Thursday, February 28, 2013

"The Boyfriend"

Thomas Perry is the author of over 20 novels including the Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act, Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, and Poison Flower), Death Benefits, and Pursuit, the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for best novel.

He won the Edgar for The Butcher’s Boy, and Metzger’s Dog was a New York Times Notable Book. The Independent Mystery Booksellers’ Association included Vanishing Act in its “100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century,” and Nightlife was a New York Times bestseller.

Metzger’s Dog was voted one of NPR’s 100 Killer Thrillers--Best Thrillers Ever. Strip was chosen as a New York Times Notable Crime Book for 2010, and The Informant was a New York Times Notable Crime Book for 2011 and won the Barry Award for Best Thriller, 2011. Poison Flower was chosen among Booklist’s Best Crime Novels of 2013.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Boyfriend, and reported the following:
I am a long-time fan of the test, and I think it works fairly well on my new novel, The Boyfriend. Jack Till, retired Los Angeles homicide detective now working as a P.I., has taken on an unusual case. He usually works the easy, simple cases that come his way, but this time he’s been hired by the parents of a murdered young woman. The LAPD has quietly given up on the case, because the victim had been working as an on-line escort, and so they haven’t been able to interview anyone, to identify the prints and DNA in her apartment, or even find anyone who knew her. Till has discovered, however, that several girls in similar circumstances have been killed in different cities, all of them strawberry blondes. He has also noticed that some of them advertised with photographs of themselves wearing a distinctive necklace. He has spent the night with one of them in Scottsdale, Arizona, then followed her to her house to see if the man who gave her the necklace is living with her.

On page 69, Till makes an unwelcome discovery. He looks around the outside of the house, knocks, and then looks in the windows. His detective experience makes him sense something is wrong. He uses a rock to break a window pane in the kitchen door, lets himself in, and finds the girl lying in her bed with a bullet hole in her temple and blood soaking the pillow. He knows the killer is only ahead of him by a few minutes. In other words, things are happening on 69, and I hope the reader wants to get on to page 70.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"The Bull Slayer"

Bruce Macbain holds degrees in classical studies and ancient history, with a specialty in Greece and Rome. Upon retirement a few years ago, he decided to give up writing scholarly monographs which almost no one read, and turn to the more congenial realm of fiction. His debut mystery, Roman Games, set in first century AD Rome, was published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2010. His second novel, The Bull Slayer, comes out this March. Macbain is also a book reviewer for the Historical Novels Review.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest mystery, The Bull Slayer, and reported the following:
As it happens, page 69 of The Bull Slayer is exactly the page on which the sleuth gets his first break in the case. Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Younger) has just been appointed governor of Bithynia, a Roman province in Asia Minor which is riddled with corruption and on the brink of rebellion. No sooner has Pliny arrived in the capital city than a the Fiscal Procurator (a universally loathed tax collector), vanishes without a trace. Neither the man’s wife nor his second-in-command will admit to having any idea what could have happened to him. As the days go by, tensions rise and Pliny is at a loss. And then one morning, as he and his staff are mulling over their lack of progress, there is a disturbance in the corridor outside Pliny’s office and a provincial citizen forces his way in.
The man straightened his clothes, took a breath to calm himself, and introduced himself as Isidorus, a dealer in fine silks and brocades. He had gone yesterday to the Street of the Leather Workers, he explained, to shop for a saddle and bridle, not your ordinary stuff but something expensive, a birthday present for his son-in-law, who was quite a gentleman and owned a horse. And he was in one shop, examining what was on offer, and quite a respectable place, the owner was known to him and not a dealer in stolen goods either, no certainly not. But there was a very handsome saddle for sale with matching bridle, all ornamented with turquoises and onyxes, and an embroidered saddle cloth with it, top quality, make no mistake, he knew quality when he saw it, and the thing of it was, you see, that it looked familiar, he knew he had seen that saddle somewhere before, and then it came to him—just like that!—perhaps some god whispered it in his ear, who could say? But he was dead certain that it was the procurator’s saddle, no question about it, that gentleman rode down his street every day on his way to the treasury, which is just past the Street of the Cloth Merchants, don’t you see?

Isidorus stopped and looked around him in alarm. They were all on their feet, Nymphidius’ fingers dug into his shoulder.

“Here now,” he squeaked, “no call for that!”

“Where,” Pliny brought his face close and spoke softly, “did this merchant get the saddle?”

“Well, that’s what I’m trying to tell your honors. A couple of peasants sold him the stuff. His wife is from their village, don’t you see, so they thought he’d give ’em a good price.”

“And where is this village?”

“He can tell you. He’s just outside. He doesn’t want any trouble.”
This information will lead Pliny to the procurator’s decomposing corpse, buried in a shallow grave deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. But what brought him there? And who of the many people who hated him had managed to kill him?
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce Macbain's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Journey from Darkness"

Gareth Crocker, a former journalist, lives with his wife and two children in Johannesburg, South Africa. He wrote Finding Jack, his first novel, in the company of his three dogs, Jill, Rusty and Jack.

Crocker applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Journey from Darkness, which was co-written with his father, Llewellyn Crocker, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Journey from Darkness is rather poignant. In it, the two main characters are sitting around a fire at night talking about how rampant poaching is placing elephants on the brink of oblivion in southern Africa. At the same time, Derek asks his brother, Edward (both British) if he will ever leave Africa now that he has a taste of it, to which Edward replies 'Sure. On my back and in a box'. This is a fitting foreshadow of what the brothers will soon face when they come up against a pair of highly dangerous French poachers who are almost Hannibal Lecter-esque in the way they murder and butcher with impunity. In many respects, Page 69 is the final breath of calm before the storm rolls in. To save a rare and almost mystical lone Desert Elephant, the brothers will soon journey into a darkness more black than the war they have left behind.
Learn more about the book and author at Gareth Crocker's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Finding Jack.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Gareth Crocker & Jill, Hannah, Rusty and Jack.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 25, 2013

"The Secret of the Nightingale Palace"

Dana Sachs is the author of the novel If You Lived Here and two books of nonfiction, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam and The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace, and reported the following:
I had to laugh when I picked up The Secret of the Nightingale Palace and turned to page 69. As the title suggests, the novel is about secrets, not just the secrets we keep from each other, but also the secrets that we keep from ourselves—the ways in which we lie to ourselves to keep from facing the truth. There is, though, a pretty big secret (a real secret, not an emotional secret) that is barely hinted at until the end of the story.

Why did I laugh on page 69, then? Because I do see a hint there. It’s the kind of hint that is only going to be detected by those who have already read the book, but it is definitely there on that page. The novel follows a grandmother, Goldie, and her granddaughter, Anna, as they drive from New York to San Francisco to return a valuable collection of Japanese art to its former owners, a Japanese family who gave it to Goldie for safekeeping when they were sent to the internment camps during World War II. Anna can’t understand why Goldie has taken so long (sixty years!) to finally return the art, and Goldie isn’t telling.

This passage on page 69 begins a chapter called “A Famously Happy Marriage.” The beginning of the chapter describes Goldie’s relationship with her cellphone. At 85-years-old, she has a hard time with the technology, but “she loved everything about the phone, especially the caller ID and the option to press IGNORE if she didn’t want to answer. She still looked rattled and perplexed every time the phone rang, however.” An astute reader might sense a heightened level of anxiety about the telephone that isn’t fully explained by Goldie’s confusion about how to answer the thing. That anxiety, in my mind, comes from a worry that she could receive a call that she doesn’t want to answer when her granddaughter is listening. In other words, she’s got a secret to keep.
Learn more about the book and author at Dana Sachs's website, blog, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Fellow Mortals"

Dennis Mahoney lives in upstate New York.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Fellow Mortals, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Fellow Mortals is surprisingly representative of the whole novel. It's a scene featuring my hero, Henry Cooper, and his wife Ava having a bedroom argument. The book is about Henry, a mailman who accidentally sets fire to several houses on his route. Henry, a good-hearted optimist, is wracked with guilt and tries to make amends with the victims, especially a man named Sam whose wife died in the fire.

The page 69 scene occurs shortly after Henry's first visit to Sam, which was understandably tense and even dangerous. Henry, who has a heart condition, insisted on helping Sam with some grueling physical labor. When Ava learns that Henry literally risked his life -- it won't be the last time -- she's caught between anger at his recklessness and loving appreciation of his desire, and need, to help the people he's hurt.

So they argue about this, but it's a loving argument, with Henry apologetic (and not truly willing to give up helping) and Ava stern (but pitying and forgiving). This particular page features a lot of what made the characters and story so compelling to write about. There's open conflict, both muddied and clarified by secret conflict. There's a moment of marriage that feels true to me, because of its shorthand communication, layered emotion, and air of private space. I feel like a reader would understand that this is a warm, healthy relationship even in the middle of an argument. And Ava's mixture of depression and hope -- of weariness from so much difficulty, combined with a clear vision of the simpler life she's longing for -- makes the second half of the page a good example of the book's main colors. What if you lost everything? What if you tried to rebuild?

It's certainly not my favorite page of the book, but it does provide a good window.
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Mahoney's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Fade to Black"

Francis Knight was born and lives in Sussex, England. She has held a variety of jobs from being a groom in the Balearics, where she punched a policeman and got away with it, to an IT administrator.

When not living in her own head, she enjoys SF&F geekery, WWE geekery, teaching her children Monty Python quotes, and boldly going and seeking out new civilizations.

Knight applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Fade to Black, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Fade to Black gets you right where things start making sense to the MC, Rojan. Or at least he thinks so – he’ll learn. In painful detail.

Rojan is a pain mage – illegal, wanted, hiding. More, he’s disparaging of his own magic. As he says, dislocating his own thumb to power a spell is pretty damned stupid, putting it mildly. His particular form of magic involves knowing where people are. Still, even in his life as a bounty hunter he tries not to use it unless he’s desperate. That is, until his niece is kidnapped and the only way he has of finding out where she is, is to use his magic. Having reluctantly done so, his next problem involves getting to a place that, officially at least, doesn’t exist, or if it does is supposedly an environmental disaster, and full of poisonous runoff and dead people, not to mention he doesn’t know how to get to it. To solve that problem, his mentor advises him to go and see ‘The Man Who Knows Everything’–
Tam laughed, looking like a wrinkled gnome who’s found he can make any wish come true with a wink of his eye. ‘That’s what the Ministry say, but when do they ever tell the truth? They sealed a lot of them down there, the dregs they wanted to do without. They thought the synth would kill them soon enough, and they’d be rid of all those too undesirable, too feckless and faithless to live in their brave new clean pious city. Only it’s not brave or clean, is it? They left them there to die, Mr Dizon. And when they didn’t die, or not all of them, the Archdeacon found a use for them.’

Left them there to die of the synth. I shook my head in shock, but it was likely true. In the ’Pit, who knew? It was sealed, but the tainted run-off from Upside was likely still filtering through – the water had to go somewhere. Now here was Tam, saying that people lived in that horror? The thought made me squirm. Not least because it looked like that was where I was headed.
And head to it he does, not without some serious misgivings. Once he’s there, he soon finds out that Ministry have been lying even worse than this jaded cynic thought…
Learn more about the book and author at Francis Knight's website.

My Book, The Movie: Fade to Black.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Black Sheep"

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

Lyons has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Black Sheep, and reported the following:
Black Sheep follows FBI Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney as she tackles the one mystery that has haunted her all her life: her father's suicide.

After his death when she was nine years old, Caitlyn and her mother moved away from Caitlyn's western North Carolina home and she hasn't been back since. Now, twenty-six years later, she's involuntarily getting sucked into a case that will force her to return home and finally face her past.

Page 69 is pivotal in the story as it's the point where Caitlyn must decide whether to put the needs of a missing girl first and return to the last place she was seen, Caitlyn's home town. Her only ally is a convicted killer.
Great. A self-confessed killer her number one fan. "I don't even know where to start looking for her. Surely he gave you some specifics?"

"He said she'd gone home to Evergreen. It's a small town in the mountains, near Cherokee."

Evergreen. Caitlyn's mom's had left her entire family behind when she'd moved Caitlyn away from Evergreen, trying to distance Caitlyn from the memory of her dad. It hadn't worked, but Caitlyn still felt a chill at the mention of the town. She'd been nine years old when she'd last seen Evergreen.

"Yeah, I know the place," she told Whitford.

Twenty-five years being locked up had driven the man insane. Sending her on a wild goose chase after a girl they didn't even know for certain was missing and a mysterious conspiracy that probably existed only in a convicted killer's mind.

But Caitlyn was no miracle worker. She was already breaking every rule in the book just by being here. She might have even gotten Hale killed by coming to see him. The expression on Hale's face as he lay there dying…the face of her father, blood everywhere. Too many memories, too much pain.

All leading back to Evergreen. Didn't mean she had to play the game, follow the bread crumbs. Caitlyn yanked the gearshift to put the Impreza in reverse. "If you think of anything else, call me. Anytime, day or night."

"What are you going to do about Lena?"

"I'm going home."
Taking that first step to returning to her childhood home is also Caitlyn's first step to facing her greatest fears: that her father didn't love her, choosing death over his family; that her mother's emotional distance is caused by Caitlyn's own inability to trust; and that there are secrets buried so deep, betrayals so close, that her need to save one girl might destroy her.

Black Sheep is a dark, psychological suspense that continues the themes first brought up in Blind Faith and wrestles with the questions: who do we decide to trust and how do we protect our hearts against betrayal?
Learn more about the author and her work at CJ Lyons' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Roger Hobbs graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 2011, where he majored in English. He studied film noir, literary theory, and ancient languages.

His first book, Ghostman, was written during the summer between his junior and senior years at Reed. He spent the school year rewriting it and editing. The manuscript was sent off on the day he graduated​. A few weeks later it caused an uproar at the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since sold in more than fifteen countries around the world.

Hobbs applied the Page 69 Test to Ghostman and reported the following:
Excerpt from page 69:
I opened the bag of pills. I sniffed the mouth of the bag a few times. They were a pressed white powder, which means they were made in a factory. That doesn't mean much, though. A lot of drugs come out of factories, even illegal ones. There are whole industrial complexes in South America that press fake Oxycontin. These pills weren't Oxy, though. They smelled slightly clinical, like a polished hospital floor. I thought that they could have been some form of speed, like methamphetamine, but they were equally likely to be aspirin. For all I knew, one of these guys got really severe migraines.

Finally I took out the cell phone. It had a design that hadn't been popular in a few years. I pressed the green button, and I guess it had been charged because the screen flashed on right away and went into start-up. When the logo went away and the home screen popped up, I spent a minute trying to find any stored contacts. The list was completely empty. Then I looked for the list of recent activity. There had been a series of missed calls from a blocked number starting just this morning, but not a single voice-mail. The one outgoing call was over a week old. New York area code.

I put the phone away, took out the one Alexander had given me, powered it up and dialed Marcus' number.[...]
In this scene my narrator, a career criminal who simply goes by Jack (or the cryptic alias, "Ghostman"), is examining a bunch of unusual items in a backpack he finds stashed away in a secret storage unit used by the man he's trying to find. This page is quite indicative of the novel as a whole, I think. First things first, we get a great taste of Jack's tough, no-nonsense hardboiled narration. He is a rough and plainspoken guy, who speaks to the reader conversationally as if he were telling you a story in a bar. He may be tough, but he's still relatable.

Second (and more importantly), this passage is descriptive. Ghostman excels at its fun, didactic descriptions of a criminal's world. My book doesn't just show the reader what's inside the backpack-- it lets the reader into Jack's tough, knowledgeable criminal mind. We don't just see pills, we see everything they could or couldn't be: Oxycontin, methamphetamine, or even just plain old aspirin. Ghostman isn't just a thriller novel, it is practically a primer course on all things bank robbery.

The only downside is that nothing exciting happens on page 69, which is rare. The page is a little boring and light on action. However, one thing's for sure: if you like this page, you'll love my book.
Learn more about the book and author at Roger Hobbs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Into the Dark"

Alison Gaylin is the author of And She Was, the Edgar®-nominated thriller Hide Your Eyes, as well as its sequel, You Kill Me, and two stand-alone novels, Trashed and Heartless.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Into the Dark, and reported the following:
The sequel to And She Was, my new book Into the Dark, focuses on a missing webcam girl named Lula Belle – a naked, shadow-draped “performance artist” who stretches and bends seductively as she tells tales from her youth. The series protagonist Brenna Spector – a PI with perfect autobiographical memory -- is fascinated by Lula Belle. But it’s for a very different reason than her rapt male audience. Many of the stories she tells sounds exactly like stories from Brenna’s own childhood, leading the troubled investigator to believe that this strange, shadowy figure may have ties to her long-gone sister, Clea.

On page 69 of the book, Brenna watches a Lula Belle download with her friend (and perhaps more) Det. Nick Morasco. It’s the first time Nick has seen Lula Belle – and he too, appears to be under her spell… but for reasons all his own:
“He didn’t smile back, didn’t drink. He set his bottle down on the coffee table and leaned forward and his expression changed, deepened into something Brenna couldn’t quite figure out. It wasn’t the rapt, obvious lust with which Trent had watched Lula Belle. Sure, she supposed he could have been turned on and trying to hide it from her, but it seemed to Brenna more of a sadness.

Lula Belle said, “I kept thinking, if I was the reason why that little bird lived… then I must have been the reason why he died. Right?”

Morasco swallowed hard. He closed his eyes.

Brenna clicked off the download. “Powerful stuff, this performance art.”

“It is.”


He looked at her.

She knew she had no right to ask, not when she couldn’t stand in a parking lot for five minutes without lapsing into a memory she couldn’t talk about. She knew it wasn’t fair, but she put her hand on his, and she asked him anyway. “When you watched that video, what were you thinking?”
Learn more about the book and author at Alison Gaylin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 18, 2013

"A Town of Empty Rooms"

Karen E. Bender is the author of the novel Like Normal People, which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Town of Empty Rooms, her second novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Town of Empty Rooms features Serena Hirsch following Rabbi Golden and Betty Blumenthal as they try to find a home for the Southeastern North Carolina Jewish Community Center, an imagined gathering place that has never existed in the area. The three of them walk through buildings in various shades of ruin, and the Rabbi is full of an enormous, painful hope.
“There were only a few properties within the current budget. They stopped to investigate a plot of pine forest off the interstate, a crumbling mansion with eight bedrooms, an abandoned elementary school dark with mold. The three of them wandered through one building that the rabbi had chattered about excitedly; it was a private school that had recently been foreclosed. It was been damaged in a storm, and there were brown clouds of water damage on the walls. There were ten, fifteen large rooms, and they all smelled as though they were sinking into the earth.

Betty walked through each room slowly, marking down each bit of damage. The rabbi flew through the rooms like a deer.

“Look at it,” he said. “Room to grow. It’s perfect!”

“Rabbi,” said Betty, looking concerned, “it’s a dump.”

“Great! We get it cheap!” he said. “Come on! We’re this close to signing the Rosens. The father owns the biggest toy store in town. They have five cars!”

“Rabbi,” said Betty, softly.

“What’s wrong?”

“There are too many rooms.”
In this scene, I wanted to show Rabbi Golden’s bright, rather deluded expansiveness, as it is one element that energizes his congregation, and brings comfort to Serena; it also creates conflict with Betty, who thinks he is, well, blind. Betty carefully and practically lays out why the moldy, dilapidated building is not a good investment. The way that Rabbi Golden responds to Betty, and to others in his congregation, as they interfere with his dream, is an important element of the novel. This is one moment in which people talk past each other in the book, in which they’re stuck in their own limited selves. I liked writing this scene because the contrast between the actual ruined nature of the building and the rabbi’s grand plans for it was so sad and beautiful, in a way, to me.
Learn more about the book and author at Karen Bender's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Town of Empty Rooms.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Perfect Hatred"

Leighton Gage’s books are crime novels set in Brazil. The author has lived in Australia, Europe, and South America and traveled widely in Asia and Africa. He visited Spain in the time of Franco, Portugal in the time of Salazar, South Africa in the time of apartheid, Chile in the time of Pinochet, Argentina in the time of the junta, Prague, East Germany, and Yugoslavia under the Communist yoke. He and his wife spend much of the year in a small town near São Paulo, and the rest in Europe and the United States, where they have children and grandchildren.

Gage applied the Page 69 Test to Perfect Hatred, his new novel featuring Chief Inspector Mario Silva, and reported the following:
In the five previous books in my series about the Brazilian Federal Police, Chief Inspector Mario Silva threatens criminals, but almost never, except in the heat of the moment, comes under threat himself.

There’s an expression in Brazil that translates as “rich people don’t go to jail” – and, within a justice system in which lawmen, prosecutors and judges could often be bribed, it long held true.

Now, things are changing.

Orlando Muniz, a landowner, whom we first met in Blood of the Wicked, runs a real risk of going to prison unless he can eliminate the principal witness against him.

And that witness is Chief Inspector Mario Silva.

Being the wealthiest of men, Orlando isn’t the kind of man who would undertake a murder himself. As in virtually everything else in his life, he hires others to do it for him.

On page 69 of Perfect Hatred, he’s doing just that, hiring a killer, and introducing a new thread into a story that already has several other ones running at the same time.

And they all come together in the book’s final pages.

Which is a pretty neat trick, if I do say so myself.
Learn more about the book and author at Leighton Gage's website and the Murder is Everywhere blog.

The Page 69 Test: Blood of the Wicked.

My Book, The Movie: Buried Strangers.

The Page 69 Test: Dying Gasp.

The Page 69 Test: Every Bitter Thing.

The Page 69 Test: A Vine in the Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Good Kids"

Benjamin Nugent is the author of Good Kids, a novel (Scribner, 2013) and American Nerd, a mix of history and memoir (Scribner, 2008). Born in Massachusetts in 1977, he was educated at Reed College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His essays have appeared in the New York Times Op/Ed page, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. His short stories have appeared in Tin House and The L Magazine. Director of Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, he teaches in its MFA and undergraduate programs.

Nugent applied the Page 69 Test to Good Kids and reported the following:
The paragraph I’m going to quote bleeds into p. 70, but it starts on Page 69. The scene is a private island. The narrator Josh, 16 years old, is playing catch with his sister Rachel, his father Linus, his father’s girlfriend Laura, and her father Bruce, owner of the island. They’re trying to act like a family.
There was still a coat of orange on the waves when Bruce’s second wife Laura, the age of Allison plus the age of Rachel, excused herself from our five-way game of catch. (We threw an Aerobie, a red, soft-edged torus not unlike a giant, flattened cock ring.) She returned thirty seconds later to beckon us inside with both her slender arms. A former teacher of special-needs children (it was in this profession that she had discovered how easy an Aerobie was to catch) her movements were lumbering and joyful, the movements of one accustomed to chasing and gathering up. Her hair, a mix of blond and gray, fell between her shoulders; her face was scrunched and kind; her smock a diaphanous tribute to the Russian villagers of Fiddler on the Roof; her butt, in her crimson, one-piece bathing suit, jutting and hard like the golden rocks. She led us to the kitchen, which at first looked ordinary. Only string beans and scalloped potatoes somehow hissed on two skillets, and firm flanks of white fish somehow steamed on a metal sheet. The servants had vanished after they had finished their work, so that it was as if we had cooked for ourselves and suffered a loss of memory. Ordinary: We piled our plates with food and took them to a table on a screened-in porch. Ordinary: We praised the meal as if one our party had prepared it. Our performance was spontaneous, heartfelt, if unnatural; it had the feeling of the first practice of a rock band.
The Aerobie looks like a cock ring to Josh because he discovered a cock ring in his father’s backpack a year earlier, shortly before his parents separated. He’s getting acquainted with what it might mean to have a stepmother by watching his potential stepmother strive to be convivial with her own stepmother. He’s just started to play in garage bands with other kids, and this is the first time he draws an analogy between a band trying to get its shit together and an ad hoc family trying to act like a real family. When he grows up, he’ll seek to make a band work as a substitute for a family, and then he’ll try to make a family work as a substitute for a band. I try to dramatize the way apparently unexceptional moments carry the seeds of the future, traces of the past.
Learn more about the book and author at Benjamin Nugent's website.

See Benjamin Nugent top six books on the mannerisms of 20- & 30-somethings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Molly Cochran has written and ghostwritten over 25 novels and nonfiction books, including the Edgar-winning bestseller Grandmaster and The Forever King, recipient of the New York Public Library award for Books of the Teen Age, both co-written with Warren Murphy, and the nonfiction bestseller Dressing Thin. Her most recent novels are the YA titles, Legacy and Poison.

Cochran applied the Page 69 Test to Poison and reported the following:
From Page 69:
I knew that I was having a klutzdown--a meltdown of klutziness, not unfamiliar to me--and that if I stood up at that moment I was sure to stub my toe, spill coffee on my books, and probably poke myself in the eye. "Breathe," I commanded myself. "In, out, in, out..."
This is how Katy Ainsworth--a reluctant mystic who "reads" the past by touching objects from distant times--arrives at her first vision of the legendary magician Merlin and his young daughter, who vainly begs him to stay with her instead of raising the boy who will become King Arthur.

Merlin doesn't listen, of course; everyone knows that Merlin was Arthur's mentor. As for the forgotten daughter--well, unfairly or not, parents sometimes do favor one child over another. One of the questions I pose in Poison is "What happens to the child who is not chosen? How is the spurned one poisoned by knowing that the love she expects is given instead to another? What do any of us do when the people who ought to love us--boyfriends, BFFs, family--betray us? What do we do when there's no one to support us except ourselves?

Despite these troublesome questions, Poison is not a depressing book. Written from Katy's nerdly funny point of view, the story unfolds from the oh-crap moment when she bursts in on some girls in her boarding school dorm and they unexpectedly drop over unconscious to her final confrontation with an evil force that is larger and more dangerous than Katy can ever imagine. In the end Katy must learn how to depend on herself, as sooner or later we all must, giving up thoughts of being rescued by princes or parents, serving as our own best friends, and becoming the heros we never thought we could be.
Learn more about the book and author at Molly Cochran's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Legacy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Calling Me Home"

Julie Kibler began writing Calling Me Home after learning a bit of family lore: as a young woman, her grandmother fell in love with a young black man in an era and locale that made the relationship impossible. When not writing, Kibler enjoys travel, independent films, music, photography, and corralling her teenagers and rescue dogs.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Calling Me Home and reported the following:
The cover flap for Calling Me Home claims: “Forbidden love. Unlikely friendship. A journey that will change two lives forever …”

My potential reader scans the rest of the description, then flips to page 69 and reads the top paragraph.
Now Miss Isabelle’s mother, she sounded more hands-on that was strictly good sense. Of course, things were different then, but I don’t believe Miss Isabelle had even been given room to breathe.
She thinks, This book isn’t just about an interracial relationship, which is obvious from the cover art and flap copy, it’s about families. It’s about the precarious balance between mothers and daughters—most especially the balance between this Miss Isabelle and her mother in the past.

Her gaze drops down a few paragraphs to the chunk that ends the page.
… more than one man had learned not to mess with me the harder way. I was thankful Momma seemed to avoid the worst ones—ones who wouldn’t have been intimidated by a scrappy girl with a good set of lungs and a pair of sharp scissors in hand.

I’d been careful with my kids. My daughter knew she was safe at home. My son knew no matter how many of his so-called friends tried to talk him into stupid, all he had to do was come home to be talked back around the smart. Even so, he had me worried.
Dorrie has trust issues, my potential reader thinks. And something is up with her son, and it’s probably not good.

She has been able to nail several of the themes and conflicts in Calling Me Home on the head. And I, the writer, from my position as eavesdropper, do a happy dance because Calling Me Home just passed the p. 69 test with a pretty good score—well above 69, I’d say.
Learn more about the book and author at Julie Kibler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"The House of Velvet and Glass"

Katherine Howe was born in Houston, Texas, and holds degrees in art history and philosophy from Columbia and in American and New England Studies from Boston University. She is the author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, and which has been translated into more than twenty languages.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The House of Velvet and Glass:
On page 69 of the paperback edition of The House of Velvet and Glass, Sibyl Allston and Benton Derby are having an argument. Sibyl, a cosseted Boston Brahmin woman hovering on the knife-edge of spinsterhood in 1915, and Benton, a young psychology professor in Harvard's Department of Social Ethics, are ostensibly arguing about Sibyl's brother, Harley. Harley's been abruptly booted out of college and, after stopping at home to absorb his due allotment of criticism from his family, has disappeared. Since her mother and younger sister were lost on Titanic in 1912, Sibyl has struggled to keep her family together. but the world is changing around her, and she feels overpowered and unprepared. Sibyl is accustomed to having to pick up the pieces of her wastrel brother, and she's angry. But she's not actually angry at Harley - or at least, she's not only angry at Harley. She's angry at the narrow life her social world forces her to lead. She's angry at her father for making her responsible for her brother. She's angry at her mother and sister for being dead. She's also viciously angry at Benton, who had seemed on the point of marrying her years ago, and who backed away for reasons she'd doesn't understand.
Learn more about the book and author at Katherine Howe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea"

Dina Nayeri was born in the middle of a revolution in Iran and moved to Oklahoma at ten-years-old. Her debut novel, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, was released in 2013 by Riverhead Books (Penguin), translated to 13 foreign languages, and selected as a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers book. Her work is published or scheduled for publication in over 20 countries and has appeared in Granta New Voices, The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Salon, Glamour, and elsewhere. She holds an MBA and a Master of Education, both from Harvard, and a BA from Princeton. She has worked in high fashion, management consulting, university admissions, investment banking, and once as a grumpy lifeguard. Now Nayeri is at work on her second novel (also about an Iranian family) at the Iowa Writers Workshop where she is a Truman Capote Fellow and Teaching Writing Fellow.

Nayeri applied the Page 69 Test to A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea and reported the following:
No, page 69 doesn't represent the novel at all. Funny enough, it's one of my least favorite scenes, because it's one of the earliest ones I wrote and so I've had enough of it. It's a fight between a father and daughter in an Iranian village, and it does a lot of work in setting up various conflicts. But for me, the heart of the story is the tales Saba weaves about her twin sister in America, and the voices of the surrogate village mothers who take care of her. If page 69 had been any of those things, I would have said yes.
Learn more about the book and author at Dina Nayeri's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Aloha, Lady Blue"

Charley Memminger is a national award-winning humor columnist, screenwriter, and author who is based in Hawaii. A former crime and investigative reporter, Memminger's work has appeared nationally in magazines and newspapers. He was twice named the top humor columnist in the country by the National Society for Newspaper Columnists. He lives in the sleepy windward Oahu bay town of Kaneohe.

Memminger applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Aloha, Lady Blue, and reported the following:
Aloha, Lady Blue is a tropical thriller set in Hawaii with a lot of humor. My background is as a former newspaper crime and investigative reporter. I eventually moved to writing a national award-winning humor column, “Honolulu Lite.” I used a lot of what I learned about organized crime in Hawaii either first hand or anecdotally in the novel … wanting to avoid all clichés about the Islands.

I purposely wanted the book to start off slow, with the hero, Stryker McBride still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome from being shot by a rogue cop a few years earlier. He’s introduced in Chapter One drinking beer for breakfast (what he calls “Honey Bunches of Budweiser” because it sounds better than swilling beer for breakfast). My agent/editor at Inkwell Management thought the book started out too slow so I wrote a prologue to get some drama in the opening and give a hint at why Stryker is so messed up.

A long lead in, sorry, but it explains why Page 69 (Chapter 7) might not seem very exciting. As Stryker is pulled out of self-imposed exile as a night watchman at a small suburban yacht club on the Windward side of Oahu where he lives on a houseboat named the “Travis McGee,” his investigation into the death of a wealthy elderly Chinese man moves slowly as he re-enters life.

On Page 69 he is at the Honolulu Building Permit Office where he is looking at the original plans of a ritzy housing development where Wai Lo Fat drowned in a few inches of water in a taro patch curiously set in the middle of the private upscale colony.

Excerpt from Page 69:
A young haole clerk in the subdivision section of the Building Permits Office dragged out an enormous plat map book that looked like something you find in a wizard’s lair. When he plopped it down on the table dust actually puffed into the air.

“Kala Lane Estates, Kala Lane Estates,” he said turning the giant pages. He had spiked cobalt blue hair and metal studs and rings and other piercings through his lips, eyebrows, nose and ears. He looked like the victim of a fragmentation grenade explosion.

“There,” he said, pointing at the yellowed page with a finger decorated with silver death skull ring.

I looked at the map, running my own finger from where I remember the front gate of Kala Lane Estates having been and along the roads I had driven to get to Amber’s house. I was surprised to see there was no taro patch. Just lines laying out subdivision plans for houses that weren’t there.

I showed him where I was looking and said, “There aren’t any houses here. I was just there a few days go.”
I like to write each chapter with a beginning, middle and an end. And the end is where the payoff usually comes. I want some kind of surprise at the end of each chapter. In this case, Stryker inadvertently insults the young man:
“You really get into your work here, huh?"

"Ah," he said, smiling. "A subtle put-down of a lowly city clerk who doesn't match the stereotypical assumptions about how a minor government bureaucrat should look and act."

"Sorry," I said. "I'm just always pleasantly surprised when I meet someone who is good at their job."

"Dude, I'm a grad student in Advanced Urban Planning at the University of Hawaii and an adjunct professor of Urban Design Theory at Honolulu Pacific College," he said. "Working here, man, is hands-on history. To me, these maps and records are an archaeological gold mine. The entire transformation of Oahu from an idyllic, environmentally sensitive, sustainable agriculture-based society into the fucked up mishmash of architectural and urban planning bullshit it is documented in disgusting detail all around me."
Stryker feels bad after the kid goes on a rant about how the islands have been ruined by development. So the payoff comes on Pages 70 and 71 when he tells the kid there is a beautiful taro patch in the middle of the Kala Lanes subdivision.
"This spot here in Kala Lane Estates where there are supposed to be bunch of multi-million dollar houses but they aren't there?" I said.

He nodded, tugging on one of his facial implements.

"There's a big taro patch. Right here in the middle of the subdivision. Beautiful green plants, pure running water, a grass shack and a raised dirt pathway for strolling through the whole thing."

His metal-fringed mouth actually dropped open for a second. Then he smiled.

"Dude, that is so cool," he said. "I'd like to see it. I'd really like to see it."
So Page 69 of Aloha, Lady Blue is a tad slow, but on purpose. And it does introduce an interesting character in the anarchist, intellectual bureaucrat. The book is chock-full of unusual characters, again, to avoid the typical Hawaii clichés. And it’s one of the small steps of Stryker’s re-emergence into the world, a journey that ultimately will heal him psychically but will force him to face a second attempt on his life as he gets closer to the ultimate secret in the book, which goes all the back to when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Learn more about Aloha, Lady Blue at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 8, 2013

"When the Night Whispers"

Savanna Welles is a New Jersey-based writer. She loves jazz, cooking for friends, and spontaneous trips to distant places. Although she has published books under her real name, Valerie Wilson Wesley, When the Night Whispers is her first paranormal romance.

Welles applied the Page 69 Test to When the Night Whispers and reported the following:
Page 69 is the beginning of chapter five and is entitled "Blood-red Roses." The chapter is marked by the beginning of an argument between Jocelyn, crazily in love with a dangerous man named Asa, and Mikela, her 12-year-old daughter who suspects the worst. On that page, and within the chapter, lies the beginning of Jocelyn's downfall--and the key to her final triumph.
Learn more about the book and author at Valerie Wilson Wesley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Imager’s Battalion"

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer.

Modesitt applied the Page 69 Test to Imager's Battalion, the sequel to the New York Times bestselling Princeps, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Imager’s Battalion, Quaeryt is riding along a road on the south side of the River Aluse as part of the Southern Army beginning the invasion of Bovaria. He is a recently appointed subcommander, in command of a full battalion, but a battalion consisting of ten imagers, a regular company of mounted infantry, and three companies of mounted Pharsi troopers, exiled from their homeland of Khel when it was conquered by Rex Kharst of Bovaria.

One paragraph near the bottom of the page suggests exactly what is to come, as well as the character of Kharst.
Quaeryt glanced to the southern field, where three men with torches were on foot, trying to ignite the golden winter wheat close to harvest. Four others were mounted, three of them holding the reins of the mounts of the men on foot. All wore the gray-blue uniforms of Bovarian troopers.
The troopers are burning the harvest of their own people, a harvest that will not be ready for weeks, in hopes of denying any supplies at all to the invaders, despite the fact that the Telaryn forces have mounted the invasion in retaliation for Kharst’s unsuccessful attacks on Telaryn and the fact that the Telaryn troopers have taken care to minimize the toll on the civilian population…and continue to do so. This is the first of many instances that show starkly the differences between the two lands and their cultures and points toward why it is unlikely that the war can be ended in any other way than it eventually is… and the critical role Quaeryt and his ragtag battalion will come to play in the conflict.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

The Page 69 Test: Princeps.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"December’s Thorn"

Phillip DePoy is the author of a number of mysteries, including the Edgar Award winning play Easy. He has published short fiction, poetry, and criticism in Story, The Southern Poetry Review, Xanadu, and Yankee, among other magazines. As a folklorist, Depoy has worked with Joseph Campbell and John Burrison. He is currently the director of the theatre program at Clayton State University.

DePoy's Fever Devilin novels include The Drifter's Wheel and A Corpse’s Nightmare.

He applied the Page 69 Test to December's Thorn, the 7th of seven Fever Devilin novels, and reported the following:
Here’s what I like about page 69 of December’s Thorn: it includes the phrase “confusingly uncharacteristic”—which is a nice comment on page 69’s metaphorical relationship with the rest of the book—and the word shenanigans, which is just funny. We spend a portion of this book trying to decide if the main character, Fever Devilin, is out of his mind or not. The dialogue on this page is between him and Dr. Nelson, his sort-of psychiatric counselor. We discover on this page that Fever is a little confused by his uncharacteristic attraction to the lovely, albeit strange, Ceri Nelson. He is, after all, engaged to and, in fact, in love with Lucinda Foxe. To keep the page from completely collapsing into romantic melodrama, we also have a reference to a particular rifle. When Dr. Nelson says to Fever that he doesn’t seem the type to know much about guns, he tells her, “I’ve been shot at lots of times since I’ve been home. After it happened a few too many times, I started doing what any good quasi-academic would: I did the research.” And there we are: a neat summation of the series so far. He used to be an academic. He moved back home. Enough people have taken shots at him that he wants to know a little about firearms. Does this make page 69 representative of the rest of the book? Not entirely. The book is a psychological mystery, an exploration of the Tristan and Isolde mythology, and a cool meditation the nature of broken families. It begins with a woman—or is she a ghost?—who comes to Fever’s door on a cold December night claiming to be his long-lost wife. No one else has seen the woman, hence the presence of a psychiatrist. As the mystery unfolds, the truth about his “ghost bride” is, you know, miraculously engaging. Or at the very least, the book provides the reader with a few dark, amusing, diverting shenanigans. (No, but seriously, why is that word so funny?)
Learn more about the book and author at Phillip DePoy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Drifter's Wheel.

The Page 69 Test: A Corpse's Nightmare.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Miss Dimple Suspects"

Mignon Franklin Ballard, an accomplished mystery writer, lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

She is the author of several acclaimed mysteries. Her latest series features revered first grade teacher, Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, during the years of World War II.

Ballard applied the Page 69 Test to Miss Dimple Suspects, the latest novel in the series, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Miss Dimple Suspects plops the reader right down in the middle of a dialog between the police and Miss Dimple and Charlie, and it reveals one of the main reasons why Suzy becomes the chief suspect.

Peewee, the Sheriff’s deputy, has discovered an empty metal candy box on top of an oak wardrobe in Suzy’s room. Miss Dimple and Charlie recognize the box as the one in which the murdered woman kept the earnings from her paintings, but they hesitate to share this information with the authorities.

Finally, Miss Dimple admits that Mrs. Hawthorne kept her money in a box much like the one he had found. At Charlie’s suggestion, they search the house for another box like the first that might contain the money, but none is found.

This is not looking good for Suzy, Miss Dimple thinks. The fact that she seems to have disappeared further incriminates the young woman, but fortunately for her, Miss Dimple Kilpatrick is on her side.
Learn more about the author and her work at Mignon Ballard's website.

My Book, The Movie: Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause.

The Page 69 Test: Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause.

Writers Read: Mignon F. Ballard (December 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 4, 2013

"The Lost Art of Mixing"

Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients and Joy For Beginners. Her most recent novel, The Lost Art of Mixing, was released on January 24th, 2013.

Bauermeister applied the Page 69 Test to The Lost Art of Mixing and reported the following:
It was a bit of a shock when I opened The Lost Art of Mixing to page 69 – its contents there only because of the vagaries of editing and typesetting – and found the small scene that had started the whole book going in my imagination.

I hadn’t planned on writing a sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients. I had sent the characters from that book off into their lives and I thought they would do well enough without me. But one day an image showed up in my head – Lillian, my chef, standing in the restaurant kitchen doorway inhaling the smells, just the way the first book started. Only this time, the smells overwhelmed her and she was realizing she was pregnant – unexpectedly and unsettlingly so.

The scene rattled around in my mind over the course of the next few years. I’d be thinking about a different, new character, and somehow he would know Lillian. I would go for a walk, inhale a new smell, and there would be that scene again, knocking at my imagination. I wrote a different book. The scene was still there waiting when I was done. And finally I was so curious I couldn’t stand it anymore and I started writing.

So I guess it only makes sense that that’s what I found on page 69.
Learn more about the book and author at Erica Bauermeister's website.

The Page 69 Test: The School of Essential Ingredients.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"The Painted Girls"

Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of the national bestseller The Day the Falls Stood Still, a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection and an Indie Next pick.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Painted Girls, and reported the following:
In The Painted Girls we hear, in alternating chapters, from Marie van Goethem, who tells her story of modelling for Edgar Degas’s famous sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, and her older sister Antoinette, who gives an account of her love affair with the dangerous Émile Abadie, a teenage boy featured in Degas’s pastel Criminal Physiognomies.

On page 69 of The Painted Girls, we learn from Antoinette that she is marking the days in her calendar that she is “adored” (that is made love to) by Abadie. It’s a quiet moment in the book, but the calendar and its markings will come to play a significant role in providing an alibi when Abadie is—true to life—accused of a grisly murder and in deciding the fate of the sisters’ relationship.
Learn more about the book and author at Cathy Marie Buchanan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 1, 2013

"The Bracelet"

Roberta Gately, author of The Bracelet, has served as a nurse and humanitarian aid worker in war zones ranging from Afghanistan to Africa, about which she wrote a series of articles for the BBC World News Online. She is also the author of the novel Lipstick in Afghanistan.

Gately applied the Page 69 Test to The Bracelet and reported the following:
My second novel -- The Bracelet -- is the story of Abby Monroe, a young nurse determined to make her mark as a UN worker in one of the world's most unstable cities -- Peshawar, Pakistan. But her plans are disrupted when she witnesses the brutal murder of a woman thrown from a building in Geneva. Haunted by the memory of an intricate and sparkling bracelet that adorned the victim's wrist, Abby struggles to make a difference for the refugees and trafficking victims she meets. When the mysterious bracelet reappears, she and Nick must work together to unravel the mystery that threatens them both.

Page 69 of The Bracelet involves a discussion between Abby and Najeela, the UN administrator of the house where Abby lives. They are discussing Nick Sinclair, the arrogant New York Times reporter who's just arrived. They believe he's there to do a story on Abby as an American aid worker in one of the world's most turbulent and dangerous cities. Page 69 is a great segue to the rest of the story in that it showcases Abby and Nick's instant dislike for one another. Below is a small excerpt.
Najeela finally appeared at the house three days after Nick's last visit. "Have you seen the reporter?" she asked.

"I have," Abby replied, a frown on her lips.

"You don't much like him, Nick I mean, do you?" Najeela's fingers played with her necklace as she spoke.

"We seem to be like oil and water. There's just something about him," Abby said, shrugging her shoulders. "You're right though that we'll never be best friends."

Najeela touched Abby's shoulder. "Then if you don't like him, I won't like him either."

"I don't know if that's fair," Abby said laughing.

Najeela smiled. "Well that's what girlfriends do, I'm sure. Anyway, I think that you're in need of an outing, yes?" She paused, waiting for Abby to respond.
I hope that the tiny excerpt above and the story behind the story in The Bracelet -- the misery of human trafficking -- will convince you to have a read of my latest novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Roberta Gately's website, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Writers Read: Roberta Gately (November 2010).

The Page 69 Test: Lipstick in Afghanistan.

My Book, The Movie: Lipstick in Afghanistan.

My Book, The Movie: The Bracelet.

Writers Read: Roberta Gately.

--Marshal Zeringue