Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"The Silent Conspiracy"

L.C. Shaw is the pen name of internationally bestselling author Lynne Constantine who also writes psychological thrillers with her sister as Liv Constantine. Her family wonder if she is actually a spy, and never knows what to call her. She has explored coral reefs all over the world, sunken wrecks in the South Pacific, and fallen in love with angelfish in the Caribbean. Constantine is a former marketing executive and has a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University. Her work has been translated into 27 languages and is available in over 31 countries.

Shaw applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Silent Conspiracy, and reported the following:
Page 69 introduces the reader to Leonard Reed, one of the most contemptible characters in The Silent Conspiracy. Leonard is the CEO of Jefferson Health Care, the company being sued in a class action suit that has reached the Supreme Court. While his chapters are more sparse than others, his role is a pivotal one in the book. His behind-the-scenes maneuvers directly correspond to the story that one of the main characters, Taylor Parks, is covering and he is integral to the major plot points of the book. Leonard’s actions have repercussions throughout the book and highlight one of the book’s major themes—the changing role of health care in this country and how it’s controlled more by businesses than doctors. Page 69 opens a new chapter where Leonard is at a board meeting discussing the implications of a new health insurance policy that will make the company a lot of money but has stringent exclusions that have resulted in bad publicity and a lawsuit. Leonard is power hungry, arrogant, and morally bankrupt. Here is a snippet from that page to give you a sense of his character:
Approving nods bobbed around the table. Leonard Reed, CEO of Jefferson Health Care, leaned back into the supple leather chair and rested his head. He studied the faces of his board while gnawing at a hangnail on his pinkie. He dislodged it and spit it on the table. Leonard’s lips parted in a smirk at the woman next to him; she had averted her eyes and was staring at the table where he’d spit his nail She didn’t dare allow her revulsion to show. He was amused by her lame attempt at nonchalance and moved so his thigh was touching hers under the table. She didn’t react. He wondered how long it would take before she had the nerve to move her chair farther from his, only half listening as Marvin, his newest hire, droned on.
Visit L. C. Shaw's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Lynne Constantine & Greyson.

The Page 69 Test: The Network.

My Book, The Movie: The Network.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 28, 2020

"The Last Agent"

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle, which has sold more than 6 million books worldwide. He is also the author of The Charles Jenkins espionage series, and the David Sloane legal thriller series. He is also the author of several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and the literary novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell; as well as the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Several of his novels have been optioned for movies and television series.

Dugoni applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Last Agent, and reported the following:
On page 69, Charles Jenkins enters a Swiss Bank in Moscow. His mission is to make a deposit into an account in order to obtain his signature card. He needs the signature card to determine the name of the teller who opened his account and likely opened the account of Victor Federov (using an alias). Without Federov, Jenkins cannot move forward. The quest would fail. So page 69 is much like the rest of the novel in that every step Jenkins takes is dependent on him succeeding in the prior step. If he fails at the bank, the story ends.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 26, 2020

"Escaping Dreamland"

Charlie Lovett is an award-winning playwright and author of the New York Times bestseller The Bookman’s Tale and other novels. His plays for children have been seen in over five thousand productions worldwide. A former antiquarian bookseller, he collects books and memorabilia related to Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland and has written extensively on Carroll. He hosts the literary podcast Inside the Writer’s Studio. Lovett and his wife, Janice, live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and in Kingham, Oxfordshire.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Escaping Dreamland, and reported the following:
Page 69 finds one of our three historical heroes, Thomas De Peyster working as a reporter in San Francisco in 1906. He has defended, in print, a group of stage hands who had been disparaged by the great tenor Enrico Caruso and, as a way of saying thank you, the men give Tom a night with a high class prostitute. The bottom of the page shifts to the next morning when Tom is about to take a picture of this mysterious woman. Just as he is about to press the shutter, the floor “falls out from beneath him.”

Most of Escaping Dreamland is set in New York City, so this scene in San Francisco is atypical. In it we meet only one of the book’s four heroes. However, this is a critical page for Tom—much of the baggage he carries for the rest of the book is found right here. Romantically naïve, Tom has convinced himself that he has fallen in love with Isabella the prostitute and when she dies suddenly on the next page, it haunts him for the rest of his life. Her death is just the first of many he sees that day, for the sudden shift in the floor that Tom feels on the bottom of page 69 is the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. In this sense, the page 69 test works. Consider that each of the four heroes has a tragic event in their past that leaves deep scars. The earthquake is Tom’s. Real historical events are used throughout the book and are made personal for our characters. The death of the prostitute Isabella makes the earthquake a personal tragedy for Tom. The earthquake is probably the best known historical event in the book for modern readers but there will be many others. In the pages leading up to page 69 Enrico Caruso appears—one of many “celebrity” cameos throughout the novel. The combination of a tragic event, a personal story, and true history that readers find on page 69 is a fair representation of what will be found throughout the book. What’s missing is the personal relationships that develop among the characters. For Tom, what happens on page 69 will color those relationships significantly.
Learn more about the book and author at Charlie Lovett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2020

"The Girl in the White Van"

April Henry is the New York Times-bestselling author of 25 mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.

Henry applied the Page 69 Test to her newest novel, The Girl in the White Van, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Jenny grabbed my shoulder. With a twist, I shook her hand loose and made for the door in the far wall. Its window was also covered. I grabbed the handle.

“Don’t open that!” Jenny said urgently behind me.

I turned the handle and pushed. It started to open, revealing a sliver of light. Cold air rushed in though the crack. Metal rattled. I was already moving my foot to step outside when the door’s movement abruptly stopped. The gap was only about three inches wide. In frustration, I bashed the door with my shoulder, ignoring how it set off echoes of pain. But the door refused to budge.

Putting my eye to the gap. I caught a glimpse of a heavy metal chain that was preventing it from opening all the way. Below it was dark, muddy ground. “Help! Help us!” I shouted through the opening. Suddenly the door vibrated under my palm when something scrabbled and scratched at the metal. And in the gap I saw a dark and terrible eye, a monster’s eye with no white at all.

It tried to thrust its head in further, just below my face. A growl filled the room. With a shriek, I pulled back. The dog’s mouth snapped open and closed, black rimmed lips stretched over long white teeth. Silvery threads of saliva bound together the top and bottom canines.

Jenny pushed me away with one hand while she wrenched the door closed with the other. Outside, the dog began to bark, angry and urgent.

“I told you not to do that!” She brought her hands to her stitched-together face. Her nails were ragged, bitten to the quick. “Did Rex bite you?”
Page 69 is a great reflection of my book: two kidnapped girls, strangers to each other trapped together, realizing just how hard it is going to be to escape their situation.

Now if page 69 was perfect, it would also include the main character Savannah taking inspiration from Bruce Lee, and a glimpse of the man who took them both.
Learn more about the book and author at April Henry's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

"The Lakehouse"

Joe Clifford is the author of several books, including The One That Got Away, Junkie Love, and the Jay Porter Thriller Series, as well as editor of the anthologies Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen; Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash, and Hard Sentences, which he co-edited.

Clifford applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Lakehouse, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Lakehouse (at least the ARC!), there is a conversation between (one of three) protagonist(s), Tracy Somerset and her best friend Diana about Tracy’s chance meeting with a new handsome stranger, Todd Norman, who may or may not be a murderer…

Yes, this scene envelops the central mystery of the novel, namely whether Tracy and Todd can find true love … or if the latter is a killer.

I’m surprised by how well this 69 test works! Despite the book’s being about small-town secrets and unseen violence, The Lakehouse, at its heart, is a love story, albeit a potentially deadly one. It’s also about friendship and the bonds tested, which is encapsulated in this conversation between Tracy and Diana. And of course there is the lingering specter of Todd Norman (who is not one of the POV characters). How the residents of Covenant, CT, the fictional Central Connecticut where the novel takes place, view Todd depends on the observer. Tracy is a character who has been hurt before, and she has to make a choice whether to trust again. And Todd Norman presents a huge challenge.
Visit Joe Clifford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 20, 2020

"Sins of the Bees"

Annie Lampman is the author of the novel Sins of the Bees and the limited-edition letterpress poetry chapbook Burning Time. Her short stories, poetry, and narrative essays have been published in sixty-some literary journals and anthologies such as The Normal School, Orion Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, and Women Writing the West. She has been awarded the 2020 American Fiction Award in Thriller: Crime, the Dogwood Literary Award in Fiction, the Everybody Writes Award in Poetry, a Best American Essays “Notable,” a Pushcart Prize special mention, a Literature Fellowship special mention by the Idaho Commission on the Arts, and a wilderness artist’s residency in the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness through the Bureau of Land Management. Lampman is an Associate Professor of Honors Creative Writing at the Washington State University Honors College. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a bevy of pets (including a tabby named Bonsai and a husky named Tundra) in Moscow, Idaho on the rolling hills of the Palouse Prairie in another 1800s farmhouse. She has a pollinator garden full of native flowers, herbs, berries, song birds, squirrels, butterflies, bumble bees, solitary bees, and honeybees.

Lampman applied the Page 69 Test to Sins of the Bees and reported the following:

Page 69 of Sins of the Bees is only five sentences—the end of one of the repeating epistolary chapters:
I sit here, pouring out my soul, wishing for the comfort of you. Of the time before I left, water washing on shore, pebbles tinking against themselves in its ebb and flow. Where have I been? Where did I go?

Maybe the only way out of the dark is to descend all the way into it.
—My love,
The funny thing is, even though page 69 of Sins of the Bees is so abbreviated, it still would give a browser of my book a sense of the story’s personality and deeper themes as well as my writing style. There is something critical captured in those few lines that gets at the central question the main characters are struggling with, defining both them and the novel’s narrative at large. Main character Isabelle is an artist who has disappeared into a religious doomsday cult to complete commissioned paintings of child brides called the Twelve Maidens, and also “to make sense of my past, to understand myself, to make amends for the wreckage of my own life.” And main character Silva is Isabelle’s granddaughter who is trying to find and track Isabelle down in order to remake a family for herself. But both women are asking the same questions of themselves on the path of their separate journeys—trying to understand who they are after suffering trauma and loss. And unbeknownst to them, they are both mourning two specific things: the loss of the same man—Isabelle’s abandoned husband, Eamon, who raised Silva; and the trauma of suffering sexual assault. There is a lot of exploration of these themes in the novel, making particularly this sentence relevant to the page 69 test: “Maybe the only way out of the dark is to descend all the way into it.” Therefore, the page 69 test proves out eerily well for Sins of the Bees, even as captured in whitespace punctuated by only a few brief sentences.
Visit Annie Lampman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 18, 2020

"Hanging Falls"

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and is also a member of Northern Colorado Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Women Writing the West. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Mizushima applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Hanging Falls, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Hanging Falls reveals much about the book and is a good indication of the whole story. Its setting is the fictional town of Timber Creek, a small community that lies high up in the Colorado Rockies. It occurs during the summer, and atypical monsoon-like rains have flooded the mountains surrounding the town.

Prior to this page the heroine, Deputy Mattie Cobb, found a man’s body floating in a mountain lake at the base of Hanging Falls, and she became drenched during a daring recovery. The series hero, veterinarian Cole Walker, assisted in packing the dead man down from the forest by horseback, and at the end of the day, they’ve succeeded in turning the body over to the coroner and are getting ready to drive home in Cole’s truck.

Mattie has been searching for her biological family, and the result of her filing her DNA with an ancestry database will be revealed on this page as well. She’d been planning a trip to San Diego to meet two members of her family that she can’t even remember—since she’d been abducted at the age of two—but the need to help investigate the current homicide has thrown a wrench in her plans. Robo, Mattie’s K-9 partner, is also along for the ride.

From page 69:
[Cole] began wiping the inside of the windshield. “I’ll get that heat back on your feet full force as soon as I can.”

“It’s all right,” she said, loving this man for always thinking of her well-being, something she’d experienced only from Mama T, her foster mother, before meeting Cole. She shifted to sit cross-legged, tucking her feet under her before settling into the warmth of the bucket seat. “This seat warmer is already doing the trick. This is heaven.”

“It certainly is,” he said, putting the truck in gear before reaching for her hand. “We have ten miles to go, and I have you all to myself.”

Robo settled down in the back and went to sleep while they rode in silence, Mattie savoring the cocoon of warmth and love that Cole had spun. But then her mind went back to the dead man she’d fished out of the lake. She wouldn’t be able to push aside the memory of his cold flesh and the terrible marks on his body anytime soon. What significance did the word PAY carved on his chest have? Would it eventually give them a lead?

How were they going to identify him and notify his family? Family notification had gained much more significance during the last few weeks since she’d found hers.

“I’m going to have to call Julia and tell her I can’t leave for a couple of days,” she said, worried about disappointing her sister.

“I heard you tell the sheriff.” Cole gave her a sympathetic glance. “Sorry this has come up at the last minute. But good grief, Mattie, a body in the lake? So you’re sure it wasn’t an accidental drowning?”

Cole must not have seen the condition of the corpse before coming up the trail to find her. He’d helped the department time and again with their investigations, and at this point she felt no hesitation whatsoever in discussing the case with him. “We’re sure. He has marks on his torso that might have been made by a whip of some kind. And someone carved the word pay on his chest.”

Pay?” Cole frowned as he considered it. “As in payback for something?”

“Who knows, but I think that’s probably it. For what, I have no idea.”
Each Timber Creek K-9 mystery has a murder to solve that stands alone, but there’s a thread that run through the series that tells Mattie’s story. I’m thrilled to share that Mattie has found a sister, and they will be reunited in Hanging Falls. But their reunion won’t be as joyful as one would think, since her sister and grandmother will reveal what little they know about what happened that fateful night when Mattie was abducted.

And what secrets are still hidden from them all.
Visit Margaret Mizushima's website.

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

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah.

My Book, The Movie: Hanging Falls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


Nathan Makaryk is the author of Nottingham, and a theater owner, playwright, director and actor, living in southern California. None of these pay very well, so he also has a real job teaching audio systems networking software to people who have no idea he's also a novelist and theater guy. He likes dogs and scotch because of course he does.

Makaryk applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Lionhearts (the second installment in the Nottingham series), and reported the following:
On page 69 of Lionhearts, we see a Nottingham Guardsman named Quillen who contemplates how much of a mark he can make on the world from his menial position of night patrol on the castle ramparts. He then dangerously dozes off in the cold and is awoken by another Guardsman, who happens to be something of a sociopathic killer. Their interaction would be extremely alarming to anyone who had read the preceding pages, but without that knowledge it just comes off as idle banter when read out of context.

There’s a good representation of the themes of morality in the novel, as well as some quirky humor—but on its own, it’s actually a little on the boring side! This is a quiet moment for this character as he’s transitioning between major plot beats, so there’s no action or a sense of urgency, and therefore not a great standard-bearer to represent the entire novel, which has tons of action and adventure.

And more importantly—as is true for any book with multiple POV characters—the Page 69 test can’t possibly provide more than a snapshot of a single character’s perspective. Lionhearts has six recurring narrators that cover all sides of the Robin Hood world, and the tone and writing style varies for each of them. Quillen is definitely the most reserved and introspective of these characters, while others are more emotional, violent, or (in the case of Prince John) just absolute brats.

So in this case, I’d have to say that the Page 69 test fails to represent Lionhearts as a whole. (However, if you jump a hundred pages forward to 169, there’s some pretty delightful swashbuckling at play!)
Visit Nathan Makaryk's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 14, 2020

"Don’t Look for Me"

Wendy Walker is the author of the psychological suspense novels All Is Not Forgotten, Emma In the Night, The Night Before and Don’t Look For Me. Her novels have been translated into 23 foreign languages and topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad. They have been selected by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, The Today Show and The Book of the Month Club, and have been optioned for both television and film.

Walker applied the Page 69 Test to Don’t Look For Me and reported the following:
Page 69 of Don’t Look for Me begins with these words from Molly Clarke:

I take a leap.

Up to this point in the story, we have met Molly Clarke as she travels along a back road in a desolate town, heading into a storm. She is in extreme emotional distress as realizations about her life and her family spin inside her head. We have also met Nicole, her twenty-one year-old daughter, who, two weeks after that stormy night, gets a new lead on her mother’s disappearance and decides to return to the town where Molly was last seen.

Page 69 finds the story approaching a crucial first twist when Molly learns something new about the place she found herself after walking away from her stalled car that stormy night, and accepting a ride with a stranger and his daughter. The leap she takes is to divulge personal and deeply painful information to the little girl named Alice who sits beside her. The disclosure provokes not only a disturbing reaction in Alice, it does what Molly had hoped it would do – it causes Alice to divulge her own secrets. And those secrets are shocking.

There is no question that this page marks the beginning of what soon becomes the most terrifying part of the book! Molly can no longer deny that she is in grave danger.

I would have to say the test is a success!
Learn more about the author and her books at Wendy Walker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 12, 2020

"The Second Mother"

Jenny Milchman is the USA Today bestselling Mary Higgins Clark award winning author of five psychological thrillers, including Wicked River and The Second Mother.

Milchman applied the Page 69 Test to The Second Mother and reported the following:
From page 69:
The ferry threaded its way through an array of boats competing for space in the water. Working boats; these weren’t luxury liners or speedboats for play or sport. Shiny with many coats of paint, lobster traps stacked on their decks, loaded down by coils of rope and blocky tanks. Striped buoys trailed long lines, which tangled amidst strands of kelp, both visible beneath the moving surface of the sea.
I think the Page 69 test applies almost perfectly to The Second Mother, highlighting many of the facets I hoped to put in the novel, in this one page and even just in the paragraph above.

The Second Mother is about a woman who has nothing to lose—because she’s lost everything—who answers a want-ad to teach in a one room schoolhouse on a remote island off the coast of Maine.

Julie packs up the few things she can take, drapes sheets over the furniture in her house, and moves with Depot, her enormous rescue dog (and the only creature she loves in the world) two states away and twelve miles out to sea.

But on Mercy Island Julie does not find the fresh start she hoped for.

The section quoted above shows Julie’s arrival on the island, so in a sense is the first major turning point of the plot. (I think of a “turning point” according to Robert McKee’s definition: a scene or event that sends the story hurtling in an entirely new direction). And elements whose complexity Julie can’t yet begin to grasp, still less how they will impact her—such as moving to a place dominated by fishermen and the lives they lead—are on display here as well.

These lines from page 69 also showcase the imagistic, visual language I got for as an author.

And finally, the paragraph ends with something I’ve been told permeates everything I write: an uneasy sense of ominousness and suspense that only tightens its chokehold as The Second Mother goes on.

I hope you will read the book and tell me if you agree that this test captures the tale as well as I think it does!
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Second Mother.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 10, 2020

"Once Two Sisters"

Sarah Warburton is the oldest of four sisters, raised in Virginia, and an avid reader and knitter. She has a B.A. in Latin from the College of William and Mary, an M.A. in classics from the University of Georgia and another from Brown. Warburton has worked at independent bookstores--Page One Books in Albuquerque and Books on the Square in Providence--and spent ten years as a writer, which led her to become lead editor for UpClose Magazine. Her short story "Margaret's Magnolia" appeared in Southern Arts Journal, and her Pushcart prize nominated story "Survival English" appeared in Oyster River Page. Now she lives with her family--husband, son, daughter, and hound dog--in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia.

Warburton applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Once Two Sisters, and reported the following:
Page 69 takes place in a police station conference room. Zoe is seeing her parents and her ex-lover/current brother-in-law Glenn for the first time in three years. The reunion takes place under the watchful eye of a detective, because Zoe’s sister, best-selling novelist Ava is missing and Zoe is a suspect. (Emma is Zoe’s stepdaughter.)
I imagined our reunion so many times—him apologizing, desperately explaining, coming back to me. Never this. I can’t let him see how I care.

I turn toward my parents, their faces perfectly composed, ignoring all my drama. There’s no help here. I’m drowning all by myself.

Expressionless, my mother says, “You must feel overwhelmed. Do you need to sit down?”

My parents never have to worry that their faces will betray an emotion, as they clinically identify “anger” or “grief.” Now that I’m taking care of Emma, I use those techniques when she’s having a tantrum. I mirror her distress, affirm it, and distance myself from it. Because it’s never about the cookie she can’t have or the juice that spilled. The problem is too big for her to articulate. The problem is being a small, powerless thing in a world full of rules you didn’t make and don’t understand. I feel like Emma now, like everyone is trying to blame me or pry me open or get me to confess and I don’t know what is going on or what the rules are. Like one of those dreams where everyone has been talking about you behind your back, except that in this case, they really have.

At the risk of seeming defeated, I do sit down in the chair Detective Davies has pulled out for me. He sits down right next to me. His techniques are transparent. We’re the only two people seated, right next to each other, on the same side of the table. But I’m not stupid. He’s not really on my side.
Page 69 really captures the complicated relationship between Zoe and her parents, as well as her perception of herself as an outsider, completely on her own. Detective Davies considers her a suspect, Glenn hates her, and her parents are incapable of an emotional connection with her. The central relationship, the one between Zoe and Ava, isn’t actually on this page, although there are hints of the dysfunctional upbringing that helped create it and Zoe’s relationship with Glenn that fractured it. In a post-Gone Girl world, Zoe suspects that Ava’s disappearance is deliberate, and on page 69 she’s more worried about herself than her sister.

While other scenes have more action, the reasons that drive Zoe are all on this page. She ran away to start a new life because of her shame about Glenn and anger at Ava and her parents, and she returns to clear her name because of her love for Emma (and her husband Andrew). She finally has a shot at a functional, loving relationship, until Ava’s disappearance forces Zoe to confront her past literally, as happens on this page.

Throughout Once Two Sisters, whether we’re reading Zoe’s chapters or her sister Ava’s, we experience the world through their deep point of view. So on this page, where Zoe is assessing and commenting on Glenn, her parents, and the detective, it’s like she is talking directly to the reader. Of course, Ava and Zoe tell two different stories and that’s the fun.
Visit Sarah Warburton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Once Two Sisters.

Q&A with Sarah Warburton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 7, 2020

"The Beethoven Sequence"

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, Playing With Fire, and Spring Break.

Elias applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Beethoven Sequence, and reported the following:
These are the final sentences of Chapter 8 of The Beethoven Sequence:
In his whole life, he had received one letter from his father, which he memorized, verbatim, in its entirety. It was on the reverse side of a postcard of a grizzly bear, which his father sent him when he and his drinking buddies went on a guys’ road trip to Yellowstone National Park, leaving his mother and him at home. The letter read: “Hey Lonny, What do you think of the size of this sucker, huh? Your Dad.”
These three sentences encapsulate the profound psychological trauma suffered by the book’s tragic protagonist, Layton Stolz, from his childhood onward. As such, they provide insight into how an otherwise decent man with good intentions could go off the mental rails and descend into a world of paranoid defensiveness, even as his cult-like idolaters grew into the millions.

With a father who neglected and belittled his son, even on his own deathbed, for having higher aspirations than he did, Stolz was emotionally damaged early on. His mother, also abused by the elder Stolz, was his sole provider of love and protection, until, on his eighth birthday, she slapped him on the face for a minor slight, revealing her pent-up rage. The pain of rejection from that slap lasted the rest of his life and sealed his fate.

For a man like Layton Stolz, a mentally imbalanced political outsider who never held public office, to become president of the United States may seem improbable, even horrifying. One of my goals in writing The Beethoven Sequence is simply to pose the readers this question: What if?
Learn more about the book and author at Gerald Elias's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 5, 2020

"The Day I Disappeared"

Brandi Reeds is the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Trespassing and Third Party. Under the pseudonym Sasha Dawn, she writes critically acclaimed young adult novels of psychological suspense, including Panic; Blink, an Edgar Award nominee; and Oblivion, which was chosen as one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens, recommended by the School Library Journal, endorsed by the American Library Association, and selected by the 2016 Illinois Reading Council as a featured book.

Reeds applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Day I Disappeared, and reported the following:
Page 69 in The Day I Disappeared details Detective Jason Guidry's desperation to solve cold kidnapping cases. He's discussing the cases with Holly, whom he believes to be the kidnapper's first victim. We also learn that while a man was convicted for Holly's kidnapping 20 years ago, new evidence suggests they got the wrong guy.

This page is actually a pretty good representation of what readers can expect to read about on a high level in regards to the reason for the story (the possibility of a serial kidnapper); however, it doesn't come close to touching on the personal stories woven throughout the cold cases--Holly's in particular. The page doesn't mention Holly's mother, Cecily, either, whose account of Holly's kidnapping 20 years ago is germane to the conflict at hand. Readers using the Page 69 test might mistake this book for a crime novel, when really it's much more of a domestic tale at the heart of a crime.

While page 69 neglects the characters driving the story, it does touch on the location of the work. The midwestern landscape becomes a character itself, and I hope conveys that the region may consist of small town after small town, but each Main Street is a vein in a larger entity. Small towns, therefore, become vast. The enormity of the world is also a repeating theme in The Day I Disappeared.
Visit Brandi Reeds's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 3, 2020

"The Warehouse"

Rob Hart is the author of The Warehouse, which has sold in more than 20 languages and been optioned for film by Ron Howard.

He also wrote the Ash McKenna series, which wrapped in July 2018 with Potter’s Field. Other entries include: New Yorked, which was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose, South Village, and The Woman from Prague.

Hart applied the Page 69 Test to The Warehouse and reported the following:
On Page 69 of The Warehouse, Paxton is being briefed about his job as a security officer for Cloud by his new boss, Dobbs. It digs into the authoritarianism of the company, while at the same time reflecting Paxton's "go along to get along" attitude, because he's just sort of accepting that this company requires total obedience and will ruin your life if you mess up, and he's just happily taking notes, looking at the bright side of things. So it definitely speaks to one of the main themes of the book. That said, if you were just reading this and using this as your decision to buy it—I'm not sure how compelling it would be? It's very much being dropped into the middle of a scene without a whole lot of context. But as a concept is interesting. I would hope the writing and the creepy vibe is compelling enough to make a reader interested enough to check out the rest!
Visit Rob Hart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

"Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook"

Celia Rees is an award-winning YA novelist who is one of Britain's foremost writers for teenagers. Her novel Witch Child has been published in 28 languages and is required reading in secondary schools in the UK. Rees’s books are published in the US by Candlewick and Scholastic. Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook is her first adult novel. A native of the West Midlands of England, she lives with her family in Leamington Spa.

Rees applied the Page 69 Test to Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook and reported the following:
Page 69 is a significant point in the novel. The first page of Chapter 6 and a whole new section of the book.

It is a transition. My heroine, Edith Graham, is literally embarking on a new life. She has left England and is in Europe. The Chapter title, Blue Train, Hook of Holland – Hamburg, sub heading 4th January, 1946, marks time and place; we know the year and the season (immediately post war, mid winter); it places her physically: she is on a train heading for Germany. It also places her psychologically and emotionally: she is leaving her old life behind and is heading into the unknown. It is a Janus moment: a few days from New Year and on a train you can look forward or back. A blue metal token gives her a place on the train. She has a ticket to ride.

Under the chapter heading is a menu, accompanied by a recipe:
Blue Train Picnic

Broodje kroket

Rookwurst (Smoked Sausage)


Hard-boiled eggs


Broodje kroket: Not unlike a rissole, flecked with parsley. Made with leftover meat, minced or chopped, mixed with onion but bound with a béchamel then formed into a fat sausage, crumbed and deep fried. Eaten in a bridge roll with mild dutch mustard.

More like a rissole than a croquette. Find under Meat (66, 63). Can be baked at Regulo 7 (or 6 depending on the oven) or fried for 9 or 10 minutes (turn after 5).
Each chapter is headed by a menu and/or a recipe, signalling that food is very important in the novel. Not just food, but the menus and recipes also contain meaning, some of it obvious, some of it hidden. In this case, we can recognise that it is Dutch, a snack, seasoned with mustard and accompanied by hard boiled eggs – a picnic, in fact. There is also Genever, the Dutch name for Gin (the English word derives from it). Not usual with a picnic, but we need to read on to find out more.

The accompanying recipe is written in precise notes. The font is different from the body of the novel, denoting that this is a personal document of some kind. The recipe is accompanied by comments which translate it to the more familiar British rissole and guidance on how to cook with reference to a particular cookery book, page references, temperature (regulo) and timing all presented as numerals. The references to Rissoles and 'Regulo' date the book to mid Twentieth Century Britain.

The recipe has obvious significance (it is Dutch, we are in Holland) but it has meaning beyond that. It is written as though addressed to another – who might be? It contains a lot of numerals, more maybe than strictly necessary. Could that be significant?

Maybe. To find out – you'll have to read the book!
Visit Celia Rees's website.

Q&A with Celia Rees.

My Book, The Movie: Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook.

--Marshal Zeringue