Sunday, December 30, 2012

"The House on Paradise Street"

Sofka Zinovieff has published two acclaimed works of nonfiction, Eurydice Street and Red Princess, a biography of her paternal grandmother.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The House on Paradise Street, her first novel, and reported the following:
This page [inset below, click to enlarge] works well as a chancy dip into the book. Maud, an English woman living in Athens, recalls the first day she met Nikitas – a charismatic, older journalist to whom she was married. We know that Nikitas has now died – 20 years later – in a mysterious car accident, though it isn’t made clear on this page. One of the main themes of the book is Maud trying to find out more about her husband’s past. He had been born 62 years earlier, in prison. His mother, Antigone, had been a left-wing partisan during the Nazi occupation and then left him behind in Greece to go into exile in the Soviet Union. If Maud’s English voice is one of the main narratives of the book, Antigone’s is the other. The old Greek woman returns to Greece after her son’s death and terrible family divisions are re-opened as she recalls her past and the wounds of the Civil War.

This first meeting between Maud and Nikitas brings in many of the themes of the book: death and burial in Greece; the outsider trying to understand Greece; memory and its slippery tricks. Maud is an anthropology student at this stage and she is always observing what is going on around her. She doesn’t understand everything – she doesn’t yet speak the language well – but she is intrigued. Nikitas attempts his seduction by taking Maud to lunch at the First Cemetery – Athens’ most glamorous graveyard, where the workers have a little ouzo cafe. Nikitas views this expedition like a challenge and it works. After drinking too much ouzo and eating the delicious mezedes, the walk through the green, shady cemetery is something Maud will never forget.
Learn more about the book and author at Sofka Zinovieff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 28, 2012

"The Valley of the Shadow"

Carola Dunn is the author of twenty Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, three Cornish mysteries, and over 30 Regencies.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Valley of the Shadow, the third Cornish mystery, and reported the following:
Cornwall, around 1970: DS Megan Pencarrow, off-duty, has rescued a young man of Asian Indian appearance from near drowning. He's unconscious and unidentified, and the area where he was found is not the sort of place anyone would choose to go for a swim. His head is bruised.

In short, he's a mystery. Megan's unsympathetic boss, DI Scumble, sends her with the victim in the ambulance to the local hospital. She's to stick by his side until relieved, in case he comes round and says something helpful or revealing.
Gobbling down the biscuits, not usually one of her favourites, she realized she had had nothing to eat since lunch, and she was ravenous. Horlicks for "night starvation," said the advert. She should have asked for some, or a cup of Bovril.

Did the small hospital have a canteen? It must have a kitchen, to feed the patients...

She dragged her mind away from food to check her own personal patient. He seemed unchanged. She couldn't tell whether the faint wheeze was from his lungs or the machinery. Surely someone, somewhere, was worrying about him, wondering where he'd got to. Someone would report him missing. His identity would soon be discovered without her sitting here all night, starving and trying desperately not to fall asleep.

The girl—her name was Mitzi: "Mary, really, but everyone calls me Mitzi, except Sister"—came to fetch the cup and saucer. She was perfectly willing to ask Sister's permission to go in search of a sandwich for Megan. While she was gone, the Night Sister herself came in to take the patient's pulse and temperature, and to check the IV and respirator.

"How is he doing?" Megan ventured to enquire.

Sister looked at her consideringly. "I suppose it's all right to discuss his condition with you, Sergeant. His pulse is much stronger. Temperature nearly normal. Breathing still not good. I can't tell whether he has any colour in his cheeks."

"He looks to me a bit less sallow than when we pulled him out. But I don't know what his normal complexion is."

"That's the trouble with all these dark-skinned people coming into the country. Though I suppose in the big cities, where there are more of them, they learn to judge."

"In London, there are quite a few Indian doctors, and West Indian girls often go into nursing."
This passage reveals the theme of the book. Larger numbers of brown-skinned immigrants are entering Britain than ever before, and many people are not happy about it. Radical racist Enoch Powell has made a speech prophesying that rivers of blood will run in the streets if the inflow is not stopped.

The British Government changes the rules so that holding a British passport does not guarantee right of residence. Thousands of Asians are being kicked out of newly independent Kenya and Uganda, with nowhere to go, no country willing to admit them.

Briefly semi-conscious, the boy tells Megan his family is stuck in a cave, and his mother is dying.

Cornwall has been a centre of smuggling for centuries. What more likely than that someone would get the idea of smuggling a refugee family into the county via the cliffs and caves and hidden coves?

Megan's aunt, Eleanor Trewynn, has met a smuggler or two on her rounds of the villages collecting donations for her charity shop. Perhaps one of them is involved, or can at least suggest where the lifeboats should start looking. Eleanor refuses to believe she can be in any danger from people who have so kindly supported her fund-raising efforts...
Learn more about the book and author at Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn and Trillian.

The Page 69 Test: Manna from Hades (the 1st Cornish Mystery).

The Page 69 Test: A Colourful Death (the 2d Cornish Mystery).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"The Death of Bees"

Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift and, in the same year, was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. A native of Scotland, she is now a full-time writer and lives in Los Angeles with her two children.

O'Donnell applied the Page 69 Test to The Death of Bees, her first novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 Marnie reveals her frustrations with the wealthy and her need to belong somewhere safe. Marnie feels like she is an outsider and fears being caught for what she’s done, burying her parents in the yard. She resents people like Lorna and Kirkland, independently wealthy kids who can afford to fuck up because they don’t have the same things Marnie has to lose in life. When referring to Kirkland she says:
He’s the type of person who loves the idea of being an outsider because he thinks by not belonging it makes him superior in some way. What he doesn’t get is that the real outsiders would do anything to be on the inside. A real outsider can’t be seen at all. They’re people who look like they belong when inside they know they don’t. They’re people who would do anything to appear normal, while harboring the secret knowledge that they’re anything but normal...
She also reveals her angst with Susie and Mick and their preoccupation with her missing parents. It frightens her, makes her nervous, but also confuses her, especially Susie’s fascination because Susie never cared before.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa O'Donnell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Dying on the Vine"

Edgar® Award–winning author Aaron Elkins’s creation—forensics professor Gideon Oliver—has been hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “a likable, down-to-earth, cerebral sleuth.”

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to the latest Gideon Oliver novel, Dying on the Vine, and reported the following:
Page 69, eh? Well, I had my doubts , but I tried it on Dying on the Vine, and this is what I found:
threw a wry glance at Gideon. "Only now along comes the great Skeleton Detective with his gaga theories and screws up the works."

"Whoa," said John, "that's the first time I ever heard anybody say that about you, Doc."

"Well, now, how exactly did I screw up the works, tell me that. All I did.—"

"All you did was tell us first she fell off the cliff and then she was shot."

"Well, I know that complicates things a little—"

Rocco snorted a laugh. "Nah, not really. This guy shoves his wife off a two-hundred-foot cliff, then he runs down and pops her one more, just in case a fall that broke every bone in her body didn't do the job. Then, instead of killing himself right there and making it easy on himself, he climbs all the way to the top again—this fifty-eight-year-old guy with bad lungs--so he can shoot himself right on the edge, the very same spot, and fall down on top of her. Oh, yeah, nothing wrong with that picture."

"Rocco, we're getting ahead of the story here. All I can tell you for sure is that she was alive when she fell off the cliff, which I know because—"

"Oh, yeah, I wondered when you were gonna get around to that," Rocco grumbled

"—because she was conscious when she fell, and if you're conscious, it's a pretty safe bet that you're alive."

"Conscious?" Rocco practically shouted. "Damn, Gideon . . ." When words failed him he just shook his head.

"Yes, conscious. Sure. You see—"

"Hold it, hold it, hold it. What hat did that get pulled out of? Don't you ever stop?
My reaction: No, no, that's a terrible example of the book's flavor. The dialogue reads like a botched try at Elmore Leonard--cocky, streetwise, and cynical, not at all representative of Dying on the Vine.

In other words, speaking as an old professor, I'm afraid I have to give an "F" to the page 69 test, at least in my case.

I thought I might defend myself by suggesting some other page instead, but I wanted to be fair, so I made a stab at keeping it random by moving away from 69 in ten-page chunks.

OK, 79: No, even worse, looks as if I'm showing off my infantile knowledge of languages, and one of the dialogue chunks is too long.

59: Nope, the humor is strained and the page doesn't "go" anywhere.

89: Hm, marginally better (i.e, more characteristic), but I'd hate for a potential reader to get the wrong idea from that clunky expository paragraph at the bottom. And if he or she turns the page, it drones on for yet another nine lines.

And so it went, until I gave up. Ladies and gentlemen, not only does page 69 fail to adequately represent either the over-all style of my book or its quality, none of the other pages do either.

What do I suggest, then, instead of this now-discredited one-page scan? Well, I recommend that you make your decision based on the flap copy (written by the publisher's publicity department), or the blurbs on the front and back (written by the author's friends).

You know you can trust those.
Learn more about the book and author at Aaron J. Elkins's website.

My Book, The Movie: Aaron Elkins' "Gideon Oliver" novels.

Writers Read: Aaron Elkins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"The Folly of the World"

Jesse Bullington writes historical fantasy informed by his knowledge and enthusiasm for the darker parts of European folklore (and fact). He is the author of The Sad Tale of the Brothers GrossbartThe Enterprise of Death, and the newly released The Folly of the World.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Folly of the World and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Folly of the World:
True dark was still a few prayers off but it was past suppertime when Jan picked his way back toward Markt Plein, the earlier traffic diminished to only the occasional beggar or cluster of youths. The narrow stone streets enclosed him warmly, like the walls of a childhood crib, and he shook his head to think of the ugly, broad avenues of the Empire and France, the squat, low buildings of the rural neighborhoods he had traversed to return to his birthright. Holland had its share of deficiencies, to be sure, but he would take it over Brabant or Zeeland or Burgundy or anywhere else, and at long last he was in a position to take what was his.

Mackerel fetched a good price—even if Jan had bought the horse instead of stealing it from a Frisian stable the previous winter, he would have likely turned a profit. Then he found a boatman who would take them down the Merwe to Dordrecht in the morning for a far sight less than he had ever paid to cross, as clear as signs came that people had adapted to the city becoming an island. To top it all, the girl had come around, though it had taken even longer than he’d feared and they’d dicked around clear to Guelders before he was confident enough in her favor to institute the next phase of the plan. If she still distrusted him, that doubt was tempered by blind affection and loyalty, as winning a combination in a girl as it was in man or dog. Things could scarce be better if—

An arm burst from a shadowy gap between the houses to his left, and before Jan could cry out, he was snatched by the cloak and spun into the alley. The back of Jan’s head cracked against a brick wall, the blow sending sickly tremors all the way down to his toes. Instead of pawing at Jan’s waist for his purse thongs, meaning theft, or covering Jan’s mouth, meaning murder, the assailant’s hand went to Jan’s throat. Jan blinked away the tears that being smashed into the building had summoned, but before he could even make out the man’s face, he knew him by the gently squeezing fingers and relaxed.
On the one hand, this excerpt is representative of the work, as the general style is maintained throughout the text, but on the other hand, it stands out in a few regards. For one thing, the perspective here is that of a character who has less page-time, so to speak, than the other protagonists, so the voice is a little different than it is in other places. With my two earlier novels, I switched perspective fairly freely, sometimes even in the middle of a scene, but with Folly I’ve kept these shifts in perspective to a minimum, so the only time there’s any head-hopping is between chapters.

For another thing, this page is the very beginning of a chapter, and so there’s a bit more establishing of the setting and action than you might find if you were to open the book to page 68 or 70. All that said, it does give the reader some idea of what they’re in for, at least where the character of Jan is concerned—he’s an opportunist, and a shameless one at that. The question this page poses is, who’s caught up with Jan, and what do they want to get out of the scheming conman?
Learn more about the book and author at Jesse Bullington's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart.

The Page 69 Test: The Enterprise of Death.

My Book, The Movie: The Enterprise of Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Found Guilty at Five"

Ann Purser was born in Market Harborough in Leicestershire, and livd most of her life in villages. She has turned her hand to many things, including journalism (as a columnist in She magazine), keeping hens and donkeys, running an art gallery, clerical assistant in a village school, Open University graduate, novelist, mother, grandmother, and wife.

Purser applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Found Guilty at Five, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“So we know she`s alive!” He leant back in his chair, took a deep breath and managed a smile.

“Did you think she might not be? Is there something you`re not telling us, Jamie?”

He was silent for a minute or so, then said perhaps he should tell her something Akiko had told him. Lois nodded and waited…
This extract from Page 69 is about to give away some pivotal information about the direction of the plot, so although I won`t quote any more of it, I do hope that readers are curious enough to read on.

This page does in a way represent the rest of the book, in that – like all my detective stories – the plot moves fast. There are twists and turns, and mysteries that are not tidied up until the last few pages. I like to keep readers guessing! But for now, this last paragraph on page 69 is, I hope, good for a laugh. And I guarantee that the coarse image is the only one in the whole book …...
“Sounds very over-protected to me,” Lois replied. “Did she say anything else?”

“Nope,” said Jamie, “I`ve told you all I know. Anyway, I`m much more likely to find her there than if I wander about Farnden like a fart in a kettle.”
Found Guilty at Five tackles a ticklish issue of long-lasting attitudes between previously warring nations. This is the real nitty-gritty. Boy meets girl, one English, one Japanese. They are attracted to one another, but long forgotten prejudices emerge. In the end, it is not great issues of international tolerance that cause damage and loss of life, but the good old faithfuls – greed, ambition and envy.
Learn more about the book and author at Ann Purser's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"City of Dark Magic"

Biographical details about Magnus Flyte are sometimes conflicting. He appears to have operated under several identities, and may have ties to one or more intelligence organizations, including the CIA, the Mossad, and a radical group of Antarctic separatists.

His literary executors, Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch, applied the Page 69 Test to Flyte's new book, City of Dark Magic, and reported the following:
Quite by coincidence Magnus was incommunicado when we tried to reach him to ask whether page 69 is representative of City of Dark Magic or not, because he had just set off along the 69th parallel. This covers a lot of territory: the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Asia, and North America. Of course, since the note on the postcard was smudged, it’s possible that he was in the 69th parallel south, which crosses Queen Maud Land in Antarctica, another of Magnus’s frequent haunts and the breeding ground of the South Polar skua. In any case, we’re happy to attempt to answer for him.

On page 69 of City of Dark Magic, Sarah gets to know Shuziko (Suzi) Oshiro, who is the museum’s resident expert in arms and armory. Sarah, having just arrived at a palace in Prague to begin her summer job cataloguing Beethoven manuscripts, is getting the lay of the land and also sniffing around for information about Prince Max, whom she suspects might have killed her mentor and predecessor Sherbatsky. Page 69 is actually quite representative of the novel, where very few things are quite what you expect. This is Suzi speaking on the origins of her interest in firearms, which began with her days as a child beauty pageant contestant in Texas:
“Rifles! That’s where it all started for me. I was seven, eight years old and twirling these old guns: the Winchester Model 1866, British Enfield 1853, the Sharps Rifle. People freaked out, watching this little Japanese kid hurling these big ole rifles around. Man, I loved those guns. I won every pageant I entered. They probably thought I would shoot ‘em down if they didn’t give me the tiara.”
Suzi will turn out to be an ally of Sarah’s. This page is the lead-in to the rather notorious first sex scene of the novel, in which Sarah decides to deal with her jet lag in a possibly questionable manner. Readers who only like these things executed in perfect taste may be alarmed, though we would like to point out that Sarah practices safe sex, at least in the traditional sense of the phrase.
Learn more about the book and author at Magnus Flyte's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Good Junk"

Ed Kovacs has worked for many years as a private security contractor deploying to challenging locations worldwide. He is a member of AFIO, Association for Intelligence Officers, the International Thriller Writers organization, and the Mystery Writers of America.

His novels include Storm Damage and its recently released follow-up, Good Junk.

Kovacs applied the Page 69 Test to Good Junk and reported the following:
From page 69:
In the lounge, when Honey brought up his name, we were met by a roomful of very unfriendly stares, firmly establishing that Decon wasn’t the most popular guy in the mini-mall. A beefy guy told us Decon slept in a crypt at Greenwood Cemetery. I chalked that up to drunken bar talk, although it did remind me of the Jefferson brothers’ contention that Decon hung out in cemeteries. Shrugging at each other, Honey and I moved on.

To me the drinking establishments felt interchangeable; slightly seedy workingman’s joints with darts, video gaming, and pool tables. Lots of tattoos, trash talk, drug dealing, low energy, and way too many quarrelsome drunks.

I lit a mini cigarillo as Honey and I stepped back out into the sultry night, heat still radiating from the crumbling parking-lot pavement.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he lives within walking distance,” I said, looking over to the buildings on the other side of Interstate 10, no more than a few hundred yards away. “I don’t buy that he sleeps in cemeteries in New Orleans but drinks every night out here in Metairie.”

“Then let’s take a walk,” said Honey.

We circled around behind the mini-mall, surprised to see two more watering holes in a gravelly parking lot.

Different bars, same story. We soon found ourselves strolling into a so-so neighborhood of apartment buildings and multifamily dwellings.

“Check out those neon lights up ahead. Does that look like what I think it is?” Honey asked.

“Yep. Another bar. Wonder what the car insurance rates are in this neighborhood?”

We picked up the pace a bit, and Honey took my hand. “Is there something you want to tell me?”

I stiffened. Damn, does she know I pinched the laptop? How could she? I searched her eyes for a clue. “Possibly.”

She looked at me, waiting, then said, “Kind of strange, you coming out of Breaux’s bathroom. Wearing your backpack.”
Well, it seems we have my tough-guy hero, Cliff St. James, and his NOPD homicide detective partner, Honey, actively trying to run down a suspect on this page, so the plot is moving, and that’s a good thing.

A key clue to locating the suspect is given out in the first graph, but St. James doesn’t jump on it. St. James is far from perfect. He misses things, makes false assumptions, takes unwise risks that cause problems. I write him to be tough but soulful, and painfully human. Later, he will remember the cemetery clue and that will lead him to his prey. I find reading thrillers with heroes who never screw up to be one-dimensional.

The setting is an area in Greater New Orleans heavily populated with seedy bars. Perfect for the gritty tone of my NOLA set novels: “…crumbling parking-lot pavement…”; “…quarrelsome drunks…”; “…trash talk, drug dealing…” We’re in New Orleans, for sure!

In the last graphs, Honey gently, indirectly confronts St. James about an outrageous breech of police procedure he had earlier committed—and neglected to tell her about. This tells us a lot about Honey. First, it reinforces that she’s sharp; she’s no pushover. Second, it lets us know she has covered for St. James with the FBI. Here’s the subtext: she’s letting him know that she has his back, she’s giving him room to operate, but he should keep her informed.

So we have reinforcement of the gritty tone and setting, some plot development and clues, and character development through sub-text. Not bad.

There’s nothing on page 69 that hints at what the book is really about: St. James having to confront his guilt and come to terms with his use of violence, including lethal force. I can accept heroes in a thriller series who don’t think twice about killing human beings. In some series the hero never does think twice. But I wanted St. James to have to deal with it in at least one of my books, and it turned out that book was Good Junk. Publishers Weekly gave me a starred, boxed review, so hopefully I’m doing something right.
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Kovacs's website.

My Book, The Movie: Storm Damage.

The Page 69 Test: Storm Damage.

Writers Read: Ed Kovacs (December 2011).

Writers Read: Ed Kovacs (December 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 14, 2012

"The Bones of the Old Ones"

Howard Jones’s debut historical fantasy novel, The Desert of Souls (Thomas Dunne Books 2011), was widely acclaimed by influential publications like Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, where it was labeled “a splendid flying-carpet ride.” It made Kirkus’ New and Notable list for 2011, and was on both Locus’s Recommended Reading List and the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Releases list of 2011. Additionally, The Desert of Souls was a finalist for the prestigious Compton Crook Award, and a featured selection of The Science Fiction Book Club. Its sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones, hit bookstores this week.

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to The Bones of the Old Ones and reported the following:
Come page 69 of The Bones of the Old Ones, our humble narrator finds himself across a game board from a brilliant young Persian woman, a general’s daughter, playing a forerunner of chess known as Shatranj. Captain Asim is growing increasingly uncomfortable with, and intrigued by, his opponent. He has never before talked strategy with a woman nor played shatranj with one, or even conceived that either event was remotely possible. Moreover, as the game progresses, he begins to realize that he may well lose to her.
…she knew far more about tactics and troop movements than many soldiers. She said it had pleased her father to speak of such things, and that she had first listened because she loved him. “And then I listened because I found such matters of interest. I used to beg him to tell me again of Iskander’s battles at Gaugmella or Granicus, and he would set out stones and sticks to show me how the units moved.”
It’s not necessarily a typical scene, because Asim’s best friend Dabir is off stage and there is no intellectual puzzle being solved or death-defying action underway. Yet it is typical in one way, and that is that over the course of the book Asim gets to interact with a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life, and they are sometimes different than he expects. For all that The Bones of the Old Ones is an adventure novel, it is one driven by the interaction of its characters.
Learn more about the book and author at Howard Andrew Jones's website.

Writers Read: Howard Andrew Jones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"The Almost Truth"

Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. She is the author of The Almost Truth, Unraveling Isobel, The Education of Hailey Kendrick, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and What Would Emma Do? as well as the Fourth Grade Fairy series.

Cook applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Almost Truth, and reported the following:
I am traveling as I write this and don't have a copy of the book with me. However, I do have my trusty laptop. You never know when inspiration will strike, so I have a copy of the manuscript. The page numbers won't match up with the page numbers in the book, but on the computer page 69 is the beginning of chapter 13. Sadie has her best friend Brendan over to her house. Things for them have been awkward since they slept together. What's clear is that it meant a lot to Brendan and Sadie wants to stay friends. She's planning on leaving town in a few months and never wants to come back. Dating Brendan would make that complicated.

Brendan has come over to help her with a con she's working on, but everything he says rubs Sadie the wrong way. It's a good example of the book because it shows how Sadie is pushed and pulled in different directions. Figuring out what she wants is not easy.

From Page 69:
Brendan followed me home. He wanted to look through the information I’d already gathered on the McKenna family. I never used to care if he was in my room with me, but ever since we’d been together it felt weird. Now I didn’t want to sit with him on my bed, and there wasn’t any other space in my room, so I dragged everything outside onto the broken down picnic table in our yard.

Brendan sat down carefully. “The only thing this table is good for anymore is making splinters. You touch it and it imbeds wood into your hand.” Brendan lightly touched the surface of the scarred table. “It’s a terrorist table. The US could drop this into a war zone as some kind of weapon.”

I dumped the pile of information and pictures I’d printed off the Internet onto the tabletop. “If it’s giving you splinters then don’t touch it.”

“Somebody’s cranky.” Brendan flipped through the stack of papers.

I decided to ignore him. I managed to stay quiet all of a few minutes. “I’m not cranky, I just didn’t need you trying to con the guy I need information from with one of your two bit cigarette bets.”

Brendan looked up from what he was reading and raised an eyebrow. “Uh-huh.” He looked back down.

I sat on the edge of the seat and bounced my foot up and down in annoyance while he read. Brendan was the master of driving me nuts. He could get a PhD in irritating behavior without having to study.

I reached for a newspaper article and a splinter sliced into the pad of my fingertip, burying itself into my flesh. I snatched my hand back. I stuck my finger in my mouth and sucked on it, trying to pull the sliver of wood out. I glanced across the table and saw Brendan smirking.

“So are you happy now?” I asked him. “You’re right, the table has some kind of splinter jihad going.”
Learn more about the author and her books at Eileen Cook’s website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood.

My Book, The Movie: The Education of Hailey Kendrick.

Writers Read: Eileen Cook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 10, 2012

"The Valley of Unknowing"

Philip Sington is the author of The Einstein Girl and Zoia’s Gold.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Valley of Unknowing, and reported the following:
On page 69 the protagonist and narrator, Bruno Krug, and the object of his desire, Theresa Aden, are about to make love for the first time.
I wanted her body and soul, but body first. I am speaking here chronologically. I saw no reason to put off carnal ecstasy until after our spirits had fused into some perfect ectoplasmic whole. I was already at an age where putting off anything was a bad idea.
At this point in the story things are going well for Bruno, at least superficially. Until recently he thought the lovely Theresa out of reach, having seen her in the arms of another man: his younger, more dashing, and probably more talented literary rival, Wolfgang Richter. But Richter has suddenly and conveniently died, allegedly of meningitis, and as yet there is no reason to regard the death as suspicious. Indeed, it was at Richter’s funeral that Bruno and Theresa arranged the rendezvous that has led them to the threshold of the bedroom. Bruno has finally triumphed over his rival, who has ended up playing the role of Cupid post mortem. It is almost too good to be true.

And yet glimpses of the trouble ahead are already discernible. Deep down, Bruno, for all his infatuation with Theresa, doubts his ability to hold on to her. They are too far apart in age and in background (Theresa is a visiting music student from Austria). She is drawn to the famous writer, not to the deeply compromised man beneath.
I had nothing to offer her that she would want to keep, nothing real. You can only go so far on a reputation. But if was not, in the end, to have Theresa’s love, I thought, then the fact that I had once enjoyed her body might make the disappointment that much easier to bear.
In this belief Bruno turns out to be wrong.
Learn more about the book and author at Philip Sington's website.

Writers Read: Philip Sington.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Broken Like This"

Monica Trasandes was born in Uruguay and raised in San Diego, California. Her fiction has appeared in literary journals, and three stories have been anthologized. She now works as the Director of Spanish-Language Media for GLAAD.

Trasandes applied the Page 69 Test to Broken Like This, her debut novel, and reported the following:
I loved the idea of opening my book and finding out what was on page 69. Then I was really pleased to find out the page does indeed represent many important aspects of my novel. On that page, two of the protagonists, Kate and Angela, have just been shopping for provisions at an outdoor fruit and vegetable market near a busy plaza in Madrid, a few days before Christmas. The women’s friendship has had some ups and downs and this is a moment when, among the bins filled with tangerines and chard, the air full of holiday glee and the smell of caramel corn and roasted peanuts, they begin to get closer and to cement their role in each other’s lives, which will be more central than either realizes. I think the scene nicely gives life to the pleasure of falling into something new and important. You’re not sure what exactly this thing is. It resembles what’s been described as love, but it could be lust or something else. Whatever it is, you are excited to be in its thrall.
Learn more about the book and author at Monica Trasandes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Jail Coach"

In Jail Coach, Jay Davidovich is an insurance apparatchik tasked to prevent losses that Trans/Oxana has insured against – especially losses that unpleasant people want to happen. After Hollywood pretty boy Kent Trowbridge plays late-night bumper-car in his Ferrari with two palm trees and a median in New Paradigm Studios, which bought an eight-figure Trans/Oxana policy insuring performance of Trowbridge’s Major Performing Artist Contract, Davidovich goes to work. He quickly realizes that Trowbridge is going to do some county time, and figures that Trowbridge won’t be in shape to perform anything once he gets out unless Davidovich finds him a Jail Coach. Enter Katrina Thompson whose past includes jail, the Marines, a daughter, and a hustler named Stan Chaladian.

Author Hillary Bell Locke applied the Page 69 Test to Jail Coach and reported the following:
In the middle of a publicity tour Trowbridge learns that his entourage is short one jail coach when Thompson disappears. By this point Trowbridge has fallen for her so her abrupt exit sends him into a funk that threatens the rest of the tour -- which could trigger the insurance policy loss Davidovich is being paid to prevent. He promises to find Thompson and bring her to Trowbridge at the last city on the tour if Trowbridge will soldier on. How will Davidovich bring that off? That answer starts on page 70.
Learn more about Jail Coach at the Poisoned Pen Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Jail Coach.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"The Rise Of Ransom City"

Felix Gilman is the author of the novels Thunderer, Gears of the City, and The Half Made World, which was one of Amazon's Top Ten SF/F novels for 2010, and was described by Ursula LeGuin as "gripping, imaginative [and] terrifically inventive ... we haven't had a science fiction novel like this for a long time."

Gilman applied the Page 69 Test to his most recent book, The Rise Of Ransom City, and reported the following:
From The Rise Of Ransom City, page 69:
Those handsome trees gave way to a third kind, something gnarled and ugly that Carver didn't name for me, our conversation having wandered onto other topics. Between the limbs of those trees there were spiderwebs, thick as cotton or the hair in an old man's ears. Then that scene too gave way. The road led us out from the trees and along the edge of a valley that opened out to the sunlit horizon. It was one of those sudden and always unexpected vistas of the Western Rim, that are like seeing the whole world at once.

"You know," I said, "the man who figures out a way to bottle and sell such a scene to the people back East will be twice as rich as Mr. Alfred Baxter on his best day."

"Could be," Carver said.

We were in the midst of this sort of repartee when he suddenly stiffened and cursed. He halted Golda with a tug on her reins and Mariette with a word. He walked to the edge of the road and he looked out over the valley.

I asked Carver what he saw and he did not answer me.

He walked to the back of the wagon and took the hatchet down from its hook. Ordinarily we used it for cutting firewood or clearing deadfalls from the road, or we used the blunt backside for striking the Apparatus when the cylinders jammed. Still it was quite fearsome the way he held it now.
I don't really remember writing most of this. Weird. I only just got the finished copies in a day or two ago and it's very strange to read it in this form. Lots of little things I want to change. Oh well.

Anyway, yes, I think that's sort of representative. Harry Ransom (our narrator) is on the road, with his horses and his wagon (containing the mysterious and wonderful Ransom Lightbringing Apparatus) and his taciturn assistant Mr. Carver. This is from before he gets famous, early-ish in the book, when he's still young and adventuresome and optimistic. Traveling the Western Rim, from town to town. (Rim of what? Well, the book is set in a world that's sort of reminiscent of our own in the 19th century, but emphatically isn't ours). Harry Ransom proposes a harebrained and half-ironic scheme to get rich by bottling light, which is similar in miniature to his actual big scheme, the reason why he's traveling about on the Western Rim... There's a mention of Mr. Alfred Baxter, the great businessman from Jasper City, who is Harry's hero and inspiration and will later be his - not nemesis exactly. Harry's tendency (he is a showman) to see the world in terms of scenes, of performances, is on display. There's sunlight and behind it some menace; Mr. Carver has spotted something horrible and frightening and sad. Harry still doesn't know what's really going on, which is true for quite a lot of the book.

Would people want to read on? I hope so. Seems like a pretty good random place to pick it up; hopefully people will at least want to know what Mr. Carver's spotted on the bottom of page 70.
Learn more about the book and author at Felix Gilman's website and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Feliz Gilman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Andromeda's Fall"

New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than forty novels including Andromeda's Fall, the latest volume of Dietz's long running Legion of the Damned® series which has sold more than half a million copies so far.

Hundreds of years in the future, much has changed. Advances in medicine, technology, and science abound. Humanity has gone to the stars, found alien life, and established an empire. But some things never change...

All her life, Lady Catherine Carletto (called Cat) has lived for nothing but the next party, the next lover, the next expensive toy. Until, in a bloodthirsty power grab, Imperial Princess Ophelia and her cadre of synth assassins murder her brother the emperor, and go on to purge the galaxy of his friends and supporters—including Cat’s family.

Now Cat, the only surviving Carletto, is on the run. And, like countless others before her, she finds her sanctuary in a military outfit that's home to society's most dangerous misfits. The Legion of the Damned

Cat Carletto vanishes and Legion Recruit Andromeda McKee appears in her place. A woman with a mission—to bring down Empress Ophelia—or die trying. And that's where the Page 69 Test comes in... Dietz took the test and here's what he discovered:
When I opened Andromeda's Fall to page 69 I discovered that my protagonist was on a planet called Drang where she and the other recruits are trying to survive boot camp. No small task on a world where people learn how to be legionnaires by actually fighting!
The rain had stopped, and occasional rays of sunlight were touching down here and there, as the NCOs began to pound on the metal siding with their rifle butts. “Up and at it people... Inspection in thirty minutes. That includes you and your shed. So turn to.”

All of the females were housed in building three. And all of them were as filthy as the interior of their shed. So the first step was to place their gear on the top racks and wash the place down. A process made possible by the presence of hoses, plenty of hot water, and drain holes in the floor.

Working under the supervision of the so-called HPIC (Head Puke In-Charge) the women went about the process of scrubbing the decks. Once the dirt had been loosened, it was time to spray the place down.

The HPIC for building three was a beefy woman named Nora Pachek. She had tattoos all over her face, neck, and arms. She was buff, very buff, and had already served a tour with the marines. Why Pachek left the green machine for the Legion was a mystery and likely to remain so because none of the other recruits had the guts to ask her about it.

Though not a member of Pachek’s all-female posse, McKee liked her straight-ahead style and had been careful not to complain when she drew various shit details. Maybe that was why Pachek assigned her to scrubber duty. It was hard work. But once the job was done, the scrubbers could hit the showers, and the first ones in were the first ones out. That meant they would have more time to prepare for inspection. And one of the many things that she had learned over the last few days was that little things could make a big difference.
So is page 69 representative of the book? Hell, yes... Welcome to the Legion.
Learn more about the book and author at William C. Dietz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue