Saturday, June 30, 2007


Richard K. Morgan is the acclaimed author of Woken Furies, Market Forces, Broken Angels, and Altered Carbon, a New York Times Notable Book that also won the Philip K. Dick Award.

His new book is Thirteen (or Black Man, in the U.K.), to which he applied the "page 69 test" and reported the following:
As far as I can see, the figure 69 has two cultural echoes to justify its use as a focal point here, and I doubt the fact that it's a number with a visual rotational symmetry is the one most of us are thinking about.

No, it's sex, isn't it - the deep, uncomfortable and unacknowledged wellspring of all we are, and are driven by. Appropriate, then, that p. 69 of Thirteen (or Black Man, take your pick but be prepared to pay the Amazon shipping difference), features a fair bit of sex, in conversation if not in actual act - oral sex, masturbation and, very loosely suggested, straightforward fucking. Perhaps those of you familiar with my stuff aren't going to be too surprised by this. Nor by the fact that the same page segues from there into personal rage, confrontational escalation towards violence, and a general sense of political and social alienation. In all these aspects, p. 69 is in fact very much representative of what you can expect to find in the novel as a whole - Black Man/Thirteen is a violent, sexually-charged and politically angry piece of work. The fact that this particular deployment of these factors features only fairly minor characters really just points up the essentially egalitarian nature of the sex and violence the story involves. There's plenty to go round, plenty for everyone.

Sex, violence and politics. Like it or not, these are the salients of human existence, and like it or not I find myself driven to write about them time and again.

Anything else would be cowardice.
Visit Richard Morgan's website, and read an excerpt from Thirteen.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 29, 2007

"Deadly Appraisal"

Jane K. Cleland is the author of two Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries: Consigned to Death, a finalist for the Agatha for Best First Novel, and Deadly Appraisal, which was published this spring.

She applied the "page 69 test" to Deadly Appraisal and reported the following:
My protagonist, Josie Prescott, is an antiques appraiser, and both antiques lore and the business of antiques play an important role in Deadly Appraisal, the second Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery. In fact, many reviewers have referred to the books as an Antiques Roadshow for mystery fans.

Thus, in order for a page to be representative of the book as a whole, it must include something about antiques — and sure enough, page 69 of Deadly Appraisal does indeed mention antiques.

It also showcases my use of dialog in characterization. Readers won’t know the people who are mentioned by name, of course, yet they’ll learn significant information about individuals and various relationships — information that comes into play regarding solving the murder mystery.

Further, readers will get a sense of the physical space — the cavernous warehouse that opens into an elegant auction hall.

What page 69 doesn’t do is show Josie interacting with her staff or using her knowledge of antiques to solve crimes. Still, I think it gives a flavor of my writing style and pacing.

Here’s page 69:

“Gretchen, when Britt arrives, bring him back, okay?”

“Okay. It was nice talking with you, Dora,” she said.

“Oh, you, too! We’ll catch up more another time.” Dora gave an airy wave as we passed into the bone-cold warehouse.

Our footsteps reverberated off the concrete walls. When we were about half way across the expanse, Dora asked, “Did you know them well? Maisy and Walter, I mean...”

I shook my head. “I never met Walter until the Gala. And Maisy, well, I got to know her a little since we’ve been working together. But nothing personal, you know? How about you?”

“I only met Walter once before the Gala. It was at a cocktail reception over the summer, one of those ‘we’re all working together on the Gala, so bring your significant others and let’s bond,’ things” she said, casting her eyes heavenwards, a non-verbal commentary about what she thought of that idea. “I took Hank. You met him, right?”

“The trombone player,” I said, remembering a tall guy with a blond ponytail. He’d been one of the brass quartet that had played soft music during the cocktail hour. He was maybe ten years younger than Dora, and cute as all get-out.

“Right. He’s my honey.”

“I didn’t know,” I said.

“He’s a sweetie.”

“That’s great,” I answered, unsure how to respond.

“Anyway,” she said, “Hank is the most patient creature on earth, but after two minutes talking to Walter, he’s tugging on my shawl whispering in my ear, ‘Get me away from this jerk before I pound him into the ground.’”

“Really? Wow, that’s amazing. I mean, I got the impression that Walter was upset about something, you know? But I had no idea he’d inspire a patient man to violence.” As I spoke, I opened the door that led into the auction hall and switched on the overhead lights. “Well,” I said, “here we are.”

Eddie was long gone, along with everything that wasn’t nailed down or on display. It was a little creepy. Whereas an hour earlier there had been tables and chairs, linens, dishes, and candles, now there was nothing except the antiques we were there to discuss.
Visit Jane Cleland's website and her blog, and read an excerpt from Deadly Appraisal.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Things Kept, Things Left Behind"

Jim Tomlinson's fiction and poetry have been published in The Pinch, Five Points, Bellevue Literary Review, Potomac Review, Arts Across Kentucky magazine, and Shenandoah.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his debut collection of stories, Things Kept, Things Left Behind, and reported the following:
Is page 69 of Things Kept, Things Left Behind representative of the rest of the short story collection? Yes, amazingly so. It happens to be the final page of “Things Kept,” one of two title stories.

Things Kept, Things Left Behind is about life’s accumulations and sheddings. These stories, set in working-class, small town America, are stories of human relationships — siblings, husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, even ex-spouses still somehow entangled. At their root, the stories are concerned with the yearning heart. Reading page 69 alone, some sense of this does come through.

That said, I do worry about browsing readers first meeting “poor Wesley Chalk,” a minor character, on that page. Will they understand that he’s simple, that his awkward, ungrammatical way of talking is unique to him, that it isn’t representative of other dialogue? But then I remember — readers are an intelligent lot, good with subtlety, quick to figure such things out. Right?

Okay, context: LeAnn and Cass, adult sisters, have schemed to convince their ailing mother, who lives alone outside town, to sell their dead father’s antique roll top desk. A locked drawer holds old secrets. The mother has resisted so far. In the early morning, LeAnn, confident that she’s finally gained the upper hand with her mother, climbs the hillside path to the house. She meets local laborer Wesley Chalk coming down. For days he’s been cutting and burning fallen trees on a nearby hillside.

From page 69:

“I slept by the fires. Your ma, she worries they’ll burn themselves loose. Me and Donnie, we’re careful. I stayed on anyways so she won’t worry.”

“Good to be careful.” LeAnn inched away up the path.

“Lucky I stayed,” Wesley said, following her now. “I come awake to see your ma
hauling on this old-timey desk. She’s pushing and shoving. But mostly she’s just scuffing up rocks and dirt.”

LeAnn’s head went dizzy, her insides loose.

“She asks will I help lug it over to the side hill. Well, I do, and it is heavy, I should say. When we finally gets it there, she gives it a shove, and it tumbles down onto yesterday’s fire. Sends sparks flying everwhere.”

LeAnn turned unsteadily toward the crackling blaze. But it wasn’t the old desk her eyes sought just then. It was Lonnie she looked for, Lonnie she expected to see tumbling over rocks, through the bright blaze, coming to his feet all scuffed and smudged, coming up grinning on the other side.

“Your ma paid me, too,” Wesley said. “Paid better’n Donnie does.” He pulled a fistful of money from his pocket. “See? Twelve dollars,” he said, spreading the bills. “And two quarters, and a buffalo nickel. She give me this old pearly-handle jackknife, too.”


Sometimes she thinks of herself as a howl. The wail of a coyote, maybe, or a lone banshee, a shriek dying away in the night without reaching ears. Piercing, like something wrenched raw from an orphaned soul. A hollow thing, haunted, a sound that lives on, still shrill in memory long after its echo dies.

As she raced north toward Dayton that morning, LeAnn felt that way.

* * *
Read more about Things Kept, Things Left Behind at Jim Tomlinson's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Kindness Goes Unpunished"

Craig Johnson is the author of three Walt Longmire mysteries: The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, and Kindness Goes Unpunished.

He applied the "page 69 test" to Kindness Goes Unpunished and reported the following, beginning with the text from page 69:
As Henry and I walked toward the escalators, he put a hand out and pulled the towel away from my nose. He tilted my head back and looked up my nostrils. “So, what does the other guy look like?”

“I punched him in the fist with my nose, but I think he’ll live.” I pinched the towel over my face and leaned against the escalator’s moving, rubber railing, glad that something else was providing the locomotion. I looked back up at Henry. “I didn’t kill him.”

The wide face nodded, inscrutable to the end. “Good.”

As we were riding down, two men were riding up. The one in the front was silver-haired and was sharply dressed in a charcoal suit with a maroon tie and a black trench coat; behind him was a man with a tightly cropped haircut and a suit, tie and overcoat all the same shade of dark tan. It was difficult to see where the clothes began and the man stopped. They stared at us as we rode closer; by the time we passed each other, I could see that the first man’s designer glasses had small, red dots on the frames that emphasized his large brown eyes. The second man smiled a very becoming smile, and I noticed the bulge of a shoulder holster at his left armpit. “Foul ball?”

I rolled my eyes and nodded. “Yep.”

We quickly made our way from the ballpark and walked toward Broad and the subway. Henry didn’t say anything, which gave me plenty of time to think, mostly about whether I believed Devon Conliffe.

At some level, just about everybody lies to you when you’re a cop, whether they have a reason to or not; some little portion of the truth that they feel would be best omitted in their dealings with you. The only good thing about it is that you start being able to tell when people are doing it, and I was sure that Devon was. The kid obviously had a lot of emotional and mental issues to deal with, but I was having a hard time working up any empathy;

As a whole, I’d say that page 69 in Kindness Goes Unpunished is representative of the rest of the book The series is about Walt Longmire, who is the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, and is written in first-person, so it’s Walt’s perspective on things. He has tagged along to Philadelphia with his closest friend, Henry Standing Bear, who is there for an exhibition of Indian photographs. He uses Henry’s trip as an excuse to visit his daughter, Cady, and meet her soon-to-be fiancĂ©, Devon Conliffe. But things go wrong. Page 69 is indicative of that.

Walt has been described as tough but tender and I think that’s a fair description and is shown on this page in his actions and thoughts. If I’m going to be inside somebody’s head for three-hundred pages, then there better be something compelling to his nature. I think Walt has a breadth of voice that’s refreshing — a concern for society and a sense of humor that keeps him going and is an integral part of the men’s friendship — actually, is an integral part of Walt’s relationship with everyone. The books are character driven. Not to say that there aren’t strong plots, but it’s the people who keep readers wanting more. The descriptions of the two men who are coming up the escalator are an indication of this strength.

As far as skimming the page and reading on? Sure, I’d want to read more. Why is Walt’s nose broken? Are the two guys on the escalator cops or bad guys? How do they compare with Walt in demeanor? Why does Walt lie about the foul ball? How does he feel about lying, especially concerning this investigation? What’s happened that causes Walt to fight with Devon? Lots of questions, and I’d want the answers.

Kindness Goes Unpunished is mostly about community and family, an homage to father/daughter love played out in the troubling landscape of crime fiction, and even though Walt’s daughter Cady isn’t mentioned on this page, her presence is there. I’m actually surprised at how much page 69 is representative of the novel…
Read more about Kindness Goes Unpunished at Johnson's website, including an excerpt.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Evolution for Everyone"

David Sloan Wilson is Distinguished Professor, Departments of Biology and Anthropology, and Director of EvoS, Binghamton University. His first book for a general audience is Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives.

He applied the "page 69 test" to Evolution for Everyone and reported the following:
Evolution for Everyone describes the basic principles of evolution in a way that anyone can understand, and then relates evolution to the human condition in addition to the natural world. Page 69 is from a chapter titled "Welcome Home, Prodigal Son," which explores what it means to regard ourselves as 100% a product of evolution, abandoning the hubris that we have special properties breathed into us by a higher power. There is also a secular version of this hubris, in which our special properties are supposedly based on culture and learning. "Hubris, all hubris!" is how page 69 ends, but you'll have to read the book to discover how I deliver on my extravagant claim.

One of the joys of writing a book is the emergence of themes that were not necessarily planned at the beginning. In my case, Evolution for Everyone became a reflection on science as an everyday "roll up your sleeves" activity, like gardening and construction work, and scientists as just like other folks who come from all walks of life, rather than an elite caste. It is possible for anyone to understand and even contribute to the profound discoveries that are taking place right now, as evolutionary theory expands beyond the biological sciences to provide a unifying framework for understanding the human condition.

Page 69:

To be precise, the statement “Believing that we have god given abilities is good for us” could be factually correct while the statement “We have god-given abilities” is in all likelihood incorrect. I make this statement with confidence, not because I am hostile to religion, but because supernatural explanations of ourselves have proven their inadequacy many times over, along with supernatural explanations of the physical world and the rest of nature. The next time that you visit a doctor, you should hope that she is enlightened enough to appreciate the importance of belief for physical and mental health, but you should also be glad that she doesn’t resort to supernatural explanations any more than your car mechanic.

Abandoning supernatural explanations is only the first step in our multi-step road to recovery. The world is full of people who have already abandoned supernatural explanations, who fully accept the fact of evolution and human origins, and yet haven’t a clue about what evolution can tell us about our bodies, minds, and societies in any detail. Your aforementioned doctor is probably among them, as I will show in the very next chapter. The secular belief that we stand apart from the rest of nature takes a variety of forms, but most emphasize open-ended abilities such as learning, language, culture, and rational thought. These capacities supposedly enable us to play by different rules than other species and do not require a detailed knowledge of evolution to understand, even though they presumably arose by a process of genetic evolution. A common claim is that “biology” sets broad limits to our behavior, such as eating and procreation, but that “culture” determines what we do within the broad limits, such as making art rather than babies. It is true but boring to point out that we like to eat and have sex; far more interesting is our rich cultural diversity, about which evolution has nothing to say. Above all, we can choose our own destiny because our behavior is not genetically determined, unlike all other species. Add the appropriate mood music, and humanity becomes like Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise, confidently going where no one has gone before.

Hubris, all hubris! In the first place, it places too much emphasis on our uniquely human attributes. In the second place, it fails to appreciate how much evolution is required to understand our uniquely human attributes.
Learn more about Evolution for Everyone at the publisher's website and read an excerpt.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 25, 2007

"The Darkness Inside"

John Rickards is the author of the acclaimed psychological thrillers Winter's End, The Touch of Ghosts, and The Darkness Inside.

He applied the "page 69 test" to The Darkness Inside and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Darkness Inside is actually pretty dull when taken out of context. Sure, the guy being questioned by the two Feds is … odd, but without knowing who he is it doesn’t add up to much. In context, we know this guy’s a genuinely disgusting multiple child murderer and that this is part if a flashback to his first meeting with the main character and the investigation which caught him. Important stuff, right? Well, without reading the rest you can’t answer that, I suppose. Maybe it’s not important. Maybe the rest of the book’s about the decline of the herring industry and this whole scene’s superfluous.

Anyway, on its own, p69 is probably one of the dullest pages in the book. It’s just a cop talking to a bad guy. In fairness, the first section of the book does feature conversations between the two of them pretty regularly (back in the present, years after the p69 scene, when they’re trying to find out where Cody Williams’ last few victims are buried before he shuffles off this mortal coil), but the conversations are rather different in tone and point. This is just one of those, “Where were you on the night of X?” opening police salvos we’ve all seen and heard a million times.

Then the whole thing switches to a discussion of the herring industry and state catch quotas and the plot really kicks off, of course.

Cue the quote:

His home is a narrow two-storey house with a square patch of slightly ragged greenery that passes for a front yard. A few shrubs, some flowers, starting to grow rampant. An unmarked white van sits on the driveway. When Williams – a wiry guy with long curly hair tied back in a ponytail, fit physique beneath a grey T-shirt, but pale to look at – opens the door, a wash of warm stale air, moist and acrid, floods past him. Slick skin reeking of old sweat. More ancient scents embedded in the fabric of the house itself. My nostrils recoil, but I try not to show it.

“Mr Williams, I’m Special Agent Alex Rourke and this is Agent Jeff Agostini.” We hold up our badges. “We need to ask you a handful of routine questions, if you have a few minutes.”

One side of Williams mouth twitches into a smile. “This is about that kiddie thing, right?” His choice of words jars. “I’ve seen it on the news. Then someone from the cops called about the van, asked where I was.”

“That’s right, Mr Williams. All we’re doing is asking people a few standard questions, just to eliminate them from our lists.”

“You guys the only two they got working on that? I’d kinda figured there’d be more of you. I mean, where’re we at now, four of them girls gone? Five?”

“There’s a lot of cops working on this too, Mr Williams.”

“A lot, huh?”


“And all they’ve got for you two to do is ask ‘routine questions’, Agent Rourke? With all them pretty young things still missing?”
Learn more about The Darkness Inside -- and read an excerpt -- at the official John Rickards website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"China: Fragile Superpower"

Susan Shirk is director of the University of California system-wide Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and professor of political science in the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego.

She applied the "page 69 test" to her new book, China: Fragile Superpower, and reported the following:
Page 69 captures the essence of the book’s argument that the greatest danger to Americans is China’s internal fragility, not its strength. China’s communist leaders are anxious about the risks looming over the country’s historic rise and about their own political survival.

The page falls in the chapter on the domestic threats confronting China’s leaders. It notes that China’s communist regime looks resilient and might survive for years so long as the economy keeps growing and creating jobs. Survey research shows widespread

“support (over 80 percent) for the political system as a whole linked to sentiments of nationalism and acceptance of the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party’s) argument about ‘stability first.’” Without making any fundamental changes in the CCP-dominated political system – leaders from time to time have toyed with reform ideas such as local elections but in each instance have backed away for fear of losing control – the Party has bought itself time. As scholar Pei Minxin notes, the ability of communist regimes to use their patronage and coercion to hold on to power gives them little incentive to give up any of that power by introducing gradual democratization from above. Typically, only when communist systems implode do their political fundamentals change.

As China’s leaders well know, the greatest political risk lying ahead of them is the possibility of an economic crash that throws millions of workers out of their jobs or sends millions of depositors to withdraw their savings from the shaky banking system. A massive environmental or public health disaster could also trigger regime collapse, especially if people’s lives are endangered by a media cover-up imposed by Party authorities. Nationwide rebellion becomes a real possibility when large numbers of people are upset about the same issue at the same time. Another dangerous scenario is a domestic or international crisis in which the CCP leaders feel compelled to lash out against Japan, Taiwan, or the United States because from their point of view not lashing out might endanger Party rule.”

The page goes on to discuss one of the lessons the leaders took away from the traumatic episode of Tiananmen in 1989 when the regime was threatened by pro-democracy demonstrations in 132 Chinese cities and the Party leaders split over how to react – “keep the military on the side of the Party.”
Read more about China: Fragile Superpower at the Oxford University Press website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"Nerve Damage"

In Peter Abrahams's Nerve Damage, the sculptor Roy Valois learns that his wife, Delia, who died fifteen years earlier while Valois thought she was working for a private think tank, may in fact have been working at something entirely different.

Abrahams applied the "page 69 test" to Nerve Damage and reported the following:
Page 69! Not fair. In Nerve Damage, page 69 leads off Chapter 9, and is therefore shorter than a normal page. But in its little way it is representative of the book. The mystery of the Hobbes Institute grows, with the possibility of its non-existence being raised for the first time. We also see Roy's artist eye at work. And the walking birds image, while not necessarily representative of the book, is representative of its author. As is the very name of the Institute: a red flag. My favorite page in the book is actually 304, the last one - but no sneak peeks.
Visit Peter Abrahams's website and browse inside Nerve Damage.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 22, 2007

"Five Skies"

Ron Carlson has received citations in Best American Short Stories twelve times since 1984. His books include the story collections Plan B for the Middle Class and The News of the World, and the novels Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truants.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new novel, Five Skies, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Five Skies has only a few lines on it, being a chapter ending,but one of them has the foreman of the ranch speaking about Ronnie Panelli,the 19 year old former thief, who has just welded some machinery supports,and he says: "It's a smart cookie." One of the real solid pleasures of this book was writing Ronnie Panelli's reluctant apprenticeship to the world of work, the nomenclature of tools and the elements of construction.

When first confronted with his task of assembling the tent which will be the three men's summer shelter, he was vexed, but then when he had completed the job and walked away admiring the edifice, his pride gave me one of the largest clues I would use going forward. In the pages just before 69, he's welding for the first time, and he gets it. In many ways, this smart cookie is the center of the book.
Learn more about Five Skies at the publisher's website and listen to an audio excerpt. Read or listen to an excerpt at the NPR website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"God Is Dead"

Ron Currie, Jr.'s first novel is God Is Dead.

He applied the "page 69 test" to the book and reported the following:
God Is Dead is such a freewheeling novel that I'm not sure any one page could be considered representative of the whole. But p. 69 is a solid exemplar of the book's spirit: skewed, funny in an acutely uncomfortable way, and just this side of believable. Not surprisingly, in the wake of God's death civilization has been a bit wobbly. In America, things fall apart because adults begin worshipping their children and having 24-hour pizza parties instead of showing up for work and paying their credit card bills. The narrator is part of a government organization known as the CAPA, or Child Adulation Prevention Agency, and his (very important) job is to keep adults from worshipping their children and thereby keep the wheels of society well-greased and turning at the prescribed rate. But, like the doctor who smokes a pack a day or the policeman selling pot on the side, our hero is guilty of the very thing he's charged with preventing. On page 69 we find him perusing his collection of illicit children's clothing catalogues:

"For a while I savor the cover photos, the little arms and legs, the crisp new parkas and snappy denim overalls, the milk-tooth smiles. Then I gather the catalogues together in a stack and flip through each one. All my favorite pages I've marked with Post-it tabs. Each of my favorite children is a boy, each has a name and a story, and all their stories are happy ones. I smile and share the happiness as they revel in the satisfaction of normal lives and natural fibers. At times I'm so moved I cry a little."

A little creepy, right? But we find that part of the man's problem is that he suffered a terrible loss while trying to do his part to save civilization, and his catalogue collection is an effort to deal with that loss:

"But these are the only fantasies I allow myself. Though sometimes tempted, I never pretend that Laura is still alive, or that our son survived his birth and is now an adorable toddling gape-mouthed two-year-old, quick to giggle, with red hair like his mother's and a predilection for Mack Truck worship. Never do I lie dozing on the sofa and imagine I hear his bare feet slapping across the kitchen floor in pursuit of a dust bunny or a Matchbox car. Nor do I fantasize about taking Selia, leaving this town to its miserable fate, and starting a family of our own in a warm, sane, place. Never, ever do I allow myself these luxuries."
Visit Currie's website and his MySpace page to learn more about God Is Dead and his other writing and enthusiasms.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Short Change"

Patricia Smiley's new novel is Short Change.

She applied the "page 69 test" to the book and reported the following:
This page is a turning point in the novel. It is the moment at which my heroine, Tucker Sinclair, enters the crucible with Charley Tate, a decision that binds them inextricably together for a wild ride from the beach community of Playa del Rey to the horse country of northeast Los Angeles county to uncover a tangled conspiracy of deceit and murder. The anatomy of Tucker’s character is laid bare in this scene. She is a reluctant sleuth, but she also prides herself on being a one-stop-shop for her consulting clients’ needs — business doctor, hand-holder, and friend. The scene provides insight into Tucker’s bond with Charley Tate the ex-cop turned private investigator. The relationship begins as business but morphs into something more than that as the story progresses. As for Charley, he doesn’t envision Tucker’s assignment as dangerous, only crucial to the case he is working on. The fact that he has asked her to help him, illustrates his growing respect for her, his faith in her ability to detect a lie. The page ends with a dramatic question, a hook. Can Tucker juggle her already full schedule to accommodate Charley’s request? She opines: “That was beginning to feel like an insurmountable problem until I remembered Eugene.”

Who is Eugene?
Visit Patricia Smiley's website to learn more about Short Change.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Deer Hunting with Jesus"

Joe Bageant writes an online column that has made him a cult hero among gonzo-journalism junkies and progressives. He has been interviewed on Air America and comments on America’s long history of religious fundamentalism in the BBC/Owl documentary The Vision: Americans on America. Until recently he worked as a senior editor for the Primedia History Magazine Group.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new book, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War, and reported the following:
Well, page 69 is one of the more low keyed pages in a rather gonzo book. My goal was to take liberal Americans on a rip snorting, compassionate and informative journey through the red state America I grew up in and believe I understand. And I wanted to show educated liberals just what has made my people the way they are: tough assed, tender hearted, gun loving members of the huge new American underclass that has been growing and solidifying long before President Sparky ever started farting in the Oval Office chair. So we go into the holy roller praise temples -- my brother is a fundamentalist minister who casts out demons -- and drink a lot of beer with the forklift drivers and single moms at the dreary night shift gulag of the local Rubbermaid plant. These are people condemned to a life of white trashonomics, preyed upon by mobile home salesmen and the credit card rackets designed especially for people like them. The ones with bad credit and worse teeth. Only about 20% of Americans get a college degree. The rest are working mooks kept convinced they are "middle class" by bullshit media and advertising. Yet they are told when to work, how much they will be paid, how to do their work, piss tested on the job until they are blind, and told to take a hike when corporations no longer find them useful. That's called working for "the man" and it's called working class everywhere but in this country. Sixty percent of Americans fall into this category. So what we have is a class war going, but only one side knows it. Is it any wonder they are mad? Now what we gotta do is teach 'em to be mad at the right damned people and quit believing what they hear on talk radio. It's going to be a long and dirty job, but Bush's massive failures have begun to do some of it for us. Yes, it is a political book.
Visit Joe Bageant's website and read more about Deer Hunting with Jesus.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2007

"The Extinction of Desire"

Michael Boylan is Professor of Philosophy at Marymount University and author of The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment, "a novel that seeks to portray a philosophical depiction of the author’s worldview theory."

He applied the "page 69 test" to the book and reported the following:
The numbers six and nine are upside down transformations of each other. So it is on page sixty-nine of The Extinction of Desire.

The first half of the page conveys the first number, six. It represents the continued letter from Aisling (pronounced ‘Ash-ling,’ an Irish name) to her quasi fiancĂ©, Michael O’Meara, a high school history teacher who has just inherited $1,000,000. Aisling is studying at the University of London for a Ph.D. in English Literature.

Aisling writes:

Dear Michael,

Which do I prefer? John Donne, the rake, or Father Donne, the Dean of St. Paul’s? What a case of split personalities. In some way, the Valediction poems offer a link between these two. They are written by Donne, the younger, with the spirit and mind of Donne, the elder.

As I develop my analysis of these I will keep you informed.

My director, Dr. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, is the most intelligent man I’ve ever met.... One of his central tenets is that art is decaying because of the presence of money. The pure power of art’s ability to express becomes perverted when the marketplace makes decisions that should be left to those who know. Hugh is really very elegant in his exposition. You should hear him sometime. He is a man who leaves an impression.


What is important about this passage is the emphasis upon the import that money has (a major theme of the book) and the apparent cooling of Aisling’s affection for Michael. (All previous letters had endearing expressions and were signed ‘love.’) This is not a promising sign. Michael’s love adventures (in the midst of his windfall of money on the first page of the book) is part of the driving commotion that keeps the plot moving.

The second half of the page (the ‘nine’) concerns Michael’s job as cross-country coach at the high school where he teaches, Fairview High School in Bethesda, Maryland (aka Laissez Faire or even Lazy Fair). This scene depicts some of Michel’s core values that come out as he talks to a boy on his team for whom he offered special help.

The book is about whether Michael will hook up with Aisling, and how Michael will combine his core values with the windfall of insurance money, $1,000,000 (circa 1990). How will these threads resolve themselves? Page sixty-nine offers a brief glimpse of these core plot devices.
Visit the publisher's website for more information about The Extinction of Desire.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"The 50/50 Killer"

Steve Mosby is the author of three novels -- The Third Person, The Cutting Crew,and The 50/50 Killer -- and is now working full-time on a fourth.

He applied the "page 69 test" to The 50/50 Killer and reported the following:
The first thing I notice about page 69 of The 50/50 Killer is the structure of the book. Because the story takes place over twenty-four hours, I made a last draft decision to present it as sections of time rather than chapters.

At the top, there's the end of a period narrated by the main character, Mark Nelson. Mark's a young detective, who's joined a new team and been plunged into the hunt for the murderer of the title, who abducts couples and kills one of them, allowing them to choose who it will be. Mark knows he has until dawn the next day to save the new victims, and he's busy reading up on the previous victims and the profile in the case file:

'He was the Devil," Daniel Roseneil had said.

And of course he wasn't. There was no such thing. But nevertheless, everything in the profile read as guesswork. Tentative ideas that circled a black hole, afraid to touch.

Mark has just read the testimony from one of the survivors, Daniel Roseneil, who’s traumatised by the choice he made, and remembers the killer as the Devil. Partly it’s because he wears a demon mask – but there are hints throughout that it’s true. He’s meant to be an anonymous killer in a way: I always thought of him as just an extreme embodiment of the bad things that can intervene and ruin a relationship. It’s certainly not a ‘whodunnit’.

This page would originally have been a chapter break, but instead we then learn there’s just under fifteen hours until dawn, and meet the killer’s next targets, Jodie and Scott, who are being marched through the woods to a place he’s prepared for them:

The ground either sucked at her or else slid beneath her feet, but she moved as quickly as possible, keeping just behind Scott, her hands out to catch him in case he should slip.

Jodie’s doing her best to keep strong for both of them, and, despite the fear, is looking out for her boyfriend Scott, who’s cuffed and has a bag over his head, walking in front:

The bag seemed to have taken away his resolve and strength. He was subdued: a man stumbling to his own execution.

Unfortunately, as Mark would be able to tell them both, it’s not going to be that simple…
Read more about The 50/50 Killer at Mosby's website, The Left Room, and at his MySpace and CrimeSpace pages.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"Dishonest Dollars"

Terry L. Leap is Professor of Management at Clemson University.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new book, Dishonest Dollars: The Dynamics of White-Collar Crime, and reported the following:
Page 69 concludes the discussion of insider trading and introduces the topic of corruption among public officials.

Insider trading is viewed as a morally ambiguous crime. That is, not everyone believes that such trading is harmful, and corporate insiders often view non-public information and its money-making potential as simply another executive perquisite. On page 69 of Dishonest Dollars: The Dynamics of White-Collar Crime, I view beneficiaries of insider trading in the same vein as card cheats. Card cheats bend the rules to gain an advantage over their honest opponents. So, while I know people who condone insider trades, I have yet to meet anyone who would play poker with a known cheater.

Page 69 also introduces corruption among public officials -- a major problem familiar to anyone who watches the news or reads a newspaper. Bribes, kickbacks, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, and other acts of fraud can be found at all levels of government. I cover interesting cases such as former California Congressman, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who is currently serving time in federal prison for taking bribes from defense contractors.

Dishonest Dollars also discusses possible causes of white-collar crime as well as the many excuses white-collar criminals seem to have when they are caught (and, most of the time, they are NOT caught). I also suggest ways to reduce white-collar crime, and I explore the effects of prison time on high-profile white-collar criminals. That, and much more.
Read more about Dishonest Dollars at the Cornell University Press website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 15, 2007

"City of Fire"

Robert Ellis is the author of Access to Power and The Dead Room.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new book, City of Fire, and reported the following:
I grabbed a copy of City of Fire off the shelf, turned to page 69, and started laughing. I have never been very good at tests. And by all appearances "my new baby" just failed! Page 69 does not represent the feel or kick of this book because it’s almost entirely dialogue. An interrogation scene between LAPD Detective Lena Gamble and her most likely suspect in the grisly murder of a beautiful young woman. A back and forth between a homicide detective and the victim's arrogant husband. But there is something of a hint here. A certain mood that lingers.

Lena starts it off ...

“Your boss seems to think a lot of you. Why would you be worried about losing your job?”

“My boss wouldn’t be making the decision. We’re merging with a Fortune five-hundred company based in Chicago. That’s two thousand miles away. All I’ll be is a number. Numbers don’t have faces. They come and go.”

“But you’re going to benefit from the merger.”

“So what? Everybody is.”

“How much money will you receive in back pay?”

“I haven’t had time to add it up.”

Lena smiled. “In other words it’s a lot of money and you’re afraid to tell us how much.”

“I haven’t had time to add it up,” he repeated. “And it won’t be that much. Not enough to cover my place in the unemployment line.”

“Did you know your wife was pregnant?”

Brant didn’t bat an eye. He should have, but he didn’t.

“Where’s that coffee?” he asked.

“On its way,” Lena said. She repeated the question, then watched him think it over. After a few moments, he slid down on the seat and sighed with resignation.

“Yeah, I knew,” he said. “I knew, but I didn’t know. I’ve been thinking about it all day. Nikki had been acting weird for almost two weeks – hinting at it but not saying anything.”

“Then she didn’t tell you directly. She didn’t say anything when you called last night from the office.”

“No. When I called, she just told me she was going to bed.”

“For a man who’s just learned that he was about to be a father, you’re not showing much emotion.”

“That’s because I’m having such a wonderful day.”

“Why did you give your assistants the night off?”

He smiled. “So I could go home and kill my wife.”

“Do you think this is funny, Mr. Brant?”

“No. I think it’s a fucking waste of time.”

“Why did you give them the night off?”

“Everyone was tired and they were screwing up. I knew we’d be working the weekend. I thought they needed a decent night’s rest.”

“What did you do when they left?”

City of Fire serves as the introduction of Detective Lena Gamble, working her first big murder case. She’s carrying baggage. Her brother was gunned down on a dark street in Hollywood five years ago, the case still open and unsolved. As the body count rises, Lena begins to realize that her serial case has everything to do with her brother’s death. The ride she’s on is fast and gritty and nowhere to be found on page 69! But what I love most about this scene is Lena’s persistence. Her voice. It’s a demonstration of who she really is. This couldn’t have been the first page in City of Fire. It couldn’t have been the third or even the twenty-third page. It took time walking the tightrope to find her voice. Lots of pages ripped up and deleted. Two or three trees worth. Detective Lena Gamble isn’t a man with a woman’s name. And she’s not an action figure built for a cartoon. For me, Lena Gamble is the very definition of what is real.
Check out Robert Ellis's website and read an excerpt from City of Fire.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science and Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his new book, Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror (Princeton University Press, 2007), and reported the following:
Page 69 of my book Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror deals with the relations between rogue regimes and terrorist groups. The particular focus here is on the likelihood that a regime like Iran might give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. I say:

In the quicksand of shifting alliances in the Middle East, today’s ally might well be tomorrow’s enemy and vice-versa. Iran’s changing relations with Iraq, and even with Iraqi Shiites, over the past two decades makes this all too clear. Perhaps the next conflict involving Iran and Iraq will be Sunni-Shiite, but might it just as likely break down along Persian-Arab lines. With Iraq’s integrity as a viable state now in serious doubt, the only thing that can be said with much confidence is how unpredictable these things are. This is scarcely a situation in which governments will likely start handing out WMD to groups they have limited capacity to control and whose interests might shift suddenly, radically, and unpredictably in the relatively near future.

This is part of my larger argument that for the most part the adversaries we face in the post 9/11 world are best dealt with by taking advantage of conflicts of interest among them, and by working with alliances, international institutions, and regional powers to exert diplomatic and economic pressures to contain states that enable terrorists. My book explains what this means in practice for US policy in the middle east, and shows why this is a superior approach to preemptive unilateralism of the Bush Administration or anything currently on offer from the Democrats.
Read more about Containment at the Princeton University Press website, including Chapter One.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Kiss Her Goodbye"

Robert Gregory Browne's debut novel is a thriller titled Kiss Her Goodbye.

He applied the "page 69 test" to the book and reported the following:
Page 69 of Kiss Her Goodbye, as it turns out, is one of the few lulls in the story. The hero, Jack Donovan, takes a moment to reflect on a few things about his life and relationships. Shortly after this, a pivotal event turns Donovan's world upside down. And he's about to take a journey that very few of us ever experience and get a chance to talk about it.

Kiss Her Goodbye is a metaphysical crime thriller. The story of an ATF agent whose daughter is kidnapped and buried alive, and the very unusual lengths he must go to in order to save her.

Page 69:

Anyone entering Donovan's office would realize that he had a serious obsession. He sometimes joked that he was a stalker with a badge, Gunderson's Number One Fan. Now if he could only tie the bastard to a bed, grab a sledgehammer, and hobble his ankles.

Donovan glanced at the mess atop his desk and sighed. More police reports, a stack of aging newspapers neatly folded to the crossword puzzle, a couple of federal procedure manuals. Amidst the chaos, a smiling freckle-faced six-year-old stared up at him from a framed photograph. It was an old one, but one of is favorites.

His daughter, Jessie. In better times.

Despite their problems, Donovan thought of her as his salvation. His only lifeline to a normal world. A line that, unfortunately, was a little frayed at the moment.

Which reminded him. He checked his watch, looked up at Rachel. "Any word from the wayward one?"

"Not so far."

"She's running late."

Rachel shoved the file drawer shut. "They always run late at this age."

"Oh? You read that in the manual?"

"I'm studying up, just in case." Rachel was divorced and childless. Donovan had no idea what kept her from taking another dive into the deep end of the pool, but it certainly had nothing to do with looks or personality. Maybe she was simply as puzzled by relationships as he was. Whatever the case, she was a good sounding board for his parental insecurities.

He glanced at Jessie's photo again. "You think I'll ever see the day she actually wants to spend time with me?"

Rachel raised an eyebrow. "You're lucky any of us do."

Donovan shook his head and smiled as she gathered up an armload of files and headed for the door. Shifting his attention to the collage on the wall, he stood up, grabbed the cluster of darts adorning Gunderson's forehead and pulled them free. "Tell me something, Rache."

She turned, waited. She looked good framed in the doorway like that, her straight, dark hair parted at the side and cut just below the shoulder. Her brown eyes were always bright and clear and attentive. And her body...
Read the first three chapters of Kiss Her Goodbye online and check out other features at Browne's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"MacGregor Tells the World"

Elizabeth McKenzie is the author of Stop That Girl and the just-released novel, MacGregor Tells the World.

She applied the "page 69 test" to MacGregor and reported the following:
Could one page stand naked with any dignity? Or would it shrivel pulled from the shadows of pages 68 and 70? I checked it out and found pg 69 serving up, legitimately, some of the themes and tensions of the novel. The page starts in transition: Mac on one of his voyages to San Francisco, alive to everything in the way only an outsider can be, longing to escape his frumpy cousin’s life in the ‘burbs, full of desire for Carolyn Ware and everything she stands for.

“Driving out of Redwood City, past the neon martini sign and the do it yourself dog wash, past the shrill used car lots and the diesel clouds of tractor trailers idling on side streets for the night, he happily joined the crowd going north on 101. He never tired of approaching the city. Everyone complained about the summer fog but these were the complaints of proud parents apologizing with smiles for the brattish deeds of their children. Ultimately, San Francisco did no wrong in the eyes of the people who lived there, and it was true, the summer fog and chill had a charm all its own.”

My pg. 69 also introduces perhaps the most “evil” character in the novel, Charles Ware. (His nasty doings will blow up Mac’s world later on.) Though Mac’s been girding his loins to meet the guy ever since he began seeing his daughter Carolyn, the meeting is as bad, or even worse, than he expected.

Arriving at the house, Carolyn has vanished (not the first time, and not the last), thus throwing him face to face with Charles Ware, author of Tangier, iconic figure, flanked by two young sycophants, gulping down everything he says. Setting eyes on him, Mac reports a “man who looked rather like an aged boy, a pituitary case, a replica of his former self with too much skin. Puttied old cheeks crowded his small features; blue gray slugs rested beneath his eyes; thin, monkey-red hair ….” All the while, Mac feels “pimply and adolescent” coming to call like this.

Red flags are popping up all along the merry way. Why does she still live with her parents? What’s her trip anyway, with her annoying sister? Why did his mother write all those letters to this house? These questions have become the subtext of Mac’s visits and of this particular scene, and despite the thrills of being with Carolyn, continue to shadow him during the summer leading unexpectedly to his past.
McKenzie's writing has appeared in the New York Times, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Pushcart Prize XXV, Other Voices, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and ZYZZYVA. Her stories have been performed at Symphony Space in New York and Stories on Stage in Chicago, and recorded for NPR's "Selected Shorts." She is a former staff editor at The Atlantic Monthly.

Visit Elizabeth McKenzie's website and read an excerpt from MacGregor Tells the World.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 11, 2007

"It's Kind of A Funny Story"

Ned Vizzini is the author of It's Kind of a Funny Story ("insightful and utterly authentic" --New York Times Book Review), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah....

He applied the "page 69 test" to It's Kind of A Funny Story and reported the following:
Teen sex! Teen sex! Oh wow, it sure is exciting. (Trying to think how to write about my own work without tooting my own horn too much, can't, so here we go.)

I'm proud of a few things about my novel It's Kind of A Funny Story (2006), but one of the best was my inclusion in's Henry Miller Award for Best Sex Scene 2006. (Didn't win; honor to be nominated; etc.) Page 69 of the book is a little pastiche of sexual tension and lust among 14-year-olds that takes place just after the protagonist has gotten high for the first time. He (Craig Gilner), his best friend, and the beautiful girl of his dreams, Nia, are all together at his best friend's house celebrating the fact that they've been accepted into Executive Pre-Professional High School (in Manhattan).

It's representative, I'd say, of the honest sexuality that can be presented now in work for young adults. There's a more graphic scene later where a girl's nipples are described as "the highest point on her." Is this sexuality representative of the adolescent climate in the 00ze, or does it promote bad behavior? I don't know. Censors' department.
Check out Ned Vizzini's website, his MySpace page, and the It's Kind of a Funny Story MySpace page; read an excerpt from It's Kind of a Funny Story.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"No Humans Involved"

Kelley Armstrong is the author of the internationally bestselling series, The Otherworld.

She applied the "page 69 test" to her new novel, No Humans Involved, and reported the following:
Page 69 of No Humans Involved starts a new chapter, so it’s only a half page. It doesn’t reveal much about the plotline, but it’s a decent representative sample of my writing and story-telling style.

It’s an interrogation scene. That suggests a thriller/mystery plot. True, though the references to a murder are incidental to the main plot — the protagonist is only using that knowledge as leverage. There’s passing mention of “spell” and “witch,” which would indicate supernatural elements. Again true, though the witches only appear in this sequence — the narrator is a necromancer (talks to the dead.) You have three women in a “tough action”-style setting (a forced interrogation) suggesting a “kick-ass heroine” story. While this protagonist is strong, she’s definitely not “kick-ass” — here she’s just trying to salvage some dignity after being rescued by a teen witch.

So after reading page 69, you’d probably come away with the general impression that this is a supernatural thriller with a strong female protagonist, heavy on action and dialogue, written in a contemporary voice. That pretty much nails it. If you try to determine what the plot itself is about based on this sample, it doesn’t work as well. But, with any luck, reading page 69 would at least intrigue you enough to scan the jacket copy.

Page 69 of No Humans Involved:

Back in the clearing, we forced Molly to kneel. She wasn’t gagged or silenced by a spell, but she hadn’t said a word. Hadn’t tried to escape. Just watched us warily, tensed to fight, but making no move to start one.

I waved Savannah back. She hesitated -- maybe a reflection on her faith in my interrogation abilities, but more likely just an instinct to take charge -- her parents’ daughter to the core. After a moment, she backed off with a nod.

I stood over Molly. “You screwed up. You’ve been on the dark side so long, you think everybody is just as devious and dangerous as you. I was telling you the truth. All I wanted was information, and I was offering a fair deal in return. I had no idea what really happened to Mike until you got paranoid and started confessing.”

“I never admitted—”

“True. We can go that route. I take you into custody. You plead your innocence before the council.”

Molly’s eyes narrowed.

“Or we can leave the council out of this. Killing Mike wasn’t the solution I’d have come up with, but from what you’ve said, it wasn’t completely unjustified. More of an overuse of force than murder. You had a good reason—”

“I did. That bastard tried to—”

Savannah cut her off. “Heard it already.”

I glanced over at the young witch. She’d settled onto the grass,
Check out Kelley Armstrong's website and read an excerpt from No Humans Involved.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 9, 2007

"Shadow of Death"

Patricia Gussin's debut medical suspense novel, Shadow of Death, is a Best First Novel nominee for a Thriller Award, sponsored by the International Thriller Writers.

Gussin applied the "page 69 test" to her novel and reported the following:
"As before her patient was totally still except for the heave of his chest in tandem with the respirator."

Page 69 of Shadow of Death is surprisingly representative of the story. The reader would learn that a boy, Anthony, lay dying and that Laura, the medical student protagonist, is moving toward a collision course liking his fate to hers.

As Laura enters the ward, the lone chair at Anthony's bedside was empty. Laura Nelson's very first patient ever, a victim of the riots that had torn Detroit apart, lay emaciated. Her assignment today was to check his thin, dark skin for decubiti, pressure sores that could lead to gangrene. And she had one more secret objective while on the crowded medical ward. She needed to steal some penicillin from the drug cart. She needed to get up the nerve to inject herself. She'd read that rape victims had a high incidence of venereal disease and that terrified her.

Laura, a first year medical student, had not bargained for the chaos and devastation that riots had brought to Detroit. Unfathomable that she was a victim herself and that she'd …. She couldn't bear to think about what she'd done. And now she had to cover it up. Once she'd examined Anthony, Laura sought out his nurse to discuss how the blotchy sores on Anthony's skin could be better treated. As the nurse patiently explained Anthony's dismal prognosis and chatted about Anthony's family, Laura learns a shocking truth that links her fate inexorably with her patient in a manner unthinkable.
Visit Patricia Gussin's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 8, 2007


Tara McKelvey is a senior editor at The American Prospect and a research fellow at New York University School of Law's Center on Law and Security. Her new book is Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.

McKelvey applied the "page 69 test" to the new book and reported the following:
My book, Monstering, is about what happened beyond the frames of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs. I look at the story that the media missed – the fact that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was widespread, systematic and often horrific – and how the vast majority (at least eighty percent) of prisoners at Abu Ghraib were, according to multiple military sources, either innocent or did not have useful information for interrogators. My work is based on interviews with former detainees from Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, unexpunged government documents that were given to me by sources and other exclusive material, including never-released videos of wild parties where American soldiers went Robotripping (that’s a cocktail of Robitussin and Vivarin) as they pretended to stab detainees in an Abu Ghraib cellblock.

Page 69 has a subhead, “A Scene of Carnage,” that describes the killings of two American soldiers at Abu Ghraib – as well as the fear and dread that Americans experienced while they were living and working in the prison and how that in various ways their apprehension contributed to the way Iraqis were treated at the prison. This page, and other sections of the book, provides a context for the story of the Abu Ghraib scandal. As we also learn from Page 69, the conditions of the prison were even more trying for Iraqis than Americans. The deaths of prisoners Mihdy, Spah and Mohamed are discussed – along with the fact the circumstances surrounding their deaths “will likely remain a mystery.”
Listen to McKelvey's interview about her book, terror, and torture, on "Fresh Air."

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"More Than Fiends"

Maureen Child, who has written under several pseudonyms, including Ann Carberry, Sarah Hart and Kathleen Kane, has a new novel (published under her own name) out this month, More Than Fiends.

She applied the "page 69 test" to the new book and reported the following:
The Page 69 test was a revelation for me! I immediately went through the stacks of books I own and read page 69 in a dozen or so of them. Mostly, I have to say, they passed the test. Strange though, that a couple of my favorites didn’t!

Still, it’s an interesting experiment — and I applied it to my own newest release, More Than Fiends. I think it held up. In this book, Cassidy Burke has just found out that she’s a legendary Demon Duster. She’s also faced with the reappearance of Logan Miller, father of her daughter, Thea. He’s back in town and now that he knows about his child’s existence, he wants into their lives.

Page 69 gives readers an idea of Cassidy’s personality. And a peek into her relationship with Logan. It also showcases the fact that this is a first person, sort of snarky book with plenty of attitude. So, all in all, I think it passed the test!

Pg. 69:

Thanks,” he said as he followed me into the kitchen. “It does help.”

“Look,” I told him, pulling an extra coffee cup out of the cupboard and filling it for him, “I’m willing to work this out, because I’m a fabulous human being, but I’m only going to listen to you being mad for so long.”

“About sixteen years?” he asked, a reluctant smile curving one corner of his mouth.

“Ha-ha,” I said and handed him his coffee. “One more time, Logan. I was a kid. And pregnant, okay?”

He leaned back against the counter, holding the cup between his palms. “If I’d known, it would have been different,” he said. “Cassie, you wrote to me all that year and you never even mentioned it.”

“Uh-huh,” I said, taking a huge gulp of coffee, “like you never mentioned that you were dating Skippy.”


“Whatever.” I set my cup down, walked to the service porch and Logan was only a step or two behind me. While I stuffed a load of towels — Thea used two for every shower, one for her hair, one for her body and took two showers a day, you do the math — Logan leaned against the dryer, watching me.

To be honest, he gave good stare.

He made me so jumpy, I dumped enough soap in to wash five loads and hoped that wouldn’t come back to bite me in the ass. Then I slammed the lid and looked up at him. Well over six feet, it took awhile to lift my gaze all the way to his eyes, but it was worth the trip.

“What do you want from me, Logan?”

He blew out a breath, crossed his feet at the ankle and said, “Another shot.”

“At what?”


Whoa Baby!
Check out Maureen Child's website and her blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue