Saturday, June 29, 2013

"The Last Kind Word"

David Housewright is the Edgar Award and three-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of the Rushmore McKenzie and Holland Taylor novels as well as other tales of murder and mayhem in the Midwest.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Last Kind Word, and reported the following:
If I were to chose a single page that would induce a reader to take The Last Kind Word off the shelf, I would probably chose something other than Page 69 - a page with action or humor or suspense or preferably, all three. Page 69, unfortunately, deals with motivation, a necessary element of any well-written novel, but rarely exciting.

The Iron Range Bandits are preparing their next robbery and the man sent to infiltrate and eventually betray the gang is discovering that he cares about them.
“Break a leg,” I said.

I was surprised that I meant it - absolutely break a leg if it keeps you from going into that grocery store.

Where did that come from? my inner voice asked.

Good question.
The best crimes novels are not about crimes. They’re about the characters who commit crimes, about their victims, and the characters that chase them. They must be believable. They must do what they do for reasons that seem understandable to us.

I am proud of Page 69.
Learn more about the book and author at David Housewright's website and Facebook page.

The Last Kind Word is the 10th Twin Cities P.I. Mac McKenzie novel.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Kind Word.

Writers Read: David Housewright.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 28, 2013

"A Matter of Days"

Amber Kizer is the author of the popular Meridian trilogy.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Matter of Days, her newest YA novel, and reported the following:
I’m always intrigued by your page 69 test. I’m never sure what I’m going to find when I turn to it in my books! In A Matter of Days page 69 finds siblings Nadia and Rabbit in the middle of a completely new situation and needing to make split second, life and death decisions. There is high tension, lots going on, and if I did my job right readers will be holding their breaths. It’s incredibly indicative of the rest of the book. I’m hearing more and more that readers can’t put it down.

Nadia and Rabbit are on a post-pandemic road trip—it’s an adventure into the near future held together by hope. I’m happy to email readers the first three chapters if they’d like to start at the beginning (contact me at

Page 69 of A Matter of Days:
“Don’t move.” Why hadn’t I slept with the handgun? Because I thought I might shoot myself? I reached for a large stick, trying to figure out if I could throw it hard enough to do any damage before the animal ate us.

Growling grew louder, more insistent. From a second animal? Ah, crap, they’re a pack. “What’s that?” There were two voices, not just the hissing. Like a fight. They sounded like adversaries before they battled to the death. The thought nauseated me. “Don’t move, Rab.”

I tried to remember to breathe—oxygen makes the brain work better. Shallow breathing kills common sense. There was a tinny smell in the air. A sort of familiar bloody tincture that seemed familiar. Blood? Pus? I worked the zipper down until I could throw off the sleeping bag and get to my feet quickly.

I didn’t know what to do. Think, Nadia. Think.

Play dead? Cover your head? Protect your stomach? Protect your brother. I had to sacrifice myself, a pound of my flesh. Hopefully, Rab could get the gun or throw rocks or something from the car. There was no choice. Lying here silent wasn’t improving our chances.

The growling intensified; the hissing quieted. Then a chilling scream rent the night.

Something nudged my foot, snapped tension into my body like a taut bowline, and I tossed the bag. A surprised yelp told me that the animal was covered for a minute.

I grabbed Rab and tried to lift him, running toward the car. He’d gotten bigger and I’d gotten weaker—not a good combo. “Get in the car!” I hauled him, then turned to face the animals.

He giggled. I knew stress effected different people differently, but laughing? Really? Did he have to?
Learn more about the book and author at Amber Kizer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Meridian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Tara Ison is the author of the novels The List, A Child out of Alcatraz, a Finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Rockaway, as well as the short story collection Ball.

Ison applied the Page 69 Test to Rockaway and reported the following:
From Page 69:
"Yeah,” he said, sheepish but pleased. “My Jim Croce era. Wow. This thing is over thirty years old.”

“Are you going to buy it?”

“I’ve got it,” he said. “I got it at home, I’ll show you. I’ll play it for you. The sound quality, it’s different. You probably never heard the real thing.” The album’s cardboard shine was mottled, its corner tips worn gray and furred. He read the liner notes, nodding.

She was nonplussed by the old, young, exposed image of him. “It’s sort of a relief,” she said finally. He looked at her quizzically. “It’s proof you are who you say you are,” she said.

“Yeah.” Then he regarded her a moment, baffled.

“Aren’t you?”


“So, wait , are you sleeping with him?” her friend Emily asked on the phone.

“No. I don’t even peck him good night on the cheek. He’s never once touched me.” She felt vaguely embarrassed, not knowing how to explain this . . . relationship? She doesn’t even know what to call it. “Which is totally fine, by the way. My head isn’t even in that space. I’m completely focused on work. That’s the whole reason I’m here.”
Amazing, how this section captures one of the book's central themes - identity, and the shifting/reforming/questioning of identity over time, and the struggle for authenticity....

Sarah's life is in chaos; she's lost and drifting (internal demons, life at crossroads, in denial about her choices, etc.), and has exiled herself for a deliberately-solitary summer to a beach house in Rockaway, NY - ostensibly to do some painting, but she has instead stumbled into some kind of relationship with an older, once semi-famous musician. The guy has her flummoxed - is he a mentor? a potential lover? someone to be trusted, or not? What is she doing with this guy? They are walking through Greenwich Village, and the guy has found an old record album of his, which prompts the conversation.

The summer/novel - and this increasingly odd relationship - is ultimately about Sarah learning who she actually "is" - or, at least learning to articulate, or "hear," the question for the first time in her life. What is "the real thing," in relation to who we are, vs. who we think we are, or should be?
Visit Tara Ison's website.

Ison is also the author of the novels The List, A Child out of Alcatraz, a Finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the short story collection Ball.

The Page 69 Test: The List.

My Book, The Movie: Rockaway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"The Celestials"

Karen Shepard is a Chinese-American born and raised in New York City. She is the author of the novels An Empire of Women, The Bad Boy’s Wife, Don’t I Know You?, and the newly released The Celestials. Her short fiction has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, Tin House, and Ploughshares, among others. Her nonfiction has appeared in More, Self, USA Today, and the Boston Globe, among others. She teaches writing and literature at Williams College in Williamstown, MA, where she lives with her husband, novelist Jim Shepard, and their three children.

Shepard applied the Page 69 Test to The Celestials and reported the following:
From page 69:
And although Julia had forbidden it, Thankful roused her brother, letting him know why it was necessary that now, in the early hours of the morning, he join his sad and sleeping wife. And he did, and Julia was glad, for she woke to her husband settling around her as a shoe with its mate in a box, placing his hand, dry and warm, on her head.

“Thankful never could hold her tongue,” Julia said, already crying.

“Bless her for it,” Sampson answered, wiping his wife’s face with the heel of his hand.

“I’m sorry,” Julia said. “For what?” he asked.

She closed her eyes and held his hand over them with her own. “For everything,” she said.

He made to move, and she knew what was coming: his request for her to open her eyes and believe him when he told her that he had nothing for which to forgive her.

That she was, as she had been on the day they met, on the day they married, the one person in the world for him. That she was always and forever enough. Her moments of greatest loss would be in her mind always paired with the greatest evidence of her husband’s love. It had the consequence of making the losses feel more enormous.

She pressed his hand harder to her face, curled her body more tightly against his. “Stay,” she said. And he did."
I didn't think page 69 would be particularly representative of the novel, but it turns out it's utterly representative. Julia Sampson is in the midst of losing her fourteenth pregnancy. Her childlessness, at a time (1800s) when a wife who wasn't a mother was a failure of a woman, was crucial for my emotional understanding of some of what this novel would explore. Julia Sampson discovers that she will do anything, sacrifice even her genuine love for her husband of twenty-plus years, to get what she wants the most: a child. This page depicts the Sampsons' love; Julia's ongoing devastation at all those failed pregnancies, and foreshadows all that they will have to apologize to each other for. It's one of the distressing paradoxes of life that the damage we do to our loved ones exceeds all our best intentions.
Learn more about the book and author at Karen Shepard's website.

Writers Read: Karen Shepard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"The Right Side of Wrong"

Reavis Z. Wortham is the author of The Rock Hole, hailed by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Top 12 Mystery Novels of 2011. A finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award, the second novel in this Red River Series, Burrows, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Wortham applied the Page 69 Test to the newly released third novel in the Red River Series, The Right Side of Wrong, and reported the following:
I’ve been fascinated by the accuracy of the Page 69 test since I first heard about it. Once again, this brief glimpse gives a clear insight into this novel and its characters, even though only two players are engaged at this point in time.

This time period (1966) was full of change as the country evolved from a primarily rural society to an urban environment. Though the U.S. race to the moon was well underway, a large part of the population still scratched a hard living from the ground. In The Right Side of Wrong, the small community of Center Springs is a microcosm of life, and the social and civil changes going on in this country.

A mountain of a man, John Washington is Lamar County’s first “colored” deputy sheriff and an integral part of the Parker family in northeast Texas. Ned and Cody Parker are constables on the trail of a murdering gang of drug dealers who are establishing a pipeline for drugs coming up from Mexico.

Always a loner, Big John met Rachel Lea at her home on a dusty country road when she encountered those who are killing off everyone in their way. Raising a house full of kids in her unpainted shack, Rachel Lea sees something she likes in the deputy, who shares her feelings.

John also shares the same beliefs as Ned, Cody, and Judge O.C. Rains. Any time folks in the area need help, they are always reaching into their pockets to buy groceries, medicine, or even kerosene for the oil lamps that light the hardscrabble homes.

Ned’s precocious grandkids, Top and Pepper, continue to find themselves in the middle of everything, both good and bad. As the body count rises, a mysterious old man arrives in Center Springs, and a drug war commences. When Cody chases the killers across Texas and into Mexico, he is arrested and thrown into a prison, where death is only days away. Ned and John follow him and cross the Rio Grande, and to the right side of wrong, to save Cody and stop the flow of drugs.

The Page 69 test also gives you the flavor of the speech patterns that define the small community of Center Springs, in which both races struggle to co-exist in a rapidly changing world.

From page 69:
“I figgered you had a garden. Y’all ain’t starvin’. You’re just po’.”

“That’s how I’ve lived my life.”

He rose. “All right, then. I might be back from time to time, but don’t be surprised when a truck comes at daylight to pick y’all up.”

John rubbed a couple of little heads and stepped into the sunshine. When he got to his car, the woman’s voice stopped him.

“John Washington!”

He stopped and rested his arm on the roof of his car.

“My name’s Rachel Lea.”

He grinned. “Good to meet you, Rachel Lea.”

“Not all these kids is mine.”

When John raised his eyebrows in question, she gave a laugh. “Belle and Bubba there, the two oldest are mine. The rest belonged to my sister. She and her husband got killed six months ago and I took ’em in.”

He waited.

“She liked makin’ babies!”

John chuckled and opened the car door. “So it’s you and them kids here all alone.”

“I tol’ you the truth. Husband run off a while back and good riddance, he weren’t no’count, nohow.” She lifted a hand. “Next time you come by, you stay for supper, John Washington. I believe I’d like to cook you a bite.”

“I might do that.”

“Where’d you say all these groceries come from?”

He didn’t want to tell her that Judge Rains and Ned had given him money when he told them he planned to drop by. They were constantly buying food for people with little or no means, but it was always quiet.

“Folks that care.”
Learn more about the book and author at Reavis Z. Wortham's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Rock Hole.

My Book, The Movie: The Rock Hole.

The Page 69 Test: Burrows.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Reavis Z. Wortham and Willie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 24, 2013

"The Shadow Tracer"

Meg Gardiner was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School.

She practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She’s a former collegiate cross-country runner and a three time Jeopardy! champion. She divides her time between London and Austin, Texas.

Gardiner applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Shadow Tracer, and reported the following:
In The Shadow Tracer, skip tracer Sarah Keller tracks down people who are evading arrest, debt, or prosecution. Off the job, she lives quietly in Oklahoma with her five-year-old daughter, Zoe.

Then a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER, and medical tests reveal what Sarah has been hiding: Zoe is not her child. Zoe’s biological mother—Sarah’s sister, Beth—was murdered when Zoe was tiny. And Zoe’s father is missing and presumed dead.

Suspected of kidnapping and murder, Sarah takes Zoe and runs. Chased across the Southwest by cops, federal agents, and the people who really killed Beth, she has to use her skills as a skip tracer to stay off the grid, remain one step ahead of her pursuers, and find a way to save her daughter.

Page 69 features a meeting between the opposing forces who want to capture Sarah: the FBI, and the violent family of Zoe’s father. FBI agent Curtis Harker comes to the supermax prison in Colorado Springs to interview Zoe’s imprisoned grandfather, clan patriarch Eldrick Worthe.
“Where’s Sarah Keller headed? Who’s helping her?”

Eldrick blinked and shifted his shoulders.

Harker paused, taken aback. “You don’t know.”

He straightened, processing. “It’s worse than I imagined. Your intelligence network has become slipshod. You can’t even keep track of your own progeny. Sarah Keller’s a lowly skip tracer and she probably knows more about the family than you do.” He half-laughed and tapped the photos on the table. “And your Shattering Angel is sidelined. He and your granddaughters may be living on the Mexican Riviera—on your dime—but they’re not keeping control of the clan the way you want. They can’t.”

Eldrick didn’t speak.

“After the courthouse bombing, I know the family sent Grissom and the girls into the wilderness to evade arrest. But they’ve been exiled a long time now. They have to be lonely. And they’re the ones whose lives are on the line. They’ll look out for number one. When they run out of money, or when they can’t stand their banishment one more second, what’s next? They come to us for protection.”

Harker leaned forward. “This is your last chance to help yourself. Your operation isn’t going to last long. So what’ll it be? You want to talk to me?”

Eldrick turned to the guard. “Take me back to my cell.”
The scene gives a good sense of the forces arrayed against Sarah. Agent Harker’s true obsession is to bring down the Worthe clan. To do that he dangles Sarah in front of Eldrick as bait, hoping to draw out the clan’s killers. Eldrick takes the lure, and sends his minions to eliminate Sarah and bring Zoe into the family fold. The scene offers a sense of the menace and gamesmanship that pervades the story: It’s a chase, a game of hide and seek, with a little girl’s life at stake.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Hour of the Rat"

Lisa Brackmann has worked as a motion picture executive and an issues researcher in a presidential campaign. A southern California native, she currently lives in Venice, California. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Rock Paper Tiger, set on the fringes of the Chinese art world, made several “Best of 2010″ lists, including Amazon’s Top 100 Novels and Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers, and was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best First Novel.

Brackmann applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Hour of the Rat, and reported the following:
Hour of the Rat is a sequel to my first published novel, Rock Paper Tiger. It features the return of Ellie McEnroe, an accidental Iraq War vet with a bum leg and a worse attitude, who lives in Beijing and represents a dissident Chinese contemporary artist. Hour of the Rat finds Ellie agreeing to help out an Army buddy by looking for his unstable brother, who’s gone missing in China. Of course, since this is a suspense novel, Ellie’s attempt to do a simple favor for a friend quickly becomes very complicated, and very dangerous. On pg. 69, Ellie tries to play detective by questioning the European owner of a café/adventure business in Yangshuo, the last place the missing brother was seen. She shows Erick a photo of Jason, the brother in question. Erick claims he doesn’t recognize Jason, but Ellie knows there’s something suspicious going on:
“We have a lot of foreigners who come through here.”

“Yeah, so I heard.”

“So why are you looking for this one?” he asks, in a deliberately casual way.

“I’m friends with his family. His brother, Dog . . . uh, Doug. They don’t know where he is, and they’re worried about him.”

“I see.” He pretends to study the photograph a moment longer. Then pushes it toward me with his long, knotted fingers. Wrapped with scars, from all those ropes they use for rock climbing, maybe.

“Sorry. Don’t think I recognize him.”

He’s lying, I’m sure of it.

“Look,” I say, frustrated, “all we want is to know is that Jason’s okay.”

“Jason?” For an instant the guy’s brow furrows. Then he composes himself. “Wish I could help.”

You fucking liar, I think.

“So what’s your name?” I ask.

“Erik,” he says. “And yours?”

“Ellie. This your place?”

“I’m one of the owners,” he says easily. “Will you be in Yangshuo for a while?”

“I’m not sure. Depends on what I find to do around here.”

“Well, if you’re interested in rock climbing, or white-water rafting, or hiking, just let me know.” He smiles. “I’d be happy to set you up.”
I’d say pg. 69 is both characteristic of Hour of the Rat, and not. It’s characteristic in that Ellie is trying to solve a mystery, something that she doesn’t think she’s very good at doing but that she feels compelled to attempt. For Ellie, it’s really all about wanting to find some purpose and answers to the riddle of her own life, where most of her relationships are fraught with ambiguity and and where many of her problems seem beyond her capacity to solve—but what else can she do except try her best?

Where it’s not characteristic is that Hour of the Rat, like Rock Paper Tiger, is a book in which the China setting plays a huge role. You don’t really get much of a sense of where we are in China and what that’s like in this particular scene, and I think that those aspects are a lot of why you might want to read this book—to get a slightly off-kilter, somewhat insider view of China, a country that has exploded onto the world stage but that is still much misunderstood, where old stereotypes and new fears tend to obscure that China is a place like any other…except different.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Brackmann's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Green-Eyed Lady"

Chuck Greaves is a former L.A. trial lawyer, and is the award-winning author of Hush Money, Green-Eyed Lady, and, writing as C. Joseph Greaves, Hard Twisted.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Green-Eyed Lady and reported the following:
Green-Eyed Lady is the second installment in the Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries from St. Martin’s Minotaur. The first novel, Hush Money, won the SouthWest Writers’ International Writing Contest, and was a finalist for several national honors, including the Rocky Award from Left-Coast Crime and the Audie Award for best mystery audiobook of 2012. Reviewers and fans alike have embraced Jack for his irreverence, his incorruptible honesty, and his biting sense of humor – William (Defending Jacob) Landay calls him “Jim Rockford with a law degree” – and all of these traits are, to some extent, on display at page 69 of Green-Eyed Lady.

To set the scene: Jack has been hired to represent Warren Burkett, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from California who finds himself embroiled in scandal just three weeks before Election Day. Burkett is a Clintonesque sort of character with a history of marital infidelity who, after coming to the aid of a damsel in distress, is arrested by LAPD officers who find him alone and naked in a stranger’s home from which a priceless painting is missing.

Burkett’s opponent, Larry Archer, is a billionaire real estate magnate whose brother-in-law, the menacing Anthony “Tony Gags” Gagliano, has a score to settle with Jack. The missing painting, meanwhile, has turned up in the background of a new Archer campaign video, a fact that Jack and Burkett are about to reveal to the nation at a press conference attended by District Attorney Tom Slewzyski and his lead investigators, LAPD Detectives Chico Alvarez and Mike Madden:
The room lights dimmed, and the video monitors blinked to life, and there stood Archer in his red flannel shirt.

I watched the faces as the video played. All were turned to the monitors, including the District Attorney’s. Only Tony Gags kept his eyes riveted on me.

“Sure, we all love the environment,” the audio continued, “but we can protect it without regulations that kill jobs and hamper small business.” Then the video froze.

There was a long delay while the audience processed what they were seeing. Then there were gasps, and pointed fingers, and pandemonium.

Half the reporters were on their feet, some surging for the doors and toppling chairs in their wake. Half were on their cell phones, hands over ears, barking instructions or dictating copy. Some shouted questions at Burkett, while others just stared, open-mouthed, as their heads swiveled from the picture on the easel to the image frozen on the video monitor. Slewzyski, when I saw him again, was staggering toward the door like a man who’d been pepper-sprayed.

A semblance of order had been restored to the half-empty room by the time Warren Burkett stepped to the podium, with Bobbi beaming dewily at his side. He started off with a line that I’d fed him, aimed right at the heart of the District Attorney.

“I heard it said someplace recently that nobody is above the law...”

I caught up with Slew on the sidewalk, where he and Alvarez stood waiting for Madden to bring their car. In the street behind them, it looked as though someone had dropped the green flag at Le Mans, with news vans and passenger vehicles peeling off into traffic amid honking horns and screeching tires. Such was the frenzy that nobody, it seemed, had even noticed the D.A.

“I thought that went well,” I told him cheerily.

“You lied, MacTaggart.”

“Nope. I did exactly what I promised.”

Alvarez stepped forward to point a finger at my chest. “You compromised a pending investigation, asshole. Half these clowns are on their way up to Arrowhead, and we don’t even have a warrant!”
Booklist has called Green-Eyed Lady “madcap,” while author Douglas Preston calls it “the wickedest read of the year.” Both of these attributes are, I hope, on display at page 69 of the manuscript.
 Learn more about the book and author at C. Joseph Greaves's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 21, 2013


Ken Scholes's first novel, Lamentation, won the American Library Association’s RUSA Reading List award for best fantasy. Lamentation went on to later win France’s Prix Imaginales award in 2010. The Psalms of Isaak series continues to pick up fans and critical acclaim internationally, published in France, Germany, Japan, Russia and Spain in addition to the US.

Scholes applied the Page 69 Test to Requiem, the fourth book in the series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
And then the light was back, excruciating in its brightness, and Charles heard an incoherent babbling that rose and fell in its pitch. That voice, he recognized instantly.

It was his own.

Forcing his eyes open, he saw the look of rapt surprise on Winters’s face, her mouth hanging open even as she tried to hold him to the ground. She called his name again, and he barely heard it above the sound of the nonsensical words that flowed out of him. He tried to stop, and the effort of it made his body tremble. He was vaguely aware now of others gathering nearby, following the horrific sound that rose from him.

Winters repositioned herself to cradle his head in her lap. She brought her mouth to his ear. “Listen to me, Charles. This will pass. Relax into it.” He felt his muscles seizing and spasming, and he stopped fighting to close his mouth. He let the words pour out of him until finally, after what seemed like hours, he was spent and empty, sprawled in the mud and cradled gently by the Marsh Queen’s strong and scar- latticed arms.

He panted for enough air to speak. “What happened?”

“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “But I’ve experienced it before. As have all the dreaming kings before me.” Her brow furrowed. “Neb, too.”

A medico broke through the crowd to kneel beside him.

“It’s the dream,” Charles said.

Winters nodded. “It is. What did it tell you? Usually they bear words or images of some kind.”

He swallowed water from the canteen the medico offered. “I don’t know,” he said.

But he did know, and the knowledge made his head ache all the more.

“Are you awake?” the girl had asked him.

“I am functional,” came the metallic reply. And it was a voice he would never forget.

It was the voice of the Watcher.
It’s good to be back for another Page 69 Test here on the edge of Requiem’s release into the world. And in this case, I do think page 69 is a good example of the book. In this scene, we’re in the POV of Brother Charles, the Androfrancine Arch-engineer responsible for the creation of Isaak and the other mechoservitors in use by the Order.

Charles is a man of reason and science and in this book, after seeing the result of the metal dream on his creations in earlier volumes and after spending time with Winters, the dreaming queen of the Marsh, he begins to experience – and be confounded by – his own dreams. And he begins to follow them though he doesn’t understand where they’re coming from or what their purpose is.

Dreams are a pretty common trope in fantasy and deeper back, a part of our mythology. In crafting the Psalms of Isaak, I drew more from mythology than fantasy, with prophetic dreams being the vehicle through which information is delivered to key people within the series, starting early on in Lamentation. Only, I twist things a little in ways that I won’t go into for fear of spoilers. But the dreams of the series reach a crescendo on page 292 of Requiem and set the hook for the last volume, which I’m working on now.

One of the best compliments ever paid to the series came from a French reader: “Your books make us dream.”

I like that notion quite a bit.

And I’ll hope to be back next year for Hymn’s Page 69 test. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll give Requiem a try (and the earlier volumes of The Psalms of Isaak, if you haven’t already.) Maybe we’ll all share a dream or two together.
Learn more about the author and his work at Ken Scholes's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lamentation.

The Page 69 Test: Antiphon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Wisp of a Thing"

Alex Bledsoe is the author of the Eddie LaCrosse novels (The Sword-Edged Blonde, Burn Me Deadly, Dark Jenny and Wake of the Bloody Angel), the novels of the Memphis vampires (Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood) and the Tufa novels, The Hum and the Shiver and the newly released Wisp of a Thing.

Bledsoe applied the Page 69 Test to Wisp of a Thing and reported the following:
Page 69 of Wisp of a Thing is the beginning of chapter seven. Protagonist Rob Quillen has arrived in Needsville, TN, home of the mysterious and reclusive Tufa. He’s settled in at the Catamount Corner motel, and met the villain Rockhouse at the Pair-A-Dice, a local roadhouse. He’s also heard Bliss Overbay sing an original song, one that’s left him speechless.

Wisp is the follow-up to my 2011 novel The Hum and the Shiver, and once again involves the mysterious Tufa of Appalachia: a secretive people whose ancestors were already here when the first European settlers came into the mountains. They’re also an intensely musical people, for whom songs are much more than mere entertainment.

When chapter seven opens, Bliss--a trueblood Tufa--is getting off the phone with her boss, warning him that she’ll be late. She doesn’t know exactly why, but she’s learned to trust that feeling. In later pages we’ll learn that it’s somehow connected to Rob, who she has yet to actually meet at this point, although they exchanged a glance at the Pair-A-Dice.

This page is part of the parallel paths Rob and Bliss take that eventually converge, after which Rob learns the true nature of the Tufa, and his own part in their ongoing power struggles.
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Bledsoe's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Blood Groove.

The Page 69 Test: Burn Me Deadly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"He's Gone"

Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and a National Book Award finalist whose books—including Honey, Baby, Sweetheart; The Queen of Everything; The Secret Life of Prince Charming; The Six Rules of Maybe; Stay; and The Story of Us—are published and translated worldwide. She lives with her family in Seattle.

Caletti applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, He's Gone, and reported the following:
He's Gone is my tenth novel. It’s a particularly important one to me, not only because it’s number ten, but also because it’s my first novel for adults after nine others for young adults. I was curious to see what might be on page 69, and I was hoping it might be representative of the book as a whole. Here’s what I found. It continues on to page 70, to finish the paragraph:
“I can’t do this,” he said, and then he kissed me again, or I kissed him, and we thrashed and tore and parted. A kiss only, but dear God.

I got back in my car, and he stood there at the doorway to his building again, arms behind his back, watching me drive off. I was in so far over my head that I was already drowning I just didn’t know it yet.

I only thought, I’ve been saved.


When Abby leaves, I get my car keys. Maybe it’s stupid (it feels like it is), but I leave another note for Ian. I can’t stand being in the houseboat anymore. I check my phone for messages, and then I check it several more times to make sure I haven’t turned the ringer off accidentally. I want to make sure I hear him if he calls.

“Be a good guard dog, okay?” I say to Pollux. He isn’t really a guard dog. He hides in the other room whenever he sees the vacuum cleaner.

The day is moving forward around me. I see a bread truck delivering dinner rolls to Pete’s Market. An Argosy Tour Boat (Ian calls it The Agony) is taking a new group of tourists around the lake. For the millionth time, I hear the voice over the microphone telling everyone within hearing distance that Lake Union is an actual airport runway, with an average of ten seaplane landings a day… I had gotten my period that morning. My husband is missing, and my body is moving through the month, regardless. He could be dead while I’m hunting in the bathroom cupboard for the box of tampons. I remember to get the mail. My car tabs are due. I will have to get an emission test.

It occurs to me then that Ian might be truly gone, gone forever, for whatever reason. It hits me: I might be completely on my own now. Alone with emission tests and taxes and electrical repairs and bills. My God, the world seems huge when you think of yourself against it, all the things you have to stand there and handle. Child rearing and illness and carburetors. Family fights and auto accidents and health insurance. My relationship with alone has always been a love-hate one. I’ve always loved daily-alone; when it’s you and a book or you and the dog or you and just you, when you’re blissfully released from the burden of someone else’s mood. When no one needs you, when no one expects anything of you, when there are no demands of you… It’s such a relief. But life-alone? Somewhere along the line, I guess I’ve gotten the idea that the world is a dangerous place, and that in it, I’m a small child in a dark and threatening forest. These are not things you go around admitting. Especially when you think of yourself as a strong person, which I do. I hate to say this, but even as an adult woman, I’ve felt the need for protection. Not just in empty parking garages, either. It’s possible I’ve felt this way since I was a child. Here’s the irony (or, destiny, take your pick): the places I’ve sought protection have been themselves rickety and dangerous, and I don’t know entirely why. Alone in the forest, I had first chosen a feral, hungry dog to shield me, and then I’d selected a companion with two broken legs and an empty canteen. Faced with my own freedom, I’ve gotten trapped behind glass, same as Ian’s butterflies.
The juicy beginning of page 69 might lead one to think this novel is something it’s not, but the rest is more indicative of the book’s content. He's Gone is about a woman, Dani Keller, who wakes up to find that her husband has vanished. In the days that follow, as Dani tries to determine what has happened to him and what part she might have played in his absence, she sifts through their entire relationship: their tumultuous affair, their prior marriages, even their relationships with their children. On this page, we see Dani reflecting on the affair’s beginnings, and then we see her in her current situation, attempting to make sense of his absence, struggling to figure out if Ian (a wealthy software company owner, who also collects butterflies) has simply left her and their troubled relationship for good. Or, if something worse has happened. Something she may not quite remember after a few too many drinks at a disturbing party the night before.

He's Gone is often called a psychological thriller, but the emphasis is most definitely on the “psychological.” It explores the subjects of guilt and marriage, the wrongdoings within relationships, and the way those old, treacherous voices from childhood can continue to haunt us. It asks the questions: Why do we choose the partners we do? Why do we sometimes make the same mistakes more than once? And, how do we forgive ourselves for those mistakes?

Dani is a regular person in a horrifying situation. She’s a woman who would rather get back to the good book she’s reading than be at a party, a woman who loves her daughter, and her dog, and Oreos for breakfast. But she is also a person who has looked to others – the wrong others, dangerous others - for rescue. She is, once more, in over her head. Her story is, in many respects, a confession in the broadest sense; a self-reckoning that leads to self-realization. This, all of it, is what she is guilty of. The extent of her wrongdoing, though? That’s where the “thriller” part of the story comes in. And where you, dear reader, will have to read on past page 69 to find out what happens.
Learn more about the book and author at Deb Caletti's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Antiagon Fire"

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. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.

Modesitt applied the Page 69 Test to Antiagon Fire, the seventh installment in the Imager Portfolio, and reported the following:
While I’ve written several page 69 entries, this time I’m going to have to reach for the implications and the like, because page 69 has something like seven and a half lines on it, ending with:
As the squad leader vaulted up the steps, Vaelora turned to Quaeryt. “What will you do now?”

“Sit with you and watch the canal go by for half a glass – until we join up with Skarpa and the regiments.”
At this point Quaeryt and Vaelora have just begun their journey along the Great Canal of Bovaria, the waterway that links the capital – Variana – with the River Laar on their long journey to meet with the High Council of Khel, the land briefly conquered and then lost by Kharst, the ruler of Bovaria defeated by Quaeryt and the armies of Lord Bhayar of Telaryn. They have just taken possession of a compact but luxurious canal boat that had belonged to Kharst, but along the way they will confront disobedience, disrespect, and outright rebellion, sometimes sleeping in comfort, sometimes in adequate but hardly luxurious quarters, and sometimes not sleeping at all.

In a real sense, the setting is symbolic of Quaeryt and Vaelora’s journey together, seemingly often in a position of privilege, but more often than not they are no more than a few moments or steps from threat, difficulty, or danger.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

The Page 69 Test: Princeps.

The Page 69 Test: Imager's Battalion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Hollywood Strip"

Shamron Moore became fascinated with Hollywood at a young age; she counts Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo, Rita Hayworth, and Sharon Tate among early influences. In 2000, she left her home state of Michigan for the excitement of Los Angeles.

She started her career with a national print campaign for Cadillac and went on to appear in national commercials, international publications, television shows, and feature films. FHM named her one of the 100 Sexiest Women in the World.

Shortly thereafter, she left the industry to focus on writing, one of her lifelong passions. Many of her experiences in L.A. served as inspiration for Hollywood Strip, her debut novel.

Moore applied the Page 69 Test to Hollywood Strip and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Chapter Sixteen

Callie hopped in the seat of Gabrielle’s Mercedes SLK. “Thanks for picking me up,” Callie said. She rubbed the camel leather seat. “This car is beautiful, Gabby. Mmmm, and it smells brand new, too.”

“It is; I bought it just last week. We’ll easily be there by nine since there’s practically no traffic. How many people are coming?”

“He didn’t say, but I’m guessing it’s going to be just us. It’s been a week since we’ve seen each other and I miss him! I can’t wait to give him a giant smooch.”

It was clear from the noise coming out of Evan’s house that there was quite a crowd inside. The girls stood in the foyer and exchanged surprised glances. Clusters of orchids and Stargazer lilies sprouted from vases in all corners of the candlelit house and a DJ spun tunes from one of the four balconies. The stylishly outfitted guests, about fifty in total, danced and mingled.

“So much for my theory,” Callie said in Gabby’s ear. “We’re so underdressed, look at us! You’re at least wearing heels. I look like I’m going to a ball game.”

“No, you don’t, hun, you look pretty. Everyone wears jeans. Anyway, nothing we can do about it now. I just feel out of place being the only sober ones.” Gabrielle grabbed two flutes of champagne off a tray. “Here, drink up.”
You know when you have a specific idea of what’s in store for the evening--you’ve gone over it in your head and feel giddy with anticipation--only to discover the reality is the polar opposite of what you envisioned? That’s what Callie is experiencing. She’s really looking forward to seeing Evan Marquardt again, as she’s developed a massive crush on him. She’s picturing this low-key, intimate gathering at his mansion, but Evan doesn’t do low-key very well. She goes from feeling extremely special to silly and insignificant in a ten second span.

I like this scene, and chapter in particular, because it shows Gabrielle’s comforting nature. She’s very sensitive to other people’s feelings; she inherently knows how hurt Callie is. Gabby doesn’t have an “It’s All About Me” attitude that comes so natural to many Angelenos--such as Callie’s friend, Candice, for instance. Gabby’s primary interest is helping her friend feel at ease, even if it means leaving the party early and sacrificing her own good time. On the surface, she doesn’t seem as though she would have much depth, but she’s much more soulful than her provocative appearance suggests. Loyalty is a quality that comes natural to her.

This scene is also a precursor to the callousness of showbiz that’s explored later in the book. Callie can’t wait to watch the new music video she shot with Evan--it’s the reason for the party and her Hollywood debut, after all. Again, she is expecting something very specific, and has given no thought to things going another route. Her naivete is on full display, and she reminds me of myself when I was her age, fresh-off-the-boat from Michigan.
Learn more about the book and author at Shamron Moore's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Hollywood Strip.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"The Tower"

Simon Toyne has worked in British television for twenty years. He was the writer, director, and producer for several award-winning shows, one of which won a BAFTA. He lives in England with his wife and family.

Sanctus, the first book of his Sanctus trilogy, has been published in over 50 countries and translated into 28 languages. In the UK it was the biggest selling debut thriller of 2011. The Key, book two of the trilogy, was published in the UK in April 2012 and sold twice as many copies as Sanctus in the same period.

Toyne applied the Page 69 Test to The Tower, the third volume of the trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Tower is a section-break so I can quote the entire thing:

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the

words of the prophecy … for the time is at hand.

-Revelation 1:3
The Tower is an action/adventure thriller about the end of days and explores our fears and interpretations of what the apocalypse might be and what form it may take. Each new section in the book has a quote, which gives a little flavour of what’s to come. I designed it so that if you read all the quotes at the start of each of the seven sections they tell you the thematic story of the whole book, or hint at them at least. That doesn’t mean you can skip the rest of it, however. There will be a quiz after….
Learn more about the book and author at Simon Toyne's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Sanctus.

Writers Read: Simon Toyne.

The Page 69 Test: Sanctus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Painted Hands"

Jennifer Zobair grew up in Iowa and attended Smith College and Georgetown Law School. She has practiced corporate and immigration law and as a convert to Islam, has been a strong advocate for Muslim women's rights. Zobair lives with her husband and three children outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Painted Hands, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel finds Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir at a political debate. Zainab is the outspoken communications director for a post-feminist, Camille Paglia-styled Senate candidate, and she’s just taken her seat to watch her candidate in action. I’m not sure how much this page would make sense out of context, but in some ways, it is representative of the book. There is a brief reference to the religious right in America not being “nuanced,” and, as Zainab’s mind wanders to an event at a mosque later that day, she recalls the Muslim men who didn’t let her attend her mother’s burial because of her gender. This sense that Zainab is struggling to find a place to fit in—both in her personal life and with respect to her rising public profile—in spite of right-wing bigots and conservative Muslims recurs throughout the novel and, in important ways, informs the climax of the novel.

This page also describes how the very beautiful and compelling Zainab had to tell a female reporter who is attracted to her that she is straight. Gay issues don’t figure prominently in the book, but they do appear. It’s an issue I think many communities need to handle better, including the Muslim community.
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Zobair's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 14, 2013

"The Navigator"

Michael Pocalyko is CEO of Monticello Capital, a boutique investment bank. He’s been a combat aviator, Navy commander, political candidate, venture capitalist, and global corporate chair. He has degrees from Muhlenberg, Harvard, and Wharton, and lives in northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Navigator, and reported the following:
The contrarian way to look at the Page 69 Test is this: If you tore that page out of the book, would you miss anything important? Viewed that way, all I can say is . . . Wow. I could not have selected a better page for you to meet Warren Hunter—at a moment that’s critical to the plot of The Navigator, a literary financial thriller whose marketing tagline is “Wall Street Comes to Washington.”

Warren is the reigning master of the financial universe, the dealmaker at Compton Sizemore, Wall Street’s last real partnership left standing after the financial crisis. He’s about to close ViroSat, the world’s first trillion-dollar deal. On page 69 he’s explaining the state-of-the-deal to his team.
“This deal breaks out to be twenty-one percent equity, making our leverage ratio less than four to one. The number is two hundred eighty-seven point seven billion in cash equity at the closing valuation. The remainder is in the debt issues, comprising all of that wide range of legal types you’re so concerned about. The debt encompasses the national contributions and the big bonds. Equity ownership of ViroSat, however, is more closely controlled. All of the required cash is in the assembly process. It will be aggregated in our house account through a rather elegant limited partnership arrangement. So it’s appropriate for me to review with you how we do a limited partnership here at Compton Sizemore. The limited partners hold limited partnership shares. They own the entire economic interest of the partnership, which is just a fund, a collection of cash. The general partner— who is here also a limited partner— manages the fund, investing it, charging just a minimum fee until the project is harvested. In this case, that harvest will happen when we sell ViroSat, because our limited partnership will own one hundred percent of the equity in this deal.”

He let that part sink in. The gang of fourteen here, as the entire investment banking team at Compton Sizemore called them, had not yet heard about the equity funding, the ownership of ViroSat. Until this moment, Warren Hunter had brushed aside all inquiry.

“The moment ViroSat closes,” he continued, “we begin immediately to execute our harvest strategy. No hesitation. After the sale— and I expect a significant run- up in value—we distribute the proceeds. First the limited partners get paid back their original investment. Then the remainder, the gain in the investment, the value we create, is split eighty-twenty. Eighty percent to the limited partners, twenty percent to the general partner. “This is precisely why ViroSat is and will remain a private transaction. This is also why our present structure of closing this preliminary financing, rather than making a direct offering to the public, is critical. No one needs to know the least bit of information about the composition of our ViroSat limited partnership. It is immaterial.

“You may, however, want to know one important feature about the management of this funding mechanism. The general partner, especially with skin in the game, has an incendiary motivation to do well. He also controls each of your personal destinies in the entire financial services industry. That general partner would be me.”

The news took a long moment to digest.

Warren Hunter, limited partner and general partner, was backing ViroSat himself. The deal was brilliant, innovative, and amazing to all of them, it was perfectly legal. He was right. Whoever else he might have in the deal was immaterial. He was not only running it, he was also owning and controlling the biggest deal on the Street. And the Street had become a planet.
The beauty—and the challenge—of writing a financial thriller is that this form of the novel is intrinsically technical and high-risk, just like the deal world where I live professionally. All of the pieces have to fit together, just like Warren’s ViroSat deal has to coalesce precisely, with tight tolerances.

This page also showcases one of The Navigator’s most important big themes: The Street has become a planet.

As a reader, it makes you think as you dream, as you’re entertained, as you escape.

The best fiction does that. It’s what I was aiming for right there on page 69.
View the video trailer for The Navigator, and learn more about the book and author at Michael Pocalyko's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"The Wonder Bread Summer"

Jessica Anya Blau's books include the nationally bestselling novel The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and the critically acclaimed Drinking Closer to Home.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Wonder Bread Summer, and reported the following:
Page 69 takes place at the end of the blind date Allie has with a quadriplegic porn producer. I realize this sounds far-fetched, but this part of the story is based on my life. When I was twenty, I had two very different encounters with middle-aged men in wheelchairs. The first was a quadriplegic who liked to sit next to me in the café where I studied for classes. He communicated via a head pointer that he banged onto words on a Ouji-like board that spanned the arms of his wheelchair. One day his wife approached me and asked if I were interested in being in one of his movies—erotic movies, I’d have sex with him and his wife. I declined. They were not making porn, like my character, they were making what they considered art. He even got an NEA grant for his erotic films. The second thing that happened that year is that I was set up on a blind date and when I showed up, I found a rotund, middle-aged, shiny-faced, bald man in a wheelchair. He was drunk when I arrived and trashed by the time we left. I think I was a little drunk, too—this was before I stopped drinking. Here’s a paragraph from page 69:
Allie tried to push the wheelchair through the restaurant. There was greasy-looking carpet on the floor, which made it hard for the wheels to move. Allie started and stopped several times. Then, just as she got some momentum, she missed the door being held open by Bud, and she pushed Roger into the doorframe. Roger squeal-laughed.

“Smooth move,” Bud laughed.

Allie pulled back and aimed for the doorway again. It felt as thought she was trying to thread a needle.
The incident with Allie rolling Roger into the wall is from real life, too. When my best friend in college got into a car accident, she spent about a month in a wheelchair. One night we went out drinking and I missed the doorway as we were trying to leave and rolled her into a doorframe. She’s forgiven me for that.)
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"If You Were Here"

Alafair Burke's novels include “two power house series” (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid.

Burke's new novel is the stand-alone, If You Were Here.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
At first glance, page 69 seems unrepresentative of If You Were Here. After all, the novel's central story is about former prosecutor turned journalist McKenna Jordan's search for Susan Hauptmann, a friend who disappeared without a trace ten years earlier. Page 69, which sees NYPD Detective Joe Scanlin frustrated by the questioning of a suspect's wife, mentions neither McKenna nor Susan.

But Scanlin, though a secondary character, is one of my favorite characters in the novel and provides some of the most important glue between present and past. He is the seasoned detective who handled the investigation into Susan Hauptmann's disappearance. He also happens to hate McKenna Jordan. To Scanlin, McKenna will always be the ladder-climbing careerist who once accused a fellow officer of lying about a shooting in the case that ultimately ended McKenna's career. But McKenna's current search for her lost friend forces him to realize that he wasn't at the top of his game a decade earlier.

One of the recurring questions of If You Were Here is whether you can ever make up for the past and become a different person. Scanlin and McKenna are both struggling with that question in different ways.

From page 69:
Two hours later, Joe Scanlin was back at the Twelfth Precinct. The estranged wife of a suspect in yet another drug-related killing had agreed to come in for questioning.

He knew the history. Six 911 calls made from their shared address just in the last four years. Three arrests of the husband for domestic violence. One time she went to the hospital with a broken jaw. No charges ever filed.

She moved out two months earlier when Child Protective Services threatened to take her kids if they continued to witness the violence against her.

But “separated” and “separate” weren’t synonymous.

“Kenny don’t sell,” the woman insisted. “He don't even use. No way he’d have something to do with that. His no-good friends always dragging him down. That’s all that is. They the ones did this. Don’t you listen to their noise.”

Scanlin walked out of the interrogation room while she was talking. He didn’t need to hear the rest. Been there too many times. She wasn’t under arrest, but he knew she’d stay there in the box until he told her she was allowed to leave. No one ever tried to leave, certainly not a woman who’d gotten used to being beat on.
Learn more about the book and author at Alafair Burke's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


National bestselling author Eve Silver has been praised for her “edgy, steamy, action-packed” books, darkly sexy heroes and take-charge heroines. Her work has garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards, Library Journal’s Best Genre Fiction Award, and a Romance Writers of America® RITA® Award nomination. Rush, the first book in Silver’s new sci-fi teen series, is now available from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.

Sliver lives with her gamer husband and sons, along with an energetic Airedale terrier and an exuberant border collie/shepherd.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Rush and reported the following:
In my debut young adult release, Rush, sixteen year old Miki Jones is dragged into a game where she must hunt aliens or be hunted by them. Between matches, she’s dropped back into her real world, the one where she runs five days a week at the crack of dawn, deals with school and homework, and struggles with grief over the recent loss of her mother.

Page 69 finds Miki dropped back into her life after her first encounter with the game.
We’re in exactly the same place—and time—as we were before everything happened. Before the lobby and the weapons and the aliens and the battle. Richelle said the hours were banked. I guess we just made a withdrawal.

“What do we do now?” I ask.

“We live our lives.” There’s an edge to Luka’s answer, a tinge of bitterness.
And Miki’s left wondering, “So what’s the game now? This or the life I used to know?”
Learn more about the book and author at Eve Silver's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 10, 2013


Roxana Robinson's new novel is Sparta.

She is the author of four earlier novels, three collections of short stories, and the biography Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life. Four of these were named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, More, and Vogue, among other publications.

Robinson applied the Page 69 Test to Sparta and reported the following:
This page shows my protagonist, Conrad Farrell, after four years in the Marines. He has been deployed twice to Iraq and now is back home, and sitting in the library with his parents, watching a movie – one of his favorites, Life of Brian. Conrad is trying to relax, in the civilian world, but he’s finding it increasingly difficult. Everything here feels strange and unfamiliar. His own bedroom upstairs feels no longer like his:
Here there was no room for him as an adult, the closet was still filled with his childhood clothes. He was a child here. But where else was there?...They settled in to watch the movie…It was a relief to sink into it, to feel the dark fist of pressure against his chest begin to release. To laugh out loud.

As the movie went on, the first against his heart began to clench again. Crowds of robed people milled about, pressing bodies, confusion, growing chaos. He wanted someone to take charge. His heart was speeding up and he felt the swollen surge in his throat. He watched them stand up in the amphitheatre, dangerously outlined against the sky, the crowd below shouting and mutinous. Conrad stood up and left the room. He closed the library door and went through the darkened kitchen, on out the back door.
The book is about just this problem – how can Conrad re-enter the world he left? Even the most familiar things – his house, his parents, his favorite movies – have become unknown to him. He has become unknown to himself. I was struck by this fact as I began this project – how veterans had been changed by the war, and how they were helpless afterwards, and unable to change themselves back to the people they had once been.
Learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 8, 2013

"The Bookman's Tale"

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright, whose plays for children have been seen in more than 3,000 productions. He is a former antiquarian bookseller and an avid book collector. He and his wife, Janice, split their time between Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Kingham, Oxfordshire, in England.

Lovett applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession, and reported the following:
Who knew? Page 69 is actually quite the window into The Bookman’s Tale. On the surface, not much happens on page 69. Someone named Peter checks his answering machine. Yet many of the major characters in the book are mentioned on page 69: the widowed antiquarian bookseller Peter Byerly, his late wife Amanda, his mentors in the world of rare books Hank Christiansen and Francis Leland. The mystery that Peter is wrestling with is alluded to on page 69: the mystery of how a Victorian watercolor that fell out of a book he found in an old bookshop could so accurately picture his dead wife. And then there is that answering machine message—a message that sends Peter off on the adventure that rapidly takes over the book. That message leads Peter to discover what may be his Holy Grail—a book that could settle once and for all the question of who really wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. If you glance at page 69, you are likely to glimpse words and phrases that get to the heart of what (and where) The Bookman’s Tale is all about: Kingham, watercolor, rare books, margin notes, library, and of course Amanda. For The Bookman’s Tale, as much as anything else, is the story of a widower finally coming to terms with his grief—and it’s just possible that that phone message on page 69 is what starts him in that direction. But to find out, you’ll have to read page 70!
Learn more about the book and author at Charlie Lovett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Elana K. Arnold completed her M.A. in Creative Writing/Fiction at the University of California, Davis. She grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own horse--a gorgeous mare named Rainbow--and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She lives in Long Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals.

Arnold applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Burning, and reported the following:
Page 69 [inset below, click to enlarge] finds us in the middle of a Tarot reading. Lala White is explaining to Ben Stanley the meaning of his Root of the Matter card--he has drawn the Hanged Man. In this card, he sees his father-- as he says on page 68, "On it was a man, swinging from one knee upside down from a a tree branch, his hands behind his back as if bound, his face corpse white. The same color as my dad's face after a day of work at the mine, coated with a fine layer of gypsum dust."

Ben Stanley lives in tiny Gypsum, Nevada, which is about to become a ghost town as the mine closes and everyone is forced to leave. Ben has a Golden Ticket--a full ride on a track/academic scholarship to UC San Diego--but he's leaving behind his family and friends. Those same friends have taken him to the canvas tent set up just outside the entrance to Burning Man, where Lala White and her family are telling fortunes to earn some extra cash.

On this page, we see some of Ben's despair, and his guilt: he's sure his Pops--and everyone else he loves--is screwed. Moreover, he sees himself, the "busy boy" on the Eight of Pentacles, who has worked really hard and is seeing the fruition of that work. But he can't let himself feel excitement or pride over his accomplishments. Right now, on page 69 of Burning, his guilt blinds him to everything else.

This book is about freedom and responsibility, about choice and repercussions. It's about love. It's about passion. And it's about creating our own futures, regardless of what the cards may say.
Learn more about the book and author at Elana K. Arnold's website and blog.

Writers Read: Elana K. Arnold (November 2012).

Writers Read: Elana K. Arnold.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"The Golem and the Jinni"

Helene Wecker grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north of Chicago, and received her Bachelor’s in English from Carleton College in Minnesota. After graduating, she worked a number of marketing and communications jobs in Minneapolis and Seattle before deciding to return to her first love, fiction writing. Accordingly, she moved to New York to pursue a Master’s in fiction at Columbia University.

She now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter.

Wecker applied the Page 69 Test to The Golem and the Jinni, her first novel, and reported the following:
I turned to page 69 of The Golem and the Jinni, and this is what I found:
But going by the immediate flood of visitors to Arbeely's shop, it grew clear that Maryam had not waited for their visit; rather, in her enthusiastic manner, she had spread the story of the tinsmith's new Bedouin apprentice far and wide. Arbeely's own little coffeepot bubbled constantly on the brazier as the entire neighborhood filed in and out, eager to meet the newcomer.

Thankfully, the Jinni performed his part well. He entertained the visitors with tales of his supposed crossing and ensuing illness, but never spoke so long that he risked tangling himself in his story. Instead, he painted in broad strokes the picture of a wanderer who one day decided, on little more than a whim, to steal away to America.
We're in turn-of-the-20th-century New York, in the neighborhood of Little Syria. The Jinni is an actual jinni (a.k.a. genie). He's recently arrived in New York - rather suddenly, in fact, exploding out of a copper flask. And now he's got to learn how to pass as human, and fit in among his neighbors. His accomplice in this is Boutros Arbeely, the tinsmith who released him from the flask by accident. Arbeely is the only person in New York who knows the truth about the Jinni. To the rest of the neighborhood - now meeting him for the first time - he's simply Arbeely's new apprentice, a Bedouin named Ahmad.

I'm amused, reading this passage, by how much of the Jinni's personality is on display. He's a smooth character, when he wants to be; and although he hates his situation - he's trapped in human form, a thousand years and half the world away from his home - he's got absolutely no problem lying about it to an entire neighborhood. In fact, he's enjoying himself. Arbeely, meanwhile, is going mental with worry. He hates having to lie to his friends and neighbors, and he's terrified they're going to slip up somehow. This dynamic - Arbeely worrying, the Jinni scoffing at his worry - is the main pattern in their relationship. They're like a quasi-supernatural Odd Couple, and their arguments were a lot of fun to write.

But even though the Jinni has no qualms about lying, the lie itself - the act of passing - is going to take its toll on him. Part of him already knows this. On the next page, he reflects on having to take a human name: "To him the new name suggested that the changes he'd undergone were so drastic, so pervasive, that he was no longer the same being at all." Over the next few hundred pages, this sense of doubt, of alienation from his true self, is going to lead him into a number of adventures and misadventures - as well as an uneasy friendship with a woman he meets one night, a woman who's just as much of an outsider as he is.
View the video trailer for The Golem and the Jinni and visit Helene Wecker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Peter Anderson is a native of the Chicago area who works in the city as a financial professional and lives in Joliet. He recently published his debut novella, Wheatyard.

Anderson applied the Page 69 Test to Wheatyard and reported the following:
First off, a confession: I cheated. Though I'm writing this piece for The Page 69 Test blog, I'm actually basing it on page 99 of my novella, Wheatyard. When Marshal and I first talked about doing this, I quickly realized that page 69 of the book is the opening of a chapter, and thus mostly introductory and not terribly essential to the overall narrative, while page 99 is in the middle of a chapter and much more representative of the story. But when I suggested to Marshal that I write a piece for The Page 99 Test, he informed me that Page 99 is mostly nonfiction, while Page 69 is devoted to fiction. (Despite reading all of the Campaign for the American Reader blogs for many years, I had never noticed that distinction.) Generous soul that he is, however, Marshal said I could take whatever liberties I liked to make this work. Thus, here is my analysis of page 99 of Wheatyard, appearing at The Page 69 Test.

Wheatyard tells the story of the brief, unlikely friendship of Elmer Glaciers Wheatyard, a reclusive, eccentric writer and the unnamed narrator, a business school graduate who is stuck, jobless, in an Illinois college town after graduation. For most of the book, Wheatyard prods the narrator toward taking up writing, He cites writing's merits as self-expression, a creative outlet and a way to interpret the world, but mostly meets indifference from the narrator, who sees writing as a momentary distraction from what should be his sole task - finding a job and launching his financial career. On page 99, Wheatyard again prods the narrator.
"Start right away. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today. On your way home, observe as many details as you can, smell all the scents in the air and figure out where they came from, drop into a few stores even if you're not buying anything, listen to people talk. Then for the rest of the walk, think about everything you observed and come up with something to say about it. When you get home, sit down right away and write out all those insights. Don't worry if none of it is profound. Being profound comes with time."
This passage is a good example of the superior, almost professorial attitude which Wheatyard assumes whenever he interacts with the narrator. Wheatyard is always telling, almost demanding, what the narrator should do - sometimes politely (as in the above), sometimes with irritation. Wheatyard (unpublished, alone, unemployed and nearly destitute) doesn't have much going for him in his life, and thus his friendship with the narrator gives him the rare opportunity to assume the role of a wizened elder, imparting his wisdom and using the implied superiority to boost his self-esteem.

Earlier on this page, Wheatyard also describes how he jots down every little fragment of prose that comes to mind, all of which are either immediately used in whatever manuscript he's working on at the moment (he's intensively prolific, and has dozens of lengthy manuscripts) or saved for some future project. This helps explain how Wheatyard's chaotic narratives (crammed with hundreds of fictional and real-life characters from throughout history, interacting with no regard for chronological or situational plausibility) come about. He assembles all of these diverse fragments into narrative, making connections between characters and situations that seem tenuous at first but ultimately, upon close reading, make sense.

Overall, page 99 both illustrates Wheatyard's relationship with the narrator and gives a glimpse of his writing process. And certainly far better than page 69 would have done.
Learn more about the book and author at Peter Anderson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue