Monday, September 30, 2013

"The Outcasts"

Kathleen Kent is the author of The Heretic's Daughter and The Traitor's Wife.

Kent applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Outcasts, and reported the following:
Lucinda Carter, one of the main characters of The Outcasts, is fleeing a life of prostitution and posing as a school teacher in a rough-edged settlement on the Gulf Coast of Texas called Middle Bayou. On page 69 she is being interviewed by her prospective employer, a down on his luck, ex-plantation owner named Euphrastus Waller. Lucinda is an intelligent, resourceful woman but has a hard time maintaining her composure when handed a teaching volume entitled The American Speaker (an authentic manual of the 1870’s) with entries such as “Religion Never to be Treated with Levity” and “The Folly of Mispending Time.”

She is then taken to see her new school house for the first time, escorted by Euphrastus who stares openly at her naked fingers---unlike his accompanying wife and daughter who are both wearing gloves---and Lucinda asks him about his past as a wealthy planter.
“‘I had twelve hundred acres of cotton and tobacco in Mississippi.” (Says Euphrastus)

“Before the war.’ He stared off down the road, his eyes fixed and tormented...”
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen Kent's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Outcasts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"The Last First Day"

Carrie Brown and her husband, the novelist John Gregory Brown, have spent their working lives writing and teaching side by side in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Sweet Briar College, where John Gregory Brown directs the College’s creative writing program.

They have published ten books between them and raised three children on the campus at Sweet Briar. Over the years, they have been fortunate to host many of the world’s great writers at their home, Sanctuary Cottage, and to introduce those writers and their work to hundreds of students.

Brown now serves as Distinguished Visiting Professor at nearby Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, where she lives at the University and works with undergraduate and graduate students in the University’s esteemed creative writing program. She and her husband travel between the two literary landscapes and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Last First Day, and reported the following:
Time is important in the novel. Its title -- The Last First Day, a phase that sort of folds in on itself; you have to stop and think -- reflects the way that time and memory operate, which, as we all know, is not linear. Page 69, as it happens, is one of the many non-linear moments by which the story progresses. We call such moments “flashbacks,” of course, for the way they collapse time in a flash, but in the case of this novel, the forward and back in time are so interwoven, that flashback doesn’t seem the right word. The flashes here are like distant lightning pulsing all night long on the dark horizon. The past is always with these characters.

The Last First Day is the story of a marriage, told primarily from the point of view of the wife, Ruth. Her husband, Peter, becomes the beloved headmaster of a boys’ boarding school in Maine in the early 1960s, and he remains at his post for nearly fifty years, with Ruth by his side. The couple meet as children, and they remain together, except for one nearly tragic separation, for the rest of their lives.

The novel is divided into two parts, “The Last Day” and “The First Day.” I was reading a lot of novellas while working on the book, and it was my intention that the parts could stand alone. Every school year has its first day, of course, and the first part of the novel –“The Last Day” -- begins and ends with what will turn out to be the last first day of the school year for Ruth and Peter. The second part of the novel – “The First Day” – also ends where it began (though a little less directly), which is the scene of the couple’s first meeting. The inversion here – that we begin with the end – is purposeful. The novel is a retrospective, and I hope it contains the pleasures of a retrospective, which is that we see the ending in the beginning and vice versa.

Ruth’s experience – her love for Peter, her struggle to define herself as separate from her husband, in an era when women were often expected to put aside their own lives for the sake of their husband’s career -- is the current that flows through the novel. It is not a current that obeys any law of gravity or follows the usual behavior of waterways, however, which is to head in one direction toward the sea. The novel moves forward and back in time, circling certain moments, eddying in pools, contemplating the riverbank, retrieving and rethinking and remembering. In the course of this journey, the reader learns about Ruth and Peter’s lives and comes to see the ways in which their lives and their marriage – like any life or any marriage – contain happiness and sadness, tedium and passion, spans of tranquility, winters of discontent, brinks of disaster. Ruth comes to see and understand her life both accurately and inaccurately, as we all do. Her love for Peter, however, and his for her – is the landmark on the horizon by which Ruth keeps righting herself. Sometimes she is lost, but it is in her love for Peter – a generous and deep love -- that she most fully finds herself.

I hope the novel delivers what I think Virginia Woolf once said she wanted to convey with a story or a sentence: the felt experience of another human being …without impediment. I am a great admirer of Woolf, especially Mrs. Dalloway, with its breathtaking luxuriance of time (oddly, the more time there is, and the less rush, the more suspense is created). In general, the more complex the ways in which a novel moves through time – think Proust, or Katherine Anne Porter, or Alice Munro, for instance -- the happier I am. I have an affinity as a reader and a writer for stories and novels that balance the world on the head of a pin, as it were.

On page 69 of the novel, Ruth and Peter are at a doctor’s office, receiving a diagnosis for Peter that is not fatal, though it is serious. It is a moment of complicated time – Ruth is recalling this moment just as the first day of the school year, which has been punctuated with vague warnings and stirrings of unease, comes to a close. In Ruth and Peter’s conversation with the doctor, we see Ruth’s terror at the prospect of losing Peter, her guilt that she has been insufficiently attentive to symptoms that she now learns are real, and also a tiny portrait of Peter: when he “obediently” puts on the big folding cardboard sunglasses given to him by the doctor, he looks “ridiculous.” This is a moment of dismay for Ruth, as she sees this deeply respected man whom she loves so much appear vulnerable. It is also a little reminder of the intimacy of marriage, where one is likely to appear ridiculous or vulnerable at least some of the time.

That a little moment of terror and sadness reappears for Ruth as the sun begins to set on this momentous last first day (though she does not know it will be the last) is part of the novel’s strategy of sounding various notes all at once, like bells of both warning and celebration being rung all over town.

Why is time the underlying theme of the novel, you might ask? Well, the older I get, the more aware of it I become. It might be that simple. I think it was the writer Ron Carlson who said that stories are the ways that writers stage dress rehearsals for events that worry them. In a story, one can boss things around so that one feels less helpless. Perhaps I was, with one eye closed, looking ahead from the vantage of my own long marriage at my husband’s and my inevitable and final parting.

Page 69:
Ruth had felt stricken. She had thought Peter was getting taller somehow, but it seemed so unlikely. He’d lost some weight, and she’d attributed the odd effect of his apparently increased height to that change in his appearance. But he’d complained about his shoes, and just the week before she’d replaced both his ancient wingtips and a pair of sneakers.

The syndrome, it turned out, was a form of giantism. Marfan syndrome, the doctor had continued, an uncommon genetic disease, an inherited defect of connective tissue. It was relatively rare, though less so than one might think, he said.

I’ve never seen it before, actually, he admitted, but there was no reason for them to worry about it much in a man of Peter’s age.

Others things, he implied, unsmiling, would probably finish off Peter first.

Peter had taken the news with what Ruth considered freakish calm.

In truth, though, there was little to be done. He had regular echocardiograms, as there could be trouble with deterioration of the walls of the aorta, an enlargement of the heart. (How terrible and ironic, Ruth had thought, if Peter should die because his heart was too big.) But so far he’d been fine. Other than new prescriptions for his glasses – at least every year and sometimes more often -- there hadn’t been anything else in terms of treatment, they’d been told.

The doctor had put more drops in Peter’s eyes that day and sent him off with a pair of folding cardboard sunglasses, which he obediently had put on. They were much too large, even for his big head, and he had looked ridiculous.
Learn more about the book and author at Carrie Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last First Day.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Lorrie Thomson lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their children. When she’s not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, her family lets her tag along for camping adventures, daylong paddles, and hikes up 4,000 footers.

Though her new book Equilibrium is fiction, Thomson had the very real experience of coping with mental illness in her own family when her oldest son was diagnosed with schizophrenia while she was writing the book. For support and education regarding mental illness, she recommends that readers visit NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Thomson applied the Page 69 Test to Equilibrium and reported the following:
Equilibrium is told from the alternating points of view of young widow Laura Klein and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Darcy.

Laura has spent all of her adult life caring for her bipolar husband and putting herself second—emotionally, creatively, and intellectually. She’s recently rented out her late husband’s writing studio to ER resident Aidan Walsh. On page 69, Laura’s insomnia has led her to mixing cookie dough, writing for the first time in years, and knocking on the door of her new tenant. She’s on the verge of reaching for all she deserves:
Her bed-sock feet relaxed against the smooth wood floor, responding to a palpable softness in the air. Yet, the distance between her and Aidan contained an energy that shifted her balance forward. A corresponding internal tug spun her thoughts. “Goodness, no. I was cooking. In the kitchen.”

He raised his eyebrows into identical arcs.

“I was getting some dough ready. For gingersnaps. I haven’t really baked anything.”

He nodded, as if her nonsensical speech made all the sense in the world.

“You have to let the dough kind of meld together. So I was writing.” She didn’t wait for his reaction; she just barreled forward. “Not really writing. Sketching out the framework for a character that came to mind while I was baking, but not really baking. You have to let character sketches meld, too.”

“Sure.” He took a step in her direction.

“Loved the music. I don’t think I’ve heard it before though. I was wondering if you could tell me what it’s called.”


“Not even a clue?” She tried looking him in the eye, even though his bare chest was vying for her attention. Just a sprinkle of dark hair at the center. And that waist—she gazed over his shoulder.

“I’ve never heard it before, either. Never played it before tonight.”

“You write music?”

“Occasionally. When I can’t sleep.”

Her new friend, Doctor Aidan Walsh, wrote music and strummed the guitar like a virtuoso.

Well, she couldn’t look past him when he was standing so close. “The music was beautiful.” He was beautiful. “You should write it down.” She should stop offering unbidden advice.
Learn more about the book and author at Lorrie Thomson's website, Twitter perch and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Lorrie Thomson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 27, 2013

"In Falling Snow"

Mary-Rose MacColl's first novel, No Safe Place, was a runner-up for the Australian Vogel literary award. Her first non-fiction book, The Birth Wars, was a finalist for the Walkley Awards. She lives in Brisbane, Australia, and Banff, Canada, with her husband and young son.

MacColl applied the Page 69 Test to In Falling Snow, her North American debut, and reported the following:
On page 69, we are in the 1970s story where Iris Crane, now in her eighties, has just been invited back to Royaumont, a hospital in World War I where Iris worked as a nurse. Iris had gone to France from Australia because her 15-year-old brother Tom had run off to war, and she was to bring him home. At this stage, all we know is that something happened there and it’s haunted Iris. In the pages before, Iris has been arguing with her grand-daughter Grace, who she raised, about whether she’s well enough to make the trip, and Grace has just left her to go to work. Seeing the invitation takes Iris back, to what happened at Royaumont.
After I got off the phone, I realised I was still holding the invitation in my hand. Water under the bridge, I’d told Violet. What a stupid thing to say.
And then we’re back in 1914, Iris at 21 and her friend Violet Heron, 25, the ‘flower bird’ girls as they come to be known, driving back from the little railway station in Viarmes to Royaumont, to unload straw mattresses for the 16 doctors, nurses and orderlies to sleep on that first night. The party had arrived at the rundown abbey a few days before, but there’s no electricity, no heating and rubbish everywhere. In less than two weeks, they need to establish a hospital.
We worked with three orderlies to unload the mattresses from the truck and carry them up the two flights of stairs to the room in which we would all sleep. Miss Ivens had offered any who wanted their own rooms but everyone felt there was safety in numbers. Who knew what ghosts lurked in the dark corners of an old abbey?
From here, the Royaumont story takes off. Iris, a nurse, becomes Miss Ivens’s assistant. Violet, her dear friend, drives an ambulance. Iris almost forgets about Tom, a decision she hardly knows she makes which will haunt her for the rest of her life.
Learn more about the book and author at Mary-Rose MacColl's website, and follow MacColl on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: In Falling Snow.

Writers Read: Mary-Rose MacColl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Seven for a Secret"

Lyndsay Faye is the author of critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow, and is featured in Best American Mystery Stories 2010. Faye, a true New Yorker in the sense that she was born elsewhere, lives in Manhattan with her husband.

Faye's love of her adopted city led her to research the origins of the New York City Police Department, the inception of which exactly coincided with the start of the Irish Potato Famine. Her second and third novels, The Gods of Gotham and its sequel Seven for a Secret, follow ex-bartender Timothy Wilde as he navigates the rapids of his violently turbulent city, his no less chaotic elder brother Valentine Wilde, and the perils of learning police work in a riotous and racially divided political landscape.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Seven for a Secret and reported the following:
Seven for a Secret’s plot is about the kidnapping of free Notherners of color from the streets of New York City. African American committees of vigilance sought to protect their loved ones from the worst imaginable sort of identity theft—being sold south of the Mason-Dixon line to plantations under false identities. The practice was widespread, and many law enforcement bodies turned a blind eye, or else were complicit in this form of systematic assault. Timothy Wilde and Valentine Wilde are arguing in a hackney cab on page 69, en route to try to free two black captives from the slave catchers known in the slang of the day as blackbirders.

As is weirdly usual for me, the Page 69 Test applies aptly to Seven for a Secret. In The Gods of Gotham, I introduced Timothy and Valentine Wilde, a pair of brothers who work for the inaugural NYPD. Timothy is passionate, moral, kindhearted, and an abolitionist social radical. His older brother Valentine, while no less principled at heart, is a feral Tammany Hall insider who comprehends that politics are savage and that the fledgling “copper stars” owe their existence to the Democratic Party—to that end, he argues that Timothy’s outspoken abolitionism is dangerous.
Then the obvious dawned—bright and painfully clear.

“The Irish,” I conceded. “Your voting majority. Every Irishman is a Democrat, and the Irish compete with the blacks. Fine. Why not gain some black voters to make up the difference?”

This time is was my turn to be stared at as if I were some monstrosity from Barnum’s American Museum.

“Timothy Wilde, I will slap the stupid out of you if it is the last thing I ever do,” Valentine vowed. “Blacks can’t vote.”

“Of course they can,” I said, frowning.

“They’re held to a property requirement. Whites can vote, if citizens. Blacks can vote if citizens who also own a minimum of two hundred and fifty dollars in property.”

My head listed back against the cab interior in considerable disgust. I live on fourteen dollars a week—four dollars more than the roundsmen—because Matsell seems to think the denser of the two Wildes something special. So if I counted up all my earthly goods, the sum of them would maybe total forty-five dollars. Maybe. That’s including my half of the fifty dollars in silver that Piest and I had left hidden in my office.

And I am richer far than almost every colored person I have ever met.

“Can any of them vote?” I wondered bleakly.

“Maybe two hundred or so of around ten thousand. And they sure as hell is warm don’t vote Democrat. The Liberty Party, now there are some abolitionists.”

“The whole process is a repulsive circus. I’m far more of an abolitionist than a Democrat.”
At the end of the page, elder brother Valentine loses his temper, reminding Timothy that his own employment by the Democratic Party kept the pair of them alive after their parents were killed in an accidental house fire (a house fire for which Valentine believes himself responsible). The emotional crux of the series hinges on the relationship between the two brothers, and the tense, emotional confrontation that follows reveals continuing guilt on Val’s part over the loss of their family, dedication to the political machine that saved their lives as orphans, as well as Tim’s inability to converse with his brother in a frank fashion about the tragedy that altered their lives as children.
Learn more about the book and author at Lyndsay Faye's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Gods of Gotham.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"The Translator"

Nina Schuyler's first novel, The Painting, was a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards. It was also selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books of 2004, and dubbed a “fearless debut” by MSNBC and a “great debut” by the Rocky Mountain News. It’s been translated into Chinese, Portuguese, and Serbian.

Her short story, “The Bob Society,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems, short stories and essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Santa Clara Review, Fugue, The Meadowland Review, The Battered Suitcase, and other literary journals. She reviews fiction for The Rumpus and The Children’s Book Review. She’s fiction editor at Able Muse.

Schuyler applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Translator, and reported the following:
Tumbling down a flight of stairs, Hanne is left with the ability to speak only Japanese. After a stay in the hospital, Hanne is finally home. Her son, Tomas, who has been in San Francisco to tend to her, departs for New York. Three things happen on this page that convey a sense of theme and trajectory. Hanne discovers her son’s doodling on his yellow legal pad. It’s a man on his back, his legs lifted in the air. The image reminds her of Picasso’s painting of a man on his back eating watermelon. Hanne wonders, has her son experienced her ecstatic delight? This is the reverse of the children-as-extensions-of-parents phenomenon. Here, the parent’s psyche burns bright inside a child’s interior landscape.

Second, Hanne’s son speaks Japanese, so Hanne has had a companion with whom she can converse. With her son gone, Hanne’s apartment is quiet, “deathly quiet.” Throughout the novel, there is the interplay of silence and sound. Hanne, being a translator, is keenly tied to sound, in particular words. She has, in fact, built a world of sound, and for her, it is the vessel of meaning. Her daughter, on the other hand, has retreated into silence—for six years, she has not spoken to Hanne. Hanne will find herself in situations where she fumbles with words, or where words are utterly irrelevant.

Finally, the deathly silence sends Hanne fleeing from her apartment, down to the lobby, to see if she can stop her son from leaving. She finds herself in the lobby. “How unlike her; she is standing in the foyer barefoot.” Hanne’s action—chasing after her son—will be repeated toward the end of the book. In so many ways she will have to step out of character, become “unlike” herself, stand bare, vulnerable, in order to get what she truly wants. (I’m being intentionally vague here because I don’t want to give away the ending.)
Learn more about the book and author at Nina Schuyler's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"The Cure"

Douglas E. Richards is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Wired and its sequel, Amped. Richards has a master's degree in molecular biology (a.k.a.“genetic engineering”), and was a biotechnology executive for many years.

Richards applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Cure, and reported the following:
I opened the hardcover edition of The Cure and turned to page 69, certain this page would cover something relatively unimportant to the plot. Boy was I wrong! Imagine my surprise and delight to find this page is one of the most important in the entire book. What are the odds?

To understand why, here is the first paragraph of the book’s description, from the Jacket:
Psychopaths cause untold misery.

If you found the cure for this condition,

just how far would you go to use it?

Erin Palmer had a devastating encounter with a psychopath as a child. Now a grad student and scientist, she's devoting her life to studying these monsters. When her research catches the attention of Hugh Raborn, a brilliant neuroscientist who claims to have isolated the genes responsible for psychopathic behavior, Erin realizes it may be possible to reverse the condition, restoring souls to psychopaths. But to do so, she'll not only have to operate outside the law, but violate her most cherished ethical principles.
Page 69, to my dismay, is when Erin first speaks with Hugh Raborn. When he first tries to enlist her aid. And when she first becomes aware of the possibility of a cure for psychopathy, and some of the ethical and legal dilemmas this would bring about:
Raborn laughed. “I see you haven’t had many dealings with the FDA. They’d make a steel pipe look flexible. Trust me, they’d never let me begin a trial.”

Erin’s eyes narrowed. “I see. Why do I have a sick feeling that I know why you called me?”

“I need your help, Erin. I could sense your passion in the article I read. Your drive to give society a tool to deal with these monsters. It came through, loud and clear. And you’re one of only a handful of researchers going into prisons and studying psychopaths, and taking MRI’s of their brains on a daily basis.”

“You want me to test your therapy on my inmates, don’t you?”

There was another long silence on the line.

“You’re out of your mind,” said Erin.

“It’s the only way. It has to be done empirically.”

“Sure. And I go to jail.”

“No one will ever know. I’ll give you the therapeutic cocktail, and separately, the eight genes whose precise modulation is critical, at a wide variety of expression levels. You just have to add them to the mix in every possible combination until you find the one that works. It won’t be easy, since we can be all but certain the delicate balance of these genes that does the trick in mice won’t be the same balance needed in man. It took me hundreds of experiments, and it might take you the same. But when you’ve found the right combination, you’ll see a complete reversal of the condition. The brains of your psychopathic subjects will read as normals. Their amygdalas will light up when given emotionally charged words. And as I mentioned, these abnormal genes would not only be replaced, but expressed correctly. So their brain structures will revert to normal—they will be normal—at the level of their DNA. Right down to their sperm and ova. And your MRI data will be there to document the entire thing.”

“That’s how it’s supposed to work. But if there is one perfect combination of gene expression levels, I’m guessing there’s at least one imperfect combination. A combination that is lethal. How many mice did you kill along the way?”

“Surprisingly few,” said Raborn...
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas E. Richards’s website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cure.

Writers Read: Douglas E. Richards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Love and Lament"

John Milliken Thompson is the author of The Reservoir (Other Press, 2011). His articles have appeared in Smithsonian, the Washington Post, Islands, and other publications, and his short stories have been published in Louisiana Literature, South Dakota Review, and many other literary journals. He holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas and lives in Virginia.

Thompson applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Love and Lament, and reported the following:
From page 69:
She admired how lithe and handsome her brother was; she thought him about as handsome as any young man she knew, and she imagined that if he were not her brother she might have feelings for him. It was wrong to even have such a thought in her head, she knew, and she took her eyes away from him and stared at the ripples around her wrists. Could he possibly think of her in the same way?
I like this test, having used it on many novels I’ve read or thought about reading. I’ve never taken page 69, but it seems about the right point for a check. For most novels, that’s about a fifth of the way in. A traditional five-act structure would put you well into the action, the characters and conflict defined and moving to some kind of turn, with underlying themes starting to develop.

The quote above is from a picnic scene out in the country, at the mill owned by a grandfather who is cold and difficult. The theme of family struggle, both within itself and within its time period, continues here.

Mary Bet has just had her first menstrual period, and she and her brother are swimming in the river. For the first time, she notices him as a young man and is confused and scared by the sexual feeling she has for him. Her large family has been reduced by one tragedy after another, and the survivors have begun turning toward each other in their grief. Mary Bet will later attempt to determine exactly what happens to Siler, this sole remaining brother—doing so is imperative for her to be able to lay certain ghosts to rest and move on with her life.

Page 69 is perhaps a little dreamier than most of the novel, but I think it gives a good sense of the rest.
Learn more about the book and author at John Milliken Thompson's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Jeff Somers was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and regrets nothing. He is the author of the Avery Cates series of novels published by Orbit Books and The Ustari Cycle books Trickster and Fabricator (Pocket Books). He sold his first novel at age 16 to a tiny publisher in California which quickly went out of business and has spent the last two decades assuring potential publishers that this was a coincidence. Somers publishes a zine called The Inner Swine and has also published a few dozen short stories; his story “Ringing the Changes” was selected for Best American Mystery Stories 2006, edited by Scott Turow and his story “Sift, Almost Invisible, Through” appeared in the anthology Crimes by Moonlight, published by Berkley Hardcover and edited by Charlaine Harris.

Somers applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Chum, and reported the following:
Page 69 is deceptive in Chum. If you land there and just read you get a page of a few people at a party making slightly off-kilter small talk. You’ll get the sense that not all is right. Some of the people on the page are straining too hard to appear cheerful. But you might not pick up on it right away. It opens with this line, of which I am quite fond:

“I licked my lips. She was looking for a response from me, but I felt made of tinder, dry and spidery. I opened my mouth and small, white spiders came out.”

On the other hand, page 69 has what 95% of the other pages have: People killing themselves with booze. In that sense, page 69 is actually a microcosm of the story: People get drunk, make mistakes, and never seem to make a connection between those two things. That’s not the entirety of the theme of Chum, but it’s a good part of it.

Also: Page 69 in Chum is kind of a great litmus test to see if you and I are going to be friends, drinking partners, the kind of people who wake each other up in the middle of the night to go bury treasure out on the beach, or if we’re instead the sort of people who glance up from newspapers on the subway and our eyes meet and we hate each other instantly, with a primitive primal rage we can neither articulate or understand.

In other words, if you read the banter on page 69 and don’t walk away thinking I’m a total jackass, you might actually enjoy the novel!
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Somers's website.

My Book, The Movie: Chum.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Traveling with Spirits"

Valerie Miner is the award-winning author of fourteen books. Her new novel is Traveling with Spirits. Other novels include After Eden, Range of Light, A Walking Fire, Winter’s Edge, Blood Sisters, All Good Women, Movement: A Novel in Stories, and Murder in the English Department. Her short fiction books include Abundant Light, The Night Singers and Trespassing. Her collection of essays is Rumors from the Cauldron: Selected Essays, Reviews and Reportage.

Miner applied the Page 69 Test to Traveling with Spirits and reported the following:
Of course I was terrified to see what was actually on page 69, but I got a nice surprise because the page reveals some of the major themes and settings in the novel. This page highlights the developing friendship between Monica and Sudha, a major relationship in the novel. Sudha is one of those characters who walked in and took over. She became a large presence in the novel to my surprise and delight. I shouldn’t have been surprised; so many of my novels feature important friendships. This relationship starts out with an edge of hostility and grows into a deep, affectionate, bantering, intensely confiding companionship.

Page 69 also gives a sense of how they navigate the Indian Hill Station where they both live. I’m pleased there’s a short flashback to Minneapolis. I like the incongruous juxtaposition of places. One of the pleasures of writing Traveling with Spirits was the chance to return to India every day as I wrote and rewrote the book over ten years. I came to develop a new fondness for Minneapolis by seeing it through Monica’s eyes.
The merchant regards her cautiously. His eyes brighten as Sudha ad­dresses him.

Monica knows enough Hindi to eavesdrop.

“Of course, Ma’am, we’ll be able to carry your groceries up the mountain with the broom and cereal and such. No, no charge. How long has Ma’am been shopping here? How long educating our children? We are flattered by your custom.”

“Sri Chawla, you are too kind.”

The parking lot at Lunds in Uptown was filled with winter filthy cars. Customers trudged warily on the Minnesota ice, leading the way as young men and women in green uniforms pushed shopping carts toward capa­cious trunks of Subarus and Volvos and Hondas. How much more anony­mous that life seems now. How long ago and far away.

Before striking farther uphill to the Mall, they graze stalls of Lower Bazaar for pens, paper, bars of soap. Not too much because after the Mall, where Monica will buy newspapers and a candy bar in a fancy shop, they’ll have a steep climb to their neighborhood. Once past Mr. Chawla’s store, they’re accountable for haulage.

She’s happy Sudha lives so near. Her small apartment block, 500 yards away, makes walking back at night easy. Thus she gets minimum flack about this “dubious practice” from Paterfamilias Walsh. She must develop a less confrontational attitude toward him. Has he simply re­placed Louise as adversary in her psychological landscape?

No trip to town is complete without a stop at the Kerala Coffee House. They have a special table in the relatively smoke-free back room with a view of Lower Bazaar.

“Whew. This town does keep a person fit,” Sudha sighs as she re­leases her packages. “But then, being American, you’re probably used to attending the gym daily and torturing yourself on those monstrous machines.”

Monica laughs, thinking about her gawkiness in aerobics class, then feels a pang of homesickness for the low impact course, the locker room chats with Beata. “You’re right, this is a great workout. I’ve lost a couple of pounds since coming to Moorty.”

“A pound or two, it makes a difference?”
Learn more about the book and author at Valerie Miner's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Valerie Miner.

My Book, The Movie: Traveling with Spirits.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Two of a Kind"

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels A Wedding in Great Neck, Breaking the Bank, In Dahlia's Wake, and The Four Temperaments, as well as numerous books for children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Two of a Kind, and reported the following:
I happen to think page 69 is a wonderful introduction to Two of a Kind. In the chapter where this page appears, Christina Connelly and Andy Stern go to an estate sale. When they first met at a wedding, she thought he was an obnoxious boor and he thought her frosty and cold. But as an interior designer she comes highly recommended so he offers her the job of redoing his apartment; she needs the money so she takes it. The actual sale is great; she finds treasures for Andy’s place and he is impressed by watching her in action. But when they drive off in search of lunch, her car breaks down and they are stranded—in a dead cell phone zone—by the side of the road. On page 69, they are walking along in search of a gas station. It’s hot, it’s buggy and pretty soon it starts to pour. Now they are soaked in addition to everything else. At first Christina welcomes the cooling rain but when she looks down, she is horrified to see her white T-shirt is plastered to her body and her thin, lace bra offers no protection at all—her nipples are entirely visible. She is mortified. Without remarking on her evident discomfort, Andy strips off his soaked shirt and gives it to her so she can cover herself. And then he begins to sing one of the songs from South Pacific—it turns out to be a favorite for both of them—and she overcomes her habitual reserve to join in. So it’s a page on which the whole nature of their relationship begins to change, and they start to view each other in a different way.
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

My Book, The Movie: Two of a Kind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"My Notorious Life"

Kate Manning is the author of Whitegirl, a novel (Dial Press, 2002). A former documentary television producer for public television, she has won two New York Emmy Awards, and also written for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times Book Review, among others. She has taught creative writing at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, where she lives with her boisterous family, including a dog named Moon, who walks her regularly.

Manning applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, My Notorious Life, and reported the following:
Set in the 1860’s, My Notorious Life follows the scrappy Axie Muldoon from her impoverished childhood on the Lower East Side of New York, to a wild journey on an “orphan train” out West, and ultimately to great wealth and success as a midwife and “females’ physician.” It’s a novel about longing. For home. For whoever might supply it, or wherever ir might be.

Page 69 is in several ways a good representative slice of the story. Although it doesn’t feature an example of Axie’s headstrong moxie, or her sense of humor, this scene is a pivotal moment. Here, Axie, thirteen years old, has just assisted her own mother in childbirth at home in a cold tenement room. Her wee newborn sister has turned limp and blue. Her stepfather, who has lost a wife and child before, is consumed by grief.
He cursed God and picked up the coal bucket and flang it at the wall. It hit with a terrible tin crash and clattered to the floor in a powder of black dust. My mother startled so her eyelids fluttered. Duffy made a strangled sound and went out the door.
The events on this page change Axie’s life irrevocably. The novel’s preoccupations with family, love, childbirth, and loss suffuse the moment. Later on page 69, Axie’s Aunt Bernie takes over at her mother’s bedside, in a manner that illustrates the everyday nature of tragedy in these “fevernests” and “dreadful rookeries of the poor.”
She found a strip of rag by the stove, which she gave to me.
—Run and tie this to the door and then tie the other half out front downstairs for the undertaker to see, she whispered.
Axie’s main worry in this early part of the novel is with her mother, and on page 69, she realizes that her beloved Mam is having trouble recovering from childbirth. Axie witnesses her aunt’s inept attempts to help.
Bernie was there beside Mam’s bed, kneeling low by her knees. She was busy with some articles, a bowl and a burlap sack and a bunch of chicken feathers and pressing hard on Mam’s belly... My eyes did not escape the bloody rags, the bowl dark with liquid.
This moment and the events of the day inform the course of Axie’s life, her choice of profession, and her determination to prevent such scenes as the one on page 69 from occurring again in the bedrooms and lying-in hospitals of 1860’s New York. After this scene, her fortunes improve, her voice grows more irreverent, and her story becomes quite rollicking in places. Page 69 does not feature a sample of Axie’s particular vernacular, in which, for example, her enemies include “a bitter old catamaran” a “pompous tub of lard, and some “cabbage-hearted weevils.” What it does show is how My Notorious Life is Axie’s testimony of loss and love, and why she translates both into a fierce defiance of authority and a defense of women and children.
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Manning's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Murder and Marinara"

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for the Italian Kitchen Mysteries. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, she also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista.

Genova applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder and Marinara, the first of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, and reported the following:
In my debut mystery, Murder and Marinara, the main character, Victoria Rienzi, is a mystery writer who returns home to the Jersey shore to work on a historical novel based upon her family; part of her research involves working in the family restaurant, the Casa Lido. In the following scene, Victoria is with her sister-in-law, who serves as the Watson to her Sherlock. The two women are discussing the mysterious death of television producer Gio Parisi, who was found dead behind the restaurant. Victoria stresses that the cause of death is still unclear, however, and quotes fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey on the subject of murder: “If you know how, you know who.”
“The hell with Lord What’s His Name.” In one wave of her manicured hand, Sofia dismissed Dorothy Sayers, along with all logic and reason. “There’s a lot we can do in the meantime. We can find out if he owed anybody money, who he had fights with, particularly his wife. I hear she’s a lot younger than he is.”

I grinned. “That makes her guilty for sure.”

“Too bad she wasn’t there. Not that I’m counting anybody out at this stage of the investigation.”

“Hey, don’t you have classes to teach or something?”

Sofia glanced at the corner of her computer screen. “Not for another hour.” She looked up at me and smiled. “You’d be amazed at what I can find out in sixty minutes. And don’t try to act like you’re not interested, because you are.”

She was right; I was interested, but more than that, I was worried about protecting the Casa Lido. I stood up and pushed in the chair. “Okay, I give. We can do some research. But that’s all.”

She jumped from her seat and high-fived me, nearly knocking me off my feet. (For a little girl, she packs a punch.) “You go, SIL,” she sang out. “And keep me posted.” She settled back in her chair, her eyes glued to the screen. “In the meantime, I’m gonna dig up all I can on the widow.”

* * *

I had just pulled into the restaurant parking lot when my phone buzzed, but I didn’t recognize the number. “Good morning, Victoria,” purred a female voice in my ear. “This is Nina LaGuardia from News 10.”

I muttered a forbidden word and sighed. “How did you get my number, Ms. LaGuardia?”

The lovely Nina chose not to answer, and instead fired a few questions of her own. “How are you and your family holding up? Is it true that your brother used his position on the police force to keep them from closing the Casa Lido?”
What happens on page 69 is significant for several reasons. First, we see that the main character, Victoria, tends to live in her head. As a writer of mysteries, her understanding of murder comes from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie, and her own experiences as a mystery writer. Getting involved in a real murder is going to move Victoria from thought to action, and drive home the point that real life murders don’t follow a formula. In terms of the case, we learn that the dead producer’s wife was younger than he was, but that she was not on the scene when he died.

We also get a sense of Victoria’s relationship with her sister-in-law Sofia. The two women are close, with obvious affection for each other, but are also brutally honest. Sofia tends to strong-arm Victoria, but also makes the observation that Vic is already curious about the murder. In fact, this page represents a turning point for the main character; when Victoria agrees to do some research, it’s the first step in her taking an active role in the investigation. And part of what drives her is the need to protect the reputation of her family and their restaurant. After the scene break, the phone call from the reporter adds another layer of pressure for Victoria, as her brother’s reputation is at stake now as well. I think this page is representative of my character’s motivation, her loyalty to her family, and the humor that runs throughout the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Rosie Genova's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Heaven Is Paved with Oreos"

Catherine Gilbert Murdock grew up on a small farm in Connecticut and now lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, two brilliant unicycling children, several cats, and a one-acre yard that she is slowly transforming into a wee, but flourishing ecosystem. She is the author of several books, including the popular Dairy Queen series starring lovable heroine D. J. Schwenk, Princess Ben, and Wisdom's Kiss.

Murdock applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Heaven Is Paved with Oreos, and reported the following:
Page 69: Sarah's grandmother is talking about what Rome was like in 1967, when she last visited it:
"There was a lot of that, too," Z said, pointing to two people near us at the fountain who were kissing so hard that their bodies looked pasted to each other.

To be honest, I found the kissing uncomfortable. But I don't think Z noticed my uncomfortableness. In fact, I am sure she didn't, because I had to say her name three times before she answered, and even then it was clear she was not paying attention. Her mind was somewhere else. I thought about asking what she was thinking, but she looked so preoccupied and serious that I'm not sure I wanted to know.
That's only part of the page, but it's remarkable how representative it is of the book as a whole -- Sarah's voice, and several major themes. Way to go, Page 69 Test! (I won't detail the themes because I don't want to give anything away…)
Learn more about the book and author at Catherine Gilbert Murdock's website.

My Book, The Movie: Heaven Is Paved with Oreos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Detroit Shuffle"

D. E. Johnson, a graduate of Central Michigan University, is a history buff who has been writing fiction since childhood. He comes by his interest in automotive history through his grandfather, who was the vice president of Checker Motors. Johnson's books include The Detroit Electric Scheme, Motor City Shakedown, and Detroit Breakdown.

Johnson applied the Page 69 Test to Detroit Shuffle, the fourth volume of his Detroit Mysteries, and reported the following:
From page 69:

Wednesday, October 16, 1912

We were looking through the cabinets in the kitchen when Detective Riordan asked, “You said he lived elsewhere, correct?”

I answered without thinking. “I think so. Sapphira said he was hiding here.”

When Riordan didn’t respond, I turned around. He was staring at me, eyes narrowed, concentration deadly.

“What?” I asked.

“Sapphira Xanakis?” His voice was soft, but it carried the weight of the world.

Perhaps it was sleep deprivation, but I hadn’t thought about the implications of mentioning her to Detective Riordan. “Yes.”

“She’s in town?”

“Well . . . yes, but let me explain.”

“The Sapphira Xanakis who was John Cooper’s accomplice in the murders of Elizabeth’s father and Wesley McRae? The Sapphira Xanakis who helped Cooper nearly kill Elizabeth?”

“And me. Yes, but she’s not—”

“First of all, I don’t hold nearly killing you against anyone. The whole thing was your fault. Second”— he put his hands on his hips and squared himself to me—“are you out of your goddamn mind?”
This is an early moment of the murder investigation, and Will has let the cat out of the bag on an important secret. Detective Riordan wants to catch Sapphira Xanakis, a nemesis from The Detroit Electric Scheme. Will’s gut says to trust her, but he’s still trying to decide how far he can.

This book is all about trust and credibility, with Will’s behavior under suspicion because of a brain trauma, every other character with a hidden agenda other than Elizabeth Hume, who Will desperately wants to protect from a murderer, and (not surprisingly) seemingly every politician on Detroit on the take.

1912 was a tough year in Detroit politics. First, seventeen members of the city council were arrested for accepting bribes in a huge sting operation, then “Big Liquor” succeeded in their conspiracy to beat the woman’s suffrage amendment on Michigan’s ballot, with much of their activity centered in the city.

These two incidents take center stage in the book, as Will sorts through the criminals, trying to save Elizabeth from a threat only he believes in.
Learn more about the book and author at D.E. Johnson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Motor City Shakedown.

The Page 69 Test: Detroit Breakdown.

My Book, The Movie: Detroit Breakdown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 13, 2013

"At the Bottom of Everything"

Ben Dolnick is the author of three novels: Zoology, You Know Who You Are, and the newly released At the Bottom of Everything. His writing has appeared in the New York Times and on NPR.

Dolnick applied the Page 69 Test to At the Bottom of Everything and reported the following:
Page 69 of my book comes right at a point where to give too much context would spoil the plot. So, I'll just say that the narrator, Adam, is recalling a particularly difficult experience he had about a decade before, when he was a teenager:
The worst of my suffering in those next few days -- which felt like being poisoned, a freezing empty charge moving through me -- came over me maybe once an hour, whether I was awake or asleep, helping to stack the nap mats at work or standing in the corner of my bedroom talking to Thomas on the phone. Each time I'd think: I can't tolerate it, I'm going insane. This must be why people turn themselves in for things. But then it would... not pass, exactly, but slip back into some more inner part of my nervous system, leaving me sore and shaken, and I'd think, OK, I'll survive, it won't ever feel that bad again, and I'd try to more or less go about my life until it happened again.
The question of sanity -- what it feels like to go insane, the ways in which peoples' minds torment and trick them -- is a fairly important one throughout the book. Adam, the narrator, is ostensibly sane (he goes to India to see if he can rescue a friend who's gone off the rails), but as you can see in this passage, sanity can be a fairly tenuous thing.
Learn more about the book and author at Ben Dolnick's website.

Writers Read: Ben Dolnick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"The House of Journalists"

Tim Finch works for a London think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research. He was a BBC political journalist and is a former director of communications for the Refugee Council.

Finch applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The House of Journalists, and reported the following:
Here’s how page 69 of The House of Journalists starts.
We reached the regional capital without incident, but the city was tensile with fear. There were reports of rebel forces advancing and there was dwindling confidence that the central government could hold this Northern outpost – or even that it wanted to.
Much of the novel is made up of gripping stories of refugee flight and on page 69 the reader is following a character called Adom in the latter stages of his escape into exile after a genocidal uprising against the corrupt government he has supported.
There were desperate scenes at the airstrip. Shots had to be fired to disperse the crowds so that I and my small party could get through. Angry, desperate, weeping people chased the plane along the red dirt runway. We banked out into a biblical storm; lightning forked down into the black turbulence of the great lake and electrified the jag-toothed mountains. This was the last view I had of my beloved home region. It was as if God was punishing it for its sins.
The immediate drama of this episode is broken at this point (a frequent technique in the novel which is fragmentary, rather than linear, in structure) as Adom reflects on his telling of the story.
I will admit that I crafted it with an eye to Western sensibilities and assumptions, painting the bigger picture in bold blacks and whites, but at the same time placing myself at the centre of the moral complexities, admitting my mistakes and weaknesses, in a way that some in my continent, never mind my country, found naïve, even dangerous. I always had confidence, however, that it would do me credit in the long run. I bank on it still, knowing that a most important telling is to come: before the tribunal.
Here we get to the heart of what The House of Journalists is all about – the ownership and trustworthiness of stories. Each ‘fellow’ of the House knows that his or her story is their most precious possession and their safety depends to a great extent on the effectiveness of their telling of it. And yet around them constantly are people, who may or may not have their best interests in mind, who are trying to re-craft or even requisition these stories.
Visit Tim Finch's Twitter perch, and learn more about The House of Journalists.

Writers Read: Tim Finch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"The Impersonator"

Mary Miley is the winner of the 2012 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Novel Competition. She grew up in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and France, and worked her way through the College of William and Mary in Virginia as a costumed tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg. After completing her masters in history, she worked at the museum and taught American history at Virginia Commonwealth University. As Mary Miley Theobald, she has published numerous nonfiction books and articles on history, travel, and business topics.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Impersonator, her first novel, and reported the following:
All right, I cheated. It starts on 69 and falls into 70. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have made any sense. Even then, it needs explaining ... The main character is talking to her phony uncle Oliver, the unscrupulous man who has hired her to play his long-lost niece so he can get hold of her inheritance. She’s asking him about the original search for the missing girl, seven years earlier. It’s a significant passage because it shows Oliver’s ruthlessness for the first time—he’s been relatively nice up until now. The actress portraying Jessie realizes she could be in danger from Oliver as well as from whoever has killed the heiress—if, indeed, the heiress is really dead. She may have run away seven years ago and be planning to return on her 21st birthday, which falls in just a couple weeks.
“A few days ago, I walked along the cliff south of the house. When Jessie went missing, did they search all those crevices along the edge?”

“Naturally. They even lowered lanterns to the bottom of the deeper ones. Why do you ask?”

“I think Jessie’s dead.”

“I told you that in Omaha.”

“I think she was killed.”

“A distinct possibility,” he said carelessly. I hated him.

“I think she stumbled into something criminal and was murdered, like the Indian girl.”

“Are you going ga-ga on me? That dead squaw has nothing to do with Jessie. It was some tribal feud.”

“That’s just what the lazy sheriff said to avoid an investigation.”

“And how do you know that?”

“I talked to some of her people on the reservation a few days ago. I rode over with the stable boy.”

His eyes narrowed as he contemplated that. “You’ve been snooping?”

“A Chinese girl was also strangled a few years ago along Dexter’s waterfront. Her father believes she was involved in something illegal. I talked to him this afternoon. I’m sure these two murders are related, and I think Jessie’s disappearance is too. Dexter is a pretty small town to have three young women killed in a seven-year span. It can’t be coincidence.”

Oliver hoisted his bulk from behind the desk and transported himself to my side. His face grew mottled with the effort of controlling his rage, and his breathing became uneven. “You unspeakable little tramp. How dare you traipse around playing detective? Your job is to impersonate my niece, not to stir up trouble all over town.”

Without warning, he slapped me. Twice. Hard.

“I don’t give a tinker’s damn about who’s dead and who’s not, but I know someone who is going to be dead very soon if she doesn’t play the part she was hired to play.”

And when I’d finished playing that part, when Oliver’s pudgy fingers were securely wrapped around a large chunk of Carr money, would he decide that a dead accomplice was safer than a live one?
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Miley's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Mary Miley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Mykonos After Midnight"

The New York Times praised Jeffrey Siger's work as “thoughtful police procedurals set in picturesque but not untroubled Greek locales,” the Greek press described him as “prophetic,” and Eurocrime called him a “very gifted American author...on a par with other American authors such as Joseph Wambaugh or Ed McBain.” Mykonos After Midnight is the fifth novel in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, following up on his internationally best-selling Murder in Mykonos, Assassins of Athens, Prey on Patmos: An Aegean Prophecy, and Target: Tinos. Born in Pittsburgh, Siger practiced law at a major Wall Street law firm and established his own New York City law firm before giving it all up to live and write on the island of Mykonos.

Siger applied the Page 69 Test to Mykonos After Midnight and reported the following:
From page 69:
in the most flattering of ways, and making sure to refer back to other things he'd said in other conversations.

Three months of this led to a weekend away together. Three more weekends led to a marriage proposal. She told him there was no way her captors would let her go. He told her not to worry.

The wedding was private but her captors attended, smiling as if they'd been family. She had escaped. She was free.

He was a kind man. He encouraged her to learn. She went to school, and she graduated. She attended college. Never did she look at another man. She was committed to her husband and their two children. Yes, she'd become the mother of two beautiful sons.

Teacher closed her eyes and pressed her fingertips against them.

Vladimir. And his rambunctious, mischievous brother.

She pressed harder.

My lovely Sergey.

She was in a class when they came to her home. Her husband had many enemies. These cut his throat, severed his genitals, and stuck them in his mouth. They did the same to her two beautiful boys. She did not know who did it. It could have been any of many.

She found them when she came home. She sat among them only for minutes, then packed her bag and left. There was nothing more she could do for them. She did not attend their funerals, for by then she was no longer in that city or that country.

She fled to lose herself, leaving behind all her papers and whatever else she thought could be used to trace her.

She became a nameless refugee in a foreign land. And, in time, experienced a revolutionary new emotion. Freedom. She no longer feared death, and with that discovered liberty, took absolute control over her life for the very first time.

She dropped her hands to her lap and looked again at the photograph.
Publishers Weekly wrote of Mykonos After Midnight, “The emergence of a shadowy master criminal bodes well for future adventures,” and page 69 captures the essence of what created that master criminal—hope, brutally destroyed, turned to ruthlessness.

In Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis’ fifth of “Siger’s thoughtful police procedurals set in picturesque but not untroubled Greek locales” (the New York Times on Target: Tinos), the murder of a legendary nightclub owner who helped transform Mykonos from an impoverished Greek island into a wealthy, world renown tourist paradise puts politically explosive secrets into play and Kaldis into battle with a powerful, clandestine international force intent on doing whatever necessary to wrest control away from those who’ve dominated the island for generations.

Mykonos After Midnight springs to life against the backdrop of a society rooted in the past, struggling through times of dire economic crises to catch up with the present, yet “reads more like an Elmore Leonard caper than a whodunit (Kirkus Reviews).”
Learn more about the book and author at Jeffrey Siger's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Mykonos.

The Page 69 Test: Prey on Patmos.

The Page 69 Test: Target Tinos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2013


Amy Christine Parker writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat.

Parker applied the Page 69 Test to her new YA novel, Gated, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Dance with me,” Will says from above me. He offers me his hand and I groan.

Marie giggles. “This should be good.”

I’m a horrible dancer. It isn’t that I don’t like the music or feel the rhythm. It’s that to do it well, you have to be able to let go, get lost in the song and feel it inside you. I’m not sure I’m built to let go of anything, no matter what it is. Ever. Letting go is as foreign to me as thinking things through is to Marie.

Will puts his hand on the small of my back, his thumb lightly stroking my pajama top. He takes me out into the grass. The moon silvers his blond hair, making him look almost distinguished, mature. He twirls me around in a slow circle. I grip one of his hands and the opposite shoulder so tight it has to be uncomfortable for him, but I can’t make myself relax.

“Just let me lead you, okay?” he whispers, his eyes strangely soft in the moonlight. The way he’s looking at me makes me shiver. There’s a hunger to his gaze. He pulls me closer, his chin resting lightly on my hair. I concentrate on not stepping on his feet so I don’t have to think about how close he is to me.

“Not a complete disaster. Good, Lyla!” Marie calls over Brian’s shoulder. She looks perfectly content. Once Brian finally slimmed down and muscled up, she fell for him hard. It shows in the way she looks at him now.

Marie and Brian are dancing too. I watch as she moves in his arms. It’s hard not to watch her when she dances.
This page is representative of my book in some aspects. It shows my main character, Lyla’s, relationships with her friends and her observant nature. But I fear that by skimming just this page any reader would assume that the book is a romance at its core when really, the romantic bits are few and far between. This book is primarily a psychological thriller. The story focuses on Lyla’s feelings about her Community, its leader, Pioneer, and his predictions about the end of the world. Creepy and unsettling are words I would use to describe the book. This passage is more romantic and wistful.
Learn more about the book and author at Amy Christine Parker's blog and website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"If I Ever Get Out of Here"

Eric Gansworth is a Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. An enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, he was born and raised at the Tuscarora Reservation in Niagara County in upstate New York. His short stories, poetry, and nonfiction have been printed and reprinted in many literary magazines and anthologies, and his dramatic work has appeared at the Public Theater in New York City.

Gansworth applied the Page 69 Test to his new YA novel, If I Ever Get Out of Here, and reported the following:
Page 69 is oddly an important place in this book, a short but key moment. Lewis, the protagonist, has just been extended an invitation to borrow the Paul McCartney and Wings album, Band on the Run, from which the novel gets its title. He’s in seventh grade and the offer occurs as he’s being brought home from his first visit to a home that is not on the reservation where he’s been raised. Normally, Lewis would jump at the chance to check out anything Beatles related. Their music is his major passion in life. His hesitancy arises from the person making the offer: the father of his new friend, George.

It’s the first real glimpse of many choices Lewis will face through the rest of the novel. The offer is genuine, but he’s worried first about accidentally damaging the album and how that apparent irresponsibility will reflect on him. Second, his own father has been largely absent from his life, and the uncle who lives with him is decidedly eccentric. George’s father frames the offer as a matter of trust in Lewis, and though he loves his uncle’s loose relationship to social expectations, Lewis has a desire for that kind of affirmation. Third, Lewis is keenly aware of the subservient nature of his mother’s jobs, cleaning house for wealthy white families, and he fears the act of taking the album will make him beholden to a white person, the way his mother constantly is, and that it will compromise him in similar ways.

From page 69:
“I’m happy to lend you the album,” he said, sliding a plastic bag from his side of the truck. “I thought you might want to listen to the whole thing. You can give it back to my boy at school, or just bring it the next time you’re over. I know you’ll take good care of it.”

I peeked in the bag and saw an album cover with Band on the Run on it, over a picture of what appeared to be a group of nine criminals, huddled close together, dressed in identical brown suits, and caught in a glaring spotlight in front of a brick wall. I recognized Paul McCartney as the person in the center of the group. “My ma would kill me if I took this,” I said, really thinking George’s dad would kill me if I messed it up. Albert and I were careful with albums, but our stereo just wasn’t all that good anymore.

“Son, my boy tells me about his friends, and I’ve met Artie and Stacey and a few of the others, but you’re the only person he’s really wanted to get to know since we arrived here. I trust his judgment, and I think you’ll like this. Please.”
That’s a lot of weight on a grooved vinyl disc in a cardboard sleeve, but those are the daily realities of Lewis’ life. By the end of the page, his passion wins out and he chooses to embrace the offer, which leads him into a whole other world.
Learn more about the book and author at Eric Gansworth's website.

My Book, The Movie: If I Ever Get Out of Here.

Writers Read: Eric Gansworth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"A Guide for the Perplexed"

Dara Horn, the author of the novels All Other Nights, The World to Come, and In the Image, was chosen one of Granta’s "Best Young American Novelists" in 2007, and is the winner of two National Jewish Book Awards. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.

Horn applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, and reported the following:
Page 69 happens to introduce one of the major themes in the book: the paradox of fate and free will. Josie, my main character, is a software developer on a three-week consulting gig at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt (yes, this is in contemporary times—and yes, it doesn’t end well). The cultural divide between her and Nasreen, the media specialist working with her, is much larger than Josie expected. On page 69, Josie discovers that Nasreen believes our lives are directed by forces beyond our control—the opposite of arrogant tech-nerd Josie’s worldview. Ten pages later, when Josie is abducted, both women’s opinions begin to change.

A Guide for the Perplexed is loosely based on the biblical story of Joseph. One of the puzzles of the Joseph story is that Joseph is able to interpret people’s dreams—the assumption in the bible being that dreams reflect one’s future rather than one’s past. We think of ourselves as rational people, but what’s amazing to me is the constancy of human belief in predestination—whether to a destiny determined by an omnipotent God, or by genetics or socioeconomics or brain chemistry. But the biblical Joseph story suggests that while we may be unable to control the future, we can in a sense control the past—not by changing past events, but by selectively remembering them in a way that turns our lives into a meaningful story. In the ancient Library of Alexandria and in the high-tech world today, what matters is not how much data we collect, but how we choose what’s worth knowing.

Excerpt from Page 69:
“Why would it be necessary to know me in order to understand my dream?” Nasreen asked.

This was baffling. Was it not obvious? “To know what these people and ideas mean to you, of course,” she said. The challenge of not condescending was immense.

“Why would it matter what they mean to me?” Nasreen asked. “The message ought to be clear on its own.”

Josie considered this. In fact the dream did have a rather obvious interpretation, but it didn’t seem like one Josie should share. “That would depend if you think dreams are internal or external,” she said. “I suppose the message ought to be clear to anyone if you believe that the dream’s source is something outside of your own mind. But if the dream’s source is in your own mind, then it should matter what these people meant to you.”

“In the end it is not that different, is it?” Nasreen said, her dark lips set in a smug grin. “There is a message either way, just as I said.”

For a moment Josie was silent, hovering on the edge of a respectful nod. But then she could no longer contain her irritation—with Nasreen, with the library, with the radiance of the past buried under the nonsense of the present, with the thick walls of illogic that had been closing in around her from that very first moment at the airport, when she had been sagely informed that she was a mistake.

“It’s actually extremely different,” Josie said. She no longer held her exasperation under her breath. Her voice rose. “If the dream is some sort of supernatural message, or something reflecting the—the will of God, so to speak—then it should matter a lot, and you should care a lot about what it’s trying to tell you. And if the dream is that kind of supernatural message, then presumably what it is trying to tell you is some sort of—prophecy, as you put it. Some kind of prediction or warning about the future that you couldn’t otherwise know.”

“Precisely,” Nasreen said.
Learn more about the author and her work at Dara Horn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: The World to Come.

The Page 99 Test: All Other Nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"The Outside"

Laura Bickle’s fiction for adults and young adults includes The Hallowed Ones, Embers, and Sparks. Her newest release is The Outside, a young adult thriller that received a Kirkus starred review.

Bickle applied the Page 69 Test to The Outside and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Outside is the stubby end of a chapter. But it’s still pretty representative of the rest of the work:
it down. “Probably not. If gas was scavenged, then there’s probably nothing else left for us to use.”

The door swung open, and Horace whinnied. The hair rose up on the back of my neck.

“Alex, don’t!” I screamed.

Pale hands reached out of the darkness of the trailer and dragged him inside.
The Outside is the story of a young Amish woman, Katie, who’s been kicked out of her community to face the vampire apocalypse in the world beyond. These aren’t brooding, romantic vampires contemplating the states of their eternal souls - Katie’s monsters are Old World revenants, contagious and violent creatures who will stop at nothing to devour the living. They’ve chewed through everything in their path, leaving few survivors and very little hope for civilization.

In the scene leading up to this snippet, Katie and two of her friends have come upon an abandoned truck stop to scavenge for supplies. They’ve scraped what little food they can use from the convenience store and have advanced upon a tractor-trailer in the parking lot, thinking that there might be something there.

And there is, just not what they were hoping to find.
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Bickle's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Laura Bickle.

--Marshal Zeringue