Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Very Bad Things"

Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood and four other award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries from HarperCollins/Avon, including The Good Girl's Guide To Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night Of The Living Deb, and Too Pretty To Die. A sixth title, Say Yes to the Death, will be out in September 2015. McBride has another series with Avon that debuted in May 2014, the River Road Mysteries, starting with To Helen Back and followed by Mad as Helen (July 2014) and Not a Chance in Helen (September 2014).

McBride applied the Page 69 Test to her young adult thriller, Very Bad Things, and reported the following:
Page 69 from Very Bad Things is rather an interesting one. It’s kind of the sigh that comes after being startled. Katie Barton has just opened a smelly, leaky package sent to her via her dorm at Whitney Prep. The package contains a severed hand with a rose tattoo that once was attached to Rose Tatum, a girl who’s gone missing and was last seen with Katie’s boyfriend, Mark Summers, son of the headmaster.

In this scene, Katie’s desperate for a sense of normalcy to return to her life at Whitney but she’s not sure how to get it, despite the suggestions of her roommate and best friend, Tessa Lupinski. The point of view is Tessa’s.

Both characters realize at this point that their lives probably won’t ever be the same again. And they’re right.
“You think coffee will make me feel normal?” Katie frowned, hugging a ragged stuffed bear that she’d brought to boarding school with her. “What if the psycho’s there, watching me?”

“So you’re never going to leave the dorm?”

“I will when they catch him,” Katie said, looking at her like she was nuts.

Katie wouldn’t even go to the bathroom by herself, and she made Tessa stand guard when she took a shower that night. Even though Tessa didn’t let anyone near her, Katie emerged white-faced and scared. She claimed she’d seen shadows outside the frosted glass door, like someone had walked past it, though Tessa assured her that no one had been anywhere near.

At bedtime, Katie insisted they leave the closet light on or she couldn’t go to sleep. It had been such a long day and Tessa was pretty bleary-eyed, so she went along with it. She wasn’t sure when they’d finally drifted off. Katie hadn’t gotten off the phone with her Mom until midnight, and then she’d spent another hour texting Mark. It was still dark outside when Tessa heard Katie’s whimpers.

“Tessa,” her friend called, her voice quavering. “Tessa!”

“I’m right here,” she said, flying across the room and grabbing Katie’s trembling hands. “It’s okay. Everything’s all right.”

“No.” Katie shook her head, hair falling in her face. Her eyes welled with tears. “I smelled roses again. Someone was in the room.”
Learn more about the book and author at Susan McBride's website.

The Page 69 Test: Little Black Dress.

Writers Read: Susan McBride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"The Caller"

Juliet Marillier worked as a musician and a public servant before escaping the day job to become a full-time writer. Her historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults are published internationally and have won many awards. The Caller, published on September 9 by Knopf, is her seventeenth novel, and completes the Shadowfell trilogy for young adult readers (the other two novels in the series are Shadowfell and Raven Flight.)

Marillier submitted The Caller to the Page 69 Test, and here is her analysis:
The Shadowfell books are set in a magical version of ancient Scotland, where a band of young rebels attempts to end the iron-strong rule of the tyrannical King Keldec. To achieve this, they need the aid of Alban’s uncanny folk, never known for their willingness to cooperate with humankind. The key is fifteen-year-old Neryn, who has a remarkable and perilous gift: she is a Caller, with the ability to unite human and fey in the struggle for freedom. In this series I explore the theme of rebellion. What does it take to stand up and be counted? And what is the personal cost of being a rebel, not only during the struggle, but afterwards?

I had two editions to choose from, the Australian and US versions, and I must admit I chose the one with the more appropriate page 69! Our narrator, Neryn, must master four kinds of elemental magic before she can use her gift effectively in the final confrontation with the tyrant’s forces. She has travelled to find one of Alban’s ancient Guardians, the White Lady, so she can learn the magic of air. It turns out the Lady is invisible; Neryn has encountered only a swarm of tiny insect-like beings that are in some way connected with this once-powerful entity. The Lady does have a voice – that of a tough, wry old Scotswoman. To hear it, Neryn must be inside a beehive-shaped stone hut; it is here that she does her learning. On page 69 Neryn practises her newfound skill in hearing, and the White Lady warns her that using her ability on a battlefield is going to be much harder. Neryn is accompanied on this journey by Whisper, an uncanny being who looks like a cross between a young man and a white owl. The story is full of strange creatures, some from Scottish folklore and some newly invented.

Here’s part of page 69:
Spending all day inside the cramped confines of the beehive hut was taking a toll on me, body and mind. But my learning progressed. Now I could hear the subtlest of differences in the vibrations of the drum, and in the movement of the small folk inside the hut and outside, in the broader area of the Beehives. I could detect the movement of one bird in the elder trees, out there beyond my vision. I could identify one insect crawling out from cover at a distance of twenty paces. Without needing to be out in the open, looking, I knew when Whisper came early to collect me; I heard the rustle of his wings up the hill, even when the howl of the wind must surely drown it.

‘This new awareness will help ye,’ the Lady said. ‘If ye can hear the voice o’ a wee crawlin’ creature even when a storm’s ragin’, mebbe ye can gather your wits in the clamour o’ battle and send a message tae the ears that must hear it. Do ye no’ think?’

I imagined the battle: my friends and allies falling, dying before my eyes; the noise of clashing metal, the crunch of bones breaking, the screams. I had only witnessed one such conflict. This one would be ten times bigger, twenty times. ‘I can only pray that I have learned enough to do it.’
That passage captures the central themes of the Shadowfell series. Page 69 also gives us a glimpse of the elusive Good Folk, the uncanny inhabitants of Alban, and the way in which they guide Neryn on her journey, sometimes with kindness but more often with brusque doses of realism. These are not fairy folk of the gossamer-winged, nectar-sipping variety, but a strong, ancient people who have good reason to be wary of humankind. That makes Neryn’s ability to coax them out and gain their trust a rare gift, and one that she must use wisely – Alban’s future depends on it.
Learn more about the book and author at Juliet Marillier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Juliet Marillier & Pippa, Gretel, and Sara.

Writers Read: Juliet Marillier (November 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Trust Me, I’m Lying"

Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is “you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce.” She lives in Portland Oregon with her wife, their daughter, and their evil overlor—er, cat.

Summer applied the Page 69 Test to Trust Me, I'm Lying, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I place my hand over Ralph's. "Thanks, Ralph. If you find my dad before I do, give him hell and then call me, okay?"

Ralph returns my weak smile and gives my hand a light squeeze.
Page 69 of Trust Me, I’m Lying is part of a revelatory respite scene sandwiched between two more tense action sequences. Julep Dupree, the protagonist, is talking to her father's bookie, looking for clues as to where he might have disappeared to. The bookie admits to knowing that her father was involved with some pretty unsavory people before his abduction. The scene between Ralph and Julep is indicative of Julep's overall approach to people--empathetic actions and feelings covered over with a sardonic, unflappable veneer. Control means a lot to Julep, and even though she's just discovered her dad is likely in some serious trouble, she takes it in stride, at least externally.
Visit Mary Elizabeth Summer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Beware the Wild"

Natalie C. Parker grew up in a navy family in which having adventures was as common as reading fairy tales. Though the roots of her family are buried deep in southern Mississippi, she currently lives in Kansas with her partner in a house of monsters. 

Parker applied the Page 69 Test to Beware the Wild, her first novel, and reported the following:
How could I pass up an opportunity called ‘The Page 69 Test’? I couldn’t. Neither could Beware the Wild, so here we go. Most of page 69 in which two girls have just climbed over a fence and brazenly entered the swamp they’re supposed to avoid.
The Wasting Shine glimmers at their approach. Pine branches bob in the breeze like a great gaping maw. A nightmare descends. They can’t really be in the swamp.

“Candy, c’mon,” I urge, “this isn’t funny. Please, come back.”

“Why?” She moves deeper into the woods. “This whole town thinks there’s something horrible hiding in here, but it’s just a swamp, Saucier. Louisiana is lousy with them. They smell like shit and they’re full of gators and ducks, but you know what they’re not full off? Demons and ghosts.”

She smacks her palm against the trunk of a skinny black gum tree and swings around it until she’s facing me again. Shine skitters away, avoiding her touch as if she were a negatively charged magnet.

“Hey!” She shouts. “Demons of this sweltering mud pit, if you exist, come forth, I summon thee!”
When nothing happens, Candy splays her hands as if that’s proof of anything.
If someone has asked me to find a passage of BTW that perfectly encapsulated the central thrust of the novel, I don’t think I could have done better than page 69. Here we have the protagonist Sterling being at once slightly irritated and slightly terrified. We have her best friend Candy being at once slightly irritating and slightly terrifying. And we have the swamp being highly swampy and strange.

I think this sample makes promises the rest of the novel can easily keep. The magic will be menacing, the town will be debilitated by superstition, and there will be smart girls at the center of it all.

Plus gatorboys. There will also be gatorboys.
Visit Natalie C. Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"The Falcon Throne"

Karen Miller writes speculative fiction. Mostly of the epic historical kind, but she’s also written Star Wars and Stargate novels and under the pen-name K.E. Mills writes the Rogue Agent series, about a wizard with special skills who works for his government under unusual circumstances.

Miller applied the Page 69 Test to The Falcon Throne, book 1 of The Tarnished Crown series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
'So,' said Harald, stirring. 'Cousin Roric.' The hall's warm light revealed a sheen of sweat, broke sudden upon his forehead. Buried deep within his steady voice, a tremor. But was it fear or rage? There was no way to tell. 'I should've expected this. A wise man knows that sooner or later a cur dog will bite the feeding hand. But love closed my eyes. And now here you are, betraying what little noble blood you possess that's not tainted rotten by the whore who whelped you.'

Humbert muttered a curse. 'Roric, don't -'

'Peace, my lord,' he said mildly, though his heart pounded. 'My mother is dead a score of years. Harald's slighting words can't hurt her. Or me.'

Harald laughed. 'No? Roric, I have more ways to hurt you than there are spines on a hedgehog and I'll enjoy showing you each and every one.'

'Be quiet, Harald,' said Vidar, stepping forward. 'We're not here for a taunting, but to -'

'To disrupt the gaiety of my court!' Harald said, his voice sharply risen. 'And I promise you, I am mightily displeased!'

'Ho, are you?' Humbert retorted, scowling. 'Well, so are we displeased, Harald, with far more grievous cause than you. Now, marry your teeth together a time and hear what's to be done with Berold's duchy, that you held in trust and have treated worse than a poxed drab.'

Still holding Argante's slender hand, drawing her with him, Harald retreated to an ornate chair placed nearby upon a dais. With Argante haughty beside him, her fingers fiercely clasping his, he sat.
Here, then, is the inciting incident in The Falcon Throne, book 1 of The Tarnished Crown series. Harald has been a terrible Duke of Clemen: abusive, greedy, indifferent to common decency, riding roughshod over the rights of his barons. To save the duchy, and themselves, those barons - led by Humbert - have made a pact to support the overthrow of their duke and in his place install his bastard cousin, Roric. It's a desperate move, born of desperation and rage - and it might have worked. Only Clemen's barons have made two serious mistakes. They've under-estimated the threat facing them from the neighbouring duchy of Harcia ... and they've over-estimated Roric's suitability as Harald's replacement.

The Tarnished Crown is an epic fantasy series and The Falcon Throne is its opening act. It tells the story of three duchies and the struggles of their rulers to maintain power in the face of opposition both human and supernatural. It's also the story of four families whose fates are more closely entwined than even they realise. Loyalties are forged, and tested, and broken. Good men and women find themselves acting without honour, while bad men and women are seemingly rewarded for their sins. There's courage and cowardice and desperation and cold-blooded calculation ... and not one of them knows they're being played like pawns on a chess board.
Learn more about the author and her work at Karen Miller's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Falcon Throne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War"

An Irish Doctor in Peace and At War is the new novel in Patrick Taylor’s beloved Irish Country series.

Taylor applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
From Page 69:
She (Kinky) pointed to some framed faded sepia photos. “Those ones are my family and that one is the County Cork camogie team. That’s me, the thin one on the left.” She shook her head. “Long, long ago now.” She smiled and said, “But those dried flowers in their circular frames, I did pick them fresh in the soft springs and warm summers here in Ballybucklebo and preserved them. I embroidered the samplers when the winter nights were bitter, and the gales howling through the village, but I was snug at my own hearth side here.”

“What’s that one,” Barry asked. “I don’t have the Gaelic.”

She smiled. “It’s called Pangur Bán. It’s a poem written by an Irish monk in the ninth century to his white cat. I did it when Doctor O’Reilly got Lady Macbeth.” She took it down and offered it to O’Reilly. “I’d like for you and Kitty and her ladyship to have this as a memory of me here in this house.”

O’Reilly glanced at Kitty who was smiling and nodding. “Thank you, Kinky,” he said. May I leave it on the wall right here where it’s been these past two years so there’ll always be a memento of Kinky Kincaid in what was her old home and Barry can see it too?”

“I’d like that very much,” Barry said.

“I do think,” she said, “that would be a very fitting thing, so.”

Kitty leant over and kissed Kinky’s cheek. “Thank you so much, Kinky. For everything.”

And for a moment no one spoke.
This segment of page 69 is indeed representative of one half of the new An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War novel describing as it does everyday social and medical events in the 1966 lives of four of the central characters who will be well known to regular readers who wish to follow the doings in Ballybucklebo. The recently married Kinky Kincaid, Doctor O’Reilly’s housekeeper of twenty plus years is moving out to her new home and Doctor Barry Laverty will be moving into her old quarters at Number One, Main Street, Ballybucklebo.

It is not representative of the other half of the book. That is set in 1939 and 1940 and is the story of young Doctor Fingal O’Reilly getting engaged to the woman, Deirdre Mawhinney, who will become his first wife in the sequel to be published in 2015. The onset of WWII in September 1939 results in O’Reilly being called up for service on the battleship HMS Warspite, interrupting his wedding plans and seeing him involved in Atlantic convoys, the battle of Narvik, and being stationed in Alexandria, Egypt whence Warspite does battle off Calabria, suffers air raids, and O’Reilly is seconded for a short time to a destroyer. His shore life in Alex, where the reader will smell the scents of the east, see the busting cosmopolitan city, taste the exotic cooking, puts him in the way of a brother officer’s seductive wife.

Both stories are intertwined and by book’s end the reader will have learned a great deal more about the early influences which shaped the redoubtable Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.
Learn more about the book and author at Patrick Taylor's website.

My Book, The Movie: An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"First Impressions"

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

Lovett's novels include The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession and the newly released First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen.

He applied the Page 69 Test to First Impressions and reported the following:
Page 69 of First Impressions finds Sophie, the modern-day heroine of the book, in crisis. Unable to sleep, she phones her sister to talk about what she should do next. The conversation, which continues on the next page, is actually a critical turning point in the book—the place at which Sophie begins to be proactive and take her future into her own hands. It also illustrates the close bond between Sophie and her sister Victoria. This is not the only time that Sophie will turn to Victoria for help, and, as this passage implies, she knows she can always trust her sister, even when she is not sure she can trust anyone else. We also see here that Victoria is a woman of action; while Sophie feels at sea, her sister is ready to formulate a plan.

Page 69 is a very internal page for Sophie, so there is a lot that is important about First Impressions that is not on that page, most especially Jane Austen. But there are major elements of the book that are hinted at here. Sophie bemoans “the injustice of her Uncle Bertram’s books being sold.” Unpacking that phrase will lead the reader to understand the deep relationship between Sophie and both her Uncle Bertram and books. The heading of page 69, “London, Present Day” is another hint. Why would this heading be needed if the narrative didn’t move around in time and space? In fact, part of the narrative takes place in the 1796 world of Jane Austen.

More than anything, page 69 takes us straight to the confused, broken heart of our heroine Sophie Collingwood. If you have any interest in finding out how she heals, you’ll want to read on.

Page 69:
London, Present Day

Sophie could not sleep. She lay awake in the flat filled with grief, anger, fear, and confusion. Finally she called Victoria. In the sprawling Bayfield House, the sisters had occupied adjacent rooms, and on many nights during their childhood one of them, unable to sleep, had crept into the other’s room and slipped under the covers. Sometimes the visitor simply fell asleep; other times they talked until morning. Sophie missed that. She hated that Victoria lived so far away and that they could only talk on the phone, which could never convey the same warmth as Victoria’s presence.

“Can’t sleep?” said her sister.

“You don’t know the half of it,” said Sophie. She told Victoria everything—the injustice of Uncle Bertram’s books being sold, her confusion about her feelings toward Eric, and how directionless she still felt.

“I wish I could be there with you,” said Victoria.

“I just don’t know what to do,” said Sophie.

“About what?”

“About any of it.”

“Well, let’s take things one at a time,” said Victoria. “First of all, why didn’t you tell me about that letter from Eric? The last time I saw him you were escorting him out of the dining room after he was so rude to Father.”

“He was so arrogant.”
Learn more about the book and author at Charlie Lovett's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bookman's Tale.

My Book, The Movie: The Bookman's Tale.

Writers Read: Charlie Lovett.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Blue Warrior"

Growing up in a working class family in central California, Mike Maden spent a fair share of his youth in slaughter houses, canneries and feed mills but a lifelong fascination with history and politics ultimately led to a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California (Davis) focusing on the areas of conflict, technology and international relations. After brief stints as a campus lecturer, political consultant and media commentator, Maden turned to studies in theology and a decade of work with a Dallas-based non-profit where he eventually discovered fiction writing. Drone was the result of a recent challenge by two published friends to try his hand at a novel. Written primarily in Texas, Blue Warrior was edited in the shadow of the gorgeous Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee where Maden and his wife Angela now happily reside.

Maden applied the Page 69 Test to Blue Warrior and reported the following:
Page 69 of Blue Warrior occurs in a Senate intelligence briefing. It’s a little wonky because it lays out what’s at stake for both the U.S. and China in the shifting sands of the distant Sahara desert. But the chapter also demonstrates the skill and insight of Senator Barbara Fiero, one of the novel’s primary antagonists. She’s the smartest person in the room—and also the most dangerous. Unfortunately, not a single drone takes flight nor do any bullets fly on this page but there’s plenty of that coming in the chapters that follow. I want my readers to know what’s at stake for all parties involved in my novels, especially the bad guys. Like some wag once said, every villain thinks she is the hero of the story. A great antagonist is never against the hero; she only pursues her own goals that happen to conflict with the hero’s goals. What Senator Fiero wants is actually much bigger than what they found in the desert, and she has both the power and the will to get what she wants, unless….
Visit Mike Maden's website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Drone.

The Page 69 Test: Drone.

My Book, The Movie: Blue Warrior.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Peter Watts is a former marine biologist and the Hugo-winning author of numerous short stories and novels such as Starfish, Maelstrom and Behemoth. He has been called "a hard science fiction writer through and through and one of the very best alive" by the Globe and Mail and whose work the New York Times called "seriously paranoid."

Watts applied the Page 69 Test to his novel Echopraxia, the follow-up to the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight, and reported the following:
First off, let's dispense with the adolescent snickers and agree that we're probably not the first to notice the sexual connotations of this "69 Test"; let's spare a moment to wonder if this blog's editor actually chose "Page 69" for any other reason.

Now, let us never speak of it again.

If I had to choose a single page that capsulized Echopraxia's underlying themes, or highlighted an especially intriguing character, or even just infodumped some nifty-cool bit of science all over your shoes (this book has a lot of that), there are maybe 382 pages that I would choose over 69. Here's what happens on that page: our protagonist, Daniel Brüks, is awakened from a lucid dream in which he's been conversing with his Imaginary Wife. (His real wife has retreated into a virtual environment for superfluous humans called "Heaven"; we can assume from the adoring and ego-boosting nature of the current apparition that Brüks has probably— let's say, idealized — the dream wife over the real one.)

Anyway, the dream ends because sudden bodily discomfort is causing Brüks to wake up. The chapter ends when the dream does. We get a nice pithy epigram, courtesy of Samuel Butler, leading into the next chapter—

To himself everyone is immortal: he may know that he
is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.

—and then Brüks wakes up, his fingers all pins and needles, and goes for a piss.

Exciting, huh?

If you'd opened the book a few pages back, you'd see that Brüks is at a monastery inhabited by hive-minded monks who used their tame tornado to fend off an attack by military zombies. If you just flipped just one page further on you'd learn that he's all tingly because of a gengineered neurotoxin that's in the process of turning all those monks into tortured twisted body-art exhibits. A few pages past that and you'd see Brüks In Spaaaaaaaaac as the Big Quest got underway.

But noooooo. You get to see our protagonist caricature his ex-wife in his dreams, and then wake up with tingly hands and a full bladder.

Doesn't that just make you want to race out and buy the book?
Learn more about the book and author at Peter Watts's website.

Blindsight is one of Charlie Jane Anders's ten great science fiction novels, published since 2000, that raise huge, important questions.

My Book, The Movie: Peter Watts's Rifters trilogy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"The Boy Who Killed Demons"

Dave Zeltserman's many novels include Monster: A novel of Frankenstein. His short mystery fiction has won the Shamus, Derringer and Ellery Queen's Readers Choice awards. His crime thrillers, Small Crimes and Pariah, both made the Washington Post's best books of the year list in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and Small Crimes was selected by NPR as one of the 5 best crime and mystery novels of 2008.

His horror novel, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, was shortlisted by the American Library Association for best horror novel of 2010 and was also a Black Quill nominee for best dark genre book of the year.

Zeltserman applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Boy Who Killed Demons, and reported the following:
The Boy Who Killed Demons is written as a journal by a fifteen year-old boy who sees demons living among him—creatures who are able to disguise themselves so that everyone else sees them as humans--and takes it upon himself to discover what the demons are up to, and ultimately to save the world from them. Since page 69 is the start of a new journal entry, and is about his parents messing up his plans for the day to look further into demon activity, it’s reasonably representative of the book, especially the flip tone that is used.

While The Boy Who Killed Demons is ostensibly a horror novel, it also deals with heroism from a very unlikely source, teen angst, and has a good amount of humor, and all of that is evident on this page (although you might have to squint a little to see it). The fifteen year-old hero of the novel, Henry Dudlow, not only has to battle demons, but he has to do this without anyone else knowing about it, especially his parents, who have their doubts about their son.
Learn more about the book and author at Dave Zeltserman's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Small Crimes.

The Page 69 Test: Pariah.

The Page 69 Test: Outsourced.

My Book, The Movie: Outsourced.

The Page 69 Test: A Killer's Essence.

My Book, The Movie: A Killer's Essence.

Writers Read: Dave Zeltserman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"We Are Not Good People"

Jeff Somers was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and regrets nothing. His books include the Avery Cates series of novels published by Orbit 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 book, We Are Not Good People, and reported the following:
As it happens, page 69 of We Are Not Good People is ideal, as it actually touches on several themes of the book, is the moment where the protagonist actually realizes just how much danger he’s in and is the first real interaction with the villain, and even includes a nice thumbnail of what the protagonist is: A Trickster.
She studied me for a moment with her bright, glowing green eyes. “Mr. Vonnegan, this is the price of your continued existence. Do you understand me? Refuse me, and I will take you as compensation.” She leaned back in her seat and placed one hand against her temple. “You cannot replace my property. You are not suitable. Suitable candidates are in limited supply and difficult to produce. Therefore, if you do not restore my property me, Mr. Vonnegan, you will suffer for it.”

The word suffer seemed to emerge from her in a cloud of poison, and I had trouble breathing.

I stared at her illusion of herself, and the illusion stared back, power beating against me like a hurricane. I frowned. “I am not a—”

“I know precisely what you are, boy,” she snapped, her voice drowning me. “Idimustari, Trickster. Grifter. A small man of small talents worming his way through life with childish gibberish. Cantrips and other mu, dust in the eyes of those who cannot see.”
The protagonist, Lem, is just starting to realize he is completely out of his depth, and that if he tries to protect the ‛property’ referred to here (a young woman named Claire) he’s going to be in for a world of hurt.

It’s also a good spot because it underlines another theme in the book, which is that no one is particularly good or heroic – hence the title of the book, which is very much an arc-phrase – but there are levels and gradations of badness. Our protagonist might not be a good person, but he is not as unabashedly evil as his interviewer here, who is seeking to set new records for bloodshed.

It’s also a rare page in the book without any profanity.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Somers's website.

My Book, The Movie: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: Chum.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Juliet's Nurse"

Award-winning author Lois Leveen dwells in the spaces where literature and history meet. A confirmed book geek, Leveen earned degrees in history and literature from Harvard, the University of Southern California, and UCLA, and taught on the faculty of UCLA and of Reed College. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the LA Review of Books, the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and on NPR, as well as in numerous literary and scholarly journals and in film and performing arts festivals.

Leveen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Juliet's Nurse, and reported the following:
Juliet's Nurse imagines the 14 years leading up to the events in Romeo and Juliet, as told by Angelica, the hired wet-nurse (she has the largest number of lines in Shakespeare's play, after the title characters, so I figured she deserved her own novel). Page 69, the very end of a chapter, may be the shortest page in Juliet's Nurse:
I searched and searched, and found the pearl. And if it was any sin to take it, surely it is absolution to give it over to the Church.

“I prayed to the Holy Mother to help me find the pearl Juliet choked on, and she did,” I say. “Only one, so that must be what the Blessed Maria knows the Church should have.”

Friar Lorenzo looks at me. Looks, I swear, into my very soul. Then he pockets his precious gem and sends us back to Ca’ Cappelletti.
These 88 words offer a fascinating glimpse into Angelica as both a character and a narrator. She is constantly caught between institutions and events against which she is powerless, on the one hand, and her unwavering impulse to assert herself and do what she thinks is best for Juliet, on the other hand. Because the novel is first-person narration, we only hear Angelica's version of events, meaning readers have to decide to what extent they do or don't believe her, even as we see her trying to twist situations to her advantage.

This particular page reveals a woman in 14th-century Italy who has worked out her own relationship to Catholicism, which governs so much of life in this time and place. She considers the possibility that she's sinning but then absolves herself of it. That's especially telling given that she's off to see Friar Lorenzo (Romeo and Juliet fans will recognize him by Shakespeare's Anglicized version of his name, Friar Laurence), who is her confessor but to whom she is decidedly not confessing. In fact, she's in a bit of a power struggle with him, because she's supposed to bring him more than one pearl but doesn't. As a woman who breastfeeds for a living, she regularly identifies (or perhaps overidentifies) with the Virgin Mary, whom she invokes here to justify her actions and to give herself more religious authority in her exchange with Friar Lorenzo.

It's important to consider that Angelica believes every word that appears on this page. She doesn't perceive herself as manipulative or self-justifying or competing with Friar Lorenzo. This might seem to make her overbearing as a narrator and a character, yet throughout the novel Angelica's complete devotion to Juliet wins us over, at least most of the time. Ultimately, this mini-scene signals the beginning of a conflict between Angelica and the friar that grows more significant later in the book. But it also shows us both Angelica's strengths and her flaws, which is one of the serendipitous wonders of the page 69 test.
Visit Lois Leveen's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Electric City"

Elizabeth Rosner is the author of The Speed of Light, which has been translated into nine languages and was awarded the Harold U. Ribalow Prize administered by Hadassah Magazine and judged by Elie Wiesel. It was short-listed for France’s Prix Femina and the recipient of the Prix France Bleu Gironde. Rosner also received the 2002 Great Lakes Colleges New Writer’s Award for Fiction. Her second novel Blue Nude was named a 2006 Best Book by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her essays have been published by the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Forward, Huffington Post, and many anthologies. She is a frequent book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Rosner applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Electric City, and reported the following:
In all honesty I'd never heard of this test before, but as of today I've become a Believer. Fascinating how such a supposedly random detail can produce a perfectly ripe opportunity for encapsulating an entire novel!

In the case of Electric City, this page is the last of a pivotal chapter in which two of my main characters (the ones soon to be entangled in a sort-of-but-not-quite love triangle) have just been discussing their shared interest in the personal as well as collective history of the town in which they are living. They've met among the stacks of the Public Library, and the ghost of Charles Proteus Steinmetz hovers nearby. He was an eccentric scientist nicknamed "The Wizard of Electric City" and also "Modern Jupiter," for being the first to create artificial lightning in a laboratory back in 1919. Now Martin Longboat, Mohawk grandson of Steinmetz's best friend, and Sophie Levine, daughter of a post-war wave of immigrants and scientists, are considering the ways that the previous year's dramatic power outage (November 9th, 1965) is a portent of darkness and illumination yet to come. Sophie is left holding books in her hands that Martin has just been reading, books about his Mohawk ancestors and about Steinmetz himself.

Here are the two paragraphs from page 69:
The reference area of the library darkened behind her as she watched out the front door for her mother's car streaming through the rain. On the way home, passing storefront windows along State Street and the heart of downtown, she was startled to notice so many empty ones with signs saying CLOSING OUT and EVERYTHING MUST GO.

Some disturbances were becoming impossible to ignore. Where every streetlight might have once symbolized new life, the future appeared to be turning upside down. Was this the promise of change made by that blackout, a warning of what else could go wrong? Electric City was flickering and dimming, right in front of her eyes.
Visit Elizabeth Rosner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"The Groom Says Yes"

Cathy Maxwell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty Avon romances.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Groom Says Yes, and reported the following:
I’d never heard of the Rule of 69 before but I’m game for anything. After all, it makes sense. Page 69 is about a fourth of the way through the book. Stuff should be happening by then.

So I looked at that page in The Groom Says Yes. We are in Regency Scotland. Sabrina is the local magistrate’s daughter and the spinster of the parish. She’s the one the married women volunteer for all the tasks they claim they don’t have time to do. Her life has been uncomplicated, predictable, tidy. On page 69, her careful world begins to unravel.

She has stashed an unconscious, deathly ill stranger in the stable, planning to explain his presence to her overbearing father before she brings him in. Little does she know, but the reader does, that this stranger is a convicted felon who just barely escaped hanging. Not exactly the kind of guy you bring home to dad.

However, before she mentions their new houseguest, she must confront her father on a few secrets she has discovered he has been keeping from her. They argue and he leaves the house without telling her. She chases him to the stables, fearing he will see the stranger curled up in the pony cart and be angry. Instead, her father is so preoccupied, he doesn’t notice. He saddles his horse and rides off without a backward glance at her.

And in that moment, Sabrina’s life changes. Page 69 is where expectations and reality cross, leaving in their wakes choices and a call to adventure.

She has spent a lifetime taking care of others, only to realize she isn’t important in their lives. So where does that leave her?

Everything she has thought of herself will be challenged through the rest of the book, as it should be. After all, when do any of us really become interesting? When we are doing what is expected? Or when we step off the beaten path and take a chance?
Visit Cathy Maxwell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"The Body in the Woods"

April Henry is the New York Times bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels Girl, Stolen and The Night She Disappeared and the thriller Face of Betrayal, co-authored with Lis Wiehl.

Henry applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel for teens (and adults), The Body in the Woods, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I’m sorry.” She pulled the pillow over her head.

Her mom snatched it away.

“We need ingredients. I’m going to Safeway.”

Alexis sat up. “No. It’s the middle of the night.” The clock read 2:18. “I don’t want you going out this late. The only people up at this time are drunk or …” she stopped herself from saying crazy “… or on drugs.”

“But I want to make cookies.” Her mom bounced faster and faster. “And I can’t unless I go to the store. We don’t have the ingredients.

There was no use arguing with her. Alexis was so tired that she had laid down in her clothes, so all she needed to do was push her feet into some shoes and grab the food stamps card and her coat.

The night was cold. Her teeth chattered, while her mother galloped in circles around her and laughed.

“Look at the moon!”

The streets were deserted, except for the occasional car. The neighborhood homeless were all curled up on their makeshift beds - flattened pieces of cardboard laid down in doorways. Alexis couldn’t bear to look at them. On days like today she worried that someday she and her mom might be right next to them.

At Safeway, the automatic door swung open for them. Everything gleamed under the florescent lights, all glass and stainless steel. There were only a few shoppers. People who probably never went out in the daylight. Maybe they were vampires. Or zombies, judging by their slow shambling.
Page 69 of The Body in the Woods presents one of the book’s subplots. There are three main characters—Alexis, Ruby and Nick—each with their own issues. Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for an autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

I did a lot of reading about bipolar illness and interviewed a member of Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (MCSO SAR) about the experience of having a parent who was bipolar. A friend of my daughter’s had a mother who lived on the streets for years, so that factored into the book as well.

The main plot of The Body in the Woods, which is the first in a series, is about search and rescue. I thought I knew what search and rescue did: find people lost in the wilderness. But it turns out MCSO SAR has two things that set it apart. First, only teens can hold leadership positions (they can even lead search teams without an adult being on the team). Second, about 30 percent of what they do is crime scene evidence recovery. Evidence they have found has been credited with helping solve dozens of murders. They’ve done everything from finding the rest of the scattered bones after hikers stumble across one while hiking, to finding guns, knives and bullets at outdoor crime scenes or where the criminal has discarded them, hoping they will never be found.
Learn more about the book and author at April Henry's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Girl, Stolen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Close to the Bone"

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida. Her books have been translated into six languages and one reached the New York Times mass market bestseller’s list.

Black applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Close to the Bone, and reported the following:
Close to the Bone hits forensic scientist Theresa MacLean where it hurts, bringing death and destruction to the one place where she should feel the most safe—the coroner’s office in Cleveland, Ohio, where she has worked for the past fifteen years of her life. Theresa returns there in the wee hours after working a routine crime scene, only to find the body of one of her co-workers slowly cooling with the word “Confess” written in his blood. Another deskman (the guys who check bodies in and out, take initial reports and do a lot of heavy lifting) is missing and presumed guilty, but Theresa isn’t so sure. The body count begins to ramp up but for once these victims aren’t strangers; they are Theresa’s friends and colleagues, and everyone in the building is on the hit list including Theresa and her BFF, Don. This creates a multitude of stresses for Theresa—her friends are dying, she refuses to condemn the missing deskman and her protective instincts go into high gear whenever it comes to Don, a younger man for whom she has long harbored not-so-maternal feelings. On top of that her homicide detective cousin is on vacation and the investigation falls to a stranger, Sergeant Shephard, an unknown quantity in her world.

But page 69, I have to admit, is hardly the most exciting page in the book. Theresa, Don, and Shephard are mulling over clues in the lab and even the secretary has grown bored with them and gone back to her phones. Theresa has just told the two men that a palm print found on a piece of evidence does not match their missing deskman, which disintegrates Shephard’s theory of the crime. All three of them brainstorm ideas of what this could mean in their current context.

While short on action, this page does show Theresa’s expertise in her chosen field, and the respect of her peers regarding this expertise. She knows fingerprints and she knows evidence. She also demonstrates both her loyalty and her realism when it comes to her colleagues. She won’t assume the missing deskman’s guilt until she’s sure of it.

I would hope this page would make a reader want to see how these three people hash out a solution, especially since by the end of the chapter Theresa will have worked through the logic to a major revelation. And by the middle of the book, everything about the situation will have changed.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

My Book, The Movie: Trail of Blood.

The Page 69 Test: Trail of Blood.

My Book, The Movie: Defensive Wounds.

The Page 69 Test: Defensive Wounds.

My Book, The Movie: Blunt Impact.

The Page 69 Test: Blunt Impact.

The Page 69 Test: The Price of Innocence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"The Boy Who Drew Monsters"

Keith Donohue is the national bestselling author of the novels The Stolen Child, The Angels of Destruction, and Centuries of June.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Boy Who Drew Monsters, and reported the following:
The Boy Who Drew Monsters is set in a small seaside town in Maine and takes place at the beginning of winter. In this scene, Holly Keenan, the mother of the Boy Who Drew Monsters, is meeting with Father Bolden, the parish priest. She’s come to see him because she is worried about her son Jack Peter and the mysterious sounds she has been hearing in her head.

On the wall of the rectory, a painting of a shipwreck has unnerved Holly. Father Bolden tells the story behind the painting:
The Porthleven ran into rough seas just as they came within sight of Maine. One December evening, a nor’easter blew in, and the ship floundered in a blizzard. A scrim of white so thick the poor captain could not have known how close they were to land. This whole area was snowed in, not fit for man nor beast, and of course, that lighthouse had not been built. The crew laid anchor but it did not hold. She hit a ledge of rocks and broke apart in twenty feet of water. Six crew and thirteen Englishmen, women, and child, including a vicar from Cornwall, and not a soul survived the freezing sea. People in the village discovered the first bodies next morning, stiff and coated with ice, and the story goes that not all the passengers were found, that some still lie at the bottom of the sea, and you can hear them keening on stormy nights, anxious in their watery graves.”

She shivered and wrapped her arms against her chest.

“You’ll have some of Miss Tiramaku’s coffee cake.” He pointed at the table, as she turned. “She’s a sensitive soul and will be heartbroken if we don’t finish at least half of it.”
This passage is key to one aspect of the novel: Holly’s growing anxiety about what is haunting her family. The priest, of course, shouldn’t be telling ghost stories, particularly to someone as apprehensive as Holly, and she immediately seizes upon the story of the shipwreck until it becomes an obsession that nearly drives her crazy. When he hears Holly repeat the story in front of her family, Jack Peter latches onto the details and starts drawing pictures from the depths of his imagination.
Visit Keith Donohue's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Cattle Kate"

Jana Bommersbach is an acclaimed and respected journalist whose work has encompassed every facet of the profession: she's been a reporter and editor for both weekly and daily newspapers; she's written books and is a major contributor to an anthology; she's written columns and investigative stories for magazines; she's appeared on television with both political commentaries and investigative stories.

Bommersbach applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Cattle Kate, and reported the following:
I never knew about the Page 69 test when I wrote Cattle Kate, so it's a delight to find that it captures such a poignant moment.

It's 1884. Ella Watson is a 24 year-old Canadian immigrant whose family settled in Kansas. But she is moving on, after a disastrous marriage and her decision—outrageous at the time—to not only get a divorce, but to demand her maiden name back.

She's headed to Wyoming Territory, where there's still land available under the Homestead Act and women, astonishingly, already have full voting rights. She's staking out on her own, although few women ever went West without a husband, father or brother at their side. She'll make her way and become one of the few women in the territories to have a claim in her own name. She'll apply for American citizenship. She'll become a foster mom to a motherless boy and build a life with a new man she loved.

And then it will all end on July 20, 1889 when cattle baron vigilantes strung her up with her husband to get her land and precious water rights.

To cover up the murder, the powerful Wyoming Cattle Growers Association concocted a fake story that transformed this homesteader into a dirty rustler and a filthy whore they named “Cattle Kate”--the only woman ever lynched in the nation as a cattle rustler. And for a century, history bought it. Some still believe it. Cattle Kate shows that the truth is far more powerful than the phony legend.

But all that ugliness is far from her mind the day she boarded a train to go West.

Here's a piece of page 69 of Cattle Kate:
“One way to Cheyenne?” the conductor asked as he punched my ticket.

“Yes, sir,” I smiled at him. To my surprise, he returned a real smile to me.

I’d been watching him punch tickets along the way, and I saw the phony smile he gave to most of the passengers. Especially the painted ladies three rows up.

One wore a red silk dress and a hat full of feathers. Another had checks so red, I wondered at first if she was sick, but then I smiled to myself when I realized it had to be rouge. One had
a snappy poodle and I thought it was queer that you’d bring a dog on a trip like this. Every one them had painted nails and hands full of flashy rings.

I had to look like a church mouse next to them. The conductor smiled at me again like he was looking at a sister after Sunday services.

“You have business in Cheyenne, ma’am?”

“I’m going to Cheyenne to start a new life.”

“Your husband meeting you there?”

“No, I’m on my own. I’m going to be a homesteader one day.”

I saw him flinch, like this was an amazing thing. I passed it off as just another man who thought I was a woman who didn’t know my place.
Visit Jana Bommersbach's website.

Writers Read: Jana Bommersbach.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Tina Connolly lives with her family in Portland, Oregon, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared all over, including in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Connolly applied the Page 69 Test to Silverblind, the latest book in the historical fantasy series that began with the Nebula finalist Ironskin, and reported the following:
From page 69:
At the sight of the two of them standing, the wyvern grew suspicious again. Although Tam started his whistle, the wyvern tilted its head upward, opened its throat to let out the strange ululating cry that would call back its mate.

"You'd better go," said Dorie. "One will nest and the other fight. You won't like that."

"You're right," Tam agreed ruefully. "Can we offer you a lift back to the city?"

"We?" said Dorie, dusting off and looking back at the nest. She watching the wyvern—graceful, proud, silver—and then the next moment she wasn't. It was falling to the ground, a dart protruding from its scaled chest.
Page 69 of Silverblind shows one of the key settings of the book. Ironskin was set in the country, Copperhead in the city, and now Silverblind is equally divided between urban and rural.

Dorie Rochart wants to do field work—tracking down wyverns and basilisks and any other strange creatures she can find. But when no one will hire a girl for such a dangerous job, she disguises herself as a boy and heads off to do it regardless.

So here she is, up in the mountains, in the forests, trying to gather wyvern eggs, and she runs into a familiar face from the past....

Silverblind is a standalone set 18 years after Ironskin and Copperhead, but if you’ve read the first two volumes, you’ll recognize Tam as the young boy from Copperhead. Dorie hasn’t seen him in a long time, not since they parted on unfriendly terms. Just her luck to run into him when she’s shapeshifted into the form of a boy.
Learn more about the book and author at Tina Connolly's website, blog, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Copperhead.

The Page 69 Test: Copperhead.

Writers Read: Tina Connolly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"You Were Meant for Me"

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

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, You Were Meant For Me, and reported the following:
Page 69 of You Were Meant for Me is not a page filled with high drama or tension. But on page 69 the protagonist, Miranda Berenzweig, makes what proves to be a fateful decision by agreeing to allow Geneva Bales, a journalist seeking an in-depth interview, into her life. On the surface, Geneva seems intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive and charming. But she has a secret agenda Miranda doesn’t and can’t know anything about, and it is this hidden agenda that gets set into motion on that page. So even though it may not seem like a critical juncture in the story, it actually is. Miranda’s page 69 decision turns out to rock her world in a way she could not have imagined.
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

My Book, The Movie: Two of a Kind.

The Page 69 Test: Two of a Kind.

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Queenie, Willa and Holden (October 2012).

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden (September 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 3, 2014

"Jesus Jackson"

James Ryan Daley is a writer, editor, and digital designer. After majoring in English at a strange and wonderful school called Prescott College in northern Arizona, Daley went on the earn his MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004. Over the years that followed, he worked as an Acquisitions Editor for Dover Publications and an English Teacher at a small Catholic high school (and no, the irony of the latter is not lost on him), before beginning his freelance career in the spring of 2008. Now, he spends most of his time writing fiction for teenagers, creating websites about video games, teaching writing to college students, and editing anthologies of speeches and short stories.

Daley applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Jesus Jackson, and reported the following:
Let me just start off by saying that Marshall McLuhan is a freaking genius. I know, I know: Duh. But seriously, I was more than a little wary of this whole “Page 69” idea when it was first brought my attention. After browsing the 69th pages of a few dozen of my favorite books, though, and then applying the test to Jesus Jackson, I was thoroughly convinced. Honestly, if you had asked me to search through the entirety of Jesus Jackson to find one page that managed to capture both the protagonist’s inner struggle as well as the essence of the story, I would have laughed in your face, grumbled indignantly, and then wound up on page 69.

Here’s what you need to know:

Jonathan, the narrator, is a 14 year-old atheist who’s got some serious issues—his older brother just died, he’s pretty much the only person in school that doesn’t believe in God (except for Henry, his solitary friend), and all anyone wants to do is pray for him and offer platitudes about how his brother is in a “better place” (which is precisely the last thing that Jonathan wants to hear). What’s worse: just a few hours before this scene, Jonathan first came to realize that his brother’s death may not have been the accident that everyone thinks it was. This sets Jonathan off on his quest to find the truth, not just about his brother, but about religion, friendship, girls, and high school (and a few other things) while he’s at it…

Page 69, in its entirety:
There have been few times in my life when I have felt more foreign, more incredibly different than I did every day after school at St. Soren’s. Like every other school, the final bell heralded a great rush of students into the hallway, a great wave of relief and expectant freedom on their faces. But at St. Soren’s I never shared in that relief, that freedom...and, if anything, I seemed to dampen it in everyone who laid eyes on me. I was a wandering freak show, a great big human-shaped sign that read “Pity me,” “Feel sad for me,” “Pray for me.”

And I didn’t even have the courtesy to force a brave smile, to thank them for their prayers.

So it was for more than mere convenience that I had Henry meet me behind the school, instead of at my locker or on the steps. And by the time he came bounding out of the doors, his tiny frame dwarfed by his gargantuan backpack, he seemed to have given up any reservations about our plan. He practically skipped up to greet me.

Dropping his bag on the ground at my feet, he reached into the outside pocket and pulled out a handful of plastic sandwich bags. “Here,” he said, handing a few to me. “We’ll need these to collect evidence.”
Visit James Ryan Daley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Mean Business on North Ganson Street"

S. Craig Zahler's s debut western novel, A Congregation of Jackals was nominated for both the Peacemaker and the Spur awards, and his western screenplay, The Brigands of Rattleborge, garnered him a three-picture deal at Warner Brothers, topped the prestigious Black List and is now moving forward with Park Chan Wook (Old Boy) attached to direct, while Michael Mann (Heat & Collateral) develops his nasty crime script, The Big Stone Grid at Sony Pictures. In 2011, a horror movie that he wrote in college called Asylum Blackout (aka The Incident) was made and picked up by IFC Films after a couple of people fainted at its Toronto premiere. In 2013, his brutal western novel, Wraiths of the Broken Land was published by Raw Dog Screaming Press. Currently, Zahler navigates preproduction on his directorial debut, Bone Tomahawk.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Mean Business on North Ganson Street, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a good sample for somebody to read if that somebody wants to get a sense of the lighter side of the book. This page features a discussion of criminal acts, a prowling car, and some inert pigeons. All three of these elements help build the collapsed and frostbitten world of Victory, Missouri, which is where the major part of this book takes place. The prose in this excerpt is a bit more playful than it is in the far darker latter half of the book.
Bettinger circumvented an open manhole and returned to the sidewalk, stepping over a dead pigeon that was wedged against the curb. Rigid talons extruded from its feathers like the legs of a cancan dancer.
Ruminations on this page are also not necessarily related to the plot. Digressions are more common in this part of the narrative (before the plot starts to churn the central elements), as seen in this except regarding the mysterious proliferation of dead pigeons in Victory, Missouri:
“Birds can go anyplace they want, right?” Dominic gestured at the sky. “Flap their wings, and these niggas is in Hawaii, enjoyin’ the sun, or maybe over in Paris, shittin’ on ridiculous hats. So it figures that the ones who stay in Victory are damaged.”


“I’m thinkin’ somethin’ with their radar or whatever. Either way, it’s been like this for years. Niggas just droppin’.”
Read out of context, this lone page will give the reader a rough sketch of the bleak environment and a sense of the kind of characters that people the world.
Visit S. Craig Zahler's website.

Writers Read: S. Craig Zahler.

--Marshal Zeringue