Saturday, September 29, 2018

"What She Gave Away"

Catharine Riggs is a former banker, educator and nonprofit executive. What She Gave Away, her first work of psychological suspense, features an outsider with a dark past and a bitter grudge who moves to a wealthy beachside community only to find herself enmeshed in the secrets of her boss and his hapless wife.

Riggs applied the Page 69 Test to What She Gave Away and reported the following:
What She Gave Away is a novel of psychological suspense told from the alternating perspectives of two first person narrators, Crystal and Kathi, the hunter and the hunted. Page 69 is representative of the book in that it lands at a crucial first meeting between the gullible housewife, Kathi Wright, and the suave conman Arthur Van Meter. Kathi’s life has devolved since the mysterious death of her husband, a former bank President now accused of elder abuse and fraud. Her primary coping mechanism is denial, so she has dealt with the tragedy by spending money she doesn’t have and drowning in goblets of chardonnay. On page 69, she’s attempting to purchase a few household staples at the posh neighborhood grocery store.
I pick up a dozen items, including a few cans of cat food, and wait in a rather long line. The checker looks trendy and cool, her black-and-purple hair shaved to stubble on one side. I smile and swipe my debit card, and the checker rolls her heavy-lidded eyes.

“Declined,” she says in a dull voice. “Try again.”

“But I just got a new one.”

“Did you call it in?”

“Yes, but...” I don’t need to run my card a second time to know what has happened. How could I have drained my account so quickly? I could swear I didn’t spend more than $5,000 on my recent visit to Saks.

“Do you have another card?”

I rifle through my wallet, but all I find are frozen credit cards and a five-dollar bill.

“I’m sorry,” I say, humiliated, as the line behind me grows. “I’ll put the groceries away and come back later.”

“Right,” the girl mutters under her breath.

“No need for that,” a man’s voice booms from behind. “I’ll take care of this.” I look up to find Eileen’s handsome husband standing beside me waving his card. He swipes before I can blink.

“Why, thank you,” I stammer. “But there’s no need...”

He taps in his PIN and then turns to me with a grin. “Now let me help you with your bags.”
Unfortunately, Crystal’s voice is not represented in the passage and she is vastly different from her prey. She grew up in a broken family in central California and spent a few years in juvenile hall before moving to Santa Barbara to take a job as a loan analyst in a community bank. I’ve included a short passage so a reader can get a feel for her voice and perspective.
A girl dances past me in a tiny black dress that barely covers her crotch. She bumps against Tyler and laughs. Then she bumps against him again. She’s pretty but slutty in a way I don’t like. I pick up my beer and finish it off and begin a round of my favorite game. What’s the worst thing that could happen to that girl? What would destroy her life?
Visit Catharine Riggs's website.

My Book, The Movie: What She Gave Away.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Sunrise Highway"

Peter Blauner's novels include Slow Motion Riot, winner of an Edgar Allan Poe award for best first novel from Mystery Writers of America, and The Intruder, a New York Times bestseller. He began his career as a journalist for New York magazine in the 1980s and segued into writing fiction in the 1990s. His short fiction has been anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories and on Selected Shorts from Symphony Space. He has written for several television shows, including Law & Order: SVU and the CBS series, Blue Bloods.

Blauner applied the Page 69 Test to newest novel, Sunrise Highway, and reported the following:
You turn to page 69 in the hope you'll find some of your best writing, and a prayer that you won't find some of your worst. Instead, what's there is a decent random DNA sample that offers clues about the rest of the book. Two police officers, male and female, are at a roadside crime scene in September, 1982, looking at an abandoned Ford Escort The female driver has been found dead some distance away. But the twist here is that we already know that the male officer, one Joseph Tolliver, pulled the woman over earlier in the evening and is actively concealing from the female officer, one Amy "Half-Nelson," his intimate knowledge of what happened. Here's an excerpt from the page that begins Joey T assessing the threat "Half-Nelson" represents to him:
She aimed her pointy nose at him and cocked her narrow little pasty face at an angle. Man, you rarely saw a girl with ears that big. Most would have enough sense to grow their hair longer. It was almost like she was intentionally confronting you with the size of those flaps.

“Just a figure of speech,” he said. “I’m sure it didn’t happen in the middle of rush hour. Someone would have noticed.”

She held his gaze for a beat longer than she should have. Then looked back inside the car, the corners of her thin-lipped mouth turning down.

“Where were you patrolling last night anyway?” she asked.

“Down by West Babylon. Quiet night.”

He didn’t appreciate how she kept looking just to see the side of his face, like she was trying to see something behind him.

“And you didn’t see this car go by with a female driver?” Half-Nelson raised her eyebrows.

“If you’re not breaking the law, I’m not interested in you.” He shrugged.

Billy the Kid had come staggering over. Even more hungover than usual, and wearing his tinted aviators. The man was getting to be an embarrassment, but Joey wasn’t sure how much he might have seen. There was just enough detective left in him to sometimes know when to hang back and observe.

“What do we got, officers?” He patted his pockets for a notebook.

“Just maintaining the integrity of the scene for the big boys.” Joey nodded. “I hear CSU’s busy up the road.”

“Yeah, it’s ugly,” said Rattigan. “Poor woman taken from her car, beaten, raped, and strangled. Her clothes are torn off and her neck is practically broken. It looks like wolves attacked her.”

Joey cricked his neck, aware of how Half-Nelson was restlessly hitching up her belt and scratching a spot halfway down her throat. Like she had something she wanted to say in private. Joey put on his sunglasses to glare at her: I can see out, but you can’t see in.
If you've read the book up to that point, you know that it goes back and forth to converging periods of time. In its 2017 chapters, Joey T has become someone to be reckoned with both in society at large and in the immediate purview of the book's other main character, Detective Lourdes Robles - who would have been less than a year old in this Reagan-era scene. In a sense, this page 69 excerpt is both a crucial bridge to that bigger story and a harbinger of the ultimate confrontation between these two.
Visit Peter Blauner's website.

Writers Read: Peter Blauner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


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 new novel, Husk, and reported the following:
In my new horror novel Husk, Charlie Husk is from a cannibal clan hidden deep in the backwoods of New Hampshire. When the novel starts, he has traveled to our world to collect stragglers to bring back to the clan. He picks out his first victim for this trip—a woman who has been abandoned by her jerk boyfriend at a Massachusetts Turnpike rest stop. When he offers to rescue her, instead of dumping her in a canvas sack and throwing her into the back of his van, he finds himself driving her back to her apartment in NY. He can’t help it. He has feelings for her—the first time he has ever felt anything for any of them. And he can tell the feelings are being reciprocated.

By page 69, Charlie has abandoned the clan and has decided to live as one of us in our world as long as he has a chance of being with Jill, and on the opening paragraph of that page he describes going out to dinner with Jill and being packed in among what had previously been his prey:
The restaurant Jill took me to was much smaller than the one we’d eaten at the other night. I counted only eight tables and there was little space separating them, leaving me and Jill crowded among them. Both tables next to ours were occupied, so I had other eaters sitting on both sides of me, leaving less than a foot between us, even though they were both thinner than many of them I’d seen. (Thin enough that I might not have stopped to pick them up if I was still collecting them for the clan.) While their scent was ever-present and I could feel a moist heat from them, having them so close no longer caused me any undue anxiousness. I was getting used to having so many of them around me. Jill was also well aware of the other eaters’ close proximity, and it caused her voice to be more guarded as she thought of additional questions to ask me. Her first one was whether I’d really been building houses as I had told her.
Husk passes the Page 69 Test as the page is highly representative of the creepiness that permeates the book as Charlie desperately tries to ignore his true nature so he can live with Jill, while also ignoring how difficult it can be to abandon the clan.
Learn more about the book and author at Dave Zeltserman's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 24, 2018

"River of Secrets"

Roger Johns is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor with law degrees from Louisiana State University and Boston University. During his nearly two decades as a professor, he served on the editorial staffs of several academic publications and he won numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and his scholarly writing. Johns was born and raised in Louisiana. He and his wife Julie now live in Georgia. Dark River Rising is his first novel.

Johns applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, River of Secrets, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. You’ll have whatever and whoever you need to get this done properly. And while I want you to take the time to do it right––meaning zero mistakes––I also want this case out of my hair and out of your hands and on the DA’s desk as soon as is humanly possible.”

“Understood.” Wallace didn’t like the look she saw on the chief’s face. She could tell he felt sorry for her.

“And, even with the advantages of having you as the shot caller on this investigation, we’re still taking a risk.” He walked over and stood by her chair. “I’m going all in with this decision. I’m betting everything on Hartman, to win.”

Wallace opened her mouth to speak, but he waved her off.

“One last thing. Because we have what appears to be very convincing DNA evidence putting Pitkin at the scene of the crime, standing in very close proximity to the victim, pressure is already mounting to close out our part in this investigation. To just put everything in the hands of the prosecutor and let her and her investigators flesh out what’s left of the case.” He pushed the computer to the side and leaned against the edge of the little table. “Think of this as a test question. How long do you think I should resist that pressure, Detective Hartman?”

“As long as there’s a chance that caving in would look like a rush to judgment.” She looked him squarely in the eye.

“I’m counting on you to understand, in very practical terms, the difference between a rush to judgment and a sprint to the truth.”

“I think I’m clear on what you’re telling me, Chief Shannon.”

“I’ll want you to brief me. Directly.” He repeatedly jabbed the first two fingers of his left hand against his chest. “Every evening. I’ll want a recap of the previous twenty-four hours.”

“Yes, sir.”

“What’s your next step?”

“I need to get a warrant from a judge in Pointe Coupee Parish, so I can search Craig Stephens’s lake house on False River.”

“If I’m not mistaken, Burley has been beavering away on that very matter, while you and I have been having our little chat.”
I write the Wallace Hartman mysteries, which are set in Baton Rouge, LA. The second in the series, River of Secrets, came out on August 28, 2018. Wallace is a white female homicide detective and page 69 finds her at the end of conversation with Jack Shannon, the first black chief of police in Baton Rouge. He’s decided to keep her on, as the lead detective in a politically and racially charged case that is sparking waves of violence across the city. Some in the city government feel Wallace is the wrong person to handle the case, but Shannon feels otherwise. This fragment of a scene illustrates the risks Shannon is taking, by keeping Wallace on the case, and how much he is relying on her to get the job done and do the right thing while resisting the political pressure to just rubber-stamp the investigation and do the safe thing. This fragment of a scene highlights the idea that there’s always risk involved when we rely on others to be true to their stated principles when the heat is on, and introduces a couple of related questions that haunt the remainder of the book: (1) Can we ever really know whether another person’s stated principles truly reflect their innermost beliefs, and (2) Is it ever safe to assume that they do?
Visit Roger Johns's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dark River Rising.

My Book, The Movie: River of Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Jacob Stone is the byline chosen by award-winning author Dave Zeltserman for his new Morris Brick series of serial-killer thrillers. His crime, mystery and horror fiction has won top praise and has been translated into six languages. His novels Small Crimes and Pariah were both named by the Washington Post as best books of the year. Small Crimes topped National Public Radio's list of best crime and mystery novels of 2008 and is being made into a feature film.

Zeltserman applied the Page 69 Test to Cruel, the latest Morris Black thriller, and reported the following:
Cruel is a crime thriller in which Morris Brick and the gang are hunting yet another serial killer, this time the Nightmare Man. But it’s also mysteries nested within each other like a matryoshka doll, where each solved mystery leads to an even more mystifying mystery. On page 69, Morris and Charlie Bogle are searching for an actor named Benjamin Chandler who could provide a key to finding the identity of the Nightmare Man. From the page:
Bogle pulled his late-model Lexus that he’d bought used with eighty thousand miles on it into the circular drive, and he and Morris, with Parker plodding along, tried the front door. If the bell rang inside, they couldn’t tell—either it was broken or the construction was too solid to leak out any noise. Whichever it was, no one answered. The same after Bogle rapped his knuckles against the oak door. It didn’t surprise either of them when they investigated the back of the house and found the power line had been cut. Nor when they saw that a panel had been punched out from one of the patio doors. Neither bothered to mention the obvious—that the power line was cut to disable the alarm system.
Is this representative of the book? That’s a tough question to answer. The book is filled with twists and turns and since it changes gears so many times I’m not sure any page early on would be representative, especially Page 69 which covers more of the routine investigation.
Visit Dave Zeltserman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cruel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 21, 2018

"A Study in Honor"

Claire O'Dell grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in the years of the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal. She attended high school just a few miles from the house where Mary Surratt once lived and where John Wilkes Booth conspired for Lincoln to die. All this might explain why she spent so much time in the history and political science departments at college. O'Dell currently lives in Manchester, CT with her family and two idiosyncratic cats.

O'Dell applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Study in Honor, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The device before me was an ugly collection of metal rods with boxlike compartments at the knee and ankle, which housed the primitive electronics, and a foot that looked like blunt pedal. The last time I had seen a device like this, it was over ten years ago, and even then it had been an outdated model. The thing enabled her to walk, but not much more. If she had been a dancer, a nurse, she would have lost her career. As it was, she could only stand two hours at a time.

But that was life for our soldiers these days. That was our whole economy tumbling down into the black hole called the New Civil War.
A Study in Honor is the first entry in my new SF/Mystery series about Dr. Janet Watson and Special Agent Sara Holmes. Watson is newly discharged from the US New Civil War, after she lost her arm to an enemy sniper. Until she can wrangle a new prosthetic device from the government, she returns to DC and takes a job as a medical technician at the VA Medical Center. In this scene, she meets Private Belinda Díaz, who lost her leg to an IED, and who is trying to reclaim her own life.

It's a brief scene, but it captures all the important elements of the book: the seemingly never-ending newar, the plight of veterans, the crumbling economy. It's also the first clue of a mystery that both Watson and her Holmes must solve.
Visit Claire O’Dell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"After Nightfall"

Born in India and raised in North America, A. J. Banner received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous novels of psychological suspense include The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife, a USA Today bestseller. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and rescued cats.

Banner applied the Page 69 Test to After Nightfall, her third novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I tuck the key card into my purse, the one I found with the oak tree logo. To whom could it belong? I sent Nathan a text, but he said he knew nothing about it. That leaves Lauren. The key card must have been hers, even if Jensen didn’t know. Husbands don’t know everything about their wives, do they? And vice versa?
In After Nightfall, the viewpoint character, Marissa, seeks answers to the tragic death of her long-time frenemy, Lauren. The morning after a tense dinner party during which Marissa and her fiancé, Nathan, announced their engagement, Marissa found Lauren’s battered body on the beach at the bottom of a cliff. Fraught with guilt and regret, Marissa tries to figure out what happened. Did Lauren fall, was she pushed, or did she take a deliberate step into darkness?

While Marissa does interact with the detective assigned to the case, he won’t give her any insight into the official investigation, leaving Marissa to sleuth on her own. As she follows the clues, she uncovers alarming secrets about each of the dinner guests who attended the party, leading her to question the motives of everyone she thought she knew. Page 69 does represent the “whodunit” mystery tone of the novel, the idea that even those closest to us keep secrets, and Marissa’s sense of determination in her quest to discover the truth about Lauren’s death.
Visit A.J. Banner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"An Act of Villainy"

Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University.

Weaver applied the Page 69 Test to An Act of Villainy, her fifth Amory Ames Mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Mr. Holloway picked up his glass of champagne. ‘I would also like to propose a toast. To the talented cast of The Price of Victory. You have surpassed what I imagined as I put these words on paper, and I cannot thank you enough. Especially our rising star.’ He lifted his glass. ‘To Flora Bell and the best cast in London.’

Glasses lifted across the room, though I could feel an undertone of speculations as the partygoers drank their toast.

I looked in the direction in which Mr. Holloway had lifted his glass. Flora Bell stood there, and I was surprised to see she did not look as triumphant as I might have imagined. In fact, she looked almost distracted as she smiled and nodded at those congratulating her.

My gaze then went to the flash of fire-colored fabric on the other side of the room, and I looked at Georgina. She, too, was talking to people around her. She looked very composed, as though the toast had had no impact upon her.
Page 69 of An Act of Villainy occurs after the triumphant premier of investor and playwright Gerard Holloway’s new play. Amory Ames and her husband Milo are in attendance because Mr. Holloway has revealed that his leading lady, Flora Bell, has been receiving threatening anonymous letters, and he wants them to help identify the writer. Miss Bell has made her share of enemies – not the least among them Gerard Holloway’s wife, Georgina. After all, it’s an open secret that Flora Bell is Holloway’s mistress.

This page gives an indication of the tensions that lie beneath the surface of this successful theatrical production featuring a bright new star of the stage. Amory and Milo have had their own share of marital difficulties in the past, so Amory wants to not only solve a mystery but reunite a husband and wife she is sure still love each other deeply. Alas, speculation, rumors, and lies left to simmer are sure to lead to violence and danger for all involved, and Amory and Milo will once again find themselves at the dark heart of another murder investigation.
Visit Ashley Weaver's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Most Novel Revenge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 17, 2018


Sofka Zinovieff studied social anthropology at Cambridge and carried out the research for her PhD in Greece. This marked the beginning of a lifelong involvement with the country.

She has lived in Moscow and Rome and worked as a freelance journalist and reviewer, writing mainly for British publications including The Telegraph Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement, The Financial Times, The Spectator, The Independent Magazine and The London Magazine.

After many years in Athens, she now divides her time between there and England. She is married and has two daughters.

Zinovieff applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Putney, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Greek eye bead in there. It’ll protect you – keep away the evil eye. They work, you know.’

As she waited on Putney Bridge for the bus home Jane glanced down at the bright-blue Greek eye staring out from her chest. She would never normally wear something as quirky and conspicuous as this. The panic had dissipated, but she felt as disoriented as if she’d been flung back in time and now inhabited the plump, hormonal flesh of her teenage self.
Page 69 of Putney isn’t as representative as I’d like, but it gives some clues. 50-year-old Jane has just visited her old best school friend Daphne after many years. She was horrified to see Daphne’s work-in-progress - a fabric collage that celebrates her 1970s childhood in Putney, and worse, her secret relationship with a much older married man. While Daphne says that there was nothing harmful about it, Jane feels physically ill after seeing the images of a wild-haired girl being led across Putney Bridge. A romance (as Daphne argues) or an abduction? It is Jane who will try to show Daphne how wrong she is and that a child cannot consent to a sexual relationship, even when she believes she was in love.

Jane always felt that Daphne was the slim, glamorous, adventurous “lovable” one in their youthful friendship and she easily slips back into feeling that even now, in middle age, she is gauche and takes up too much space. Her natural modesty extends to style, and the gaudy, home-made brooch that Daphne gives Jane (with a Greek bead resembling an eye – Daphne is half-Greek) just increases Jane’s sense of discomfort.
Visit Sofka Zinovieff's website.

My Book, The Movie: Putney.

Writers Read: Sofka Zinovieff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 15, 2018

"Burning Ridge"

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, featuring Deputy Mattie Cobb, her canine partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Her books include Killing Trail, Stalking Ground, and Hunting Hour and have been named finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, the International Book Awards, and the Silver Falchion Awards. Mizushima spent her childhood years on a cattle ranch before receiving a master’s degree in speech pathology and then practicing as a speech therapist with a neurological communication disorders specialty. She colors her fiction with life experiences such as being a vet’s wife and training search and rescue dogs. She lives on a small farm in Colorado where she and her husband have raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Mizushima applied the Page 69 Test to her latest mystery, Burning Ridge, and reported the following:
Leading up to this page, Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo have found a charred body in the mountain wilderness outside of Timber Creek. Raised in foster care, Mattie yearns for the security and comfort of family, yet can’t quite trust falling in love. Veterinarian Cole Walker is recently divorced after his wife left him and their daughters (ages nine and six), and though he’s aware of a growing love for Mattie, he’s not certain that he and his kids are ready for him to start a new relationship.

On page 69, Mattie, Cole, and Robo have come down from the mountains where they’ve been investigating a murder and are having dinner with Cole’s daughters, Angela and Sophie. Riley is a teen that Mattie met in her high school Just Say No class. Since Riley is new to town and her father works two jobs, she’s often at loose ends after school, so Mattie brought her to dinner hoping she would befriend Cole’s kids. Shortly after this page, Riley’s dad becomes a suspect.

Here’s the excerpt:
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Cole murmured.

“Our mom lives in Denver,” Sophie chimed in, as if that counted for something.

Riley nodded at her, and Mattie realized that in the minds of kids, maybe it did.

“After Mom died, Dad seemed in a hurry to move out here. I don’t know why he picked Timber Creek. It seemed like we had a lot more money back in L.A., and he didn’t have to work as much.”

That statement tweaked Mattie’s attention. Whenever anyone mentioned a lot of money, her mind shot straight to the drug trade. Occupational hazard. “What did your dad do in L.A.?”

Riley averted her eyes. “I don’t know really. Something to do with business. Like selling and trading on eBay, but not that. Just something like it.”

Her answer didn’t satisfy Mattie’s curiosity, but she decided to let it go. “I’d better take you home soon, Riley. You girls have school tomorrow. Maybe we should help Mrs. Gibbs clean up and get ready to leave.”

“Oh, come now. I can clean up the kitchen me own self.” The housekeeper’s Irish brogue colored her words. She glanced at Sophie whose face was etched with disappointment. “Why don’t you all go to the clinic to see the new coop and those chickens before you leave?”

Sophie jumped from her chair, gathering Riley’s dishes with her own to carry to the sink. “There’s three of them. Chicken Little is the smallest one, and there’s Tootie and Buck. We thought Buck was a boy, but it looks like he’s a girl. Dad and I built their chicken house.” She looked at her sister. “You’ll come with us, won’t you, Angie?”
Though page 69 represents one of the themes in Burning Ridge as well as the series—family and all the forms it might take—it isn’t a representation of the tone, setting, or action contained within the book. Publishers Weekly has described those characteristics with this quote: “…well-developed interpersonal relationships, awe-inspiring landscape descriptions, and some excruciatingly vivid action.” Page 69 is pretty tame for a book described with those terms.
Visit Margaret Mizushima's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and Tess.

My Book, The Movie: Burning Ridge.

Writers Read: Margaret Mizushima.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"Happy Doomsday"

David Sosnowski has worked as a gag writer, fireworks salesman, telephone pollster, university writing instructor, and environmental-protection specialist while living in places as different as Washington, DC; Detroit, Michigan; and Fairbanks, Alaska. His books include the critically acclaimed novels Rapture and Vamped.

Sosnowski applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Happy Doomsday, and reported the following:
The following passage comes from around the middle of page 69 of Happy Doomsday:
And so Dev looked at the parking lot, where the zombies weren’t, but where a lot of unclaimed personal transportation was. He hadn’t bothered with driver’s ed – hadn’t seen the point. Though not being able to drive in Michigan rendered him pretty much an invalid, regardless of his position on the spectrum, Dev knew he’d never be able to drive. Moving through an ever-changing landscape at twenty-five miles or more per hour was just too much data for his brain to process. He knew this because it had been too much for him to handle just being a passenger, which had been his argument to Leo some time ago. If his parents and he ever had to go anywhere that involved getting on the freeway, his stepdad slipped him a Xanax, and then Dev would stretch out on the backseat, eyes closed, facedown. More than once, they’d been stopped while going through customs at the Ambassador Bridge that connected Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the agents insisting that Dev get out and prove he wasn’t dead or a hostage. Maybe give him a chance to blink “help me” in Morse code or something.
This passage comes just after an event known as “the Whatever-It-Was” leaves Dev the only survivor in a high school where everyone else has mysteriously dropped dead. The passage isn’t necessarily representative because it leaves out two major characters: Lucy, a Goth girl from Georgia, and Marcus (a.k.a., Mo) from Oklahoma, both of whom also survive the original event and eventually hookup with Dev. The passage does give the reader a snapshot of Dev autistic world view and takes place at a pivotal point in the story, i.e., the doomsday of the title, which is hinted at by the reference to the school parking lot’s lacking zombies, though elsewhere in the novel there will be plenty of moldering corpses of the non-walking variety.
Visit David Sosnowski's website.

My Book, The Movie: Happy Doomsday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"When the Lights Go Out"

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of four novels, including The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, Don't You Cry, Every Last Lie, and the newly released When the Lights Go Out.

A former high school history teacher, Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.

She applied the Page 69 Test to When the Lights Go Out and reported the following:
From page 69:
Suddenly it dawns on me all the information I’m liable to find when the woman locates my birth certificate. Not only the documentation I need to prove I’m Jessica Sloane, but the place where I was born. The exact time I slipped from Mom’s womb. The name of the obstetrician who stood below, waiting to catch me as I fell.

My father’s name.

In just a few short minutes, I’ll know once and for all who he is. Not only will I have proof of my own identity, but of my father’s as well.
On page 69 of When the Lights Go Out, twenty year old Jessie Sloan enters the Cook County Clerk’s Office in Chicago, where the Bureau of Vital Records is located, to try and track down her birth certificate – in the hopes of proving not only who she is, but of discovering who her father is. Jessie is a young woman whose mother has just died from breast cancer; she has no other family to speak of. Jessie has put the last five years of her life on hold to care for her ailing mother, but now, in the wake of her mother’s death, has made the decision to apply to college and make something of herself. But when the college’s financial aid office informs Jessie that her social security number is registered to a child who died seventeen years ago at the age of three, Jessie ventures off on an expedition to figure out who she really is.

Page 69 is quite representative of the novel in the fact that it sets the stage for what’s to come. Jessie soon discovers that there is no birth certificate on file for her and, as a debilitating insomnia begins to take hold, she falls down a delirious rabbit hole, trying to decipher if she’s really the person she thinks she is or if her mother had been purposefully withholding her real identity – and if that’s the case, why?
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 9, 2018

"Hunt The Lion"

Chad Zunker studied journalism at The University of Texas, where he was also on the football team. He’s worked for some of the most powerful law firms in the country and invented baby products that are now sold all over the world. He has wanted to write full time since he took his first practice hit as a skinny freshman walk-on from a 6’5, 240 pound senior All-American safety — which crushed both him and his feeble NFL dreams. He lives in Austin with his wife, Katie, and their three daughters.

Zunker applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Hunt The Lion, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Behind her, she could hear a growing wave of screams catching up on her. The goateed man was probably running after her with his gun on full display. Who the hell was this guy? Who wanted her dead?
Hunt The Lion is the third book in my Sam Callahan series, each of which are fast-paced thrill rides that place my protagonists (Sam Callahan and his love, Natalie Foster) on the constant run. Page 69 accurately captures the relentless pace of the stories, as it finds Natalie racing through the streets of DC while being chased by a stocky man with a gun. Natalie, an investigative reporter, has just discovered a shocking CIA video of Sam standing in a room full of dead bodies in Moscow, when she thought he was on a standard business trip in London. Nothing is what it seems, which has Natalie questioning whether she really has a future with Sam. But first things first, she must stay alive!
Visit Chad Zunker's website.

My Book, The Movie: Hunt The Lion.

Writers Read: Chad Zunker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 7, 2018

"Gravesend" and "The Lonely Witness"

William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. His debut novel, Gravesend, was published as #1,000 in the Rivages/Noir collection in France, where it was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. Gravesend is currently shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the UK and will be reissued by Pegasus Crime in the US in September 2018. Boyle is also the author of a book of short stories, Death Don’t Have No Mercy, and of another novel, Tout est Brisé (Everything is Broken). His most recent novel, The Lonely Witness, is out now from Pegasus Crime. A new novel, A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself, is forthcoming in March 2019. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Boyle applied the Page 69 Test to Gravesend and to The Lonely Witness, and reported the following:
From page 69 in Gravesend:
A nurse had said, “You glad you’re alive?”

“Not really,” he’d said.
From page 69 in The Lonely Witness:
The car arrives ten minutes later. They go downstairs, Amy holding Diane’s arm as they take the steps one by one. Diane seems more fragile by the moment. The car is almost identical to the one Amy caught at the diner, except I DID IT “MY WAY” is stenciled on the door in yellow letters. Amy helps Diane in.
Both of these excerpts, even totally out of context, feel representative of the overall mood of each book—a haunted memory in Gravesend, a fragile and traumatic encounter that’s actually something else altogether in The Lonely Witness. There’s the feeling of doom and uncertainty, the feeling that things can and will unravel soon.
Visit William Boyle's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"I Will Never Leave You"

S. M. Thayer is a pseudonym for an award-winning fiction writer and McDowell Fellow whose work has appeared in numerous publications and received several Pushcart Prize nominations. A native of New York, Thayer lived for decades in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region before moving to rural Virginia and earning an MFA from Virginia Tech.

He applied the Page 69 Test to I Will Never Leave You, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 (as told from Tricia’s point of view):
“This is America. You can believe what you want to believe, but I do seriously good work,” Simpkins [the private investigator] says, and in the pride that glows on his cheeks, I sense my trust in him isn’t misplaced. He isn’t a stupid man. He’s worked for Mark Zuckerberg, a certified tech genius, so technical skills must be in his arsenal.

“Everyone’s got secrets,” I say. “Find hers however you can. I don’t care how you find them, but I need them. The more debauched and scandalous, the better.”
I Will Never Leave You is a psychological thriller/domestic suspense novel told from the point of view of three characters who suddenly realize they can not all be happy. James and Tricia have been married for ten years but are unable to conceive a child that they both desperately want. After Tricia reacts violently to the idea of surrogacy, James’s eye wanders. He begins seeing Laurel, a young waitress freshly out of college, with a half-formed idea that he can have a baby with her and yet somehow, through charm and good fortune, still maintain his seemingly happy marriage with Tricia. Needless to say, Tricia is not exactly happy with this situation. As she says, “I don’t begrudge James the baby. But it goes without saying that I begrudge him the mistress.”

For me, what makes the novel work is that each character is fundamentally selfish in an underhanded way, yet human enough to have moments of sublime generosity and noble aspirations. It's the conflict between selfishness and generosity that hooks each of these characters up and creates the novel's tension and narrative momentum.

Page 69, although only two paragraphs long, is actually fairly indicative of Tricia’s underhanded ways. She’s a banking heiress who believes that because of her wealth, James will ultimately remain indebted (or indentured?) to her for life. In the pages leading up to page 69, she’s engaged the services of private investigator to dig up dirt about Laurel that she can use to her advantage.
Visit S. M. Thayer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 3, 2018

"Sweet Little Lies"

Caz Frear grew up in Coventry, England, and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the second finally came true. She has a degree in History & Politics, and when she’s not agonizing over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at Arsenal football matches or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Frear applied the Page 69 Test to Sweet Little Lies, her first novel, and reported the following:
I’m not sure if any one page is wholly representative of Sweet Little Lies as the goalposts shift continuously and the twists and turns come thick and fast (I hope!) However, London is very present on page 69 so in this sense, it is quite representative. When I first started writing Sweet Little Lies, I was in the process of moving out of London back to the West Midlands and writing about the city helped me deal with my homesickness!
“I just don’t understand it. I assumed she’d gone to the coast like before. She loved being by the sea, whereas she hated London. Absolutely hated it.”
The victim, Alice Lapaine, has been found murdered in London (after spending a few weeks in the city) and this has come as a great shock to her husband, Tom. He simply can’t think of a reason why she might have headed there. This is probably the first hint that there’s much more to the victim than meets the eye. Has she been living a secret life? Has she lied to her husband?

Page 69 also provides a small insight into DC Cat Kinsella’s background. The reader infers from this page that she grew up in London but that her family moved out to the Home Counties when she was still quite young. The phrase ‘the bourgeois mystique of Radlett’ is designed to tell the reader exactly what she thought of that decision - Cat Kinsella is very much a London girl at heart!
Follow Caz Frear on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 1, 2018

"Not Her Daughter"

Rea Frey is an award-winning author of nonfiction books. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Not Her Daughter, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I watch her, just feet from me, crouch and fold into a tight little ball. A red orb against a black, early night. She doesn’t see me. She is afraid of someone.

Her mother rockets out the back door, the baby missing from her hip, and she yells at the top of her lungs: “Emma Grace, come here right this instant!”

There’s an annoyed mother’s tone and then there’s this – poison mixed with something dangerous. Emma stands and teeters back and forth. She steps out of the woods as I reach for her, my hands closing in on air.

Amy takes a few steps forward, and Emma takes one small step back toward the woods.

“How many times have I told you not to go into those woods? Get over here right now. It’s time to go inside. I mean it.”

She moves as deliberately as I’ve ever seen a child move, as if time has been stilled and she is a slow-motion mime.

“Emma, now!”

Emma walks with her head down until she is standing a foot away from her mother. I’m holding my breath, and then Amy’s hand is around Emma’s elbow, and she is shaking her until tears prick my eyes.
Page 69 is actually representative of the whole novel. Sarah, a successful, if broken-hearted businesswoman, suddenly finds herself camping out in the woods watching a child she wants to rescue.

This is the moment when Sarah can still walk away. She is not yet a kidnapper. She has not yet done anything wrong. But she is a witness to a swiftly unfolding scene that will be the catalyst for the entire novel.
Visit Rea Frey's website.

My Book, The Movie: Not Her Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue