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

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