Saturday, March 31, 2018

"England Expects"

Sara Sheridan is an Edinburgh-based novelist who writes cosy crime noir mysteries set in 1950s Brighton and historical novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers.

Sheridan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, England Expects, and reported the following:
Currently I don’t have a copy of the US edition of England Expects so I am going to use the UK edition. So page 69 is when Mirabelle and her side-kick Vesta visit the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. It’s been deserted and has fallen into disrepair and they are visiting because there has been a suspicious death. A cleaning lady has died in the local Masonic Lodge (she worked there) and Mirabelle has found out that she had another job part-time, cleaning at the palace. Mirabelle and Vesta pick through the overgrown path and consider breaking in but then they are ‘copped’ by a local park keeper who is there to check the grounds once a week. The book is set in the summer of 1953 in Brighton and I had great fun researching it. During WWII the Pavilion had been a recuperation facility for recovering soldiers. It’s the most extraordinary palace - built by the Prince Regent in the 1700s and dripping in exotic architectural detail - as if an Indian/Chinese decorator got absolutely ripped and was given no restriction on budget, just told to go! In 1953, however, Britain was pretty much broke and in real life, the palace had fallen into disrepair - the roof was damaged in a storm. I had been waiting to use it as a location - holding off in the first two books - because it is so stunning and a disused palace is a more or less perfect component for a murder mystery. When I was a kid we had a Victorian nunnery next door and it was closed down around, I suppose 1980. My brother and I sneaked in over the back wall and in a back window. The nuns had been lovely - they used to give us sweets - but we’d never been inside. I used the memories of the long corridors and the artefacts left behind to write the inside of the deserted Royal Pavilion. There is something magical about empty, old buildings - and of course, the electricity is off so the light is eerie. And it’s a palace so there had to be secret passages. I’ll say no more!

The page 69 Test - is it representative of the rest of the book? Hell yes. Mirabelle and Vesta spend this entire book snooping around asking tricky questions in some great locations. They even have a trip to Cambridge in this one - to a college campus where Mirabelle ends up locked in a wine cellar and has to escape. So their approach to Brighton Pavilion is pretty representative. I won’t tell you what happens when they get inside.
Visit Sara Sheridan's website.

My Book, The Movie: England Expects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 29, 2018

"The Wild Inside"

Jamey Bradbury's work has appeared in Black Warrior Review (winner of the annual fiction contest), Sou’wester, and Zone 3. She won an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

Bradbury applied the Page 69 Test to The Wild Inside, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…That hot coal still burning inside me, but it had changed. Felt more like hope smoldering in me now than anger. A feeling like that, there’s two options. You can leave it be and it will burn out eventually. Or you can do something with it. Stoke it. Add fuel. Watch the flames grow.

Take it into the woods, light your way.
Page 69 of The Wild Inside turns out to contain most of the elements that drive the entire book: At the top of the page, there’s rebellious Tracy, making a decision to defy her father’s rules and sneak out with her sled dogs to train for the Iditarod at night. Later, when she does, she’ll make a discovery—there’s someone out there in the woods, someone waiting and watching her family’s house—that will determine her actions over the course of the rest of the book.

Then, after the page break, Tracy is back inside her own head, remembering her mother, Hannah, who passed away two years ago. This is how most of the book is structured, switching between present action and past memory as Tracy tries to understand the secrets her mother kept and the reasons so much was left unsaid when she died. In fact, page 69 begins to reveal the key to that understanding as it describes Hannah’s mercurial temperament—the way she seemed to change almost overnight, becoming depressed and cutting herself off from the world.

Here, too, as in the rest of the book, Tracy’s voice is what drives everything. Throughout The Wild Inside, her strange way of talking—her odd metaphors and grammatical laziness—narrows the sometimes unreliable point of view and challenges readers to ask: Is Tracy really seeing things for what they are?
Visit Jamey Bradbury's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"Laura & Emma"

Kate Greathead is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Vanity Fair, and on NPR’s Moth Radio Hour. She was a subject in the American version of the British Up documentary series. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Teddy Wayne.

Greathead applied the Page 69 Test to Laura & Emma, her first novel, and reported the following:
On page 69, Laura, a single mother, is looking for an apartment for her and her toddler daughter. Like many New Yorkers, she discovers that her wish list (fireplace, sunlight, proximity to Central Park) doesn’t correspond with her budget, and she must settle for an apartment that falls outside the border of her desired location. Set in pre-Giuliani 1980s New York, 96th Street east of Lexington—“Harlem,” she calls it; “Across the street from Harlem,” her broker corrects her—is not a place Laura, who grew up in an Upper Eastside brownstone, ever imagined herself living.

The page is emblematic of the book in that it captures Laura’s sense of entitlement, a result of the privileged upbringing she is simultaneously ashamed of but shamelessly benefits from. It is one of many moments in the book that I imagine will make readers roll their eyes at Laura. As a character, we see things about her that she is unable or unwilling to acknowledge about herself.
Visit Kate Greathead's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2018


Damian Dibben is the creator of the internationally acclaimed children's book series the History Keepers, translated into 26 languages in over 40 countries. Previously, he worked as a screenwriter, and actor, on projects as diverse as The Phantom of the Opera and Puss in Boots and Young Indiana Jones. He lives, facing St Paul's Cathedral, on London's Southbank with his partner Ali and dog Dudley.

Dibben applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Tomorrow, and reported the following:
From page 69:
.. my companion'll not eat, nor fish, but has a passion for beans, fagioli, in whatever style suits your kitchen..
I love the idea of the page 69 test. I have never heard of it before.

On page 69 of Tomorrow, our hero and his master (their actual names are not revealed until near the end) dine together in Venice on what will be - though they don't know it yet - their last night together for more than a century, or perhaps ever. Only the reader is aware of this, so the scene has particular poignancy. Our narrator is a dog who must travel through the courts and battlefields of Europe - and through the centuries - in search of the man, his master, who granted him immortality. He befriends both humans and animals, but whereas, in a line from the book, "a person who keeps dogs, will lose many in their lifetimes, (he) was a dog who lost people."

But if he can find his true master, if they can be re-united once again, as they were at dinner in Venice, our hero would find his home once more.
Visit Damian Dibben's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 25, 2018

"Death of An Unsung Hero"

Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in the American Southwest.

Arlen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Death of an Unsung Hero, the fourth book in her Lady Montfort mystery series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘We missed luncheon because I was teaching Lieutenant Carmichael to plow –the old way with a horse…”

“No luncheon, you must be famished!” Clementine thought her words sounded a bit forced, or even worse, jolly.

“Not at all, Molly sent us out a picnic lunch of bread and cheese. It was delicious –she sent cider too!”

Us? Clementine felt the evening was slipping away from her. What on earth is going on? She couldn’t quite remember this Lieutenant Carmichael who had spent most of the day with her daughter.
On page 69 of Death of an Unsung Hero Clementine is coming to terms with one of the most enduring changes on the home front caused by the first world war: the effect that it had on its women and most of all its young women. Pre-war Clementine’s daughter, Althea, would have been chaperoned everywhere after she had come-out in polite society as she was groomed to marry ‘the right man.’ Now in 1916 she is wearing breeches, driving around the countryside in her own motor car and running the local Land Army. She is independent for the first time in her life and loving the responsibility of doing something useful. She is also at risk as there is a particularly resourceful and cunning murderer on the loose in the local farming community of Haversham. When Clemmie learns that Althea has been picnicking alone with a young officer –not known to her family –she is extremely alarmed, not just for Althea’s lack of decorum at picnicking alone with a young man but also for her safety. Death of an Unsung Hero features Clementine Montfort’s daughter who has been set free from the hidebound conventions of the upper classes by a terrible war. Many of the female characters in the book are young women who work in munitions factories, drive public transport, or nurse in auxiliary hospitals –a considerable change in the early 1900s.
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

Writers Read: Tessa Arlen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2018

"If Tomorrow Comes"

Nancy Kress's many books include over two dozen novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Kress’s work has been translated into two dozen languages, including Klingon, none of which she can read.

Kress applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 of the Yesterday's Kin Trilogy, and reported the following:
Below is Page 69 in its entirety. Noah Jenner’s eyes are “oversized” because he, born on Terra, has had himself altered to look more like World’s inhabitants. The point of view is Dr. Salah Bourgiba, a physician from Terra:
…cause there. If you have any labs left standing, we might be able to synthesize more.”

Jenner’s already oversized eyes went wider. “You brought vaccine?

Lieutenant Lamont said, “That’s not our mission. Our mission is to establish relations and return to Terra,”

Salah stood. He was aware that beside the young Ranger, he was short, a little bit flabby, old. He said, “We can’t go home, Lieutenant. There is no means to go home. Vaccines are our mission now.

“We have to save as much of this planet as we can.”
Page 69 is not typical of If Tomorrow Comes in that it is a chapter end and contains only 4½ short paragraphs. However, it is typical in that it contains a reversal of my characters’ expectations, of which the book has many. It also hints at what will be a growing, important schism between two factions on the planet World: military and scientists. I don’t usually write military characters, having no direct experience, but for this book, I researched for a long time, wrote the book, and then hired an Army Ranger to go over it and point out anything I got wrong. He was very helpful.
Visit Nancy Kress's website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Tomorrow's Kin.

Writers Read: Nancy Kress.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 22, 2018

"City of Sharks"

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Stanley applied the Page 69 Test to her new Miranda Corbie Mystery, City of Sharks, and reported the following:
I love the Page 69 test, but this time I’m afraid I’ve flunked it. Page 69 in the hardcover of City of Sharks is actually the division page for Act Two of the novel!

Here’s what it says:
Act Two: The Plot

“The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.”

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, scene i
It’s also got a very nice decorative scroll element at the top, thanks to the awesome production designer of the book.

Now, while you won’t get any clues about Miranda’s state of mind, her investigation of Alcatraz, or her vacillating physical and emotional feelings for Gonzales, you can glean from this page that City of Sharks is essentially about writing.

And writers.

And publishers.

And the many crimes that occur in the creation of crime stories.

Like most writers, I’ve spent a good amount of time not just thinking about the process of creativity, especially in regard to the written word, but about what happens to creativity when it is commodified … about what happens in that dance between the subconscious talent and the conscious craft when it’s forced to march rather than to waltz.

There’s a lot of San Francisco history in City of Sharks—famed columnist Herb Caen steals every scene he’s in, and backdrops include Playland-at-the-Beach and Alcatraz. There’s also a thorny mystery, some ethical questions to ponder about crime and punishment and, as always, social and political commentary.

But don’t overlook the writing/publishing theme. As page 69 tells you, it’s the structure the story’s built upon.
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"If I Die Tonight"

USA Today and international best-selling author Alison Gaylin has been nominated for the Edgar three times. (Most recently, What Remains of Me was nominated in the best novel category.)

Gaylin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, If I Die Tonight, and reported the following:
On page 69 of If I Die Tonight, Jackie, the concerned mother of outcast teen Wade Reed, finds herself in a rare moment of calm. It is the morning, and as she makes coffee in silence, Jackie reflects on the unusually pleasant dinner she shared with her two sons the night before – a rarity, especially now that high school football star Liam Miller is on life support, the victim of a late night hit-and-run that many in their small town suspect Wade of having committed. As she readies herself to do the laundry, Jackie realizes the main reason why she and her children shared such a stress-free evening: they’d all avoided the news, the phone, and, most importantly of all, social media – perhaps the most formidable villain in the book. It’s a moment of calm before a storm that proves more devastating than Jackie could ever imagine at this point. It highlights the true danger of the outside world by showing how much safer everything feels in its absence.
Learn more about the book and author at Alison Gaylin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2018

"Head Wounds"

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author of Writing From the Inside Out. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime. His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.

Palumbo applied the Page 69 Test to Head Wounds and reported the following:
In the hardcover edition of Head Wounds, a reader opening the novel to Page 69 would be thrown immediately into the heart of a scene as harrowing as it is puzzling. Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, bound and helpless, has just witnessed a horrific crime, whose perpetrator is now gloating about it. The scene reveals both the stunned reaction of our psychologist hero and his defiance in the face of a brilliant though obsessed killer. It also displays Rinaldi’s empathy and concern for crime victims, even when in jeopardy himself. According to his friends and colleagues, this trait is a misbegotten “hero complex,” the result of his survival guilt for having lived through a deadly mugging years ago that took the life of his wife. Though by the end of Page 69 he’ll be released from his bonds, there’s the sure knowledge of more murders to come that keeps the tension simmering. As with all my Rinaldi novels, I strive in this scene for both well-rounded characterizations and edge-of-your-seat suspense. I hope that’s what this page delivers.
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Palumbo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"The Hunger"

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, she had a long career in intelligence, working for several US agencies and a think tank. She currently is a consultant on emerging technologies.

Katsu applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Hunger, and reported the following:
The Hunger, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist, is told from multiple POVs. Necessary, because there were a lot of people involved in that original tragedy (and they share the blame, too, for what happened) but because of this, it’s hard for any excerpt to be representative of the entire book. Page 69 does give a nice window into what you can expect. This chapter is from the POV of James Reed, an Irish immigrant and self-made man who becomes the de facto leader of the wagon party when George Donner cracks under pressure. In real life, James Reed was not well-liked; the working-class families that largely made up the party thought him arrogant and condescending. The James Reed in my novel is that, too, but he also harbors a secret that drives his self-destructive tendencies.

Here, Reed is worrying that the wagon party is falling behind schedule, and that his fellow travelers don’t seem concerned about their dwindling supplies. In the midst of his ruminations, two boys crawl out from under a wagon, puking up liquor and when he tries to find out where the boys got it, he draws an unwelcome crowd:
“You ain’t the boys’ father.” This from another of the Donners’ men, Samuel Shoemaker.

“Their father’s probably lying facedown in a ditch himself.” The words came out before Reed could stop himself. He cursed his sharp tongue. He could imagine how he must sound to this crowd, many of them hungover themselves from dancing half the night away. His palms started to tingle. He could feel dirt gathering in his eardrums, in his nostrils, beneath his fingernails. He needed to bathe. “Look, I’m only trying to find out where the boys got the alcohol.”

“Are you saying it’s our fault the boys got themselves drunk?” Elliott said, raising an eyebrow.

“No. I’m just saying we must do a better job keeping track of all our supplies.” He shook his head. He would try again. “We might want to lock up our spirits, for example—”

Tall and angular, always hovering like an ominous scarecrow, Lewis Keseberg pushed his way through the crowd. Reed could’ve predicted it: Keseberg always seemed to be spoiling for a fight. “You’d like to take our liquor away, wouldn’t you? You’d probably chuck it in the Little Sandy when nobody was looking, every drop of it.” He jabbed a finger into Reed’s chest. “If you try to lay so much as one finger on any of my bottles, so help me God—”
If you know the story of the Donner Party, the appearance of Lewis Keseberg should send shivers down your spine. By the way, even if you’re familiar with the Donner Party, I think you’ll find The Hunger will still surprise you. It definitely looks at the famous tragedy in a new light.
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2018

"Memento Mori"

Ruth Downie is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Roman Army medic and reluctant sleuth, Gaius Petreius Ruso: Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona Non Grata, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, Tabula Rasa, Vita Brevis, and the newly released Memento Mori.

Downie applied the Page 69 Test to Memento Mori and reported the following:
Memento Mori is set in the town the Romans called Aquae Sulis – “aquae” because of the natural hot springs that rise there, and “Sulis” because that was the name of the local goddess who supplied them. One of the springs was adapted by the occupying Roman authorities, who poured money into the building of a large temple and bathing complex around it. In the novel I’ve invented some entrepreneurs who have made a disastrous attempt to build over one of the others.

On page 69 my lead character Ruso has just tried to rescue a naked man from drowning in the one remaining “unimproved” spring. This has not gone down well with the man, who was in fact happily communing with his native goddess. Fortunately Ruso, who is married to a Briton – albeit one from a distant tribe – is able to speak to the man in his own language.
…the native said, “At my age I might have died of shock.”

“You might,” Ruso agreed, wondering if this was the prelude to a demand for compensation.

But instead the native busied himself rubbing a graze on his elbow and observed, “A Roman with the voice of a Brigante, eh? We don’t get a lot like you around here.”

“Nor anywhere else,” Ruso told him. “Sorry about dragging you out.” He nodded toward the water, which was now swirling with mud. “Is it good?”

“Your lot haven’t ruined this one yet, but give them time.”

“What’s going on with the one behind the fence?”

The man’s face creased into a grin. “They were told not to interfere with that spring. I told them, my sister told them, their own people told them, but they knew better. Till Sulis gave them a bloody nose.”

“What happened?”

“You can’t disrespect our goddess and get away with it.”
This small scene captures some of the tensions of the story: between the natives and the Romans, and between the religious (who see any misfortune as a sign of the goddess’s anger) and those who consider themselves more rational. Ruso’s British wife has an unshakeable belief in the supernatural, which leaves Ruso himself caught squarely in the middle – a place that’s always interesting to write about, and hopefully to read about, too.
Learn more about the book and author at Ruth Downie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caveat Emptor.

The Page 69 Test: Tabula Rasa.

The Page 69 Test: Vita Brevis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"The Third Victim"

Phillip Margolin has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases. Margolin lives in Portland, Oregon.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Third Victim, and reported the following:
Is page 69 of The Third Victim representative of the book?: Yes. Robin Lockwood is a new lawyer whose idol is Regina Barrister, Oregon’s top criminal defense attorney. Soon after Regina hires Robin, Regina is retained by Alex Mason, the defendant in a death penalty case. The police believe that Mason, a wealthy attorney, is a serial killer, but he claims he is innocent. The case is complex and Regina must be at the top of her game to win it, but she starts acting strangely and Robin – who has no medical training and has never been in a courtroom - begins to suspect that Regina may be experiencing the onset of dementia. If she is wrong and she confronts her boss she might be fired from her dream job. If she doesn’t do something and she is right, their client could die.

On page 69, Regina wakes up in her house but her bedroom seems strange to her. She has to get to the jail to talk to her client but she can’t find her keys. She panics and this is the first time that the reader realizes that something is terribly wrong with this brilliant attorney.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Phillip Margolin.

My Book, The Movie: The Third Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"In Sight of Stars"

Gae Polisner's books include The Memory of Things, The Summer of Letting Go, and The Pull of Gravity. Her new novel is In Sight of Stars.

A family law attorney and mediator by trade, but a writer by calling, she lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional-looking small dog she swore she’d never own. When she’s not writing, she can be found in a pool, or better yet, in the open waters of the Long Island Sound where she swims upwards of two miles most days.

Polisner applied the Page 69 Test to In Sight of Stars and reported the following:
On page 69, my MC Klee (pronounced “Clay”), who is at the beginning of a two-week stay at an inpatient adolescent psychiatric center after an act of self harm, is lost in telling his therapist about his first real date with Sarah, the girl in his new high school who was the first person to take his mind off all the horrible stuff that has happened to him recently.

At the bottom of the page, he stops, mid-story, remembering Dr. Alvarez is in the room:
Dr. Alvarez has put her pen down. Her eyes are closed, and for a second I wonder if she’s sleeping. I can’t believe I’m telling her all this stupid stuff anyway. The small things. The private things. What do they even matter now?

She shifts her feet under the table, opens her eyes, and studies me. “I love Central Park,” she says. “And don’t be fooled by my eyes,” she adds, closing them again. “Sometimes I just listen best this way.”
I love this moment from page 69 because it shows you the skill Dr. Alvarez possesses to bring Klee to her and allow him to trust her, and in fact, shows you the moment he begins to do just that, trust her, which is, of course, key to his healing.
Visit Gae Polisner's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Summer of Letting Go.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory of Things.

Writers Read: Gae Polisner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 12, 2018

"The One"

John Marrs is a freelance journalist based in London, England, who has spent the last twenty years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines. His novels include The Wronged Sons, Welcome To Wherever You Are, and, newly released in the US, The One.

Marrs applied the Page 69 Test to The One and reported the following:
By the time you reach page 69 of The One, you will have met each of my five main characters, whose stories are contained within their own chapters. The book concentrates on five men and women who for one reason or another, have chosen science over fate to try and find their soul mates. Set in a time when a DNA test is all it takes to find The One you are guaranteed to fall in love with, it’s Nick who comes into focus on page 69. He’s a little different to some of the others as he already has a fiancĂ©e, Sally. She is pushing them both to take the test just to make sure they are definitely suited. However when Nick gets his results back, he learns he is actually Matched with a man. Page 69 finds him coming to terms with that revelation and he is in complete denial. He had his life planned out before him – he was to marry Sally and they’d spend the rest of their lives together. But now he’s supposedly destined to be with someone of the same sex, where does that leave him? Will curiosity get the better of him and will he meet his Match? How can you fall in love with a gender you aren’t attracted to?

Page 69 is quite indicative of the rest of The One. I have tried to create a novel full of twists and turns as each character comes to terms with their differing futures. Hopefully such predicament, like those on that particular page, will make the reader question what they might do if they were faced with my characters’ dilemmas.
Learn more about The One, visit John Marrs's website, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Writers Read: John Marrs.

My Book, The Movie: The One.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"The Vain Conversation"

Anthony Grooms is the author of Bombingham: A Novel and Trouble No More: Stories, both winners of the Lillian Smith Book Award for fiction. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, he has taught writing and American literature at universities in Ghana and Sweden and, since 1994, at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Grooms applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Vain Conversation, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Vain Conversation, the protagonist Lonnie Henson, a 10 year old at the time, is involved in a knotty conversation with the philandering Vernon Venable, a local planter in 1946 Georgia. Venable, under the guise of teasing is trying to gain leverage on Lonnie who has recently stumbled upon him having sex in the woods with a prostitute. The conversation seesaws between gentle teasing and subtle threats. It confuses Lonnie, who is not sophisticated enough to follow Venable’s double entendres. Not only is this scene representative of the twisting uncertainty that entangles Lonnie morally and socially, but it is a pivotal scene. It drives the actions of the first part of the story, nags at Lonnie through for the next two decades, and returns to accuse him at the end.
Visit Anthony Grooms's website.

Writers Read: Anthony Grooms.

My Book, The Movie: The Vain Conversation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 8, 2018

"The Bad Daughter"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Someone Is Watching, Now You See Her, Still Life, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels.

Fielding applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Bad Daughter, and reported the following:
I think this page is quite representative of the book as a whole in that it involves a fair degree of suspense and underlines the relationship between Robin and her sister, Melanie. It also points to Melanie’s son, Landon, as a character to watch and be concerned about. Robin’s relationship with her sister is key to the book, and in this page, the reader can see the push-pull between the characters and understand Robin’s ambivalence toward Melanie and why they’ve barely spoken in years. I think - hope - that readers skimming the book and stopping on this page would be most anxious to read on and see what happens.
Visit Joy Fielding's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Bad Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"The Ghost Notebooks"

Ben Dolnick is the author of four novels: Zoology, You Know Who You Are, At the Bottom of Everything, and The Ghost Notebooks. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, and on NPR. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Dolnick applied the Page 69 Test to The Ghost Notebooks and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Ghost Notebooks is actually a bit unusual. The book is told in the first-person -- a continuous narrative by a man who goes through some painful and scary stuff -- but throughout there's a lot of interstitial material: scraps of other peoples' diary entries, newspaper articles, Q&A's. So page 69 is one of those interstitials -- specifically, it's an excerpt from a book by the mysterious and possibly insane old writer in whose house the novel takes place.

All while I was writing my novel I envisioned it as something like a physical notebook in which someone had handwritten his story -- and I imagined that this notebook, like my notebooks, would be stuffed with all sorts of scraps and lists and handouts. So that's how this unusual shape came to be, and I hope that a reader doing the page 69 test would be sufficiently intrigued to flip directly back to page 1.
Visit Ben Dolnick's website.

The Page 69 Test: Zoology.

The Page 69 Test: You Know Who You Are.

The Page 69 Test: At the Bottom of Everything.

Writers Read: Ben Dolnick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 4, 2018

"Winter Sisters"

Robin Oliveira is the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter and I Always Loved You. She holds a BA in Russian and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow. She received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is also a registered nurse, specializing in critical care.

Oliveira applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Winter Sisters, and reported the following:
In Winter Sisters, page 69 consists of a verbal clash between Dr. Mary Sutter, the protagonist of my first novel, My Name is Mary Sutter, and Gerritt Van der Veer, a wealthy lumber baron in Albany, N.Y. Set in 1879, Winter Sisters follows the fate of two little girls who are lost in a devastating blizzard.

That verbal clash between the formidable Mary Sutter and the powerful Gerritt Van der Veer is couched in courtesy and seemingly like-minded values, but it portends one of the central conflicts of the novel: what degree of agency can women and girls forge for themselves, and to what dangers—personal and public—are they then subjected as a result? But Winter Sisters is threaded with many conflicts woven into more than a few subplots surrounding the girls’ mysterious disappearance, among them the rights of children, widespread corruption, the abuse of personal, intimate, and universal power, and that terrifying 19th century law. In that century’s last decades, women were campaigning for the vote, fighting for changes for protection inside the law, even as they were seeking to protect themselves in a world that paid lip service to their status while undermining them at every turn. The entire city of Albany will be engulfed by the tragedy of the ‘winter sisters’’ fate, requiring Mary Sutter to force a confrontation that is as contemporary as it is historic.

I confess that I love Mary Sutter. I love that she never stays quiet in the face of injustice, no matter the consequences men mete out in their inability to control her. She says exactly what needs to be said at the time it needs to be said and it is always the truth. I was thrilled to spend time with her again.
Learn more about the book and author at Robin Oliveira's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Name Is Mary Sutter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 3, 2018

"Only Killers and Thieves"

Paul Howarth was born and grew up in Great Britain before moving to Melbourne in his late twenties. He lived in Australia for more than six years, gained dual citizenship in 2012, and now lives in Norwich, United Kingdom, with his family. In 2015, he received a master’s degree from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing program, the most prestigious course of its kind in the UK, where he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Scholarship.

Howarth applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Only Killers and Thieves and reported the following:
Page 69 of Only Killers and Thieves is a short one, the end of a paragraph at the end of a chapter, so there’s not much to go on there. But taken with page 68 it’s very interesting, in the context of the book as a whole, in that it contains a critical betrayal (albeit off the page) and foreshadows the violence fourteen year old Tommy McBride will both witness and participate in, the guilt he will face, and the spiritual reckoning to come. Tommy and his mother are on a supply run to the tiny town of Bewley, on the very edge of the Australian frontier, but find themselves short on credit and virtual pariahs, thanks to local cattleman John Sullivan, who is pursuing an agenda against the family, and the local Aboriginal people, all of his own:
Mother wasn’t in the church when he got there. The door was already open and he stepped into the shaded porch then scanned the rows of bare-wood benches that served as pews. They were all empty. Not even a priest about. Sunlight fell in broad columns through the windows, and hanging above the altar was a carving of Christ on the cross. A crown of thorns, blood trickling, a scrap of cloth to cover his groin. As Tommy stared at the carving, memories of the hanging tree pulsed in his mind, the bodies dark and disfigured, flies feasting, crows hunched in the branches above, and now he saw all three before him, strung up in this church, two bodies burned and blackened, the other lily-white.

Out he came, reeling through the porch and into the dizzying sun, glancing over his shoulder as he hurried along the street, bundling into people and searching for Mother in the windows of each store. She wasn’t in any of them. He walked the length of the street and came back again, then found her hurrying along the courthouse path, head down, arms folded, hair unraveled from its pin. He went to meet her; she only noticed him waiting when they were almost face-to-face.

‘Tommy? What is it? What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing—where you been?’

‘Church, like I told you.’

‘I went to the church…’ Tommy said, his voice trailing off. He looked beyond her to the courthouse, its thick black doors in a clean white wall, the little yard in front, the grooves of the wooden stocks rubbed so smooth they shone. He focused on Mother again. ‘What were you doing in there?’

‘Nothing,’ she said, touching her cheek.

‘Why’d you go in then?’

‘For goodness’ sake, Tommy. I was just saying hello to an old friend.’

‘What friend?’

‘It’s none of your business. Come on, we’re going home.’

As they walked past the Bewley Hotel, the men at the railing leered. Filthy and ale-faced, Tommy saw how they stared at Mother. He read their whispers, the little comments they made. A voice called after them, ‘I’ve got a shilling you can make, love. Won’t take long. Put a smile on that pretty face.’

Thick laughter went up. Mother took hold of Tommy’s arm and pulled him close, dragging him along the street. When they reached Spruhl’s store, Tommy unhitched Jess and walked her clear of the rail, maneuvered the empty dray, and both of them climbed onto the bench. Tommy glanced back at the hotel. A couple of men had drifted down from the verandah and were idling along the road. One began humping the air. ‘Just ignore them, Tommy,’ Mother whispered. He flicked the reins and they moved on. A glass bottle smashed behind them. Again Tommy turned. One of the men was waving, and on the verandah of Song’s Hardware Store, a slender figure withdrew from the railing and went inside through the door.
In two hundred pages’ time, Tommy will return to Bewley alone, brutally and irrevocably changed by the intervening weeks, and a devastating truth will be revealed. These two Bewley chapters book-end the long middle section of the novel, during which Tommy’s family meets with tragedy and he and his brother Billy take up with a posse of Queensland Native Police, heading into the Outback on a bloody quest for revenge. There is some deliberate mirroring between the two Bewley chapters, revealing the depth of change in Tommy, and, in the second, setting up the denouement to come. Compare the following extract from page 276, after Tommy has realised the truth about all he has done, propelling the novel to its conclusion as he rides back to confront that central deception head-on:
Tommy stopped in the middle of the road, clutching his stomach, his mouth open in a long and empty howl. He arched his back and gazed pleadingly at the sky, the clouds, at whatever lay above, then trudged up the road to Beau and fell against him, his head on his rib cage, feeling the strength of him, the warmth. He unhitched the reins, dragged himself into the saddle, and circled the horse around. Gaunt faces watching him, in windows, in doorways. As he walked Beau towards the edge of town he saw a girl step from the shadows in front of Song’s Hardware Store. She stood at the railing and spoke his name, but Tommy did not turn as he passed. He couldn’t bear to look at her. The way she’d said it—innocently, tenderly—it hadn’t sounded like his name at all.

Ahead the sun was falling in the west, and in the low light the earth and sky and all before him was red. He kicked on and rode right into it. Into the redness. Into the sun.
Learn more about Only Killers and Thieves, and follow Paul Howarth on Twitter.

Writers Read: Paul Howarth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 1, 2018

"The Storm King"

Brendan Duffy is an editor and the author of The Storm King and House of Echoes. In 2015, he was featured in Refinery29's "21 New Authors You Need to Know." He lives in New York, where he is at work on his next novel.

Duffy applied the Page 69 Test to The Storm King and reported the following:
The Storm King is carefully layered novel about a man who’s returning to his hometown after a long absence. The plot has many of interwoven elements, but the narrative’s spine is a murder mystery connected to two main timelines. Our protagonist, Nate, is a bit of an enigma when we begin, but we know that he has some darkness in his past: specifically that he did some bad things in his youth. Page 69 happens to be the last page in a chapter that’s set in his high school days, and articulates the motivation that drove Nate in the past and haunts him in the present:
There were true monsters here at the Lake. Lucy wasn’t one of them, and they didn’t infest the halls of the Night Ship. Beasts like Mr. Vanhouten and Owen’s mom were the real enemy. They infected this town—and like any disease, they had to be treated. Like the pain they caused, they had to be burned away.

“We’ll get him, Johnny,” Nate said.
The others turned to him.
“Your mom, too, Owen.” He felt his mouth crease into a smile.

“What do you mean?” Tom asked.

Nate decided that neither he nor his friends would ever be victims again.

He grinned because he understood that while misery was an affliction, wrath was a tool. While anguish was weakness, fury was power.

He smiled because at last he knew what to do with his unquenchable rage.
One of the recurring themes of The Storm King are the rippling effects of actions, and the event that precipitated this scene is the inciting incident for much of the book’s events.

I should also mention that this conversation Nate has with his friends takes place in the Night Ship, a colossal abandoned entertainment pier on the outskirts of town and one of my favorite parts of the book. The Storm King straddles several genres—mystery and crime, literary thriller and psychological suspense—but the Night Ship and the things that happen there flirt with horror and push right up to the border of magical realism. I love the kinds of books where conventional genres collide in interesting ways. I feel that approaching a book without being bound by genre conventions helps lays the foundation for a truly original story, which is what I hope I’ve delivered with The Storm King.
Visit Brendan Duffy's website.

Writers Read: Brendan Duffy.

--Marshal Zeringue