Friday, May 30, 2014

"Dreaming for Freud"

Sheila Kohler was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She later lived in Paris for fifteen years, where she married, completed her undergraduate degree in Literature at the Sorbonne, and a graduate degree in Psychology at the Institut Catholique. She moved to the U.S. in 1981 and earned an MFA in Writing at Columbia. She currently teaches at Princeton University. Kohler's work has been featured in the New York Times, O Magazine and included in the Best American Short Stories. She has twice won an O’Henry Prize, as well as an Open Fiction Award, a Willa Cather Prize, and a Smart Family Foundation Prize. Her novel Cracks was nominated for an Impac Award, and has been made into a feature film to be distributed by IFC.

Kohler applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dreaming for Freud, and reported the following:
What an excellent idea!

On page 69 [inset below left; click to enlarge] we are in Freud's mind. The book has two protagonists: a young patient, based on Ida Bauer who is called Dora in the Dora case, brought to Freud by her father so that she will become more "reasonable," and the forty-four year old Doctor Freud who is struggling to make a living and prove his revolutionary theories.

Here he struggles with his infatuation for Fliess, a strange and controversial doctor he has met and whom he admires and calls his Other. He has not heard from him for a while and this irks and disturbs him. Fliess has helped Freud in many ways: listening to him and providing the interest, critiques, and encouragement he needed all through the writing of his The Interpretation of Dreams. They have quarreled, however, over the problem of bisexuality and who came up first with this idea.

Here as all through the book I have tried to convey not only the struggle for power between my two main protagonists but also their similarities: both Dora and Freud discover their bisexuality during this transaction as this passage makes clear.
Visit Sheila Kohler's website.

Writers Read: Sheila Kohler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"The Chronicle of Secret Riven"

Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Chronicle of Secret Riven and The Mapmaker’s War, the first two books of the Keeper of Tales Trilogy. Her critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, was published in ten languages. Her writing has appeared in New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, New Delta Review, The Independent (UK), Border Crossing, and Shambhala Sun, as well as on, The Nervous Breakdown, and The Weeklings.

Domingue applied the Page 69 Test to The Chronicle of Secret Riven and reported the following:
First, a teaser for The Chronicle of Secret Riven: An uncanny child born to brilliant parents, befriended by a prince, mentored by a wise woman, pursued by a powerful man, Secret Riven has no idea what destiny will demand of her or the courage she must have to confront it in the Keeper of Tales Trilogy’s second book. (By the way, readers can read the trilogy out of order. The Chronicle of Secret Riven takes places 1,000 years after The Mapmaker’s War.)

This is what happens in the excerpted chapter… Zavet, Secret’s mother, tells the story of how she translated a text that no scholar had been able to decipher. At the time, Zavet was a linguistics student at a renowned high academy, and no one believed her. On page 69, she shares that her mentor finally acknowledged she was right.

Page 69 represents the novel quite well. Secret begins to speak—to people—when she’s seven years old, but she never loses the quiet, watchful nature she reveals in this part of the story. There are several mysteries surrounding her, which includes the “patron” mentioned here as well as why she and her mother have peculiar gifts with languages. And another strange manuscript will appear soon enough, one Zavet cannot turn away.

From page 69:
She felt a lurch in her belly that pulled at her tongue. She understood Zavet’s certainty very well. Secret knew the language of creatures and plants. Why and how that was so was a mystery to her, as unexplained as her mother’s faculty with human languages. The connection Secret made between their abilities disturbed more than pleased her.

“And what did you receive tonight?” Bren asked after Zavet paused long enough to indicate her tale was done.

“An apology in his quivering hand. More than twenty years later, I’ve been proven right. Other scholars came to the same conclusion. They had additional tablets, too, more discovered in the same area. No mention of the people, however. The script might have been lost to them. Language and symbols have a way of becoming obsolete.”

“Is that a manuscript he sent as well?” Bren asked.

Zavet patted the unbound pages. “Yes. Unusual though. He sent a transcribed copy even though he knows I prefer to work with the original. The text must be considered highly valuable.”

“But you will decline and return it,” Bren said.

Secret glanced at her father. His voice was quiet but commanding.

“Of course, Bren. I haven’t forgotten the terms of the agreement with the patron,” Zavet said.


“Although I am quite tempted.”


Zavet walked over to him and swept one hand against the back of his head as she picked up his dinner plate. He brushed her fingers with his as she stepped away.

Whatever matter arose between them had settled quickly.

“Finished your dinner?” Zavet asked Secret.

Copyright © 2014 by Ronlyn Domingue. With the permission of the publisher, Atria Books.
Learn more about the book and author at Ronlyn Domingue's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's War.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker's War.

Writers Read: Ronlyn Domingue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


David Fuller's first novel, Sweetsmoke, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, as well as being shortlisted for a John Creasy "New Blood" Dagger Award in Great Britain. It was a Discover Great New Writers pick for Barnes & Noble, and an Original Voices pick for Borders.

Fuller applied the Page 69 Test to Sundance, his new novel, and reported the following:
In Sundance, page 69 finds Harry Longbaugh, the Sundance Kid, in New York City trying to gather information from the woman who had, two years before, been the landlady of his wife, Etta Place. In the novel, Longbaugh had been in prison for twelve years under an alias when he and Butch Cassidy were supposedly killed in Bolivia. Etta had moved to New York, at Longbaugh’s request, so that she would go ahead with her life. He and Etta had been writing each other faithfully for years. Two years ago, her letters stopped with no warning. Now he is in New York, following whatever small trail she may have left for him. He does not know if she is dead or alive. If she is still alive, has she stopped loving him?

On page 69, his landlady realizes he is who he says he is, when he pulls out one of Etta’s old letters. She begins to tell Longbaugh how much she admired Etta.

This is the first information Longbaugh learns about Etta’s life in New York. He will come to meet a series of men and women with whom Etta interacted before she disappeared. Each person with whom he speaks has their own impression of her. A new portrait of Etta emerges, as each person sees her differently. Longbaugh finds himself falling in love with Etta all over again, this new Etta, this Etta who has been living a life he could not have anticipated. He had hoped he would find her unchanged when he came back to her, so that they could pick up where they left off. But she has grown, and gotten herself in serious danger, infuriating the head of the Black Hand, the predecessor to the Mafia, by trying to help a woman in trouble.

Longbaugh still wonders if she is dead or alive. And if she is alive, his search may be helping the Black Hand find her as well.
Learn more about the book and author at David Fuller's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Sweetsmoke.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"The Hollow Girl"

Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the “noir poet laureate” in the Huffington Post, Reed Farrel Coleman has published novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, and essays. He has just signed on with Putnam to continue Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series and to begin a new series of his own. Coleman is a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year and a three-time Edgar Award nominee in three categories. He has also won the Audie, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony awards. He is an adjunct English instructor at Hofstra University and a founding member of MWA University. He lives with his family on Long Island.

Coleman applied the Page 69 Test to The Hollow Girl, the latest novel in the acclaimed Moe Prager series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Grogan’s Clover was a bullshit joint, a hipsterish papier-mache version of a New York Irish bar. See, here’s what people don’t get about New York City: Manhattan isn’t like the outer boroughs. Not only is it like a different city, it’s like another planet. Only in Manhattan would somebody dream up a scheme to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to recreate something that’s perfectly fine as is.
Page 69 of my final Moe Prager Mystery series, The Hollow Girl is the first page of Chapter Eleven. And if Moe sounds bitter, I’ve done my job. At the beginning of the novel, we find Moe guilty, distraught, and drunk over the death of his fiancee. Moe, who has never been the type of man to give into guilt and alcohol, finally succumbs. He’s just survived stomach cancer and then is dealt this terrible blow. He is rescued from the abyss by a woman from his past. Not a lover, but someone who managed, in her way, to break his heart. It seems this woman’s daughter has gone missing and Moe Prager is the only person she trusts to find the eponymous Hollow Girl. But Moe doesn’t quite trust the motives of this woman from his past nor does he quite believe anyone is actually missing. That is until he stumbles onto a woman’s body in a fashionable Lower Eastside apartment owned by the Hollow Girl. So Moe comes to Grogan’s Clover to get information from the Hollow Girl’s doorman. He gets more than he bargained for, but on page 69, Moe can’t get over the silliness of the bar and the pretense of Manhattan.
Sadly, the vampires who feed the appetites of scruffy hipster ghouls were busy turning parts of my beloved Brooklyn into Manhattan. No thanks. The Brooklyn I love likes itself a half-step behind and a few years out of date. It likes its yearning. The yearning where making it means somewhere across the river, not across Bushwick Avenue. My Brooklyn doesn’t consider its decay ironic or a statement about something bigger. My Brooklyn is what it is, and says that’s enough because it has to be. That’s all there is.
As this is the final book, Moe is necessarily looking back with his head and his heart because the world has shifted under his feet. The world, his world, has changed and done so without asking his permission. This case has to do more than wrap up neatly. This case means an end to a big part of Moe’s life. How big? We’ll see.
Visit Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

Writers Read: Reed Farrel Coleman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 26, 2014

"Ruin Falls"

Jenny Milchman's journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called "the world's longest book tour." Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, reviewed in the New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, won the Mary Higgins Clark award, and is nominated for a Barry. Milchman is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors Program. Her second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out and she and her family are back on the road.

Milchman applied the Page 69 Test to Ruin Falls and reported the following:
From page 69:
Frustrated, Liz walked back to the bed and sat down. Sleep felt as far away as another planet…Liz removed a book from the row and flipped it open. Before she could start to read, a sheet of paper fell out.
We all keep secrets, right? We even keep them from those people closest to us. Perhaps we especially keep them from those closest to us. In this scene, Liz Daniels is in her husband’s childhood bedroom, a place she has never seen before. Her husband isn’t with her, and neither are her children.

Liz is trying to figure out why not. She will have to reconstruct her husband’s life from the meager set of clues in this room. And the first is the letter that just dropped out of one very telling book…
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cover of Snow.

The Page 69 Test: Cover of Snow.

Writers Read: Jenny Milchman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mullin juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really glad this writing thing seems to be working out.

Mullin holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. Sunrise is his third novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Sunrise and reported the following:
My latest novel, Sunrise, is the conclusion of the trilogy that began with Ashfall and Ashen Winter. So I was worried about sharing part of page 69—would it be too spoilery, I wondered? No, as it turns out—here’s a paragraph:
Several hundred yards past the gate, I saw a panel van slewed diagonally across the road. Behind it, the top of a semi was visible. Dozens of figures were clustered around the van and spread out to either side, aiming rifles back down the road toward us.
This paragraph is fairly representative of the trilogy. My protagonists, Alex and Darla, are trying to survive in a world transformed by the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Their biggest challenges, however, don’t relate to the volcano, but to the people around them. They’re constantly finding themselves on the wrong end of a gun. For example, on page 69 of Ashfall, Alex is fleeing violence, hoping that his high school will provide a safe place to weather the apocalypse. He’s wrong, of course. On page 69 of Ashen Winter, he’s submitting to an eighteenth-century-style medical procedure, getting wounds made by shotgun pellets cleaned and debrided. Not fun.

If you love apocalyptic novels packed with action give Ashfall a try. Here’s a free sample. Thanks!
Learn more about the book and author at Mike Mullin's website.

My Book, The Movie: Ashfall.

Writers Read: Mike Mullin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 23, 2014


Mindee Arnett lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space. She has far more dreams than nightmares.

Arnett applied the Page 69 Test to her YA sci-fi thriller Avalon and reported the following:
From page 69:
“She’s right,” said Flynn. “That place is a dead zone: unreliable comms, poor nav. And there’s supposedly antimatter pits too. They even say parts of it are haunted.”

Lizzie laughed. “Now you’re being dumb. That stuff don’t exist.”

“Doesn’t exist,” Jeth said.


Jeth clenched his jaw. Lizzie hadn’t seen the inside of a classroom since Hammer had recruited her for the gang, and it bothered him when she spoke improperly. Someone so smart shouldn’t sound so ignorant.
During this scene in my YA sci-fi novel Avalon, my cast of teenage characters—a ragtag gang of thieves—have just learned that their crime lord boss is sending them out to recover a spaceship that has gotten lost in an area of space known as the Belgrave Qaudrant. The Belgrave has a sinister reputation, like the Bermuda Triangle on steroids. So many ships have gotten lost inside it that the interstellar police have shut down all the routes through it. Needless to say, most of the crew isn’t very happy about the new assignment.

This scene definitely reflects a lot of the book. Avalon is a sci-fi thriller, but in between all the action and suspense are moments like this—dialogue with a lot of sarcastic humor and lighthearted sniping. These teenagers have formed their own family, one with plenty of dysfunction to keep things interesting. As far as whether or not someone skimming it would be compelled to read more—all I can say, is I hope so!
Visit Mindee Arnett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"The Devil's Workshop"

Alex Grecian is the national bestselling author of the “Scotland Yard Murder Squad” novels, including The Yard, The Black Country, and the newly released The Devil’s Workshop. After leaving a career in advertising, working on accounts that included Harley-Davidson and The Great American Smokeout, Grecian returned to his first love: writing fiction. He co-created the long-running and critically acclaimed graphic novel series Proof, which NPR named one of the best books of 2009. One of the Proof storylines is set in the 1800’s and inspired The Yard.

Grecian applied the Page 69 Test to The Devil’s Workshop and reported the following:
The Murder Squad books, at least the first six of them, describe the ethical, emotional and occupational changes undergone by Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith. Day’s arc is especially drastic. He’s already gone from being a naïve sensitive country constable to a seasoned detective and is beginning to teeter over the precipice of some vast moral grey area. He’s still on that dark journey, but page 69 of The Devil’s Workshop shows how far he’s already traveled since we met him two books ago, in the first chapter of The Yard.

As page 69 begins, Day’s caught a prison warden he’s interrogating in a contradiction and he isn’t particularly polite about pointing it out:
“Please, don’t say no when you mean yes.”

The skin around the warden’s eyes tightened. “Of course,” he said. “My mistake.”

Day sighed. “I apologize. Damned awkward situation.”
Day goes on to make some observations about the corpse at their feet, but by the end of page 69 it’s clear he’s in charge of the investigation and he’s not much interested in anything except solving it. He’s certainly less concerned than he used to be about ruffling feathers or stepping on toes. He’s losing that veneer of Victorian respectability that he’s always possessed.

Out of curiosity I checked page 69 of the previous book in the series. The Walter Day in that book was far more calm and playful. He was biding his time on page 69 of The Black Country, looking for connections, playing with ideas. After all he goes through in the course of that book, he comes to The Devil’s Workshop as a less patient man.

He’s still changing and I’m excited to see what kind of person he’ll eventually become. But that point is still many pages in the future. Several of them numbered 69.
Visit Alex Grecian's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Eileen Brady is a veterinarian living in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is a wife and mother of two daughters and often has to chase her six cats and two dogs away from her laptop keyboard. The Kate Turner, DVM Mysteries is her first series.

Brady applied the Page 69 Test to Muzzled, the first book in the series, and reported the following:
The page 69 Test turned out to be a fun and quirky vignette from Muzzled. I think readers can get a feel for my writing style and sense of humor. Let me tell you something about the plot. Dr. Kate Turner is a veterinarian who thinks she’s seen it all until she finds two of her house call clients shot dead, and their 27 show dogs running loose in the house. Chief of Police Bobby Garcia dismisses it as a sad murder-suicide, but Kate isn’t so sure. Perhaps the estranged daughter got tired of waiting for her inheritance? Is the tattooed biker who loves to bake a hit man? As the number of suspects goes up so does the cups of coffee and pieces of pie Kate wolfs down, leaving her nerves jangling and her pants too tight. Before she knows it someone tries to frame her for the murder. Who can she trust? The bookkeeper with her pet parrot Capt Hook, conveniently stuffed into her cleavage, or the grouchy office manager who knows where all the bodies are buried? Since I am a veterinarian, as well as a writer, I mix real medicine in with the murder, to give the reader an enjoyable and informative read.

“What was in your backpack?” my friend Gracie screamed through the phone.

“This gun I’d never seen before, plus the usual stuff.” I took another sip of white wine and sprawled on my sofa in front of the television trying to chill. After going over and over what happened before and after the shooting and viewing the Goth kid’s video a hundred times, the State Police reluctantly let me go, advising me not to make any travel plans. Prudently I’d stopped myself from blurting out that I’d heard that before.

Gracie’s voice brought me out of my little fog.

“What usual stuff do you carry around, Kate?”

I thought for a moment. “You know, my wallet and credit cards, duct tape, syringes, a bag of fluids, some sterile needle, epinephrine, dexamethasone, Advil, some extra socks...”

Her quick intake of breath warned me something was wrong.

“That sounds like the stuff serial killers carry around. No wonder they kept you so long.” She made a funny smacking noise with her lips. “Why did you have all of that with you?”

I took another sip of wine. “That’s my veterinary emergency kit. I always have some medical supplies with me.”


I straightened up, put my glass down, and tried to explain. “A couple of summers ago I was hiking part of the Appalachian....
Visit Eileen Brady's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"The Art of Lainey"

Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where she graduated from Washington University and the Goldfarb School of Nursing. When she's not writing, she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands.

Stokes applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Art of Lainey, and reported the following:
The Art of Lainey is a YA romantic comedy novel about a popular soccer player who is inexplicably dumped by her boyfriend but vows to win him back using strategies from The Art of War. Page 69 is a great representation of what the book is about. In this scene, Lainey is establishing ground rules for a fake relationship with her coworker Micah, who is also trying to win back an ex. They have established an alliance and are going to do the old “pretend to date” scenario in order to make their exes jealous and improve their positions in their respective wars. Like Sun Tzu said, it’s better to attack from high ground…or level ground at least.

I love this scene because it showcases how different they are, which is a major factor throughout the book. Lainey is a control freak who is used to having her way. Micah is much more laid-back, kind of going along with Lainey’s plan just to see what will happen. Let’s take a look:
Micah is sprawled across his unmade bed. He looks up from the TV long enough to roll his eyes. “So, the rules. What are they? You strike me as the kind of girl who probably came up with a thousand of them.”

“Actually, I only have a few.” I clear my throat. “Number one: No telling anyone else about the plan.”

Micah nods. “Okay.” His eyes flick back to the TV. He’s watching the Cartoon Mayhem channel—an episode of Happy Cheetah.

“Two: no touching. Three: definitely no kissing.”

“As much as I have no desire to turn myself orange by brushing up against you and your spray paint tan, I think we might have to touch occasionally to look like we’re dating,” Micah says.

“Fine. Minimal touching.” I hold out my arm and admire my silky bronzeness. “And by the way, this isn’t orange. It’s Desert Glow.”

“More like glow in the dark.” He yawns. “Is that all you got?”

I nod. “Go ahead. What are your rules?”

“I’m kind of a ‘no rules’ guy.” He turns to me, a slow smile spreading across his face.
As the story progresses, Micah and Lainey share their drastically different worlds and go from being allies to something more like friends. And Lainey learns a few things about herself, The Art of War, and the things that really matter.
Learn more about the book and author at Paula Stokes's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 19, 2014

"The Sea House"

Elisabeth Gifford studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has published poems in Cinnamon Press and The Oxford Magazine, and a story in Riptide. She has written articles for The Times and The Independent. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the course led by Sir Andrew Motion at Royal Holloway College.

Gifford applied the Page 69 Test to The Sea House, her debut novel, and reported the following:
If you open The Sea House at page 69 you’ll find crofter Ishbel MacOdrum some 200 years ago as she discovers a seal man half dead on the beach of her remote Scottish island. She hides his seal skins away so that he is left entirely human. Later, they marry and have a child. But the seal man finds the seal skins’ hiding place and so returns to the sea and is gone.

Legends of Selkies are told from Orkney to Ireland and I was amazed to find that in an unexpected way the seal people stories are really a form of very old oral history, perhaps recording sealskin kayakers who may have visited the islands from the far north up to 200 years ago.

The Sea House is also inspired by a real letter to the Times in 1809 reporting a mermaid sighting by a Scots schoolmaster. Gaelic historian John MacAulay thinks such sightings may also be linked to sightings of the now extinct tribe of kayakers who used to travel down from Norway’s Arctic region.

The book was written during an MA in creative writing. I wanted to catch the wild beauty of those remote islands where Scots Gaelic is still spoken and the crofting culture still has a tenuous hold. In the book, Ishbel’s descendant, Reverend Alexander, lives in a white house by the sea - but something unspeakable takes place there in spite of his intentions to be a good man.

A hundred years later a couple begin to renovate the dilapidated house and uncover the bones of a baby with its legs fused together like a mermaid child. In tracing back the story of what happened to the child and the legends of the sea people it becomes clear that stories have a unique power to convey deep truths and even heal those who have the courage to tell their own story.
Visit Elisabeth Gifford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"The Cold Nowhere"

Award-winning author Brian Freeman is an internationally bestselling author of psychological suspense novels. His books have been sold in 46 countries and translated into 20 languages. Freeman's debut thriller, Immoral, won the Macavity Award and was a nominee for the Edgar®, Dagger, Anthony, and Barry awards for best first novel.

Freeman applied the Page 69 Test to The Cold Nowhere, the sixth book in the Jonathan Stride Series, and reported the following:
I always enjoy the “page 69” test. Can a single page chosen at random say anything meaningful about the whole book? Sometimes yes, sometimes no — but in the case of The Cold Nowhere, page 69 of the U.S. edition actually encapsulates the essence of Jonathan Stride’s life.

You could even say that it’s a dead-on summary of the whole series.

Stride is talking to Cat Mateo, the teenage runaway he found hiding in his bedroom closet, soaked to the bone, claiming that someone is trying to kill her. Cat shares a connection to Stride because of her mother, who was a woman that Stride tried — and failed — to protect from a vicious ex- husband. It’s one of the great tragedies of his career, and Cat represents a shot at redemption for Stride — if he can trust her.

Cat is drawn to Stride, and like most teenagers, she isn’t afraid to ask questions that put him on the spot. On page 69, she’s asking why Stride lives alone. She forces him to explain about the loss of his wife Cindy (who died of cancer before the start of the first Stride novel Immoral) and about the complex web of relationships with his lover Serena and his partner Maggie. Why Serena doesn’t live there anymore. Why his friendship with Maggie is strained.

Stride and the three women in his life. Cindy. Maggie. Serena. It’s all there on page 69. That’s the series.
Learn more about the book and author at Brian Freeman's official website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Stripped.

My Book, The Movie: Stripped.

The Page 69 Test: Stalked.

My Book, The Movie: Spilled Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 16, 2014

"The Blonde"

Anna Godbersen, author of The Blonde, is the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe and Bright Young Things. She grew up in Berkeley, California, graduated from Barnard College, and lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

Godbersen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Blonde, and reported the following:
I am pleased to report that not only is page 69 representative of the rest of The Blonde, but it is also thematically on point for this particular test, as it is rather suggestive. It's the first page of a chapter, and begins with a fictionalized version of Marilyn Monroe -- a version that emphasizes her shrewdness and will over her drug use and victimization -- waiting in a car for a man she had been dancing with at a party. The man is another of the twentieth century's most famous people (I'm not going to say which one, mostly because I don't think anybody is going to have any trouble guessing!), and she hears him whistling a jazz standard as he approaches along a darkened street. As she waits she cycles through anticipation, calculation, fear and desire, which is true to the novel as a whole -- even in a plot that is pretty wild in places, I always wanted the reader to be close to the fury, and variety, of her emotional life. I wanted her, and the man she is about to seduce (for reasons too complicated to explain here), to read like messy, flesh and blood human beings, and very much alive. Anyway, he gets in her car, and they stare at each other, and their breathing gets kind of intense, and -- I'm going to have to leave it there. The real action is on pages 70-71, I'm afraid.

© 2014 Anna Godbersen, author of The Blonde
Visit Anna Godbersen's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Anna Godbersen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"The Hydra Protocol"

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.

The author introduced Afghanistan veteran Jim Chapel in the 2013 novel, Chimera.

Wellington applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Hydra Protocol, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Hydra Protocol is the start of a new chapter so it’s already shorter than other pages. It details the main character, Jim Chapel—a one-armed special forces vet—making his way through security at the Pentagon. He meets his boss, the jovial Rupert Hollingshead, who inquires about his health.

That’s it. This is a book full of action—it starts with a knife fight on an island near Vladivostok, it includes a scene where the protagonists are attacked by a pack of giant desert monitor lizards. There’s sex and shootouts and aerial dogfights and a supercomputer that could blow up the world. It’s set across half a dozen countries and lots and lots of time zones.

So it’s a pretty exciting book. But all of that is locked up, undercover, strictly need-to-know on page 69.

And I’m okay with that being representative of the book. Because this is, after all, a spy novel. The people in this book keep secrets for a living and they do it very, very well (sometimes too well, but—no spoilers).

It goes deeper than that, actually. Chapel is based off of a number of real people, soldiers, sailors and airmen I spoke and corresponded with, people who had just come home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Sometimes people who were still there. I was so grateful for their service and sacrifice that I wanted to write about a character like them. So I wanted Jim Chapel to be like them. And the thing I saw more than anything else, the one quality that stood out about our troops, was their quiet dignity. They had all grown up post-Vietnam. They knew better than to expect ticker tape parades when they got home. The biggest reward they expected was the GI bill, so they could get an education. They were given an impossible job to do and when it was done they just wanted to go home to their families and some peace and quiet.

That’s Jim Chapel all over. He saved the world in his first book, Chimera. Now he’s going to do it again. In between, all he really wants is a little peace and quiet. Of course, a man like that is never going to get it for very long…
Learn more about the book and author at David Wellington's website.

The Page 69 Test: Chimera.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"This Private Plot"

Alan Beechey was born in England and grew up in London. He moved to Manhattan in his twenties and now lives with his three sons and his rescue mutt, Leila, in Rye, New York.

Beechey applied the Page 69 Test to This Private Plot – the third title featuring children’s book author and amateur sleuth Oliver Swithin and his girlfriend, Scotland Yard detective Effie Strongitharm – and reported the following:
I wish this were The Page 68 Test. That’s a new chapter. I think I do new chapters rather well.

Okay, we’re still ahead of the shattering end-of-Act-I twist, and our hero, amateur detective Oliver Swithin, has gone to an Oxford college to meet a don whose academic interest in blackmail may help him understand the apparent suicide that kicks off the novel. Page 68 introduces the fictional college – St. Basil’s, which some readers may recognize as the city’s main bookstore in real life. Page 69 introduces the don herself, Dr. Hyacinthe McCaw, her first name pronounced the French way, her whole name the homonym of a South American parrot. (I promise the humor gets better.)
She was a short, sturdy woman, probably in her eighties, wearing a garment that was either a high-quality floral housecoat or a low-quality floral dress. She had a tangle of long, gray curls gathered loosely on top of her head that seemed in permanent danger of slipping off, whether or not they were actually rooted in her scalp. Her eyes were also gray and bright in a pleasant, remarkably unlined face.
I do a workshop on writing the mystery, and one of my favorite examples of how a really good writer adds depth to the details is by Laura Lippman. It’s a character description in which the current appearance of a female attorney also contains signs of her past and clues to her likely behavior in the future.

In my description, I’ve tried to use details that imply a sense of ambivalence about Dr. McCaw – is she overdressed or underdressed, is her hair real or artificial, is its haphazard style appropriate for an Oxford don in her eighties, has she had cosmetic surgery? This all prefigures a revelation about her past that stuns Oliver. On page 72.

(Dr. McCaw’s appearance, principally the hair, is based on an old friend, the late actress Sylvia Davis, who made it to 100 years old before her death in 2010. I’ve written a lot about Sylvia in my blog, with links to some funny commercials she did in her nineties. The entries are all labeled with her name.)
Visit Alan Beechey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Bellweather Rhapsody"

Kate Racculia grew up in Syracuse, New York, where she played bassoon in her high school band. She received her MFA from Emerson and is the author of This Must Be the Place and the new novel, Bellweather Rhapsody.

Racculia applied the Page 69 Test to Bellweather Rhapsody and reported the following:
Page 69 of Bellweather Rhapsody comes in the middle of chapter six, “Bad Rabbit,” which is in the close-third point of view of Bert “Rabbit” Hatmaker—shy, seventeen, attending a weekend conference festival for student musicians (he’s a bassoonist), and on the verge of coming out to his twin sister Alice. It’s 1997, and while Rabbit has long known he’s gay, the world has never felt friendly, and he sees this weekend away from home as his chance to confide.

Page 69 is the aftermath of a pivotal moment. On their way to dinner in the grand ballroom of the crumbling old Hotel Bellweather, Rabbit and his sister happen upon an a capella club performing The Outfield’s “Your Love”—and he immediately falls for the lead tenor. Moments later, he’s still glowing:
Rabbit enters the ballroom behind Alice and Chrissy, herding them like distracted cats toward the end of the buffet line. If he hadn’t just fallen in love, Rabbit knows he would be disheartened by the pale, wet food stretching before them, borne about small blue Sterno flames, in dented silver warming pans. As it is, he looks on the grayish slices of roast beef and the weirdly off-white mashed potatoes and smiles, happy in the knowledge that the tenor is in the world. He disturbs a layer of skin across the vat of gravy and daydreams about a situation, a moment, when they might meet.
Rabbit is an absolute romantic, even in the face of disgusting institutional food, and this is one of my favorite paragraphs for capturing just how much of an optimist he is. Of the many characters in Bellweather, he might be the closest to my heart—and this passage certainly is. As a teenager, I too attended a state-wide student musician’s conference at an old hotel (minus, of course, the murders, disappearances, and all-out drama). I too happened upon cute boys singing a capella on my way to dinner, and those cute boys were almost enough to distract me from how terrible the food was. (Almost.)

Bellweather was built from a mix of memories and love—love for music, for mysteries, and for the capacity of humans to solve the mysteries of their own selves. Rabbit, on page 69, is basking in having found his first clue.
Visit Kate Racculia's website.

Writers Read: Kate Racculia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 12, 2014

"The Secrets of Tree Taylor"

Dandi Daley Mackall has written many books for children and adults. She has held a humorist column and served as freelance editor, has hosted over 200 radio phone-in programs, and has made dozens of appearances on TV. She conducts writing assemblies and workshops across the U.S. and keynotes at conferences and young author events. Her YA novel The Silence of Murder won an Edgar Award.

Mackall applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Secrets of Tree Taylor, and reported the following:
From page 69:

Chuck mimicked putting a gun to his head and firing. “So, Tree, what’s your dad say about Old Man Kinney trying to kill himself?”

I didn’t answer.

“I thought it was an accident.” Somehow, Karen had ended up next to Jack again.

“Maybe . . . maybe not.” Chuck walked backward up the street a couple of feet. “Let’s see for ourselves!”

I didn’t want to agree with Chuck, but I liked the idea of checking out the house. Maybe we’d find a clue.

“So, what’s the plan, Chuck?” Jack asked. “You going to waltz up to the door and ask Mrs. Kinney if you can search her house?”

“I’m not going to ask her anything. I’ll see what I can see.” Chuck turned to Penny and me. “Who’s in?”
Tree Taylor has two goals for the summer of ’63: 1) Become a writer, or at least, write something that will earn her the freshman spot on the school paper; and 2) Experience her first real kiss. A kiss delivered by a boy. A boy who is not related to her.

So when a gunshot is fired right down the street, Tree knows this is the big story she’s been waiting for. But the more she goes digging, the more secrets she uncovers. And soon she begins to wonder: When is it important to expose the truth? And when is it right to keep a secret? Her summer, and this book, are filled with rock ‘n’ roll, hanging out at the swimming pool…and secrets. Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the soundtrack of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, it’s a story of family, unexpected friendships, dancing under the summer stars, and the power—and weight—of carrying someone else’s secrets.

Page 69 shows the two main characters—Tree and Jack, her lifelong, big-brother-type buddy. And we get a peek at Chuck, one of the story’s bad guys. I guess I was surprised that I think a reader might be able to pick up the “flavor” of the book with this one page. Cool!
Visit Dandi Daley Mackall's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Dandi Daley Mackall & Moxie and Munch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Every Hidden Fear"

Linda Rodriguez’s new book is Every Hidden Fear, third Skeet Bannion novel. Her second Skeet mystery, Every Broken Trust, was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and is currently a finalist for both the International Latino Book Award and the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, which won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick and a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” which appeared in Kansas City Noir (Akashic Books), has been optioned for film. For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration, Rodriguez received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Midwest Voices and Visions Award, Thorpe Menn Award, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, and Macondo and Ragdale Fellowships. She is immediate past president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers.

Rodriguez applied the Page 69 Test to Every Hidden Fear and reported the following:
Leading up to page 69 of Every Hidden Fear, my protagonist Skeet Bannion has been dealing with a variety of difficult situations. Her Cherokee grandmother’s moved in with Skeet and her adopted son, Brian. Brian is suddenly dealing with unrequited love. A wealthy developer who was once a poor boy in town has returned to build a huge mall that will destroy the town’s existing businesses and has claimed paternity of the teenaged son of the town’s leading couple.

Then, she sets off for her usual early morning run, only to find her friend Joe, head of the town’s police force, trying to join her as part of his new unwelcome campaign to woo her. This made her almost welcome the body they found on the golf course they ran past—until she saw it was the developer, Ash Mowbray, and realized how this would affect so many people she cared about.

On page 69, she’s come home late for breakfast and told Gran and Brian what she found.
“Are they looking at Noah and his family?” asked Gran as she polished off her single piece of bacon.

I shook my head at her, but Brian had stopped eating to stare at me.

“They won’t think Noah did it, will they?”

“They have to look at everybody who had any grudge against him.” I got up to pour myself more coffee and refilled Gran’s cup, as well. “And he went out of his way to give a lot of people grudges against him. So they’ll be looking at a lot of people for this.”

I leaned back against the kitchen counter for a minute. “They’ll probably question Noah and his folks, but that doesn’t mean anything in a case with this many people angry at the victim.”

Brian nodded, looking relieved, and turned back to the food. “Do either of you want the last piece of bacon?”

Gran leaned back in her chair and looked up at me. “That man’s going to keep on making trouble for everyone, even from the grave, isn’t he?”
This case is not Skeet’s murder to investigate, for which she’s grateful, but Skeet’s about to be caught off guard in a big way when Ash Mowbray’s unpleasantly complicated murder is dumped in her lap to solve. Her friends and neighbors and the boyfriend of the girl Brian loves are all involved in one way or another, and Skeet must untangle all their motives and lies before someone innocent pays a horrible price—or the killer kills again.

So page 69 is the beginning of a turning point in the novel where Skeet will take up this murder to solve and find it entangled with and made more difficult by all those problem situations she’s already juggling.
Find Linda Rodriguez on Twitter, on Facebook, and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang, Writers Who Kill, and her own blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Plaster City"

Johnny Shaw was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border, the setting for his Jimmy Veeder Fiasco novels, Dove Season and Plaster City. He is also the author of the Anthony Award-winning adventure novel, Big Maria.

Shaw applied the Page 69 Test to Plaster City and reported the following:
To me, the spirit of the Page 69 Test is for the page to stand on its own. Out of context, warts and all. Does it convey a voice, a character, or a question that will intrigue the reader to want to read more?

So in that spirit, I’m going to lay down the back jacket copy of Plaster City: A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco, followed by the entirety of Page 69 with no annotations.
Here’s the back jacket copy:
Jimmy Veeder and Bobby Maves are back at it, two years after the events of Dove Season—they’re not exactly the luckiest guys in the Imperial Valley, but, hey, they win more fights than they lose.

Settled on his own farmland and living like a true family man after years of irresponsible fun, Jimmy’s got a straight life cut out for him. But he’s knocking years off that life thanks to fun-yet-dangerous Bobby’s booze-addled antics—especially now that Bobby is single, volatile, profane as ever, and bored as hell.

When Bobby’s teenage daughter goes missing, he and Jimmy take off on a misadventure that starts out as merely unfortunate and escalates to downright calamitous. Bobby won’t hesitate to kick a hornets’ nest to get the girl to safety, but when the rescue mission goes riotously sideways, the duo’s grit—and loyalty to each other—is put to the test.
And here’s Page 69:
Before we headed out, we made a drunk stratagem to stay on the residential streets and not drive over twenty-five miles per hour, because that’s the kind of elaborate preparations you construct when you’re drunk and have a stratagem.

“Should we bring the guns?” Bobby asked.

“What guns?”

“The just-in-case guns I brought.”

“Show me.”

Bobby went to the closet and pulled out a long gym bag.

“When did you put that in there?”

“When you were getting beer.”

Then, one at a time, Bobby pulled out four pistols, a rifle, and two shotguns. He spread them out on the bed like he was displaying them for sale. It was an impressive arsenal.

“Seven guns,” I said. “For two people.”

“Actually, I didn’t know you were coming. These were intended for my personal use.”

“Were you going to tie them all together and make a super-gun?”

“No, one at a time. If the opportunity arose. Although, let’s consider the super-gun idea. I never turn my back on awesome. Seven is stupid, though. But I could definitely do something with two shotguns. And if I had a sword and some duct tape--I should be writing this down.”

“Let’s leaves the guns,” I said. “We’re drunk. They’re guns. I’m not loving the combo.”

“What if we run into trouble?”
Visit Johnny Shaw's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Murder at Honeychurch Hall"

Hannah Dennison began her writing career in 1977 as a trainee reporter for a small West Country newspaper in Devon, England. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the Willamette Writers, British Crime Writers’ Association and Toastmasters International. Dennison's books include the Vicky Hill mysteries.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder at Honeychurch Hall, and reported the following:
As luck would have it, page 69 starts Chapter Six:
It took me ages to fall asleep. I wasn’t used to the silence. Living so close to Putney Bridge tube station, I no longer heard the last train rumbling out or the first train screeching in. Yet here, in the middle of nowhere, the quiet seemed—loud—apart from the occasional burst of scrabbling claws overhead that I was convinced were rats.

David’s insistence that I stick with Fakes & Treasures really bothered me. I wished I could make him understand that I wasn’t like Trudy. I’d never sought fame and I hated it. I was still haunted by the most humiliating moment of my life known as “The Big Sneeze” that continued to fly around the Internet on YouTube. Just thinking about it made me feel hot with embarrassment.

I must have drifted into dreamland because the next thing I heard were voices under my window. According to my old pink alarm clock, it was almost eight-thirty in the morning. I scrambled out of bed and peered outside where Mum and William in Wellington boots, stood ankle deep in a pool of muddy water.

William—sleeves rolled up—was rotating a long iron rod that was stuck into the ground. Presumably this was the infamous water valve that Eric loved to tamper with.
This was an interesting experiment that shows my 39-year-old protagonist Kat Stanford’s life is in transition. She’s just quit her hit antique road show but this has caused cracks in her relationship with her not-yet-divorced–boyfriend, David.

Kat’s newly-widowed mother Iris has recklessly purchased a dilapidated carriage house two hundred miles away on a country estate and had re-created Kat’s childhood bedroom for her—hence the “old pink alarm clock.” Kat’s worried because the two of them had agreed to go into business together so she has gone after Iris to make her “see sense” and return to London. Kat just can’t understand her mother’s odd decision—and we’ll learn that the reason is just one of many of Iris’s secrets.

We meet the stable manager, William (late fifties), who is fond of showing off his biceps with his “sleeves rolled up.” Kat thinks William is after her mother’s money. That particular morning, William and Iris “ankle deep in a pool of muddy water” hint at another “below-stairs” employee called Eric who is making Iris’s life difficult. And yes, we’ll soon find out why.

The story is set on a crumbling—but grand—country estate in Devon, England with a fish-out-of-water scenario for both mother and daughter. Yet mystery and murder aside, the core of the story is the relationship between a mother and daughter facing new and uncertain beginnings. I’m fascinated by the notion that it’s sometimes those who are nearest and dearest to us who are often the most duplicitous of all.

Here’s hoping that readers will feel intrigued enough to read on so they can find out exactly what roles David, William and Eric play in the mystery; perhaps to wonder if Kat will be successful in her quest to drag her mother back to London but most of all, they’ll want to know the reason behind Iris’s obsession with Honeychurch Hall.
Visit Hannah Dennison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Summer State of Mind"

Jen Calonita would never have fought her parents on going to sleepaway camp. She did, however, try to get out of a school camping trip for fear of spiders crawling into her sleeping bag. When she isn't writing, the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life and the Belles series can be found at the beach or floating in the pool.

Calonita applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Summer State of Mind, and reported the following:
"You might be used to getting your way back home, Harper McAllister, but that is not how things work at Whispering Pines." -- Ethan Thompson

I was so relieved when I saw this quote on page 69 because it sums up my character Harper's whole experience at camp. Harper is a total girly girl who has gotten a little too comfortable with the finer things in life ever since her family came into money. She cannot function without her Starbucks or her industrial strength flat iron. She lives for weekly manicures. She hates anything outdoorsy unless it's her cabana at the beach on Long Island. Sleepaway camp is completely off her radar and the last thing she'd want to do for the summer and yet, on page 69, here she is. She's obviously forced to attend by her parents, who want her to get a dose of reality, but that doesn't mean Harper is ready to embrace camp life just yet. On page 69, she's in the middle of a zipline challenge and she's not too happy about it. She'd like to helicopter off the zipline if she could, but Ethan, a boy who thinks he has Harper pegged, is not going to let her off the hook that easily. He's a camp "lifer" so to speak. He's gone to camp forever and while Harper may be Ms. Popular back home at their school, Ethan is the guy to know at camp and he's not having any of Harper's whining. But I won't give away what happens at the bottom of that page or the pages that follow. All I'll say is that I think they're funny. If you're looking for a light read this summer, Summer could be exactly what you're looking for.
Visit Jen Calonita's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jen Calonita and Captain Jack Sparrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Catch a Falling Star"

Sourcebooks Fire published Kim Culbertson’s award winning first YA novel Songs for a Teenage Nomad (2010, originally Hip Pocket Press, 2007) and her second YA novel Instructions for a Broken Heart (2011) which was named a Booklist 2011 Top Ten Romance Title for Youth and won the 2012 Northern California Book Award for YA Fiction.

Culbertson applied the Page 69 Test to Catch a Falling Star, her latest novel, and reported the following:
Nothing ever happens in Little, CA. Which is just the way 17 year old Carter Moon likes it. She likes her life working in her parents’ café, stargazing with her friends, and not thinking about the big world of her future. When Hollywood arrives in the form of a different sort of star – teenage superstar turned PR mess Adam Jakes – to film a Christmas movie (in June), Carter wants nothing to do with his glittery life. But when Hollywood makes her an offer she can’t refuse (as Adam’s fake girlfriend to improve his PR), Carter has to finally contemplate a life beyond Little. On page 69, Carter has introduced Adam to her Hollywood-obsessed friend, Chloe, who freaks out in the middle of Little Eats, Carter’s café, at the sight of this famous boy. Mortified, Carter asks Adam if this happens a lot to which he responds, “Yes. Yes, that happens quite a lot.” She’s shocked at how he can just keep eating his sandwich, even as the café goes into red alert around him. Watching him, Carter starts to have her first taste of the darker side of fame. As their three weeks together unfold, Carter begins to realize that sometimes life goes off script. Perhaps, she also finds, this might actually be the point of living.
Visit Kim Culbertson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Summer on the Short Bus"

Bethany Crandell writes young adult novels because the feelings that come with life's "first" times are too good not to relive again and again. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two daughters.

Crandell applied the Page 69 Test to Summer on the Short Bus, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Cricket Montgomery would rather gnaw off her own fingers than be caught dead inside a WalMart, so you can imagine her disgust when she learns she’ll be spending her summer working at a camp for handicapped teenagers.

On page 69, we meet up with Cricket and the gang from Camp-I-Can at a late night bonfire. Cricket’s already working on escaping handicapped hell once these campers go to bed, but getting them there could prove to be a trickier undertaking than she planned. The sarcasm and tone is pretty spot-on for the rest of the book. All things said, I’d say this definitely passes the page 69 test.
“Are you going to tuck us in?” Claire asks.

“You’re kidding right?”

They shake their heads.

“Aren’t you guys like thirteen?”

“Fourteeeeeen,” Meredith answers.

“Fine, fourteen. Whatever. Don’t you think you’re a little too old to get tucked in?”

“No,” Claire answers quickly.

I turn to Fantine hoping she’ll confirm that my nighttime duties to not include bedtime stories, but she’s too busy dealing with her own campers to offer me any help.

“Ugh, fine,” I say. “I’ll do it, just stop talking about it.” Not like I’ll be around to do it again.

“Yay!” Claire shouts and pumps her first in the air. “Chirp! Chirp! Cricket’s putting us to bed. Cricket’s putting us to bed!”

Before I can say, “chirp again and die,” the commotion of movie night starts up all over again. Meredith is popping wheelies in the dirt, yelling, “Cricket is the bedtime queeeeeen!” while Robyn, who made a miraculous recovery thanks to a bottle of Pepto, suddenly joins the festivities and is clapping her hands together, cackling like a hyena.

“Hey, what’s going on over there?” Quinn’s voice suddenly emerges from the other side of the dwindling campfire. “Are you trying to wake the dead?”

“Cricket’s putting us to bed!” Claire calls back.
Visit Bethany Crandell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 5, 2014

"Bred in the Bone"

Christopher Brookmyre is one of Britain's leading crime novelists. He has won many awards for his work, including the Critics' First Blood Award, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, and the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award. He has worked as a journalist for several British newspapers and is the author of many novels, including One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, Quite Ugly One Morning, and Not the End of the World.

Brookmyre applied the Page 69 Test to Bred in the Bone, the third book in the Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod series, and reported the following:
By chance, page 69 of Bred in the Bone falls within a scene that was actually the first thing I wrote in what ultimately became the Jasmine Sharp trilogy. I wrote this passage in 2009, expecting it to form part of Where the Bodies are Buried: perhaps as a mysterious prologue, the relevance of which would only reveal itself later in the story; I could not have anticipated quite how much later. This scene, and the storyline it underpins, did not make it into Where the Bodies are Buried, or its sequel, When the Devil Drives, but found what turned out to be its right and proper place in the conclusion of the trilogy.
The hen had bled its last. She placed its body delicately on the block and took the bucket over to the drain at the foot of the thickest roan pipe, a few feet to the left of the kitchen windows. The grate was discoloured, stained by thousands of such outpourings as she was depositing now, going back at least a hundred years. She would rinse out the bucket and fill it with water, as hot as the kitchen tap could produce, then immerse the chicken for a couple of minutes for ease of plucking. No great sense of timeless ritual about that, though it had been going on for precisely as long. Just mess and tedium.
It is a tricky scene to discuss in isolation, as it is impossible for me to reveal from whose point of view it is written, or even when it is set, without giving away massive spoilers. What I can say is that it introduces a motif that runs throughout the novel, which is perhaps why it formed something of an overture in the actual writing process.

This entire trilogy, and Bred in the Bone in particular, is about the effect that killing has upon its perpetrators as much as it is about the victims, those left to pick up the pieces or those charged with investigating the crimes. The passage on page 69 describes a girl slaughtering a chicken on a farm, depicting it as a mundane domestic chore, but providing the occasion for a wider meditation upon the act of killing, and upon the different meanings and consequences such an act can have.

I was struck by the fact that killing used to be far more of a day-to-day experience for many people in the course of making sure there was food on the family table, in contrast to now, when most of us are blithely detached from the slaughter of even a domestic fowl.
She felt no more squeamish about the prospect of eviscerating a dead chicken than she had about killing it, though it brought a flush to her cheeks to remember the embarrassment it had caused her at school a few weeks back when she made the mistake of mentioning this domestic duty among a group of her classmates. Her words had barely left her lips when she realised they constituted another gift to the cliques who already viewed her with gleeful disdain: an awkward oddity, precipitated upon the perfection of their posh little circles from some stinky rural backwater.
The chapter does not suggest that this more commonplace exposure to killing made people desensitised, but rather more aware of the distinction between an act of violence and an act necessary to on-going survival. To this end the girl’s father has stressed that her duty must be carried out with decorum: "We’re taking this creature’s life to preserve our own. Killing something is a sacrifice – it’s always a sacrifice, and a sacrifice should be solemn. We’ll live off this creature today and tomorrow too."

Nonetheless, this is a girl who is learning to kill, who is used to literally having blood on her hands, and who has come to understand that lives can and must be sacrificed when her family’s survival is at stake. It was a story I intended to tell all along, and one that has the greater resonance for its secret being revealed at the end rather than the beginning of the trilogy.
Visit Christopher Brookmyre's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"The Trident Deception"

A native of Cocoa, Florida, Rick Campbell attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and spent over thirty years in the Navy. His tours of duty include four nuclear powered submarines, the Pentagon, and the Undersea Weapons Program Office. On his last submarine, he was one of the two men whose permission was required to launch its twenty-four nuclear warhead-tipped missiles.

Campbell considered writing for many years, and as he approached retirement from the Navy, he wrote The Trident Deception, a novel that draws on his extensive knowledge of submarine warfare. He applied the Page 69 Test to The Trident Deception and reported the following:
I think The Trident Deception gets both an "A" and an "F" for The Page 69 Test. For reference, page 69 begins with:
A black Suburban, its blue lights flashing, crossed the 14th Street Bridge at the end of rush hour. Forcing its way across three lanes of heavy traffic, an identical Suburban followed closely behind. Christine, sitting in the passenger seat of the lead vehicle next to Agent Kenney, ended her phone call without a word, her eyes fixed on the rapidly nearing Pentagon.
And page 69 ends with:
Christine and the two agents sped through the Pentagon entrance as they flashed their badges to security personnel, then after dropping down three levels via the A-Ring escalators, headed out along Corridor 9 toward the outermost ring. They eventually reached the end of a long hallway where two Marines stood in front of a large security door.

“Open the door,” Christine ordered.

“We can’t,” the Marine on the left answered, "the door won’t unlock, and there's no response from inside."
The Trident Deception is a thriller, and I think page 69 captures that essence. No fancy prose, no deep thought about the meaning of life. But I think it piques your average thriller reader's attention - What's going on? Why are they racing to the Pentagon? Why won't the door unlock? Who's inside and why aren't they answering? And of course, the scene incorporates the essential thriller ingredient of the race against time. So I think it gets an "A" for that part.

However, more specifically, The Trident Deception is billed as a submarine thriller, and page 69 does not accurately capture that! (It's actually about 50% submarine thriller and 50% espionage / political thriller, and page 69 captures the non-submarine parts of the plot.) So I think page 69 gets an "F" for not being representative of the submarine thriller part of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Rick Campbell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"Don't Ever Look Back"

Daniel Friedman is a graduate of the University of Maryland and NYU School of Law. His first novel, Don't Ever Get Old was nominated for the Edgar, Thriller, Anthony and Macavity awards, and was optioned for film by the producers of the "Sherlock Holmes" movies.

Friedman applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Don't Ever Look Back, and reported the following:
In Don't Ever Look Back my series protagonist faces off against a master thief named Elijah in two intertwining narratives; one in the present day, when they're both elderly men and Elijah asks Buck to help him protect him from mysterious killers, and one in the 1965, when Buck was a police detective trying to thwart Elijah's scheme to rob a Memphis bank.

On page 69, Buck, in 1965, is trying to figure out what Elijah is up to. A snitch told him that Elijah's robbery is somehow connected to a civil rights strike, so Buck is visiting a labor organizer and civil rights activist named Longfellow Molloy, who is not happy about being questioned by the police.

Since Buck is an 88 year-old retired Memphis police detective, his career would have spanned from the late 1940's to the late 1970's, a period which included the integration of the Memphis public schools, the Memphis sanitation strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King. The law and the people who enforce it tend to protect the established power structure and the status quo, and Southern state and local officials during that era, including the police, were generally on the wrong side of the civil rights issue.

I wanted to explore where Buck had fit into that conflict. Brian, Buck's son, believes Jews have a special responsibility, as members of a historically persecuted group, to stand with the victims of oppression. But the Holocaust is recent history for Buck, who was captured and tortured by the Nazis. As one of very few Jews on the police force and part of a fairly small Jewish community in the city of Memphis, Buck feels vulnerable. He's not sure whether Jews are white people, or some kind of other, and he would prefer not to encourage people to ask that question.

So, when Buck meets Longfellow Molloy, he's not necessarily hostile to the strikers' goals. Buck's interests and identity aren't premised an idea of white supremacy, because Buck isn't even sure if he's white. But Buck isn't particularly sympathetic either. And he knows something suspicious is going on, but he doesn't know what, so there's conflict between these characters.

From page 69:
“Let me tell you something about Memphis, Detective,” said Longfellow Molloy, the labor agitator. “Memphis don’t make nothin’. Memphis don’t grow nothin’. Memphis exists but for one purpose: Memphis moves things. The rail lines and the highway and the river all come together in this place. Memphis is one of the five biggest inland ports in the history of Western civilization. Fifteen million tons of cargo come through here, ship to shore, and shore to ship. Loaded and unloaded, from the bellies of barges into the trailers of trucks. Onto train cars. And do you know how fifteen million tons of cargo gets loaded and unloaded in this town every year?”

I knew he’d only asked the question so he could answer it himself, so I sat quiet and let him blow off steam.

“Black hands,” he said. “Black hands do all that lifting. Memphis earns its bread from moving things, and black folks do all the moving. Fifteen million tons, ship to shore, and shore to ship. We carry it. Those men marching outside the offices of Kluge Shipping bear this city on their backs seven days a week for a dollar seventy-five an hour. We’re trying to organize and ask for the square deal every hardworking American deserves. And you come up here and you treat us like criminals. You come into my office, where I do the Lord’s work, and you treat me like a low-life thug. Sir, I will not have it.”

Paul Schulman had given me two leads on Elijah: that the target was somehow related to striking freight workers, and that Ari Plotkin had a piece of the job. Plotkin was simpler to get at; I could just pick him up and kick the shit out of him until he spilled whatever he knew. But if I did, Elijah would know about it immediately, and my best lead would be burned. So I’d decided to sniff around the strike first. And since I didn’t really know who else to talk to, I decided to pay a visit to the angry black man I’d seen on the TV. Not exactly brilliant deductive work on my part, I’ll admit, but I never said I was Sherlock Holmes.

Molloy described himself an “activist” or an “organizer,” but he was more of an instigator. He’d come to Memphis a few months earlier and rented a small office across the street from the downtown skyscraper that housed the headquarters of Kluge Shipping and Freight. Kluge was one of dozens of companies that handled river cargo, and it was a medium-sized outfit at best, but it was notable for paying poorly, and its laborers were almost all black, so it was an ideal target for a civil rights rabble-rouser. The forklift operators and longshoremen were receptive to his talk about wage inequalities and dignity, and he was starting to cause pain in many rich, white asses.

Over the course of the last couple of months, Molloy had gotten more than half the company’s colored workers organized. Six weeks previous, 120 men walked out of the company’s facility on Governor’s Island. Since then, they’d been marching around in front of Kluge’s downtown office, waving signs, hassling businessmen, and frightening secretaries.
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--Marshal Zeringue