Friday, August 30, 2013

"Devil's Night"

Todd Ritter is the author of Death Notice, Bad Moon, and Devil's Night, the first novels in the mystery series featuring small-town police chief Kat Campbell. Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, he now lives in suburban New Jersey.

Ritter applied the Page 69 Test to the newly released Devil's Night and reported the following:
Devil's Night starts off with a fire, which is appropriate, considering the book is about a serial arsonist torching buildings in the small town of Perry Hollow, Pa., during a 24-hour period.

The fire in question is at the town’s historical museum, and inside police find the body of Constance Bishop, head of the historical society. Even stranger, Constance was bludgeoned to death, apparently before the blaze. Even stranger than that, she was found in a crawl space under the museum’s floor, presumably going there on her own before dying. And even stranger than that, she was slumped over a wooden trunk that contained … another body.

It’s a baffling scenario, and on Page 69 of Devil's Night, police Chief Kat Campbell tries to make sense of it all with the help of medical examiner Wallace Noble. The scene isn’t heavy on action. It’s mostly dialogue as Kat and Wallace try to make sense of the nonsensical. But the conclusion Kat comes to at the bottom of the page — that poor Constance Bishop crawled onto that trunk right before she died to guarantee that it would be discovered later — has repercussions throughout the rest of the book.

“But why would she spend the final moments of her life doing that?” Wallace asks.

The rest of the book goes about answering that very question.
Learn more about the book and author at Todd Ritter's website.

My Book, The Movie: Death Notice.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Sure Signs of Crazy"

Karen Harrington is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. Her debut novel Janeology explored the shocking crime of Jane Nelson and examined how genetics play a role in the actions we take. Sure Signs of Crazy, Harrington's new middle grade novel, is the story of Jane’s daughter, a young girl growing up in the shadow of her infamous mother’s illness. Author Pat Conroy called Sure Signs of Crazy “knowing, hilarious, and tender.”

Harrington applied the Page 69 Test to Sure Signs of Crazy, and reported the following:
I was pleasantly surprised by the page 69 passage. It put a white hot spotlight on the struggle twelve-year-old, Sarah, is experiencing and made me want to hug her. The previous pages include an unsent letter to Sarah’s estranged mother, penned by her father, Tom. Sarah only gets two cards a year from her mother, who has been in a mental institution since Sarah was two. In many ways, both her parents are a mystery to her. When she reads her father’s words, it’s one of the rare occasions she gets insight into the sadness her father is carrying and why he drinks away his pain. It causes her to reflect:
The letter ended with no closing, no “Love, Tom” or anything. Maybe he had fallen asleep.

You see, this is what happens when you get only a couple of cards a year from a person you don’t understand. Someone ends up spilling a drink or crying or both, and you get nowhere.
Learn more about the book, currently a Best Book of the Month on Amazon, at Karen Harrington’s website or on her Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"City of Mirrors"

Melodie Johnson Howe is the author of three novels, The Mother Shadow, nominated for an Edgar award, Beauty Dies, and City of Mirrors. She’s also written a collection of short fiction, Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories and a play, The Lady of the House. After a career in movies and television, she quit acting to write novels. She lives in Santa Barbara with her husband.

Howe applied the Page 69 Test to City of Mirrors and reported the following:
Page 69, In City of Mirrors, comes at a turning point in the novel when actress Diana Poole realizes that finding the body of the murdered young star, Jenny Parson, has put her in danger. A limo driver picks up Diana to take her away from the paparazzi converging on her house. He is to drive her to Zaitlin’s, the producer of the movie she currently acting in. But once inside the car she beings to understand that two men in the front seat have a different destination in mind:
So they weren't going to give me my purse and they weren't going to let me operate the window. I pressed my lips together as I fought back the fear that was crawling through me. When I stumbled, had my bag really slipped from my shoulder, or had the driver purposely taken it? There was nothing in it except my lipstick, hairbrush, wallet, and cell phone. My cell. My contact to the outside world.
As the driver swerves left onto Malibu Canyon Road and they begin the long climb up the twisting canyon Diana desperately tires to convince them to let her go:
"… If anything happens to me, the photographers and TV people saw this car. Saw me get into it." I stared into the rearview mirror and met the driver's dull penny-shaped eyes. "Gerald, your name is Gerald, right? They saw you. They have you on tape."

"Will you tell her to shut up!” he snapped at Heath. "She's giving me a headache."

Heath glanced over his shoulder at me. “Nothing's going to happen to you. Trust me."

"Trust you? A man who likes to batter women?"

The driver's eyes slid sideways, regarding him curiously. "What's she talking about?"
Heath hits a button and a window goes up, separating her from her captors. Diana sinks back in the seat trying to take in the full impact of being kidnapped. Of Heath who likes to hurt women. Is that why he’s here? The only thing she knows for sure is that she is not in control of her own life anymore, if she ever was.
My permanent chill was back. I slipped on my leather jacket, but it has lost its edge.
It is this frightening experience that moves Diana to take her life back and find out who killed Jenny Parson. But like most things in Diana’s world nothing is what it seems to be.
Learn more about the book and author at Melodie Johnson Howe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Bubble World"

Carol Snow is the author of Snap and Switch, an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She had also written five novels for adults, including Just Like Me, Only Better and What Came First.

Snow applied the Page 69 Test to Bubble World, her latest YA novel, and reported the following:
Good news: Page 69 of Bubble World comes at a pivotal plot moment. Bad news: it may be hard to put it in context, but I’ll try.

Bubble World tells the story of Freesia Summers, a beautiful, fluff-brained girl living in world that she’d realize was too good to be true if she took the time to think about anything. She has her own ocean view balcony, a family that fawns over her, and a social schedule filled with pool parties and weekly balls.

The book starts as a pop culture satire and segues into a science fiction tale about virtual reality that I hope is close enough to our current society to make readers squirm. Wow. That sounds grim. But Kirkus called the book “hilarious,” and Booklist said it “nestles a powerful message . . . at the crossroads of The Matrix and Barbie’s Dreamhouse.” And Barbie’s Dreamhouse can never be grim.

On page 69, Freesia has just awakened, disoriented, from her second blackout in several days. Rather than finding herself on her island paradise, she is in an ugly room surrounded by mean people who look and sound just like her parents and sister:
“It’s waking up!” the girl shrieked.

Freesia’s vision was clearing, the space around her growing from black to gray. She was in the room with the clear walls again, not-Mummy, not-Daddy, and not-Angel gaping at her from the other side.

She was sitting in a black recliner and holding onto a ball, also black and surprisingly warm, about the size of a tangerine. Oh my Todd, was that her bubble? Even though it was the wrong color?

“Call Jelissa,” she commanded, hands shaking. Nothing.

“Call Mummy.” Nothing.

“Friendlies check.”

Frustrated, Freesia chucked the not-bubble to the ground.

“Don’t do that!” not-Mummy shouted. “Do you know how much a control ball costs?”

“Tech support said she might be disoriented,” not-Daddy said. “Said we should talk to her in soothing voices.”

Trembling, Freesia got out of the recliner and crossed to the transparent wall nearest her not-family. “Where am I?”

Not-Daddy exhaled.

Not-Mummy said, “Francine, you’re not in Agalinas anymore.”
I suspect that very few of my teen readers will catch the Wizard of Oz allusion. But I think that a range of readers, from teens to adults, can read this story and enjoy it on different levels. Besides, I know I’m supposed to be writing for my readers, but if something amuses me, I’ll pretty much always leave it in.
Learn more about the book and author at Carol Snow's website.

My Book, The Movie: Just Like Me, Only Better.

My Book, The Movie: What Came First.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Compound Murder"

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

Crider applied the Page 69 Test to Compound Murder, the 18th Dan Rhodes Mystery, and reported the following:
Well, it’s happened again. I’ve made a typical mistake. You see, last year when I did a Page 69 Test, I promised myself that the next book I wrote was going to have something spectacular on page 69, maybe an explosion, maybe a gunfight, maybe a fiery car crash.

But did that happen? It did not. Here I am, looking at page 69 of Compound Murder, the new book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. No explosion, no gunfight, no car crash. Just Sheriff Rhodes in a typical situation, struggling to subdue what appears to be a wild hog that’s invaded a house in the small town of Clearview.

He’s been somewhat successful, but there are still a few problems:
... Rhodes couldn’t let go. He said [to the owner of the house] “Call the Sheriff’s Deparment. When you get Hack Jensen, hand me the phone.”

“You have your hands full already,” Hannah said.

“Don’t worry about that. Just make the call.”

“What’s the number?” Hannah asked.

Rhodes gave it to her, speaking up to be heard over the squealing of the pig, and she punched it in. When Hack answered, she said, “Mr. Jensen, this is Hannah Bigelow again.”

She listened for a moment and said, “Yes, the sheriff is here. He’s holding onto a wild pig right not, but he wants to talk to you.”
Will Sheriff Rhodes vanquish the pig? Will he even be able to talk on the phone? Will Hack Jensen send help?

Okay, so it’s not an explosion. You have to admit there’s suspense, however, and now you’ll have to read the book to discover the answers those burning questions.

Next year, though, an explosion. Trust me.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Ed Gorman has praised Crider's "skills with characterization and milieu" and called the author "a master plotter."

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, and Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes on the big screen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"The Boy Who Could See Demons"

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is the author of The Guardian Angel’s Journal (2011), The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), and the award-winning poetry collection Inroads (2010).

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Boy Who Could See Demons and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Boy Who Could See Demons is fairly crucial to the book’s treatment of Belfast. Child psychiatrist Anya has interviewed ten-year-old Alex after the fifth suicide attempt of his mother and is unnerved by his claim that he can see demons. One of the first things she does is look into reasons why he would make this claim, and so she ventures out into Belfast to get a sense of Alex’s environment. She and Michael – both born and raised in Belfast – have grown up surrounded by the many political murals on Belfast’s city walls, but it is only now that she pays attention enough to realise the potential significance of these on an impressionable boy.
“Come with me,” Michael says, jumping out of the car and racing around to the other side to help me out. Despite myself, I’m warmed by his chivalry.

“What do you think?’ he asks, nodding at the wall in front of us.

Another mural. This time, it’s a wall-sized portrait of Margaret Thatcher. Only, she has red eyes and blood trickling from the corners of her mouth. Another demon.
Learn more about the book and author at Carolyn Jess-Cooke's website and blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Writers Read: Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

My Book, The Movie: The Boy Who Could See Demons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Good As Gone"

Douglas Corleone is the author of contemporary crime novels published by St. Martin’s Minotaur. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. His third novel Last Lawyer Standing is his latest book featuring criminal defense attorney Kevin Corvelli.

Corleone applied the Page 69 Test to his new international thriller, Good As Gone, and reported the following:
From page 69:
It was nearing 11:00 p.m. when we entered the underground station. We stopped at an electronic ticket machine and purchased two one-day travel cards, then waited ten minutes on a platform with a smattering of other people until a mustard-yellow train arrived right on time. The train itself smelled of skunked beer, and looking around it was easy to see why. Of the dozen passengers nine were teenage boys, each with a large brown paper bag sitting between his thighs.
The paragraph above could be set in just about any major city in the world. Former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk and a local private investigator are traveling through the city at night, searching for information on a young American girl who was abducted from her parents’ hotel room in Paris. Simon’s journey takes him across the continent, and places him in some of Europe’s ritziest night clubs and seediest back alleys. On page 69, Simon happens to be in Berlin, Germany, but what quickly becomes clear in this international thriller is that there is darkness in every city, that evil lurks in every part of the world, from the City of Light to the piers abutting the Black Sea in Odessa, the Ukrainian city widely known as the capital of sex tourism – and sex trafficking – in Eastern Europe. In that respect, page 69 of Good As Gone is representative of the entire novel. Readers who open the book to page 69 will soon be transported to Tunnelbar, where they’ll meet a Turkish heroin dealer named Alim, who might just know more about the young American girl’s disappearance than he initially lets on.
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website.

Writers Read: Douglas Corleone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Going Home Again"

Dennis Bock has been hailed by The Globe and Mail as “Canada’s next great novelist.” His books have been shortlisted for the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Regional Best Book). His collection of stories won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Canadian Authors’ Association Jubilee Award, and the Betty Trask Award in the UK. The Ash Garden won the 2002 Canada-Japan Literary Award and has been published in translation in Spain, Argentina, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France, and Greece.

Bock applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Going Home Again, and reported the following:
Charlie Bellerose is on a sort of walking PR meet-and-greet campaign as he hands out business cards to downtown Toronto shop owners. After eighteen years away he’s back in his hometown to start up a new language school (he’s got four back in Europe). By this point in the novel he’s bumped into Holly, an old girlfriend from his university days. As a man at the end of a marriage, he’s stirred by those powerful emotions that come to you when you’re open and vulnerable and someone you used to love steps out of the past and looks you in the eye and everything you used to feel for her suddenly jumps back into your heart like it had never left. He can’t shake the feeling that there’s still something between them. But he feels like a shit, too. Part of him knows that he’s grasping for straws here, he’s just wounded and looking for something to take hold of.

I wrote page 69 shortly after I got back from India. The trip was still ringing in my ears when I sat down to write that morning. In New Delhi I’d spent a day speaking Spanish with a guide—not because his English was lacking or my Spanish is so great, but we’d both lived in Spain at more or less the same time back in the late eighties and had some stories to swap. We wandered through and beneath the pavilions and canopied alcoves of the Red Fort, the Lal Qil'ah—a Canadian traveller and a Sikh named Paul who spoke nine languages like he owned them—and jawed on about tapas bars in Granada and old girlfriends in Madrid and Barcelona. One of those beautiful human moments that happen on international turf but somehow make you feel close to home.
One windy afternoon a heavyset Sikh sporting a magnificent grey beard examined my card with unusual interest after we shook hands. His name was Paul, and he owned and operated the electronics shop two blocks north of me, presiding over a thousand square feet of oversize flat screens that played endless loops of high-definition golf greens, hang-gliding adventures and the dancing turbulence of the Great Barrier Reef. “Oh, you are most welcome to the neighborhood sir,” he said with a smile, slipping the card into his breast pocket. “My brother is also involved in the language business. He is a translator in New Delhi. The greatest of cities. He is accredited in nine languages. Perhaps you will be interested in joining the Downtown Business Council?”

After Paul loaded me up with the relevant documents, I dipped into the Starbucks three floors below the academy and saw the woman who at this time of day often sat reading at the table beneath the big Picasso print on the exposed brick of the west wall. She was an attractive thirty-something, I guessed, and sometimes she looked up from her book and smiled when she saw me. I thought maybe she’d help push the thoughts of Holly out of my head. She was there almost every afternoon, sitting alone, a silver bracelet flashing against her tan skin as she sipped her chai latte. I was feeling connected, possibly even gregarious, my new association with Paul at the electronics shop having buoyed me with a high sense of community spirit.
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Bock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"No Easy Way Out"

Dayna Lorentz is the author of the Dogs of the Drowned City series (Scholastic) and No Safety in Numbers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest book, No Easy Way Out, the sequel to No Safety in Numbers, and reported the following:
Page 69 is mostly from the viewpoint of Shay, one of the book’s four protagonists, and she is in bad shape. At the end of the first book in the trilogy, her sister fell ill and she suffered the loss of someone very close to her, both victims of the terrible virus set loose in the mall by a terrorist’s bomb. Now, at the end of Day Seven in the mall, Shay is faced with a long night alone in a crowd of strangers, all collected in the JCPenney, which serves as the women’s dormitory.

Before the quarantine, Shay considered herself something of an all-around artist, and loved in particular to read and write poetry. Lost and lonely in the expanse that is the cleared JCPenney sales floor, she tries to find solace in writing:
The notebook found its way into her hands. She flipped it open. She clicked the pen light on and off, on and off. No words came. Normally, she couldn’t write fast enough, the words poured so rapidly from her brain. Nothing. She put the pen tip on the page, wondering if mere proximity would inspire, but no. Still nothing. Her words had died.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the end, but rather the beginning of Shay’s troubles. In this second book of the trilogy, I pushed all my characters into the danger zone, forcing them to make choices that define the rest of their struggle to survive in the quarantined mall. But though Shay is certainly down here, don’t count her out.
Learn more about the book and author at Dayna Lorentz's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Dayna Lorentz & Peter and Kerry.

My Book, The Movie: No Safety in Numbers.

Writers Read: Dayna Lorentz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy"

Elizabeth Kiem’s novel Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy tells the story of a young ballerina who is forced to flee the Soviet Union after her mother is branded an Enemy of the People. It takes place in both Moscow and Brooklyn in the early 1980s.

Kiem took the Page 69 Test and reported the following:
It’s interesting that page 69 is perhaps the only page in the novel that deliberately skips quickly over events to catch the reader up with Marina’s radically changed situation. Most of the book lingers in real-time and in present tense: the five days during which Marina learns that her mother has fallen afoul of the Soviet secret police; the first week of Marina’s confusing new life; and finally, the pivotal days around a Valentine’s Day ‘massacre’ that reveal the truth behind so many mysteries and mistaken motivations.

But page 69 is a “here’s what you missed” page – and though it’s really not representative of the pace of the book, I like its reflection enough that I have chosen it for more than one public reading. I think it captures the enormity of Marina’s physical and emotional dislocation:

Page 69, Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy:
I don’t remember the things I said to my father as we rocked across the Black Sea, which I had never known as anything other than sparkling blue and about six feet deep. (That’s if you are swimming distance from the tanned, oiled lifeguards and the cold apricot juice sold by the cripple with the cart on the boardwalk. But the Black Sea is black when you are far from shore. It’s a very wide sea indeed if you are contraband and en route to the West for the first time ever under a very dark cloud.)

I don’t even really remember Greece, my first taste of the West. I was sick when we arrived in Athens. Pop found medical help until my fever went down. She’s improving, I kept hearing, in my delirium. I had hoped that I was overhearing a conversation about my mother.

By the time I was well, my father had secured everything we needed to continue. On November 30, 1982, we arrived at John F. Kennedy airport in New York.

That was three weeks ago. Every day since then I have listened to the planes overhead coming in for landing. I’ve wondered what their stories are, the people who are joining me in exile.
Visit Elizabeth Kiem’s Tumblr, and read more about Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Shoot the Dog"

Brad Smith was born and raised in southern Ontario. He has worked as a farmer, signalman, insulator, truck driver, bartender, schoolteacher, maintenance mechanic, roofer, and carpenter. He lives in an eighty-year-old farmhouse near the north shore of Lake Erie. Run Means Red, the first novel in his Virgil Cain series, was named among the Year’s Best Crime Novels by Booklist.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Shoot the Dog, and reported the following:
By chance, page 69 is a perfect choice to show what the book is about. Here it is –
Fairfield Village was a somewhat faithfully reconstructed pioneer settlement located on a two-lane blacktop a few miles off Route 17, about halfway between Woodstock and Oneonta. Virgil, driving his old pickup and hauling Mary Nelson’s double horse trailer behind, found the place easily enough, arriving at a quarter to seven Monday morning. There were signs with Frontier Woman and Big Deal Productions everywhere, advertising the film shoot and advising cast and crew where to park.

Virgil pulled the Ford into a gravel lot at one end of the recreated village and turned the ignition off. The settlement was much larger than he’d expected, covering maybe fifty acres in all. The main street was composed of dirt, and featured—among other buildings—a general store, millinery, post office, courthouse, and smithy. There were fields, just beyond the town proper, planted with rye and corn and bordered with rail fences. And while the quaintness of the village felt artificial on a certain level, the fields were real, as were the crops.

A few people in period costume wandered the streets, carrying take-out coffees, the early hour and their somewhat sluggish pace suggesting they were heading for work. Whether they were involved with the film or everyday employees of the pioneer village, Virgil had no idea. In fact, he had no notion at all of what to expect now that he was there. He’d been told it was the first day of shooting and to be at the village at seven in the morning. Nothing else.

He’d brought along a thermos of coffee and some lunch, and now he poured himself a cup and leaned against the fender of the truck, waiting for whatever was going to happen next.
There you have it – Virgil Cain goes to work on a movie set. Or – more accurately – Virgil’s two Percheron workhorses go to work on a movie set. Virgil hires on as transport. All he has to do is drive the horses back and forth to the location every day. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out.
Learn more about the book and author at Brad Smith's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Brad Smith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong"

Lindsay Tam Holland was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and actually convinced someone once that every student there rode dolphins to school. After moving to Northern California and earning an undergraduate degree from Stanford, Holland went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco. Along with teaching high school English and creative writing, Holland coaches water polo, avoids tofu, and enjoys writing limericks.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of the novel is not funny – and most of the book is. On the page before, Vee sets up this shift by thinking: “I’d crossed the line from joke to no joke, and it was in the exact place I’d always suspected it would be. Not around race or violence or grades or honesty. The line ran directly through our family.” Page 69 is the beginning of the first scene where Vee gets genuine information about his father’s family in China. Silence is a big theme throughout – what people do or don’t say, and how to express the un-sayable through jokes or stories – and here that stony wall between Vee and his father begins to crack, just a bit.

On this page (as well as elsewhere), I struggled with the father’s voice. In moments of heightened emotion, I wanted his accent to creep in more, his English to be more stilted and awkward – but I didn’t want it to be jarring and pull the reader out of the world of the text and think that I just missed the boat on sounding like an old Chinese guy. What I ended up doing was making his English a little too perfect – giving him complete sentences and few contractions.

Someone just reading page 69 might miss how sarcastic Vee usually is, and would miss out on all the awkward and sexy teenage stuff, but would understand that the heart of the book lies in the father-son relationship and the angst that teenagers often feel in their journeys toward nuanced self-identity.

I’m feeling hugely grateful that page 69 did not turn out to be the scene where Vee beats up a bunch of Gatorade bottles, nor the page where he lists things he doesn’t understanding (beginning with “The Aztec alphabet” and ending with “high school in general”). It’s true, Vee’s quirky and sometimes ridiculous, but hopefully readers will sympathize with him and root for him regardless.
Learn more about the book and author at L. Tam Holland's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 16, 2013

"The Butterfly Sister"

Amy Gail Hansen earned a BA in English from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and then went on to teach middle school, high school and community college English before finding her niche as a freelance writer and Arts & Entertainment journalist.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Butterfly Sister, her debut novel, and reported the following:
When I was rewriting and revising The Butterfly Sister, I spent a lot of time on pacing, trying to balance the active plot twists with softer, contemplative moments for the main character, Ruby Rousseau, who tries to solve the mystery of what happened to a missing girl. These quiet moments allow the plot twists that follow to pack a bigger punch. Although they provide a much-needed respite for the mystery reader, I did not want them to be void of conflict or tension.

On page 69 of The Butterfly Sister, Ruby is having one of those contemplative moments in New Orleans, the city she deserted after her father died and to which she returned for a rendezvous with her professor, Mark Suter. It is the night after the two have made love for the first time, and Ruby has woken early for a walk in the foggy courtyard of the hotel, where she processes her feelings of guilt:
Sunlight slowly penetrated the veil of fog and continued to lift it as I walked through the courtyard that morning. After only a few minutes, the humidity cooled my coffee and it became chalky, but it was a nostalgic taste, actually, like chicken soup. It reminded me of the many Saturday mornings I’d sat with my mom at the kitchen table talking about everything and nothing. I longed to call her, to burden her instead of Mark, but she had no idea I was in New Orleans with him, with my professor, a married man. She would certainly disapprove of my relationship with him, but somehow that seemed a secondary issue to a more unpardonable sin: I went back to New Orleans without her.
Ruby’s guilt in this scene snowballs a few pages later at the chapter’s end, when she sees the first of many hallucinations that make her question her sanity and set her on a path of self-destruction. Page 69 is indicative of the emotional roller coaster ride I tried to take readers on in The Butterfly Sister.

It is the calm before the storm.
Learn more about the book and author at Amy Gail Hansen's website.

Writers Read: Amy Gail Hansen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"The Conditions of Love"

Dale M. Kushner is the founder and director of The Writer’s Place, a literary center in Madison, Wisconsin. She is a recipient of a Wisconsin Arts Board Grant in the Literary Arts and has been honored by a fellowship to the Wurlitzer Foundation, The Ragdale Foundation, and the Fetzer Institute as a participant of their first writers’ conference on compassion and forgiveness. Her work has been widely published in literary journals including IMAGE, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Witness, Fifth Wednesday and elsewhere. Her most recent poetry collection More Alive Than Lions Roaring was a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award at Utah State Press, The Prairie Schooner Book Competition, the Agha Shahid Ali Prize at University of Utah Press and The Tupelo Prize. Her story “When You Open the Door, Where Are You?” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She will assume the position of Poetry Editor for The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling in September.

Kushner applied the Page 69 Test to The Conditions of Love, her first novel, and reported the following:
Thank you for inviting me to revisit page 69 of The Conditions of Love. It gives me a chance to reengage with an endearing character who has yet to get mentioned in any review: Mr. Tabachnik, the elderly Russian neighbor who lives downstairs from the novel’s two main characters, eleven-year-old Eunice and her glamorous but obstreperous mother, Mern. Mern tends to either steamroll or sweep along everyone in her path and Eunice often needs to escape downstairs to take a breather and listen to opera records while she draws in her sketchbook on Mr. Tabachnik’s Persian rug. As Eumice explains to us: “during my hours with Mr. Tabachnik, I read, I dreamed—we discussed.”

Readers today, in the age of the trial of Ariel Castro, may wonder why a mother would let her daughter spend hours alone in another apartment with a non-family member, but this part of the story takes place during a more innocent time—the 1950s--and did I mention that Mern was hardly a model mother?

By page 69 we’re close to the end of the first third of The Conditions of Love and Eunice is struggling with her conflicted feelings toward the two other men in her life. After being absent her entire childhood, Eunice’s roguish, ne’er-do-well father suddenly reappeared a year ago, and, in a dizzying daylong visit, entranced and left her. And now Mern has a new suitor, ex-sailor Sam -- paunchy, balding, but kind and constant. Is she betraying her dad by liking Sam?

At Mr. Tabachnik’s, Eunice has the space and time to sort through her feelings. And he has other worlds to offer her: the world of opera and art, stories from the Old World, and a set of encyclopedias. Sam has just become the family “hero” by ridding a nearby tree of an infestation of crows—but “crows” conjure up deep, disturbing memories for Mt. Tabachnik:
“So, you want to know a secret about crows?” Mr. Tabachnik said, leaning forward in his chair. “Once,” he said in the most delicate tone, “over there, I ate crow.” His whole body shuddered, and I could feel the horror go through him. “A person never forgets.” He held out his tongue and displayed it as if it were a foreign object, then sank back into a cushion. “A tongue never forgets ... the taste of crow.”
But then, almost as a survivor’s trick, the thought of crows prompts another reaction and Mr. Tabachnik launches into an old folk song “One crow sorry, two crows joy; three crows a letter, four crows a boy; five crows silver, six crows gold; seven crows a secret never to be told.” The cadence and rhymes excite Eunice’s imagination and she responds with her own on-the-spot improvisation “Eight crows diamonds, nine crows pearls; ten crows dreams that take you out of this world.” Mr. Tabachnik practically becomes Henry Higgins: “Very good! Excellent! You’re turning into a poet, eh, Cisskala? A mystic, no less!”

It’s a sweet scene. We get to see eleven-year-old Eunice— away from her mother — revel in the joy of creating— an act that transports her, if only momentarily, away from all that troubles her. This will prove to be a talent, a resource, and a source of solace she will turn to as she grows and grapples with what the world throws at her in the pages to come.
Learn more about the book and author at Dale Kushner's website and blog.

Writers Read: Dale M. Kushner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"On the Come Up"

Hannah Weyer is a filmmaker whose narrative and documentary films have won awards at the Sundance, Doubletake Documentary, and South by Southwest film festivals. Her screenwriting credits include Life Support (2007), directed by Nelson George, which earned a Golden Globe Award for Queen Latifah, who starred in the film. An advocate for youth, Weyer has worked with teens in the media arts for the past fifteen years and, along with her husband, the filmmaker Jim McKay, started an after-school film club at a progressive high school in Brooklyn.

Weyer applied the Page 69 Test to On the Come Up, her first novel, and reported the following:
On the Come Up follows a girl named AnnMarie Walker from ages 12 to 18 as she navigates the sway of her socially isolated neighborhood of Far Rockaway, Queens and passes into adulthood.

What becomes clear as you sink into the story is that while AnnMarie is a regular kid—at times naive, pig-headed, brash, single-minded—she has this remarkable ability to be optimistic about life, a quality that helps her face down conflict and climb social barriers.

Part of AnnMarie's odyssey toward self-possession is the slow recognition that the relationship with her boyfriend and father of her child is a violent, unhealthy one. In AnnMarie's world, violence and abuse are normalized, even mundane. To see life any other way is one of her greatest challenges.

On page 69, AnnMarie walks in on her best friend, Niki, who is making out with a girl AnnMarie's never met before. While she may have suspected Niki's love of girls, it is a topic that neither friend has openly discussed. This scene captures one moment in a thread that is drawn throughout the book, a thread that traces AnnMarie's growing awareness that upending the status quo is a possibility and perhaps a path toward re-configuring her life.

Page 69:
At first Ann Marie didn’t know what they doing, why Niki was pressed up against the plump girl like that. Then she saw Niki’s hands draw away, her lips pulling out of a kiss and Ann Marie took a step back, startled.

What you want, Ann Marie? Niki said sharply.

Oh. Sorry, I was just looking for y’alls.

Niki snapped the pick from her back pocket and started working it through her cinnamon curls. Sorry, Ann Marie said again. She crossed the room and sat on Niki’s bed. No one said anything for a minute, then Ann Marie pulled out a pack of Kools and said, You want one? Sure, I have one, the girl said and plucked a smoke from the pack.

She said, I’m Latania, who you? Ann Marie told the girl her name, then they lit up, blowing streams out the open window. Latania said, Turn on the radio, Niki, so Niki put on the radio and they listened to Hot 97 for a while, DJ Drastic playing a string of songs, and by the time “Waterfalls” came on, Niki seemed to’ve relaxed and they all started in about the hottest girl groups—TLC, En Vogue, SWV, Destiny’s Child...

Later, Latania caught a dollar van back to Jamaica where her mother lived and Niki walked Ann Marie home.

They walked a ways in silence. Niki’s shoulder brushing hers, cigarette smell still on her breath.

Don’t say nothing to Nadette.

Nadette? Why would I.

Jus’ don’t say nothing to nobody.

Ann Marie said, I won’t.

And she didn’t. But she thought about all the times Niki had slipped off with Nadette, all the things she hadn’t known, and it crystallized right then, how sometimes you grow up without nobody having to explain.
Learn more about the book and author at Hannah Weyer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"The Secret Ingredient"

Stewart Lewis is a singer-songwriter and radio journalist and is the author of You Have Seven Messages. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Lewis applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Secret Ingredient, and reported the following:
Yes, page 69 is very telling indeed, and I think it would make people want to read on. Olivia, the main character, is reconnecting with an old crush, Theo, and she is talking about the situation with her Dads' restaurant. Also, birds fly in a V formation overhead and she says one word that finishes the page.


That word, like the birds, sums up Olivia. The way she cooks, the way she navigates through life, the way she ends up seeing her life.
Learn more about the book and author at Stewart Lewis's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Stewart Lewis.

My Book, The Movie: The Secret Ingredient.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 12, 2013

"The Night of the Comet"

George Bishop holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he won the department’s Award of Excellence for a collection of stories. He has spent most of the past decade living and teaching overseas in Slovakia, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India, and Japan. He now lives in New Orleans.

Bishop's stories and essays have appeared in The Oxford American, Third Coast, Press, American Writing, and The Turkish Daily News, among others.

His first novel, Letter to My Daughter, was published by Ballantine Books in 2010.

Bishop applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel Night of the Comet, also by Ballantine, and reported the following:
The Night of the Comet is set in a small town in Louisiana against the backdrop of the coming of Comet Kohoutek in 1973. The story centers on the Broussard family: Alan, a frustrated high school science teacher; Lydia, his bored and neglected wife; Megan, their 17-year-old wannabe hippie daughter; and Alan Junior, a 14-year-old kid in his dad’s science class, and the narrator of the story.

I’m a little nervous about trying out the Page 69 Test on my novel. What if this turns out to be the most boring page in the book? But let’s see what I’ve got. In this scene, the Broussards have invited over their rich new neighbors from across the bayou. Junior is in love with their beautiful daughter, Gabriella. His older sister has spirited away Gabriella to her bedroom, and Junior is trying to eavesdrop on their conversation from his room next door.
My sister, I imagined, would be trying to educate Gabriella about music, and Bob Dylan and the origins of the folk movement in Greenwich Village. I knew the talk; I’d heard it plenty of times myself. So much of the music they played on the radio was just awful, Megan would say. People here didn’t even know good music when they heard it; you couldn’t even find any good records here. All the decent music got left behind somewhere on the other side of Nashville. By the time it trickled down to us here in no-man’s land, all that was left were The Osmonds, and The Carpenters, and Tony Orlando and Dawn, and all that other insufferable sugarcoated crap. If you really wanted to hear good music, she’d say, becoming insistent and superior as she did whenever she talked about it, if you really wanted to meet the cool people, you had to go to the source: New York City. That’s where she’d be right now if she had any choice in the matter. You could bet that as soon as she was old enough to travel on her own, she’d be out of here, away from these dismal swamps and the rednecks boys with their Camaros, and the empty-headed girls who dated them and married them and wanted nothing more than to raise their own litters of more redneck boys and girls...

I gave up and pulled away from the wall and gazed out the window. From my bed I could see the thin crescent moon hanging low in the sky. It looked like a tilted bowl filled with a bright, silvery liquid, ready to overspill. The sight of it gave me a strange, aching emptiness. As though the moonlight had rendered the walls of our house transparent, I could picture Gabriella sitting on the floor of my sister’s room, not two feet away. She was listening politely to my sister, nodding her head in time to the music while turning over an album cover in her hands. Her luxurious hair fell around her shoulders. She was so close that I might have reached out and stroked her hair, taken hold of her hand...

I groaned, grabbed a pillow, squeezed it to chest, and rolled back and forth on my bed while whispering her name: Gabriella. Gabriella. Gabriella.
Okay, that wasn’t so bad.

One thing this passage manages to do is reflect the themes that are played out in the rest of the novel, namely, the isolation and loneliness of small-town life; the belief that a better world must surely exist elsewhere; the magical, transporting power of heavenly bodies; and the constant gravitational pull of lust and desire in all its many forms. As Kohoutek draws closer, the family’s dissatisfactions and frustrations will build until they reach their inevitable climax on the disastrous night of the arrival of the comet.
Learn more about the book and author at George Bishop's website.

Writers Read: George Bishop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears"

Kersten Hamilton is the author of several picture books and many novels, including the acclaimed YA paranormal trilogy The Goblin Wars. When she's not writing, she hunts dinosaurs in the deserts and badlands near Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she lives.

Hamilton applied the Page 69 Test to When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears, Book Three of The Goblin Wars, and reported the following:
Well, let's see. Booklist claims that When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears is “is brimming with heroism, violence, romance, and tragedy.” I think I managed to at least imply three of the four on page 69:
“Almighty preserve us,” Mamieo said, and crossed herself.

“I’m just trying to understand what I’ve stumbled into,” Seamus said. “The Wylltson family, Mamieo and Finn, and a group of Italians have declared war on Mab, Queen of the Sídhe, and killed the son of Fear Doirich, the goblins’ god.”

“To be fair, Doirich started it.” Mamieo sounded just like Aiden had a few moments before.

“We have no choice, Dad,” Teagan said. “They won’t leave us alone, and we can’t run. They’ve hounded the Mac Cumhaills for generations because of what Fionn did, haven’t they? They’ll hunt us to the ends of the earth and they will kill us. They will kill anyone who helps us. If we can’t run, we have to fight.”

“We have a little time to prepare,” Thomas offered. “There was only one gate in North America, and it’s closed now.”

“We still have whatever creatures have already made it into Chicago to deal with,” Teagan said. “And the Highborn will be coming. They’ll just have to step into Ireland, like Kyle and Isabeau did, and catch a flight over.”

“Speaking of creatures,” Mamieo said, “some definitely made it out before it closed up.”

“There were some teens on the street the first time we drove past,” Teagan explained to Thomas. “They might have been Highborn. I think one of them was . . . eating a dead cat-sídhe.”

“What did they look like?” Thomas asked.

“Long legs, heavy shoulders. Not very clean….”
What say you, O readers? If I promised that there is a sizzling romance, would you read on?
Learn more about the book and author at Kersten Hamilton's website.

My Book, The Movie: When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"OCD Love Story"

Corey Ann Haydu is a young adult novelist currently living in Brooklyn, New York.

She applied the Page 69 Test to OCD Love Story, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 in OCD Love Story is maybe not as tense as much of the book is, but I think it gives a perfect glimpse into the relationship that Bea and Beck are growing. It’s a mix of awkwardness and comfort. A balancing act between their compulsions and their desire to get to know each other.

Bea says of Beck:
He’s like two different people—small and scared and sweet one moment and walled off and rude the next. But I have a feeling once we’re in the Volvo listening to the National and watching the gas hover between full and mostly full (the only two options in my car), he’ll be the sweet guy again.
And as they settle into the moment, and grow used to each other’s presence, Bea and Beck learn that simply being near each other can be calming. Bea has a hard time being quiet and still, but Beck brings out a new, unexpected side of her:
It’s quiet, the waiting. Or we’re quiet. But it’s nice, sharing the same air, and we are both bundled up in coats and scarves and mittens and hats.
I love Bea and Beck in these moments. Because they are trying so hard. Sometimes the trying doesn’t work, sometimes it isn’t enough. But on page 69, I think we see that there is tenderness and compassion between them. And sometimes, not always, that is enough. At least for a page.
Learn more about the book and author at Corey Ann Haydu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Sea Creatures"

Susanna Daniel was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where she spent much of her childhood at her family’s stilt house in Biscayne Bay.

Her debut novel, Stiltsville, was awarded the PEN/Bingham prize for best debut work published in 2010. Stiltsville was also named a 2011 Summer Reading List pick by, a Best Debut of 2010 by, a Best Book of 2010 by the Huffington Post, and a Discover Great New Writers pick by Barnes & Noble. Daniel’s second novel, Sea Creatures, about a woman who ultimately must face the unthinkable choice between her husband and young son, is now available from HarperCollins. Abraham Verghese called Sea Creatures a “captivating, haunting novel.”

Daniel applied the Page 69 Test to Sea Creatures and reported the following:
At this point in the story, Georgia Quillian – failed business owner, wife of a parasomniac, and mother of a mute three-year-old named Frankie -- has found herself working as an errand runner and personal assistant to a reclusive artist, Charlie Hicks.

Charlie is older, attractive, and intense, and he lives full-time in a house built on stilts in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Georgia and Frankie cross the bay three times a week to bring him supplies and food. On page 69, it is Georgia’s second-ever trip to the stilt house, and Charlie submits to a little grilling from Georgia about his art: boxes and boxes full of intricately detailed drawings of sea life, which he’s tasked Georgia with organizing.

Answering her questions, not only about his art but about how he came to live alone at sea, is the price he pays for the unavoidable human contact -- and this isn’t the last time Charlie will overcome his own preference for solitude to give Georgia what she most craves from him: information, the road to intimacy.

From Page 69:
He cupped his face in one hand. It was the oddest gesture, one of compliant self-regard and introspection, almost feminine. Then his hand dropped and he looked away. “I’ve been doing it a long time,” he said. “To tell the truth, I don’t even remember how I started.”

I said, “I read once that when people say that – to tell the truth, or to be honest – they’re lying.”

“I read that, too.”

“You’ve been here ten years?”

“A little over ten, yes.”

“What did you do before?”

He sighed and sat down on one of the file boxes, facing me. He tugged at the hem of his jeans, baring his ankles, then rested his hands on his knees. “I was an engineer.”
Learn more about the book and author at Susanna Daniel's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Stiltsville.

Writers Read: Susanna Daniel.

My Book, The Movie: Sea Creatures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"My One Square Inch of Alaska"

Sharon Short is the author of the novel My One Square Inch of Alaska, in which a pair of siblings escape the strictures of the 1950s industrial Ohio town on the adventure of a lifetime. Opening chapters of this novel earned Short a 2012 Ohio Arts Council individual artist's grant and a 2011 Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts & Cultural District Literary Artist Fellowship. Short is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News, directs the renowned Antioch Writers' Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and is an adjunct instructor of creative writing and composition at Antioch University Midwest.

Short applied the Page 69 Test to My One Square Inch of Alaska, and reported the following:
By page 69 of My One Square Inch of Alaska, we’re in chapter 8 of Donna Lane’s story. Donna is a 17-year-old girl, coming-of-age in 1953 Ohio, and bears the burdens of filling the mama role for her younger brother (their actual mama disappeared shortly after he was born), trying to keep the household running in spite of their dad’s self-pitying attitude and alcoholism, and seeking, against all odds, an opportunity to follow her own dreams and escape the strictures of their small town. By now readers know that Will, Donna’s little brother, longs to get a deed to one square inch of the Alaska Territory through a cereal box promotion. His seemingly small dream for a trivial spot of land represents the need all of us have to find and follow a dream; Will longs to go to Alaska, while Donna’s inner journey is accepting the value of her own dreams.

But not long before page 69, Donna has met Jimmy—a young man who, it seems, could give her an “easy” way out of the life she longs to escape. On page 69, he’s taking her back to their house. Donna narrates…
The closer we got to 230 Elmwood Street, the more my heart thudded. It was dark, so Jimmy wouldn’t really be able to see how ramshackle our house looked compared with everyone else’s. But it was also late, much later than I usually got home on a Friday night at Dot’s Corner Café.

I prayed, Please… let the porch light be off, the living room dark, just a glow coming from Will’s room, Will reading his comic books under the bedspread

But Dad’s car was in the driveway. The porch light was on. The living room was lit up. Will’s bedroom window was dark. And parked by the curb was a ramshackle truck with faded lettering on the back: Stedman’s Scrapyard…
Given previous events in the story, Donna knows that that truck means trouble—real trouble—for her and for Will. She also knows she could rely on Jimmy to get her out of that trouble.

But Donna makes a decision; when Jimmy offers to come in with her, she rebuffs him. “’Not tonight, Jimmy,’ I said firmly, and slammed the driver’s door shut…”

Donna and Jimmy’s relationship isn’t over, not by any stretch, but in that moment, Donna establishes her character, and the inner motivation and strength for the much bigger decisions she must make later for herself and for Will.
Learn more about the book and author at Sharon Short's website, and follow her on Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Blood of the Lamb"

Sam Cabot is the pseudonym of Carlos Dews and S.J. Rozan.

Carlos Dews is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature at John Cabot University where he directs the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation. He lives in Rome, Italy.

S.J. Rozan is author of many critically acclaimed novels and short stories which have won crime fiction's greatest honors, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Macavity, and Nero awards. Born and raised in the Bronx, Rozan now lives in lower Manhattan.

Rozan applied the Page 69 Test to Sam Cabot's Blood of the Lamb, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Blood of the Lamb  introduces the character of Anna Jageillon, a Noantri (vampire) with an objective that puts her in league with some of the people in the novel and at odds with many others. It's typical of the book in this sense: Blood of the Lamb has two main POV characters, seven secondary ones, and a few minor ones thrown in. Any given chapter will be close third person, in the head of whoever's chapter it is. Anna has her own idiosyncratic take on the action of the book, and her own ideas about whether what's going on is good or bad, right or wrong. So does everyone else. Will Anna prevail? Is she even on the side of good? Is there, objectively, a side of good? You'll have to read up to p. 69, and then on past it, to find the answers to these and oh so many other questions, such as: Is there really a document dangerous enough that its revelation would bring down the Catholic Church? If there is, who will control its fate? What do the vampires know about the Church, and what does the Cardinal Librarian know about the vampires? And how can you stand not knowing any of these things?
Under the glorious blue Rome sky the buildings of La Sapienza positively glowed with learning. Anna Jageillon flopped down against the trunk of a wide-branching platano across from the science center. The morning was fresh and clear and she had an hour before her next class: 20th century Russian poetry, a miraculous trifecta of a fascinating subject, presented in a creatively-organized curriculum, taught by, for once, a professor who, though Mortal, wasn't an idiot. Not only not an idiot, the man was hot: a grinning swarthy Serb. She'd caught the way he looked at her as she studiously took her notes, seen the corners of his mouth tug up when she swept her long blond hair back from her forehead. She'd have taken a run at him already, but her current life was a comfortable one that she wasn't prepared to complicate for a few rolls in the hay. Especially now, with her goal suddenly, after so long, within sight. If she was able to accomplish her objective, she and the Serb could take it up then. At that point they'd be fair game for each other.

Not that there was anything fair going on when a Noantri made a play for one of the Unchanged. The Noantri body was so intensely and elusively irresistible to Mortal senses that Noantri custom declared seducing the Unchanged unacceptable. Amazing, Anna thought, how her people had the same wide streak of pious hypocrisy as Mortals, who outlawed double-dealing, drunkenness, and debauchery and then feverishly committed every sin they had time for. In her Community, it was the same. If every Noantri who took a Mortal lover were punished the Conclave would have time for little else. And, Anna suspected, would be missing a few of its own members.
Follow Sam Cabot on Facebook, and learn more about Blood of the Lamb at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Countdown City"

Ben H. Winters's novels include The Last Policeman, which was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by and Slate. Winters’s other books include the New York Times bestselling parody novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and a novel for young readers, The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, which was a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of 2011 as well as an Edgar Nominee in the juvenile category.

Winters applied the Page 69 Test to Countdown City, the second book in the Last Policeman trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Countdown City gives a good sense of the novel in terms of the protagonist, and the setting—great, actually on setting—but it’s not so great for story.

On the top half of the page, my hero Detective Palace (who is trying, against very tall odds, to find a missing person, in a pre-apocalyptic world where many-if-not-most people have gone missing in one way or another), butts heads with a wiry thug standing guard over a “rummage,” one of the desperate bazaars where people have come to barter and swap what goods and food they’ve got left.
Now this one looks me up and down: my suit jacket, my policeman’s shoes. He stinks of early-day beer and some kind of oily hair product.

“Good morning,” I say.

“You finding everything okay?” His voice is gravelly, deadpan. I get the message.“Come on boy,” I say to my dog.“Time to go.”
You get the picture there, I think, of my lonely, dogged policeman, the odd man out in a world no longer particularly interested in law enforcement, just as a concept. Then there’s a section break, after which you get a nice taste of the world Palace is operating in: Concord, New Hampshire, with 77 days until the asteroid hits.
...I get off the bike in the heart of downtown and just take a long slow turn around the deserted sprawl of Main Street: crushed glass, broken shop windows, a couple of drunk teenagers on top of each other on a bench. It’s a ghost town. It’s one of those Western cowboy outposts they used to keep preserved as a living museum: Here there used to be a bookstore. Once upon a time, this was a gift shop. Long, long ago, that was a Citgo station.
One working title for this book was Disasterland, and here we see why.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ben H. Winters website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Policeman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 2, 2013

"Marrow of Tragedy"

Margaret Humphreys is a physician and historian of medicine at Duke University in Durham, NC. Her previous work has focused on the history of disease (malaria, yellow fever) and the health of black troops in the American Civil War. Her latest project explores the history of smallpox from its origins to the modern day.

Humphreys applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War, and reported the following:
I have been researching the history of medicine in the Civil War for nigh on 15 years, but it was only in the final year or two of that process that I discovered something new to say about this topic which has been described by other writers. During the Civil War the sick, injured and wounded were out of place. Most had never been in a hospital, and instead home receiving care from their womenfolk. It was women who knew how to feed, tend, bathe, and otherwise care for the sick. Yet during the war men were in charge of hospitals with thousands of beds—and patients suffered when the female knowledge of patient care failed to be imported to those bedsides. Page 69 describes the origin of the United States Sanitary Commission, a Red Cross-like organization that brought the feminine influence to the ill or wounded soldier’s bedside.

From page 69:
Multiple aspects of the USSC were women’s work, and in many ways the organization embodied the female influence on the war effort. Inspired by Florence Nightingale, the USSC was a beacon for order, nurturance, and cleanliness. Cleanliness was traditionally the particular province of the mother inside the home; women expected tidiness, and men and boys were the sources of mud and disorder. The insistence on cleanliness was a feminine characteristic of the USSC, and even when the male USSC physicians inspected camps, it was with the fussiness of a mother scolding the menfolk for their disregard for hygiene. The USSC extended the female tradition of benevolence and charity, a local phenomenon before the war, into a national organization. Thousands of women’s aid societies in the North sewed quilts, made bandages and pads, boxed foods, and otherwise created what was needed…
While I don’t disregard the importance of amputations and skillful surgery (men’s work) , my emphasis is on those basic aspects of recovery—food, rest, cleanliness—that made such a huge difference in Civil War hospital effectiveness.
Learn more about Marrow of Tragedy at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 1, 2013


David Wellington is an author of horror, fantasy, and thriller novels. His zombie novels Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet form a complete trilogy. He has also written a series of vampire novels including Thirteen Bullets, Ninety-Nine Coffins, Vampire Zero, Twenty-Three Hours, and 32 Fangs. His werewolf series comprises Frostbite and Overwinter.

Wellington applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Chimera, and reported the following:
The whole of page 69 takes place in the back of a taxicab. It’s mostly dialogue.

It is, in fact, one of very few quiet moments in the entire book. The book takes place over roughly seventy-two hours where every minute counts. Where lives hang in the balance.

Our hero, Jim Chapel—a military intelligence operative—has just found the dead body of an old woman, a doctor, who was beaten to death in her apartment in Brooklyn. Scrawled on the wall next to the corpse was one word: CHIMERA. He’s trying to figure out what that clue means. He’s talking to the dead woman’s daughter, a sexy redheaded veterinarian who thinks he’s just some jerk cop.

Simultaneously he’s on the phone talking to his operator, Angel, a mysterious woman who has access to way more data than she should. Neither woman can tell him what the clue means, but they’re both going to change his life in more ways than he can know. Angel will save his life, more than once—because the Chimeras have a kill list and they won’t let anyone stop them from crossing off the names, one by one. Without Angel’s help, Jim wouldn’t stand a chance.

As for Julia, the veterinarian—she’s going to change his life, too, in a very different way. They’re going to get to know each other very well. Because Julia is on the kill list, even though nobody knows it. Because she’s going to be the key to solving the mystery.

By the bottom of page 70, Jim Chapel is on the run again, chasing a madman who is stronger, faster, and much more lethal than any enemy he’s faced before. But on page 69, all that is just beginning…
Learn more about the book and author at David Wellington's website.

--Marshal Zeringue