Thursday, January 17, 2019

"The Hanging Psalm"

Chris Nickson is the author of the highly-acclaimed Richard Nottingham series and is also a well-known music journalist. Born and raised in Leeds, he lived in the USA for thirty years and now makes his home in England.

Nickson applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Hanging Psalm, and reported the following:
From page 69:
This White still has my daughter and now he’s got my money. He’s making me look like a fool.’

Simon wasn’t going to offer excuses; the man wouldn’t accept them.

‘It’s not over yet.’

‘You’re damned right it’s not. It won’t be until my lass is back at home and this man is hanging from the gibbet.’

If she ever comes home, Simon thought. If it’s not too late.

‘Now I know who he is, I can go after him.’

‘You’ve put up a piss-poor show so far.’

No need to reply. He wasn’t likely to change Milner’s mind.

‘He’ll send you a letter. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Demanding more money.’

‘He can do what he bloody well likes. He won’t see another penny until my daughter’s back with me.’ Milner raised a hand and pointed. ‘And don’t you be telling me otherwise.’
Would that make someone read on? It’s a good question, isn’t it? But really, it’s only the first part of the set-up. It’s apparent that Simon has failed. But in failing, he’s learned something important, something that changes everything – and it means he’s the only one who can put it all right.
‘Because there’s nobody else who can help you. Where else are you going to go? The constable? He’s a joke; you know that as well as I do. He’s nothing more than a title. And you’ll be lucky if you can find the Watch sober or awake. I’m what’s here, and I’ll tell you this: I’m good at what I do.’

The man set his jaw. Rage burned behind his eyes. When was the last time anyone had talked to him like this? Simon wondered.

‘Then you’d better prove you are.
And he has the chance to do it. As he says, where else can the man turn? And he’s good at what he does. He’s a thief-taker, the only one worth a damn in Leeds. He’s proved himself time and again. He’s had his failures, too, because he’s human. And he’s never been asked to find a woman before. But in 1820, women, both wives and daughters, we property. And a thief-taker finds what’s been stolen and returns it for a fee.

Now he knows who he’s up against, and he understands it’s going to be a battle like no other. So far, everything has been a prelude, a test, and he hasn’t done well. Now he needs to change that.

So yes, as Simon takes a deep breath and prepares to plunge back in, I’d follow him.
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Nickson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Iron Water.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"The Parisians"

Marius Gabriel was accused by Cosmopolitan magazine of ‘keeping you reading while your dinner burns’. He served his author apprenticeship as a student at Newcastle University, where, to finance his postgraduate research, he wrote thirty-three steamy romances under a pseudonym. Gabriel's novels include The Ocean Liner, The Seventh Moon, The Original Sin, and the Redcliffe Sisters series, Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye, Take Me to Your Heart Again, and The Designer.

Gabriel applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Parisians, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Parisians is a pivotal point in the novel. We see the famous designer Coco Chanel waking up in her suite in the Paris Ritz to learn that the Germans are only seventy-five miles from Paris. She has to face the fact that the French army has been completely routed, and that there is nothing now to stop Hitler from conquering the whole of France. From now on, Paris (and indeed the whole of Europe) will be increasingly crushed under the Nazi jackboot – nothing can ever be the same again. The question she asks herself is – how am I going to survive?
Visit Marius Gabriel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"Sins as Scarlet"

Nicolás Obregón is a Londoner, a Madrileño, and a full-time writer. He has worked as a security steward, a travel writer, an overnight guardian, an ice rink attendant, a bookseller, a post boy, an editor in legal publishing, and an odd-jobs man for a failed mineral water company. (Not in that order).

His first novel, Blue Light Yokohama, was published in 2017 across the world. It was conceived while traveling on a bullet train from Hiroshima to Kyoto.

Obregón applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Sins as Scarlet, the sequel to Blue Light Yokohama, and reported the following:
From page 69:
A mile south­west of the Wanderlust, Iwata turned on Maple and parked behind a slaughterhouse. The main road was mobbed, the whole neighbourhood turned into one teeming open market, a circus without the roof. The Spanish language, in all its variegation, could be heard – haggling, joking, promising. These exchanges competed with car horns, electronic toy dogs yapping and a blind man playing De Colores on his keyboard.

Santee Alley catered to any low­cost whim: novelty contact lenses, plastic aquariums containing hatchling turtles, baby onesies with madcap slogans:

MY MOM IS TAKEN BUT MY AUNTIE IS HOT AND SINGLE

Iwata made his way through the bustle, soapy bubbles swirling through the air around him. Men with flags coaxed cars into overpriced valet lots. On every other street corner hucksters carrying more balloons than seemed possible resembled giant multicoloured rasp­berries. Ground­ floor living rooms had been turned into makeshift taquerias with cubbyhole toilets that charged seventy­ ve cents to shit. A fast­food truck doled out huaraches, quesadillas and tlacoyos, dishes that pre­dated Christopher Columbus.
This page might not necessarily be the most representative one in the novel -- Inspector Iwata is investigating the murder of a transgender woman on the train tracks behind Skid Row. Early on he suspects that there may be a serial killer at work in the Los Angeles underbelly - unseen by the powers that be. In this passage, Iwata is passing through Santee Alley to buy information from a local snitch. Although not much is 'happening' in this scene, it does give the reader a sense of place. And that is something that I always strive for. In my eyes, setting is absolutely crucial -- it should serve as one of the main characters. Los Angeles is often portrayed as seedy, glamorous, even dangerous; a city of liars, movie executives, hopefuls, rubbing shoulders with the helpless. In my book, Sins As Scarlet, I certainly wanted to exploit those tropes. But I also wanted to delve into the Los Angeles I live and breathe every day that usually doesn't make it into the books and movies. The great swathes of city that are overlooked by Hollywood or even the greats of Noir. Inspector Iwata explores the LA underbelly, rifling through the pockets of cultures and subcultures that are so often driven past. Ultimately, it's a mystery novel full of lies, corruption, and murder; it tips its cap at all the tropes of the genre. But the heart of the book is the city itself and her secrets hiding in a thousand alleys, under a thousand bridges, on a thousand street corners.
Visit Nicolás Obregón's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 11, 2019

"No Exit"

Taylor Adams directed the acclaimed short film And I Feel Fine in 2008 and graduated from Eastern Washington University with the Excellence in Screenwriting Award and the prestigious Edmund G. Yarwood Award. His directorial work has screened at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival and his writing has been featured on KAYU-TV’s Fox Life blog. He has worked in the film/television industry for several years and lives in Washington state.

Adams applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, No Exit, and reported the following:
From page 69:
10:18 P.M.

Darby hadn't seen her father in eleven years, but as a high school graduation gift two years ago, he'd mailed her a multi-tool. The funny part? The drugstore Hallmark card congratulated her for graduating college.

Oops, right?

But as gifts go, it wasn't bad. It was one of those red Swiss Army variants that unfolded in a fan - corkscrew, metal saw, nail file. And of course, a two-inch serrated blade. She'd only used it once, to help open the blister package encasing her roommate's new earbuds, and then she'd forgotten about it for the rest of her college career. She kept it in Blue's glove box.

It was in her back pocket now. Like a prison shiv.

She was seated on the stone coffee counter, her back against the security shutter, her knees tucked up to her chest. From here she could watch the entire room - Ed and Ashley finishing their millionth game of Go Fish, Sandi reading her paperback, and Lars guarding the door in his usual spot.
This little passage actually sums up No Exit quite nicely by touching on all four of the stranded travelers, the rest area, and, in the form of that multi-tool, heroine Darby's troubled relationship with her own family. At this point in the story, she's just witnessed a horrifying wrong and vowed to take action. She's now formulating a plan that will pit her against an unknown psychopath in the room with her, and she's armed with only her wits and the contents of her car. And that very same multi-tool.

It's going to be a long night...
Visit Taylor Adams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

"Crewel and Unusual"

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Crewel and Unusual (Haunted Yarn Shop Series #6), and reported the following:
Is page 69 of Crewel and Unusual representative of the rest of the book? Here it is from the first full paragraph to the bottom of the page. We enter the scene as the protagonist realizes Joe and Martha haven’t heard that the shreds of a vandalized and valuable tablecloth are missing from one of the shops in an arts co-op.
Joe and Martha were staring at me.

“You must have loped away before Belinda discovered the scraps were missing,” I said. “Well, that’s the latest wrinkle in all this.”

“We didn’t hear a peep from over there,” Joe said.

“And Belinda rarely just peeps,” said Martha.

“She might be in shock at this point, and who could blame her? Cole thinks the stress got to her, and she doesn’t remember moving them. He and Rogalla are going to knock themselves out being helpful and find them for her. I bet they don’t find them, and I bet even more that this whole thing is an inside job and the unlocked door has nothing to do with it.”

“The unlocked door complicates things, though,” Joe said.

“Belinda leaving her shop tonight complicates them, too,” Martha added.

“Oh, Belinda.” I felt like banging my forehead against the wall. Banging Belinda’s forehead against the wall would have felt better, though only in the short term; in the end I would have felt obliged to join Clod at anger management. “Why did she go and do that?”

“Why shouldn’t she?” Martha asked. “None of us are required to be here, and most of us won’t be keeping regular hours. They aren’t that kind of shops.”

“I know. I’m just whining on behalf of a tablecloth that can’t whine for itself anymore. Where did she go? How long was she gone?”

“She went looking for anyone who would listen to her tale of woe. It’s been like a B-grade drama around here with B-linda b-moaning and b-wailing.” Martha yawned, then, and told Joe she’d see him in the morning. “And I assume you’ll show up at some point, too?” she asked me.

“I wouldn’t miss it. It’ll be great.”

“We’ll hope for the best, anyway, with strong coffee in the morning and whiskey when it’s over.” She covered another yawn and went down the stairs.
Representative? I’ll say yes. On this page we learn about “the latest wrinkle” in the story—the scraps of the ruined tablecloth are missing. We also hear about a planned search for the scraps and doubts about the outcome; a theory that the disappearance is an inside job; the complication of an unlocked door; frustration over Belinda leaving her shop and over her dramatics; a possible need for anger management; and a definite need for strong coffee and whiskey. This book is an amateur sleuth mystery. Wrinkles, doubts, disappearances, theories, locked and unlocked doors, complications, and frustrations are classic elements of the genre. Crewel and Unusual is book six in the Haunted Yarn Shop mystery series. Come for the fibers, needlework, murder, and ghost, and stick around for the coffee and whiskey.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 7, 2019

"The Burglar"

Thomas Perry's novels include the Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act, Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, Poison Flower, and A String of Beads), Death Benefits, Pursuit, the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for best novel, and The Butcher's Boy, which won the prestigious Edgar Award.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Burglar, and reported the following:
I’ve applied this test to a number of my books over the years, but this is the first time when page 69 happened to be the final page of a chapter, and therefore, shorter than a full page. It still seems to work.

On this page, the burglar protagonist Elle Stowell, is bargaining with a fence named Steinholm in the workshop at what used to be his father’s jewelry store. They’ve reached an impasse on a diamond necklace she’s got. He wants some of the loose diamonds now, but claims he can’t pay her for a month. Elle’s reply:
“No.”

“Now you’re starting to piss me off.” He snatched up the pistol and fired a round at the concrete floor that ricocheted upward and threw concrete chips toward the far wall. He looked at her as though that had settled it and set the gun down.

She pulled her own pistol and fired it into the ceiling above their heads, then instantly brought it down, already aimed at his chest. “No sale.” She glared at him as she backed all the way to the door, keeping the red dot of the laser sight on his chest. She felt for the knob without looking at it, opened the door, sidestepped out, ran to her car, and drove off.
This is a fairly typical scene. Elle is young, small, and easy to underestimate, but she’s been on her own, stealing to eat since she was 14.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 5, 2019

"The Lost Puzzler"

Eyal Kless is a classical violinist who enjoys an international career both as a performer and a teacher. Born in Israel, he has travelled the world extensively, living several years in Dublin, London, Manchester, and Vienna, before returning to Tel Aviv. Kless's first novel, Rocca's Violin, was published in Hebrew in 2008 by Korim Publishers. He currently teaches violin in the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, and performs with the Israel Haydn String Quartet, which he founded.

Kless applied the Page 69 Test to the first of his sci fi/fantasy novel series, The Lost Puzzler, and reported the following:
The Lost Puzzler is a mixture of a swashbuckling adventure, a mystery involving the fate and future of mankind and a much darker story thread of love and betrayal. Page 69 of the novel definitely deals with the darkness part.
“Sadre Banishra’s expression was one of deep concern, barely held in check, as he entered the barn. He turned ashen when he saw the expressions on the faces of his wife and eldest son.

Young Rafik was standing in the center of the barn, he shouted “Papa” and ran towards him.

Sadre laid a heavy hand on his son’s small head. He looked uncertainly at his wife and older son. Fahid bit his lip and lowered his head. Rafik’s mother shook hers but held his gaze, tears trailing down her face.

“Fahid, go to the house and make sure the other children do not talk to anyone.”

“But father, he said Eithan saw—”

“Just do it!” Sadre snapped.

“Father,” cried Rafik, “I didn’t do it. It’s not my fault. It’s the medicine, right? It’s only very small, look,” he held up his hand to his father’s face.

Sadre gasped and took a step back, “Blessed Prophet,” he mumbled.
And so begins one of the most difficult chapters I had to write in The Lost Puzzler. I admit I struggled with it greatly, especially because I am a father to a young daughter. While working on it, I found myself needing to move to another room instead of my usual place, which is next to my sleeping daughter’s bed. The question of a hard, impossible decision a parent might need to make under these circumstances kept me awake at night and through countless of rewrites: What would I do if I found out my child had been cursed? What would I do if his/her fate, as well as the future of my entire family is in jeopardy because of that curse? How far would I go? What would I do?

The grim answer I came up with was “I’ll do whatever the hell it takes.” That might be the right answer any loving parent would give, but the consequences of following it through could be destructive as well.

Part of the Lost Puzzler’s story deals with what happened to Rafik, a young boy whose life changed forever when mysterious small tattoos appeared on his fingertips, marking him as a Puzzler, the most powerful and rare of ‘the marked’. His ordeals and fate are tracked down many years later by a definitely ‘unheroic’ scribe of the Guild of Historians and a mutant mercenary bodyguard. While trying to dodge relentless, powerful pursuers, the pair slowly piece together the story and fate of the young Puzzler, who disappeared after changing the world but was about to change it yet again.
Visit Eyal Kless's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

"First, Kill the Lawyers"

David Housewright is the Edgar Award and three-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of the Rushmore McKenzie and Holland Taylor novels as well as other tales of murder and mayhem in the Midwest.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, First, Kill the Lawyers, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Kaushal left the office. I stood and waited. A minute later, he returned. Behind him was a tall, good-looking middle-aged man with sunglasses perched on top of his head and a smile that suggested he knew exactly which scotch to order in a high-class saloon.

“Clark Peterson,” Kaushal said, “This is Taylor.”

Peterson offered his hand and I shook it even as my own brain screamed “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Taylor,” he said. “John-Boy told me about you. You’re trying to help us with our little problem. I hope you can. There’s a possibility I could lose a lot of money because of this.”

“In what way?”

“Dawn’s family filed a wrongful death suit against me in civil court. The estate has been frozen until this matter is dealt with. If the jury finds against me, I’ll lose all the money I inherited when she died. A tidy sum, if I do say so myself.”

I pivoted toward Kaushal.

“Are you defending him?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“He can’t,” Kaushal said. “Isn’t that right, John? See, they couldn’t make me take the stand in my criminal case. In the civil case, though, I’ll be deposed and called to testify whether I like it or not. When I swear that I didn’t have anything to do with the disappearance of my wife, I’ll be lying. As an attorney sworn to uphold the law, John-Boy can’t be part of that. He’d be suborning perjury. Isn’t that right? So I had to hire a different attorney to rep me, one that doesn’t know that I -”

“Clark,” Kaushal said.

“I thought you said that anything I tell Taylor in your office is protected by attorney-client privilege.”

“He doesn’t need to know everything.”

You got that right, I told myself.
Page 69 gets to the heart of what First Kill the Lawyers is all about – the conflict between professional ethics and simple morality. For example, someone confesses that he murdered his wife and hid her body. Your brain will scream at you to tell someone, tell the police, tell the prosecutor, tell the victim’s family and help relieve their suffering. It would be your duty as a moral human being. But a lawyer sworn to adhere to the rules of attorney-client privilege?
Learn more about the book and author at David Housewright's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue