeper of the dwarfs, stages a scene with them for the pleasure of the Infanta. Such scenes are not fiction. Jepp’s story is based on both historical figures (including Jepp himself) and historical accounts that detail the ways in which court dwarfs were treated as possessions and playthings.

Jepp’s larger—and more universal--story is about the journey from innocence to experience. The Jepp narrating the story is older and more cynical but the self he describes on p. 69 is still an innocent, caught up in the promise of his new life and particularly of first love. Although Jepp glimpses hints of conformity and oppression (gardeners who roots out imperfection, the exclusion of Robert, a giant and friend of the dwarfs, from their staged tableau), like most teenagers, he is too lost in his own emotions, too self-centered, to truly see the world around him. This is why it surprises him to discover that Lia, the object of his love, is not even thinking about him. But Jepp is about to learn, in a terrible way, that almost everything he believes in and counts upon is not as it seems. As he struggles against powerful forces to control his own destiny, his story begins to merge with that of the new age of science and self-determination in Renaissance Europe.
For more about the book and author, check out Katherine Marsh's website or follow her on Twitter or on Facebook.

The Page 99 Test: The Night Tourist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 2, 2012

"The Big Exit"

While David Carnoy lives in New York City with his wife and children, his novels take place in Silicon Valley, where he grew up and went to high school (Palo Alto). His debut novel, Knife Music (2010), was a Top-10 bestseller on the Kindle and also a bestseller on the Nook. More medical thriller than high-tech thriller, to research the novel Carnoy spent a lot of time talking with doctors, visiting trauma centers, and trailed a surgeon at a hospital in Northern California to help create the book's protagonist, Dr. Ted Cogan.

The Big Exit (2012) isn't a sequel to Knife Music per se. However, a few of the characters from Knife Music figure prominently in the story. His second novel has more of a high-tech slant and reflects Carnoy's experiences as an executive editor at, where he currently works and is trying resolve his obsession with consumer electronics products. He went to college at Wesleyan University and has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.

Carnoy applied the Page 69 Test to The Big Exit and reported the following:
For better or worse there's nothing terribly sexy about page 69 of The Big Exit. I should have realized in advance that I might end up posting something for this blog and made it sexier, but as it stands, it's the last page of a chapter and not even a full page. It's stunted, a half pint, the runt of the page litter.

Hank Madden, the detective in the novel (he was also in my first book, Knife Music) is near the end of questioning Beth Hill shortly after her husband, a high-tech entrepreneur, is found murdered in the garage of their Silicon Valley home (the wife's 911 call is what opens the book). One of the other detectives has pulled Madden out of the room to give him an update on their canvassing of the neighborhood and the two discuss a shoe print found outside the garage.

There's a bit of a Jaws moment -- the part where Brody really sees the shark for the first time and says, "You're going to need a bigger boat." In this case, the second detective, Burns, turns to Madden and says, "We're gonna need some help here." Madden says he knows. "Everybody's going to want a piece," Burns reiterates. To which Madden replies: "I'm good at sharing."

Of course, you know he really isn't good at sharing and these guys are in over their head. After all, it's quaint Menlo Park (yes, where Facebook is now headquartered), where you get a couple of murders a year, if that (in researching the book, I spent some time with the Menlo Park police).

The chapter certainly represents the police procedural aspect of the book, but I wouldn't say it's truly representative of the book, which I refer to as a Silicon Noir; it's a darker take on the Valley with some comedic elements.

My books are little unusual in that while the detective (Madden) is a main character, he's not the protagonist. He's got the proverbial demons to contend with, but the other characters, including the protagonist, Richie Forman -- fresh out of prison and making a living as a Sinatra impersonator -- have bigger personalities and are the ones who truly drive the book. I'm particularly fond of the tech blogger, Tom Bender, who Booklist describes as "a hilariously narcissistic blogger bent on breaking the case." Some think the character is based on Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch fame but I imagined him more as Steve Jobs reincarnated as a blogger.
Learn more about the book and author at David Carnoy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue