Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"The City of Devi"

Manil Suri was born in Bombay and is a professor of mathematics and affiliate professor of Asian studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is the author of the novels The Death of Vishnu, The Age of Shiva, and The City of Devi. His fiction has won several awards and honors and has been translated into twenty-seven languages. He was named by Time Magazine as a “Person to Watch” in 2000. He is a citizen of both the United States and India.

Suri applied the Page 69 Test to The City of Devi and reported the following:
Page 69 is part of the scene where Sarita, trying to escape an enemy plane strafing the deserted streets of Mumbai, takes shelter in an aquarium café. She encounters the watchman there, and slowly realizes he has eaten most of the fish under his charge. Quite hungry herself, she pays him to catch and cook up one of the last fish in the display cases. However, he’s very stingy with the oil, and it ends up tasting terrible. He tells her to return the next day – she can eat for free if she helps him catch the last remaining baby shark in the aquarium, which he promises will have better flavor.

The scene is quite perfect in expressing the surreal quality that I tried to infuse throughout the book. Sarita is looking for her husband who has mysteriously disappeared in the midst of a war between India and Pakistan, and most of Mumbai’s population has fled under a nuclear threat. Which might sound very grim, except that I’ve aimed for comedy, tried to bring out the absurdness in every situation. The few people who’re left go about their business worrying about such mundane things like cell phones and jewelry, they lose no opportunity to snub those lower in social standing, and generally display all the prejudices, insecurities and weaknesses that make them human. If there’s no food available, and you’re guarding fish, why not eat them? What could be more logical?
Learn more about the book and author at Manil Suri's website.

Read about Manil Suri's top ten books about Mumbai.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 29, 2013

"Prophet of Bones"

Ted Kosmatka is the author of the novels The Games and the recently released Prophet of Bones. His short fiction has been nominated for both the Nebula Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and appeared in numerous Year's Best collections.

Kosmatka applied the Page 69 Test to Prophet of Bones and reported the following:
In Prophet of Bones, the page 69 test opens into a crowded market on the island of Flores. Paul, a scientist outside his element, is exploring the crowded Indonesian town before heading back down the road to the archaeological dig where the bones of the strange dwarf humanoid Homo floresiensis were found:
He paused for only a millisecond, the slightest hint of hesitation, and the voice came out of the booth, “Hello, Mister.”

Paul turned. “How much?”

The shop owner came forward. He was old and gray and bent. His rheumy, bloodshot eyes did a quick appraisal. “With respect, sir,” he said in good English, pointing to a pair of small signs above the necklace which seemed to give two different prices for the same item. One sign read 50,000 rp, and the other 30,000. “Very nice necklace. Grandson caught shark with own hands.”

“Which price is it?”

“That depend,” the old man said.

“On what?”

“On if you want haggle. You haggle, we start this price here,” he said, gesturing to the sign with the higher price. His knuckles were knobby with arthritis.

“I’d rather start there,” Paul said, pointing to the other sign.

The man shook his head. “No, that the no-haggle price. If you want haggle, we start at 50,000rp. But don’t worry, we talk price down.”

“How far down?”

“Almost to here,” he said, pointing to the lower price.


“Can’t haggle all the way to the no-haggle price. You understand, sir. I must earn something for my time.”
Learn more about the book and author at Ted Kosmatka's website.

Writers Read: Ted Kosmatka (March 2012).

The Page 69 Test: The Games.

My Book, the Movie: The Games.

My Book, the Movie: Prophet of Bones.

Writers Read: Ted Kosmatka.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Deadly Harvest"

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Their mysteries are set in Botswana, each against a backdrop of a current issue in southern Africa. Their protagonist is David “Kubu” Bengu, assistant superintendent in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The third novel in the series, Death of the Mantis, was short listed for an Edgar and an Anthony, and won the Barry Award for best paperback original mystery of 2011.

The authors applied the Page 69 Test to Deadly Harvest, the fourth Detective Kubu mystery, and reported the following:
We were a little scared of page 69! What would it tell you about the book? Every page in a novel is important – or ought to be - but some are more gripping than others. Fortunately our fear was misplaced. Page 69 is a key scene and illustrates the personality of our new female character – Samantha Khama – the first woman detective in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department.

Samantha is following the cold trail of Lesego, a young girl who has vanished, not as the victim of a rapist or serial killer, but kidnapped by a witch doctor for use in his black magic potions. Unfortunately, this is no pseudo-fantasy thriller. The belief in the power of witch doctors is prevalent in much of Africa. Most are herbalists with a smattering of magic thrown in, but a few, like Lesego’s abductor, deal in the blackest of magic requiring human body parts. It is claimed to bring them horrific powers including shape changing and invisibility.

The book builds from the effect these murders have on the families who often feel the police neglect them in favor of higher profile crimes. The police battle to solve these cases. There is no obvious link between the victim and the killer, fear of the witch doctors silences witnesses, and the police themselves are nervous of the witch doctors and their often powerful clients.

When she was a girl, Samantha had a close friend who was a victim. For her the issue is personal. And she, too, is dissatisfied with the attitude and response of her colleagues. She finds it hard to be taken seriously in the male-dominated enclave of the Criminal Investigation Department, and difficult to make progress with the cases - until she links up with Detective Kubu.

On page 69, she is interviewing the family of the missing girl: Lesego’s sister, Dikeledi, and her foster father and mother:
Each member of the family described what they recalled of that day, but no one remembered anything unusual.

Then Tole spoke about the following week.

“I asked everyone I met. But no one had seen anything. At least that’s what they said. I think they were scared a witch doctor was involved.”

“The people you talk to only want to drink at the bar,” Constance interjected.

Samantha ignored that and spoke to Tole. “Did anyone seem evasive? As though they were hiding something?” Tole shrugged and subsided.

Samantha turned to Dikeledi. “The police at the station said you were very concerned. Very loyal. That you came back several times. Did you find anything? Is there anything else you can remember that might help me?”

Dikeledi looked down at her feet. After a few moments she shook her head.

Constance stood up and put a pot of pap on the stove to cook. Samantha realized it was a signal for her to leave, but she had noticed Dikeledi’s hesitation.

“Would you show me the route Lesego would’ve taken to school, Dikeledi? Would you drive with me? It won’t take long, and I’ll bring you right back.” The girl hesitated again, but then nodded. She jumped up and left the room, reappearing a few minutes later with a jacket, despite the warm evening.

Samantha gave Tole her business card and thanked them all for their help. Constance just nodded and concentrated on the pap.
Dikeledi has something to show Samantha, something important, but she won’t do it in front of the others. The meeting starts Samantha on a course which brings her and Kubu close – uncomfortably close – to the ‘invisible’ witch doctor.
Learn more about the book and authors at Michael Stanley's website.

Read: Michael Stanley's top ten African crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 27, 2013


JoeAnn Hart lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, America's oldest seaport, where fishing regulations, the health of the ocean, and the natural beauty of the world are the daily topics of wonder and concern. She is the author of the novels Addled, a social satire that intertwines animal rights with the politics of food, and the recently released Float.

Hart applied the Page 69 Test to Float and reported the following:
How nice! Look. There’s a lot of great tension on Float’s page 69. The protagonist, Duncan Leland, and his nemesis, the unsavory Osbert Marpol, have met for lunch to discuss a business deal to save Seacrest’s, Duncan’s fish dehydration plant in Maine. Osbert is a Churchill-quoting loan shark, and as desperate as Duncan is to borrow money, he becomes increasingly uneasy the more they talk. Osbert knows too much personal information about Duncan, including the fact that he is separated from his wife and living at home with his mother. Slocum, referred to in the beginning of the excerpt, is the owner of the restaurant, Manavilins. He is Duncan’s best friend, but a bit too experimental when it comes to cooking, so they are engaging in dangerous behavior just by having lunch. Not only is this page representative of Float, it is the turning point, where Duncan throws his fate into a deal that risks not just his business, but his life.

Page 69, excerpt:
“You lived with Slocum not so long ago, didn’t you?” He picked up his cigar and rolled it between his fingers.

Duncan paused, alarmed that Osbert had explored the hidden marshes of his personal life. He’d done no research at all on Osbert, as if his rumored connection with the mob told him everything he needed to know. But he realized now he knew absolutely nothing. “For a few days,” he said, coughing his words into his freckled fist. “I’m out on the Cove now.”

“Your mother’s house.”

Duncan bristled. “The family home.”

“You know, Leland, you’re not intended to live on a life raft. It's only supposed to get you away from a sinking ship.”

“Is that your buddy Churchill's saying?”

“No,” said Osbert. “In your case, it’s a popular observation.”

“Well, my marriage isn’t sinking,” said Duncan. “It’s only floating at anchor for the moment.”

“Be that as it may, Seacrest's anchor is dragging. A dangerous situation. You're lucky I'm here to help.”

Before Duncan could formulate a response, he heard something large and wet being slammed repeatedly against the building, the sound of which only added to his distress. He reached for his red plastic water glass and knocked it over, flooding the table and causing cubes of ice to spin away. Marney came running over with a towel. Densch, the busboy with a jawline beard, appeared with a fresh glass. They were keeping a very short lead on him. Everything was put to rights in a minute as Osbert watched with acid amusement.

When the workers disappeared, Duncan spoke in a low voice. “I don't need help."

“Beaky tells me that's what you'd say," said Osbert. “But we know otherwise, and so do you. Here's the deal.”
Learn more about the book and author at JoeAnn Hart's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: JoeAnn Hart and Daisy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Reconstructing Amelia"

Kimberly McCreight attended Vassar College and graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. After several years as a litigation associate at some of New York City’s biggest law firms, she left the practice of law to write full-time. Her work has appeared in such publications as Antietam Review, Oxford Magazine, Babble, and New York Magazine online.

McCreight applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Reconstructing Amelia, and reported the following:
Interestingly, page 69 of Reconstructing Amelia is a series of text conversations between Amelia and several different people. It’s certainly a unique slice of the novel, but I’m not sure it’s exactly representative of the story as a whole. The texts will be especially intriguing to some, but I can imagine they might make other readers a little wary—fearing that the entire book is comprised of such entries.

The multimedia elements are one of my favorite aspects of the book, but they do comprise a fairly limited percentage of the story is told primarily in traditional chapters, alternating between Amelia and her mother Kate’s points of view.

That said, the texts and Facebook postings were critical to me. They give the narrative texture and supply important elements of the mystery. They also draw the reader more intimately into Amelia’s fifteen-year-old world.

Technology is a part of most people’s relationships today, particularly teens. These arms-length modes of communication have the potential to change the quality of the communication itself. With bullying for example—a major theme in Reconstructing Amelia—technology has made it more painful to be the victim of harassment. If tormentors jump on line there’s no escape, not even in the comfort of your own home. I think the psychic distance technology creates also makes it easier to bully. I think the ease with which harassing messages can be passed on—a single tap on a smartphone is sometimes all it takes—works to the disadvantage of potential bulliers as well. Some might not engage in such behavior at all, if they were forced to take a few minutes to reflect on it.

I hope that people will be intrigued by the texts on page 69 of my book, then be drawn in fully by the voices of Amelia and her mother Kate, which fill Reconstructing Amelia’s remaining pages.
Watch the trailer for Reconstructing Amelia, and learn more about the book and author at Kimberly McCreight's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Garden of Stones"

Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri. She writes the post-apocalyptic Aftertime series for LUNA Books. She also writes paranormal fiction for young adults. Her first novel, A Bad Day for Sorry, won an Anthony Award for Best First Novel and an RT Award for Best First Mystery. It was also shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree and Macavity Awards, and it was named to lists of the year's best mystery debuts by the Chicago Sun-Times and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Littlefield applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Garden of Stones,  and reported the following:
From page 69:
Back in their house on Clement Street, night was the music of a small ensemble. The ticking of the furnace, the groaning of the old walls settling on their foundation, branches from the cherry tree scratching her window when the wind blew, and the squeaking of the floorboards and flush of the toilet when her parents got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. All these sounds blended together in a familiar way, soothing Lucy back to sleep whenever she woke.
This bit of introspection takes place on the first night that 14-year-old Lucy Takeda spends in a Japanese internment camp. I had tried to imagine what it would be like for a young girl to find herself in such unfamiliar and unwelcome environment, and I thought she would focus on memories of home. The description is based on my own memories of night sounds in the house I grew up in. I found the familiar noises reassuring on nights when I was worried or scared, and I thought Lucy might feel the same way.

In the camp barracks, it was never quiet. Living quarters were separated by dividers that didn’t reach the ceiling, and sounds traveled throughout the building. In personal accounts, those who were interned tell about being forced to listen to their neighbors’ most private moments - grief and despair and lovemaking and whispered conversations. The lack of privacy was devastating. But the first night, perhaps it was a comfort to know that others shared your fate, only a few feet away.
Learn more about the book and author at Sophie Littlefield's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate"

Susanna Calkins became fascinated with seventeenth century England while pursuing her doctorate in British history and uses her fiction to explore this chaotic period. Originally from Philadelphia, Calkins now lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two sons.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, her first novel, and reported the following:
Opening A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate to page 69 offers some insights into one of the emerging sub-plots of the novel: the developing relationship between Lucy Campion, a chambermaid, and Adam Hargrave, the son of her employer, the local magistrate. In this scene, Lucy is eavesdropping on a conversation between Adam and a young noblewoman, Judith Embry, that was happening in the Embry’s garden late one evening.
“Father, you know, believes—“ Lucy heard Judith say, but her words were lost in the light wind that had arisen. Although unsure why, Lucy moved closer, taking care to keep her figure hidden in the bushes.

Adam appeared to pull away slightly. “Yes, I’m well aware of what your father thinks.”

“Oh, Adam,” Judith continued. “You can do anything you want. Father doesn’t think lawyers are too important.”

Hearing her brittle little laugh, Lucy shuddered.

“Indeed?” Adam asked idly, lazily.

This time, Judith seemed to sense that she had gone too far. “Oh, dear,” Judith said soothingly, caressing his arm. “I’ve made you angry, Adam. Come, let’s have a kiss and make up.”

Lucy watched as Adam regarded Judith. She could not tell what he was thinking. She wondered if he liked what he saw. He paused. “Why not?” she heard him say.

Averting her gaze, Lucy crept away, a deep dismay rising up inside her. Adam deserves better than her, she thought. As if on cue, her nose began to throb, painfully reminding her of the odd encounter with Adam on the stairs.

Suddenly desperate to go home, she stumbled away, only to quickly become disoriented as the fog grew heavier. Without a lantern, she could not find the path. A hand on her arm made her jump.
I won’t tell what happens next, but someone—not Adam—has followed Lucy into a great open field. If I’d been asked to provide page 70, you’d have been privy to one of the darker scenes of the novel.

The excerpted scene, however, is meant to suggest Lucy’s growing confusion about her status in the magistrate’s household, and her emerging feelings towards the magistrate’s son. It also suggests something about Lucy’s lively curiosity and her tendency to poke her nose into things that don’t concern her.
Learn more about the book and author at Susanna Calkins's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Shadow on the Crown"

Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon a writing career.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Shadow on the Crown, her first novel, which is the start of a trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Shadow on the Crown looks in on Æthelred II of England and his young Norman bride, Emma, at their wedding feast.
“Perhaps, then,” said the king, “I should have insisted on your sister as my consort, so that I would not be saddled, as I am now, with a wife who demanded the title of queen.”

Stung by his discourtesy and his apparent dissatisfaction with the marriage bargain he had struck, Emma could only stare at him for a moment while she caught her breath. Then she felt the weight of the circlet upon her head as well as the weight of her brother’s final words to her. You must demand the king’s respect. She roused herself to respond.

“I expect my brother would have made the same demand, whichever sister he sent you. And as you did not insist upon my sister,” she said, hiding her displeasure with a smile, “instead of a wife who might have been a burden to you, you have a queen who can share any burdens that fate may send you. Such is my wyrd, I think.”
In this brief dialogue the reader is introduced to one of the central conflicts of the novel. Shadow on the Crown explores, among other things, the demands made upon a peaceweaving bride who must wed a powerful enemy in order to seal a shaky alliance. The title of queen implies that Emma has been granted some power, but she discovers that in England’s hostile court she is little more than a royal hostage.

Although this is primarily Emma’s story, the wider conflicts in the novel are perceived through three additional viewpoint characters: the suspicious, haunted king; his headstrong son from a previous marriage; and the devious daughter of the highest ranking noble in the realm. It is a tale of treachery, loyalty, political ambition, passion, and the demands of duty in an 11th century kingdom that is slowly crumbling under pressures both from within its borders and from across the sea. The uneasy exchange between Æthelred and his bride at their wedding feast only hints at the trouble to come.
Learn more about the book and author at Patricia Bracewell's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 22, 2013

"The Movement of Stars"

Amy Brill is a writer and producer who has worked for PBS and MTV, and has been awarded fellowships by the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the Millay Colony, and the American Antiquarian Society, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Movement of Stars, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Hannah stayed next to the telescope for more than an hour, checking periodically like a mother with a feverish child, but the stars and everything else in the firmament ticked by invisibly. There was barely any wind, nothing to suggest an imminent change in the weather. A film of despair began to settle in her, lightly, like an illness just taking hold, as she contemplated her father’s decision. There was nothing she could do to alter it, short of attaching herself permanently to a male—any male—who would contract to marry her.

The idea that she had always been powerless over her own future, but not realized it, was excruciating. She’d been propelled toward mastery—over her emotions, over her equations, of the biggest and most minute parts of the Universe—for her entire life. Dr. Hall had demanded rigor, his teaching method requiring total expertise on one level before advancement to the next. Fractions came before geometry; simple maths before logarithms and algebraic equations. Until tonight, she thought she’d understood the rules that governed her life as well: work hard, sweep the skies, seek a contribution. Be rewarded. How could she have made so great a miscalculation?

Grinding her teeth, Hannah peered through the telescope again, desperate for something else to focus on. This time she didn’t hear the door to the walk open or close. When she heard Isaac’s deep voice at close range, she gasped, clapping her hand to her chest while trying to catch her breath.
Page 69, as it happens, is representative of my novel in that it encapsulates Hannah’s devotion to astronomy and her frustration at the limitations imposed upon her advancement by a society in which she couldn’t go to college, vote, hold office, hold property, or even hold a job outside of teaching or domestic work. Here, she’s doing her best to gain a foothold in the (male) astronomy community of her day by searching the night skies in search of an elusive comet. If she is the first to spot and report a new one, she can win a medal from the King of Denmark and—more importantly—the respect of her peers. The arrival of Isaac Martin—a black whaler from Azores who she is tutoring in celestial navigation—at the end of this page is fortuitous, because his appearance in Hannah’s life does both frighten and exhilarate her, as their deepening relationship fractures the stability of her life, from her beliefs to her standing in her close-knit Quaker community. All in all, page 69 passes the test! At least for these purposes. Whether it passes your test as a reader is, of course, entirely up to you.
Learn more about the book and author at Amy Brill's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"A Map of Tulsa"

Benjamin Lytal has written for The Wall Street Journal, The London Review of Books, The Los Angeles Times, Bookforum, The Believer, McSweeney’s, Fence, The Daily Beast, and The Nation.  For four years he wrote The New York Sun’s “Recent Fiction” column.  Originally from Tulsa, Lytal currently lives in Chicago.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Map of Tulsa, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
background, having drunk all afternoon; I found myself heading upstairs again, taking the stairs in giant steps, slowly, wobbling, turning into the same storage room, and curling up for a nap just the same, shortly after dark. I slept for a long time. And when I woke up, deep in the night, with the carpet imprinted on the side of my face, it felt like time had looped, and I resolved to myself to do something good with my life, to break the loop.

I didn't go down the stairs this time but continued around the landing, and careened truly innocently into a bedroom where the light was on. Beneath the light, Adrienne and Chase lay there sleeping. They were strewn on the bed below me, covered with blankets. I was riveted. I stood there with a rocky feeling on my face. I stood and studied Adrienne's nose, pressed flat on its side, an intense rose color smushed on the white pillowcase. Adrienne cracked an eye.

But it was Chase who got it together and unfurled an arm to greet me. "Join us," he said, his voice hoarse.

I didn't believe it.

"Come on," said Chase. "Let's get some sleep."

They weren't touching; they were sleeping in different halves of the bed. I stepped out of my shoes.

To climb in, I had to plant my knee and hand beside Chase. Then I hesitated. "Should I turn out the light?"

Chase smiled, amused. "Why sure."

Then I made my way back to the bed and, planting a knee without touching Chase, I tried to bridge across them to get down on the far side of Adrienne. She rolled away, however. And then Chase just pulled me down like a dog. He laid his arm across me. "It's cool," he said.
This is the whole of A Map of Tulsa page 69. I'm very happy that we landed here. The narrator, a boy named Jim, is in an exploratory mood ... he's beginning to wonder if bold initiative and passive luxuriance aren't, late at night, one and the same thing.

I'll end by quoting a review that sheds further light on page 69:
“Jim and Adrienne’s relationship begins with some mild drug use and frottage before lurching into a creepily detailed ménage a trois, at which point the novel begins to shake and rumble like a small, unexpectedly powerful volcano....”
—Tom Bissell, Harper’s
Learn more about A Map of Tulsa and Benjamin Lytal on tumblr and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"The Peculiar"

Stefan Bachmann is a writer and musician. He was born in Colorado and now lives with his family in Zurich, Switzerland, where he attends the Zurich Conservatory. He began writing his acclaimed novel The Peculiar in 2010, when he was sixteen years old.

Bachmann applied the Page 69 Test to The Peculiar and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Peculiar takes place in Nonsuch House, a huge, strange old place in the middle of 19th century London, hanging partway over the river, and home to the sinister faery politician, Mr. Lickerish. Mr Jelliby, the second main character, has been invited to tea together with two not-very-nice rival politicians, and something is definitely wrong.
"It must be shot with a special sort of gun," Mr Lumbidule was saying. "...has real blood inside, real meat, and if you are tired of hunting it, it will lie down on its iron back and..."

Mr. Jelliby couldn't take it any longer. Wiping his brow he said, "Forgive me, Mr. Lickerish, but is there a water closet nearby?"

The two men stopped long enough to smirk at him. Mr. Jelliby barely noticed. He was too busy trying not to vomit.

The faery's mouth twitched. He regarded Mr. Jelliby sharply for a moment. Then he said, "Of course there is a water closet. Left of the door you'll find a bellpull. Someone will come to escort you."

"Oh..." Mr. Jelliby lurched out of his seat and stumbled away from the chairs. His head was spinning. On his way across the room he thought he might have knocked something over - he heard a clatter and felt something delicate grind to glassy shards beneath his feet - but he was too dizzy to stop.

He staggered out of the library, fumbling along the wall for the bellpull. His fingers brushed a tassel. His hand closed around a thick velvet cord and he tugged it with all his might. Somewhere deep in the house a bell tolled, long and sorrowful, like a funeral bell.
Learn more about the book and author at Stefan Bachmann's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Peculiar.

Writers Read: Stefan Bachmann.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"The Shelter Cycle"

Peter Rock was born and raised in Salt Lake City. His most recent book is The Shelter Cycle, which concerns the end of the world in Montana in 1990, among other things.  His previous novel, My Abandonment, has won an Alex Award, the Utah Book Award, and been published in Germany, Turkey and France. He is also the author of the novels The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, This Is the Place, and Carnival Wolves, and a story collection, The Unsettling.

Rock applied the Page 69 Test to The Shelter Cycle and reported the following:
I actually like this page; it gives a person a decent sense of what is afoot. It’s a piece of a document written by one of the characters, Francine, recounting her childhood in the Church Universal and Triumphant, an (actual and historical) extreme church in Montana that believed the world might end in 1990. In this page, the Messenger, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, makes a sudden appearance in the children’s classroom. The Messenger was the one person alive who could communicate with the Ascended Masters; she “dictated” their wisdom that came to her at a frequency so powerful that it would blow a regular person’s body apart.

From page 69:
[The Messenger] traveled in the higher planes…energy radiated from her, a vibration that wasn’t hot or cold, just a shiver in your blood circling in you with more electricity, the power growing…. The Messenger told us that her heart was great enough to burn up all the darknesses in our hearts.
This page ends with the Messenger’s assertion about two of the children, my book’s protagonists: “She told us that our paths were all intertwined. The two of you, she said. All intertwined. You must help each other in every way you can.”
Learn more about the book and author at Peter Rock's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Abandonment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 15, 2013

"The House Girl"

Tara Conklin is a writer and lawyer currently living with her family in Seattle, WA. Most recently, she worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a corporate law firm but now devotes herself full-time to writing fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The House Girl, her debut novel, and reported the following:
The House Girl tells the interlocked stories of Lina Sparrow, a 24-year old lawyer in a New York corporate law firm in 2004 and Josephine Bell, an 18-year old artist and house slave on a Virginia tobacco farm in 1852. In the opening pages of the novel, we learn that Josephine has decided to run away from her owners and that Lina has been assigned to work on a new lawsuit involving reparations for the descendants of American slaves. Page 69 of The House Girl finds Josephine talking to Dr. Vickers, an old family friend of Josephine’s mistress, a woman she calls Missus Lu. He has just examined Missus Lu, who has been suffering from seizures in recent months, and earlier that morning Josephine discovered a worrying lump on the back of Missus Lu’s neck. Page 69 begins with the doctor’s words:
“Your mistress, I believe she is dying. It seems there is a tumor; that is the source of the protrusion at the back of the neck. The question is really one of time. It is difficult to know how long it will be in these cases. The illness has persisted for so long already, and her mind is not strong. But she may very well surprise us all, find an inner reserve.” He lowered his chin.

“Tell Mr. Bell all that I have told you. I will call again in two days time. If anything should change in her behavior, Mr. Bell must send for me at once. Do you understand?”

“Of course, yes. I understand.”

Dr. Vickers’ eyes were heavy-lidded, unblinking. “I will see myself out. Stay with your Missus.” He turned to make his way down the creaking stairs, the tip of his cane held high, never once hitting a step.

Josephine remained in the hall long after Dr. Vickers had gone, waiting for Missus Lu to summon her. Missus Lu, dying. The doctor’s words settled into Josephine, taking possession of her heart, and she felt her resolve falter. After she was gone, who would care for Missus Lu? Who would hold her down when she shook, comb her hair, fetch what she needed, see that she ate? Mister would never do such things. He had no money for another house girl. Lottie, Therese, Calla, none of them knew all that Josephine knew of the house, of Missus and her ways.

Josephine watched the sun on the floorboards, the shadows cast by the clouds moving like water across the wood, and she thought of an earlier time when she was a girl but not a child. Her bare feet slapping on the stones of the kitchen floor as Missus sang a tune in th parlor. Books taken from the library and ferretted up to her room, and the night hours full of the marvels they contained. There had been a lightness then.... 
This scene is pivotal for Josephine. Although she is fiercely determined to run, fear has started to work its way into her thoughts. Now, with the doctor’s pronouncement that Missus Lu is dying, Josephine’s mixed feelings about her mistress rise up. Can she leave this woman, who has been almost a mother to her, at such a time? As Josephine’s day progresses, she encounters many moments like this – times when she questions her decision to run – but she overcomes them and becomes increasingly committed to escape. I think this scene captures the overall flavor of Josephine Bell’s narrative – the obstacles she faces, the complex emotions she feels for Missus Lu, the sense of foreboding and decay of the world around her. Of course, the contemporary half of the book deals with different characters and has a very different flavor, but we’d have to jump ahead to page 72 for that…
Learn more about the book and author at Tara Conklin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"The Frozen Shroud"

Martin Edwards's many novels include The Frozen Shroud and five previous Lake District mysteries.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Frozen Shroud and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Frozen Shroud, DCI Hannah Scarlett, head of Cumbria’s Cold Case Squad, is out for the night with her oldest friend, Terri. When they meet for a drink in a bar called Balotelli’s, Hannah finds herself troubled by conflicting emotions – and not just because Balotelli’s is hosting a Neil Diamond tribute act. She wants to look after Terri, who is being stalked by her former lover, Stefan. His behavior has become increasingly menacing, but Hannah is frustrated because she senses that Terri is hiding something from her. At the same time, she is facing strife at work, as austerity measures mean her team and its resources are being slashed to the bone, while her private life has gone from bad to worse. Her split from second hand bookseller Marc Amos is final in her mind, but not his, and a colleague’s interest in her is causing tongues to wag. But Daniel Kind is still there in the background. And although Hannah doesn’t know it yet, Daniel’s world and hers are about to collide in the most dramatic way possible, as an old Ullswater story about a headless woman threatens to tear apart lives in the here and now.
Learn more about the book and author at Martin Edwards’s website and blog.

Writers Read: Martin Edwards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Follow Her Home"

Steph Cha is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School. She lives in her native city of Los Angeles, California.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Follow Her Home, her first novel, and reported the following:
On Friday night, after agreeing to conduct an amateur adultery investigation on her friend Luke’s behalf, Juniper Song is knocked unconscious. When she wakes up on Saturday morning, she finds a corpse in the trunk of her car and confides in her ex-boyfriend Diego Diaz. Diego and Song broke up eight years ago, but he remains, along with Luke, one of her best friends. She tells him she’s become involved in an investigation that now includes at least one murder, and on page 68, she and Diego argue about her continued involvement in the case. He has just asked her how she could possibly know what she is doing, when at the top of page 69:
The door opened like magic as I struggled for a plausible answer. Jackie
Blumenthal Diaz walked in shoulder first in a plain white tank and gym shorts. Her forehead and bare arms glistened with the sweat of good health.

“I’m home.” Her eyes took a second to find mine and she looked at me with surprise approaching panic. “Juniper, I didn’t know you were coming.”

Jackie was Diego’s classmate in law school, a Columbia graduate who had taken a few years off after college to work in D.C. She was a few years older than Diego, having just turned thirty-one in February. They started dating toward the end of their second year of law school. It was Diego’s first relationship after our breakup, but he and Jackie got hitched the week after their graduation last June. Luke and I used to tease Diego about their hasty marriage, attributing it to her insistent biological clock. We stopped once we noticed the shivering timbre of his laughter as he bore our immaturities.

Not that she looked old enough to worry. Five foot five, 110 pounds of lean muscle, she went to the gym as often as most people brushed their teeth. Short, dark hair fell jaunty and jagged about her ears, framing a milk-white, unmade face that didn’t tan, didn’t wrinkle. Her quiet eyes stayed squinted most of the time, but when they didn’t, their cool auburn agate was captivating.

“Hey, Jackie.” I tried to dissipate the solemn, intimate air that hung over the sofa. “I was in the area and thought I’d drop by.”

“You’re always in the area.”

Jackie pretended to like me with the thespian flair of a roasted peanut. I didn’t blame her for being wary of me, but I always thought it was silly. Diego and I hadn’t shared so much as one strand of saliva since before we could drink legally. I suspected that the fact of my perpetual singledom since our breakup let her imagine I still carried a torch for him.
Hey, I lucked out here – my page 69 doesn’t need too much explanation. Here, you meet Diego’s wife Jackie for the first time, and it’s a sort of tense, important scene that has the faint outlines of a love triangle. Song is a very guarded, solitary character with few deep attachments, and you can see why she might make Jackie uneasy. As for the writing – well, since you don’t meet a new character on every page, I’d say there’s more exposition here than on average. The prose and tone are representative of the rest of the book, fairly descriptive with a wry, observant voice and a sprinkle of pointed conversation. I would hope that someone skimming would be tempted to check out the rest of the book. There is no special defect in page 69.
Learn more about Follow Her Home, and visit Steph Cha's website and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Steph Cha and Duke.

My Book, The Movie: Follow Her Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"A Dying Fall"

Elly Griffiths’s Ruth Galloway novels have been praised as “highly atmospheric” (New York Times Book Review), “remarkable” (Richmond Times-Dispatch), and “gripping” (Louise Penny).

Griffiths applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, A Dying Fall, and reported the following:
‘As they turn off the A59 the world changes.’ This sentence, halfway down p69 of A Dying Fall, pretty much sums up how I feel about the book. After four books set in Norfolk, in this one I take my heroine, Dr Ruth Galloway, on holiday. Well, not exactly a holiday. In the first chapter Ruth is shocked to discover that her old friend Dan Golding, who is teaching at a university in the north of England, has died in a fire. Then she receives a letter from Dan, sent just before he died. Dan tells Ruth that he has a made an archaeological discovery which will ‘change everything.’ But Dan also says that he is scared. Is someone prepared to kill to keep Dan’s discovery a secret? Ruth travels to Lancashire to investigate.

It’s a risk to take your characters away from their familiar location. I love Norfolk – so does Ruth – and I know readers have enjoyed the descriptions of the bleak and beautiful landscape. Yet it just felt like time for a change. On page 69, as Ruth follows the road that ‘snakes slowly upwards’ I felt that I was reaching new, more invigorating, ground. In the distance Ruth sees a vast hill, wreathed in clouds. This is Pendle Hill, the scene of many strange events, including a seventeenth century witch trial and a vision of God’s love. In this book Ruth encounters the Pendle witches, modern-day Neo-Nazis and - scariest of all – Nelson’s mother. I hope that readers will enjoy the journey.
Learn more about the book and author at Elly Griffiths's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Crossing Places.

My Book, The Movie: The House at Sea’s End.

The Page 69 Test: A Room Full of Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 8, 2013

"Braking Points"

Tammy Kaehler’s career in marketing and technical writing landed her in the world of automobile racing, which inspired her with its blend of drama, competition, and welcoming people. Her debut, Dead Man’s Switch, was praised by mystery fans as well as racing insiders, and she takes readers back behind the wheel in Braking Points, the second Kate Reilly Racing Mystery.

Kaehler applied the Page 69 Test to Braking Points and reported the following:
At the start of Chapter 13 (page 69) of Braking Points, racecar driver (and sometime amateur sleuth) Kate Reilly goes through a typical cycle: a bright spot or bit of relief quickly counteracted by bad news.
I finally thought to check voicemail on my new smartphone after thirty minutes of sitting on the edge of the bathtub watching Holly play with the products I’d been given. My new outgoing greeting referred all media inquiries to Matt and Lily Diaz, so I had only five messages to listen to.

The first one nearly made me drop the phone: Miles Hanson, telling me he was fine, agreeing about shared blame, and hoping we’d meet again in better circumstances. “You stay out of the walls, now, hear?” was how he signed off. I felt giddy.

I returned Stuart’s call first, only to be shocked by the news he had for me: he hadn’t left Elkhart Lake on Tuesday because he’d returned to the police station to answer more questions, including some about his prior relationship with Ellie.

“Your what?”

“We were engaged a number of years ago.”
Kate has finally given in and joined the world of smartphones and social media (follow her on Twitter! @katereilly28). She’s also hired a pair of crisis public relations experts to help her cope with bad press and negative fan sentiment after a wreck that sent NASCAR’s most popular driver to the hospital—a wreck most people think she caused.

But she finds out here that the driver in question, Miles Hanson, doesn't hold a grudge, which gives Kate a few moments of peace. Until her next phone call. Her boyfriend Stuart, who found Kate’s friend Ellie Prescott dead four days earlier, reveals he not only knew Ellie, but was engaged to her … which is news to Kate. It’s not the first or last time in Braking Points that Kate wonders exactly who she can trust….
Learn more about the book and author at Tammy Kaehler's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Man’s Switch.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Man's Switch.

Writers Read: Tammy Kaehler (August 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"OCD, the Dude, and Me"

Lauren Roedy Vaughn is an award-winning educator who has spent twenty years teaching English to high school students with language-based learning disabilities. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where she is an avid yogini and Big Lebowski nut.

Vaughn applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, OCD, The Dude, and Me, and reported the following:
An excerpt from Danielle Levine’s English essay entitled “Something Beautiful”…which resides on page 69:
“My father told me about this news story that happened a while ago to the Amish people. He is very in to sharing poignant information with me. He said this deranged man wandered into a schoolhouse in the Amish community and killed all these young girls. (This is NOT the beautiful part.)

My father told me that in a follow-up story in the news, we all got to learn how this community publicly forgave the man who did this to all those girls, who took all those girls from their families, who cut their lives so short. At first, I was mad at my dad for telling me this story even though he told me ‘knowledge is power,’ and we must be open to hearing about difficult topics so we can grow. My point was: How could those people forgive that man? How could they forget about those girls like that? My father said forgiveness does not entail forgetting about the people who are lost, but at the moment I was in no condition to process his point.”
On page 69 of my novel, therein lies an important theme: forgiveness. However, before I get into that, I can’t help but reflect on the number 69. I’m a middle-aged woman, but I’m not entirely naïve. I know my former high school students will smile that this blog focuses on page 69 of novels. I hear their snickers. More significantly, if you merge the two numbers, the 6 and the 9, the yin-yang symbol appears. That’s what I really love about this blog. The yin-yang: the symbol of the joining of opposites, the acknowledgement that all in this world exists in paradox. This blog is one such example—attempting to find significant meaning about an entire novel from just one page. It is possible. (Read the rest of the posts.) More broadly, within the messy paradox of living in a mortal world, one of the greatest gifts we have to give one another (aside from our love) is our forgiveness. OCD, The Dude, and Me is told through Danielle Levine’s senior year essays, emails, journals etc. The essay on page 69, assigned by her English teacher, is entitled “Something Beautiful.” And, in case you haven’t had enough of paradox: Danielle writes about a horrific situation that gives rise to something beautiful: forgiveness.
Learn more about the book and author at Lauren Roedy Vaughn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"The Gods of Heavenly Punishment"

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two daughters.

Epstein applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Apparently everyone else was thinking along the same lines, because the silence was followed by a deafening outcry. It seemed to Cam that every man on the vast ship roared his approval, though Midge was rendered uncharacteristically speechless. He stared down at the deck from his seat as though he’d been woken up from a nap there. Then he slapped his forehead with his flight cap.

“I’ll be damned,” he’d shouted down to Cam. “Tokyo. Well, we’re in for it now.”

His heavily stubbled face wore a grin, and Cam found his own (nearly hairless, as always) face doing the same. The plan’s audacity shocked him, but it also sparked a giddy exhalation of relief, because finally, they were doing something. The treachery of Oahu would have an answer. The wasteland to which they’d all tuned in that first bright Sunday of last December would be avenged. And that was something that made it all worth it, because the most frightening thing about the Jap attack had been how powerless it had made him feel. It was a little bit like the stutter he’d struggled with for the first eighteen years of his life. Or being forced to fight in the dark. Or like having a gunnysack yanked over your head, and your arms and legs tied down, and having to just sit there, waiting for the next blow.

But they weren’t sitting any longer. Tokyo, watch the hell out, Cam thought, on that sunny April 2nd. He’d tossed his pilot’s cap into the bolt-blue sky, and even clapped arms with a nearby bellbottom, something he hadn’t done since boarding since most of the Navy men seemed to see the AAFers as about as useful and appealing as drowned rats.
Is this page representative of the novel? From a literal standpoint it’s hard to say—the novel actually is told from the perspectives of six different characters (on either side of the Pacific conflict) and in settings that range from peacetime New York State to fire-bombarded Tokyo to a 1960’s art exhibit in L.A. So I’d say it’s representative of one aspect of the book—which is war-time exuberance and the need for vengeance and naïve heroism. On a more general level I’d say it is representative, in that—like the novel in general—it delves into the churning thoughts and emotions of a person placed in an extreme, dangerous and life-changing moment in their lives and—oftentimes—in world history. As such, I’d certainly hope it would be a motivating page to land on for a perspective reader—that they’d want to read on to see what happens to Cam on this insane mission he’s embarking on, and what consequently happens to the other lives that mission ends up touching.
Learn more about the novel and author at Jennifer Cody Epstein's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Painter from Shanghai.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Helsinki Blood"

With his first internationally published novel, Snow Angels, James Thompson proved himself Finland’s best and most popular representative in the rise of Nordic noir. It was selected as one of Booklist’s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, and a Strand Critics Award. His novel, Lucifer’s Tears, has received critical acclaim from all quarters, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and was selected as one of the best novels of the year by Kirkus. Helsinki White was released to critical acclaim in 2012. The fourth book in the series, Helsinki Blood, was published in March, 2013. Thompson is also a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books and holds a Master’s degree from The University of Helsinki. The first three books in his Inspector Vaara series have been optioned for film.

Thompson applied the Page 69 Test to Helsinki Blood, and reported the following:
Page 69 opens a new plotline and theme in the novel. Vaara’s home has been vandalized, his family threatened. He and Sweetness caught the two men harassing Vaara, and in the street, in broad daylight, have beaten them to bloody pulps, even crippled one of them. A woman watched them do it, and then approached them. Her daughter, who has Down syndrome, has been abducted by human slave traders. The police aren’t interested. She heard Vaara is a man sympathetic to such plights. She asks for his help.

Vaara is in bad physical shape, suffering debilitating pain from gunshot wounds. His family life is a mess. Powerful men are out to get him. Referring to the men they just beat to jelly, the woman asks him if that’s what he does to bad people. He answers, “Sometimes.” She says, “Good. Please do that or something worse to whoever took my daughter.” He sees a chance for redemption, the possibility that a good act might gain him his wife’s forgiveness, give meaning to the destruction he’s wrought. He agrees to find the girl, and the tour de force begins.
Learn more about the book and author at James Thompson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Snow Angels.

The Page 69 Test: Helsinki White.

My Book, The Movie: Helsinki White.

Writers Read: James Thompson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 1, 2013

"The Missing File"

D. A. Mishani is an Israeli crime writer, editor and literary scholar, specializing in the history of detective fiction.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Missing File, his first novel and the first in a series featuring the police inspector Avraham Avraham, and reported the following:
I clearly remember writing page 69, the last page of the 4th chapter in The Missing File.

The chapter is told through the perspective of a school teacher, a neighbor of Ofer, the boy gone missing in the beginning of the novel. The neighbor, Ze'ev, joins the searches and tries to approach Inspector Avraham Avraham, my protagonist, who leads the investigation.

What does he want? It's not clear, not even to him. And did I know then? Not entirely. I had a vague idea - I knew he needed to tell him something important about the missing boy – but until he spoke to Inspector Avraham, I wasn't sure why. When both my characters finally met and talked, I was surprised by what they said.

On page 69 Ze'ev is on his way back home, leaving the searches after this short conversation. Suddenly, he remembers he told the police Inspector something he shouldn't have said. I think it's then that he understands he got himself involved in something that he may not know how to get out of. He embroiled himself in this investigation in a way that he didn't foresee.

I think I also understood then I was embroiled in this search more than I let myself know before - and that I was going to finish this novel, my first one. I couldn't leave Avraham anymore, nor Ze'ev or Ofer, the missing boy. Maybe this sentence from p. 69, about Ze'ev, also refers to me: "He could feel a sense of gloom spreading through him (…) was it because he had suddenly understood the seriousness of his actions?"
Learn more about the book and author at D. A. Mishani's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Missing File.

--Marshal Zeringue