Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Coffin Nails"

John Llewellyn Probert has had over forty short stories published in both anthologies and periodicals including SciFantastic Nocturne, Fusing Horizons, Horror Express, Here & Now, Supernatural Tales, Dark Horizons and Thriller UK. His books include The Faculty of Terror, Coffin Nails, and Against the Darkness.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Coffin Nails and reported the following:
Page 69 of Coffin Nails, my second collection of supernatural horror stories, starts off with a man with no legs killing himself. We then find ourselves at the subsequent funeral, which takes place in the Welsh town of Monmouth. It is at this funeral that the central character meets the beautiful and enigmatic Marcella, the ex-girlfriend of the deceased, who ‘drinks him in with her eyes’ and as she walks towards him after the ceremony he makes note of her knee-length black boots as they click on the tarmac.

This is all from ‘Final Act’, a spectacularly gruesome tale of revenge from beyond the grave, and while nothing overtly supernatural happens on this particular page it does feature elements that I feel are representative of my fiction, namely a horrible death, a beautiful woman, and a Welsh setting. Not all the eighteen tales in the volume are set in my home country of Wales but quite a few are. I can quite confidently state however that all of them are horror stories, some of them are gruesome, some of them are sexy, a few are humorous, and a couple try to combine all of these in, I must add, the best possible taste. Of course when it comes to horror taste is a matter for one’s own personal judgment and I would venture to suggest that the best way for any discerning horror fan to see if these stories are suited to their particular petrified palate would be to try them out for themselves.
Read more about Coffin Nails at the publisher's website and John Llewellyn Probert's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"The Lost Temple"

Tom Harper was born in 1977 and grew up in West Germany, Belgium, and America before returning to England to study history at Lincoln College, Oxford. His conclusion to the short story “Death by the Invisible Hand” was published in The Economist in 1997, and his novels have been translated into twelve languages.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Lost Temple, and reported the following:
Moving very slowly, Muir lit another cigarette. Each sound seemed unnaturally loud in the hot afternoon air – the click of the case, the flare of phosphorous, the crack as Muir snapped the spent matchstick in two. A shadow passed across his face: a hawk hovering in the sky.

‘All right.’ He took a deep drag and his mouth curled in something like pleasure. ‘I’ll tell you what I can.’

‘You’d better hope it’s enough.’

Muir took a bundle of photographs from his shirt pocket and passed one to Grant.

‘It looks like our tablet.’

‘It was found by the Americans in the dying days of the war, at a scientific facility they’d captured in Oranienburg. Germany.’

This is a crucial early scene, where all four protagonists finally come together and start to learn what they’re looking for. Muir is the abrasive British Secret Service agent directing the search for a clay tablet inscribed with prehistoric writing; the other half of the conversation here is Sam Grant, the disgraced adventurer whom Muir has just sprung from a Palestinian prison to help hunt down the tablet. The clues they find in this scene set them properly on the trail towards one of the greatest treasures of antiquity.

The scene takes place in the atmospherically-named Valley of the Dead [author's photo, right; click to enlarge] on the eastern tip of Crete: a deep red-rock gorge riddled with caves where people have been buried since ancient times. The moment I heard the name I knew I had to include it in the book. It also kept my editor sweet: he went there on vacation twenty years ago and is nuts about the place.

The detail of the photographs having been found at a German research facility was inspired by Joseph Kanon’s The Good German, which I’d read around this time and which deals with scientific papers discovered in post-war Germany. Lost Temple is my unashamed homage to Indiana Jones, so obviously it had to have Nazis in it.
Read an excerpt from The Lost Temple and view the trailer at Tom Harper's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Living with the Dead"

Kelley Armstrong is the author of the internationally bestselling The Otherworld series and other works.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the latest novel in the series, Living with the Dead, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Living with the Dead shows a minor character trying to break into an apartment and being stopped by a cop. While the writing and content are a decent enough sample of the book, there are elements that could mislead a casual reader.

The scene moves along nicely. It raises a bunch of questions. There’s conflict and tension. Overall it sets the genre as a crime thriller and it is…except…

The book is paranormal suspense. What’s missing here is the paranormal part. That’s not unusual. If you open my books at a random point, you could go a whole scene and not hit anything unusual. There is a mention of “remotely watching” someone, but it’s a weak reference, easily missed or misinterpreted. I’d be happier with a clear paranormal reference on any page that might be used to evaluate the book. That’s not something I like to surprise readers with!

Another problem is the main character in this scene. It’s clear he’s a teenage boy, which could make a reader presume either it’s a young adult novel or that teens play a major role in it. Neither is true.

Overall, not a bad choice, but not one I’d recommend.

Page 69—Living with the Dead:

A uniformed officer started toward him, shoulders squaring. Colm closed his fingers over the pick and pushed it up his sleeve.

“I was looking for Miss Peltier. She bought some chocolate almonds from me for band.”

The officer stopped in front of him. “Band?”

“A band trip. I go to LACHSA.” When the officer looked confused, he said, “Los Angeles County School of the Arts.” A school he could claim, no matter what part of the city he was in. “I was going to tell her the almonds will be late.”

“You live in the building?”

Colm nodded. “With my mom. 304.”

The lies came effortlessly. More lessons taught from birth. No matter how innocent the question, lie.

The officer seemed to consider taking him down to 304 and Colm was mentally preparing his excuse and escape plan, but after a moment, he asked, “When’s the last time you saw Ms. Peltier?”

“Last Tues—no, Wednesday. I was waiting out front for my cab to school.”

The officer reached into his pocket and handed Colm a card. “If you see her again, give me a call.”

“Is something wrong?”

“We just need to talk to her.”

Colm read the card slowly, hoping the officer would walk away. But he just stood there, waiting for Colm to leave. After a moment, he did.

Once again, Colm stood in the first floor stairwell. He’d tried to remotely watch the officer, so he could sneak back up, but he was so nervous, he couldn’t concentrate. Even clutching the officer’s card didn’t help.

There was no way he was getting into that apartment now. He couldn’t talk his way out of being caught up there a second time.

He wished he could call Adele, but she’d been summoned into a conference with the phuri and couldn’t be disturbed. With Portia Kane dead, they’d waste no time assigning her a new subject. They always had several on backup. Everyone needed to pull their weight.

In the meantime, he’d come up with a version of events that put him in a better light. No mysterious couple. Certainly no walking into their trap. And there’d been two—no, maybe four—cops searching the apartment. He’d waited for hours, but they hadn’t left. Adele couldn’t blame him for that ... he hoped.
Read an excerpt from Living with the Dead, and learn more about the author and her work at Kelley Armstrong's website.

The Page 69 Test: No Humans Involved.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"The Lord-Protector's Daughter"

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is the bestselling author of over forty novels encompassing two science fiction series and three fantasy series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction genre.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Lord Protector’s Daughter, the seventh and latest volume of the Corean Chronicles Series, and reported the following:
Sensing someone nearing, Mykella turned toward the parlor door. She felt as though it had to be Salyna. At that, she froze. How could she know that?

Yet the door opened, and Salyna stepped inside.

“What’s the matter?” asked Salyna. “You look upset.”

That’s the first full paragraph on page 69, and in many ways, it is representative of The Lord-Protector’s Daughter. Mykella bears the name and the heritage of a noted ancestor who often knew things without knowing why. Yet she is merely the ruler’s daughter, to be matched and married off to whatever scion of whatever neighboring land will be in the best interests of the land of Lanachrona.

Even so, she and her sister Salyna strive to escape that fate.

Mykella shook her head. “I was just thinking. I just have to get out of the palace. Would you like to take a ride with me in the Preserve tomorrow? If it doesn’t rain, that is?”

Salyna smiled. “That would be lovely. Since it’s in the Preserve, I can even bring my new saber. It’s a fighting saber, and I even got Moraduk to let me sharpen it on the grindstone.”

“Would you really want to be a Southern Guard, even if they took women?”

“No,” admitted Salyna, “but it’s the only way I can learn about weapons, and since I’ll likely be matched to some younger son somewhere, I want to be able to protect myself. I had to prove to Undercommander Areyst that I could use a dagger before he’d let me pick up a saber.”

Mykella does not have her younger sister’s size or skill with arms, but what she does have is the ability to read people.

Despite her sister’s light tone, Mykella could feel the determination behind those words, a determination that concerned her, although she could not have said why.

Even though page 69 tells of a short interaction between two sisters, that interaction does foreshadow their interplay throughout the book, as well as Mykella’s concerns for those she loves. And in that sense, page 69 is very representative.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website and his blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Blackbird, Farewell"

Robert Greer is a practicing surgical pathologist and professor of pathology and medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. His previous CJ Floyd mysteries include The Fourth Perspective and The Mongoose Deception.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the seventh and latest CJ Floyd mystery, Blackbird, Farewell, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Blackbird, Farewell turns out to be pivotal to the narrative. On that page, the central character Damion Madrid, is engaged in a conversation with Rodney “Sandy” Sands, head trainer for the University of Colorado State basketball team. Damion is querying Sandy about a possible suspect in the murder of Damion’s best friend and All-American basketball star, Shandell Bird; and Damion is trying to get Sandy to set up a meeting between him (Damion) and Denver drug pusher, Leotis Hawkins. The scene is certainly pivotal to the book because when Hawkins tries to kill Damion later in Denver, Sandy is also pushed to the top of Damion’s suspects list.

The scene on page 69 turns out to be a relatively complex set-up scene in that it offers a possible set up for the end of the novel. It gives readers insight into at least two possible suspects in Shandell Bird’s murder. It also gives them the chance to see novice investigator, Damion Madrid, involved in something that’s not his forte (since he is actually a student heading off to medical school), and it sets up a future confrontation between Damion and Hawkins. I would say that page 69 of the novel, which is in the mid portion of chapter 7 of a 338 page book, is clearly representative of the rest of the book and I hope that any reader skimming that page would be inclined to read on.
Read an excerpt from Blackbird, Farewell, and learn more about the book and author at Robert Greer's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Perspective.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Perspective.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts"

New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice called Laura Benedict’s Isabella Moon "[a]n exquisite, closely observed novel that happens to be a great thriller.”

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts, and reported the following:
When I was asked to take the Page 69 test, I felt like a kid about to pull her fifth grade school photo out of its envelope--those school photographers only allow one take. And if you're snapped with your eyes blinked closed, you'll forever remember your fifth grade year as the year you had a truly terrible school picture.

I opened to Page 69 of Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts with trepidation. What if it was a description of a house or something equally prosaic? There would never be a chance to change it and make it something more exciting.

Page 69 begins within a dream sequence. Dillon, a secondary character, has been living in a posh downtown loft as a guest of Varick, the book's villain/demon. Dillon's days and nights have been a dream-come-true for a nineteen year-old kid with a taste for drugs, seductive women and gourmet carry-out. His companions have been Malina and Ivanka, twins with "centerfold bodies" and an apparently desperate desire to please him. But in his dream he fears he's been left alone in the loft. He's never been allowed in the girls' bedroom and so goes to open their door.

The cold burned his cheek. There was a sound, too, an uneven, sonorous hum as from a massive hive of bees. It wasn’t right. He wanted to get back to the spoons, to feel good again, because he could feel the goodness slipping from him. He tried to close the door. There was nothing in the way, but he couldn’t pull it to. The handle jerked beneath his hand, and the door flew open, revealing a blackness that he couldn’t have imagined when he was awake and in the world.

Something brushed against his foot and he kicked out. “Motherfucker!” Then the floor was covered with blackness, an eddying, squeaking, suffocating blackness, and something poked up out of the flood: a rat’s face.

The blackness grew into such a height in front of him that he was afraid to open his mouth and scream. He felt himself falling, pulled down by the tide, and understood that he would be eaten clean to the bone, and the fear of it was unbearable in his chest and the fear finally woke him.

He wakes to find Varick standing over him. Fun time is over for Dillon, and Varick is ready to put him to work.

Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts is the story of a former priest who enlists the aid of a demon (Varick) to take revenge on three young women who, as teenagers, ruined his life and career. While none of the women appears on Page 69, it speaks directly to one of the themes of the book: Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it--and it's never what you expect it to be. Page 69 also makes it clear that the supernatural is integral to the story and that Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts is no book for children or young teens. This is a novel for grownups who love a good scare.

So, please imagine my happy sigh of relief at my discovery that Page 69 is the perfect representation of the novel as a whole. Sometimes one take is all we need!
Read an excerpt from Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts.

Check out Laura Benedict's website and blog, and watch the Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts trailer.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Dream City"

Brendan Short holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas. His fiction has appeared in several literary journals, including The Literary Review and River Styx, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. From 2000 to 2001 he was Writer-in-Residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Dream City, his first novel, and reported the following:
During the writing of Dream City, I tried to make sure the novel did not point toward or reach a moment where a deep, dark family secret is revealed. It wasn’t easy to avoid this alluring narrative trope, which promised a simple way out of a multilayered novel that spans more than seventy years in the life of a troubled family. Instead, I tried to focus on showing a family history shaped by misunderstandings, lies and estrangement—all of which, fortunately for me, show up on page 69.

On that page, Elizabeth Halligan is visiting the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair with her seven-year-old son Michael. Elizabeth has recently become involved in a populist religious movement led by Eddie Kowal, a Father Coughlin-esque charmer and demagogue. She also has entered into a kind of chaste affair with Eddie, who, moved by love but bound by his own moral code, has asked her to stop having sex with her thuggish husband Paddy and hinted that she should leave Chicago with him. But Elizabeth is still drawn to her husband and, by page 69, is pregnant with his child. At this point in the story, she also is struggling to ask one of Eddie’s benefactors if her doctor-husband has any colleagues who perform abortions.

Elizabeth had been foolish to think she could ask for help from Mrs. Twitchell, who did little more than write checks and complain; she had been foolish to think there was any way out of her predicament. She had tried her best to hold off Paddy, at least at times—most times, in fact, except when he forced himself on her, or when she couldn’t help but reach for him in the night and imagine him as the tense and quiet young man who had tinkered with her father’s delivery trucks and once told her, “I’d fix anything in the world for you.” In those moments, when he would press himself against her, she would think how unfair and pitiful Eddie’s request had been. Afterward, she would think how lonely both men made her feel.

As Elizabeth tries in vain to ask Mrs. Twitchell for help, Michael is sitting nearby, yanking grass from the ground. He and his mother have recently had a fight, and their momentary separation is emblematic of the various kinds of separations (physical, emotional, moral, and ideological) that occur throughout the novel and form the Halligans’ tragic history.

Eventually Elizabeth… oh, I won’t give away any more of the story. I’ll just say that her subsequent actions, and various misunderstandings resulting from them, are central to the novel, which I hope you decide to read. Trust me, you’ll like it.
Learn more about the book and author at Brendan Short's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"This One Is Mine"

Maria Semple has written for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen.

She applied the Page 69 Test to This One Is Mine, her first novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of my novel, This One Is Mine, Sally, an ex-ballerina is in a shoe store with her boyfriend, Jeremy, trying to figure out how to get him to propose. Trouble is, he hasn't even said "I love you." By her logic, that would come before a proposal. On page 69, the words "I love you" squirt out of her mouth. To which Jeremy responds, "Me, too." Sally feels a surge of joy and triumph. For that moment, life seems manageable.

Even though Sally is a secondary character, she carries the "message" of the book. (Forgive the M-word, I've only got 200 words.) Her entire existence is bound by self-will. Before I stumbled upon the poem "This One Is Mine" by the Sufi Hafiz, my working title came from Sally. It's at the end of the novel, at which point she's willed Jeremy into marriage-- to disastrous results-- and finally relinquishes her fanatical need to control.

"I wake up and I say..." She raised her eyes, as if talking to God.

"Surprise me."

SURPRISE ME-- to me, it's the most evolved state there is. Enthusiastic and unattached. And on p. 69, Sally, like most of my other characters in the beginning of the book, has a long way to go to get there.
Read an excerpt from This One Is Mine.

Learn more about the book and author at Maria Semple's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Dead Reign"

T.A. Pratt writes the urban fantasy series featuring the heroine Marla Mason: Blood Engines (October 2007), Poison Sleep (April 2008), Dead Reign (November 2008), and Spell Games (April 2009).

He applied the Page 69 Test to Dead Reign and reported the following:
Page 69 isn't all that representative of the book as a whole, because it's one of the scenes from the viewpoint of an antagonist, specifically Ayres, an elderly and cranky necromancer who suffers from the Cotard delusion (that is, he believes himself to be dead -- at least, he used to, though he's largely recovered at this point in the book).

Most of the novel is from the viewpoint of my heroine, Marla Mason, a sort of cross between a mob boss and a superhero -- she runs the city of Felport's supernatural community, protects the city from monstrous otherworldly threats, and makes a living from various business interests, legal and otherwise. She doesn't trust Ayres, both because he's got a history of being totally crazy and because she thinks he betrayed a friend of hers, so she's forbidden him to practice magic in her city. Ayres doesn't like that, so he gets in touch with the god of Death himself and manages to manipulate the situation in such a way that he expects Death to go kill Marla.

On this particular page, he's sitting in his apartment, looking out the window, hoping to see "A plume of smoke. An earthquake. People running and screaming. Some sign of the titanic battle between Marla Mason and Death." His only companion is the revivified mummy of presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth, whom Ayres has (mostly accidentally) recently resurrected. They have kind of an adversarial relationship. Ayres wanted a mindless zombie slave, and instead he got a vain, racist, opinionated, prickly murderer-slash-actor. They spend much of the page sniping at one another. The dynamic between Booth and Ayres was a lot of fun to write, especially since I got to put Booth in the position of being a slave -- particularly satisfying since he was a great fan of slavery when he wasn't the one in chains.
Read an excerpt from Dead Reign, and learn more about the book and author at T.A. Pratt's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Dating da Vinci"

Malena Lott is the author of The Stork Reality and the recently released Dating da Vinci.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Dating da Vinci and reported the following:
In my novel, the protagonist Ramona Elise, a young widow and mother of two, is searching for joy again two years after her husband’s sudden death. Page 69 happens to be the start of Chapter 6 and begins a great turning point for Ramona. It's definitely reflective of the tone of the novel and another step forward in her journey.

A few things Grievers don’t do. We don’t tell you to look at the ‘bright side’; we steer clear of couples’ hang-outs; and we absolutely, unequivocally avoid weddings like vampires shun sunlight. The blushing bride and tearful groom and gaggle of well-wishers and sweet sanctimony don’t sit well with my kind. We tend to ignore nuptial events that come our way. (We have nothing against you lovebirds; it’s just best not to throw acid into a seeping wound.)

We normally send a nice Target gift card instead.

She’s attending the Hindu wedding of her boss’ daughter, has taken Leonardo da Vinci, the handsome 25-year-old Italian immigrant who lives in her late husband’s studio garage apartment, with her. She finds that not only is da Vinci showing signs of attraction, but that her sister’s boyfriend, Cortland Andrew, is also overly friendly with her.

She’s paying close to attention to body language because she’s finally finishing her dissertation on the “Language of Love.” Ramona teaches English to immigrants so the book is full of cultural references and a multi-cultural cast, including the Russian bride next door, Zoya; her best friend Anh, a Vietnamese super-successful gal in all things except love, and of course her students, including da Vinci, who possesses a lot of common traits with the genius da Vinci. And, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a hottie.

Dealing with Ramona’s grief and Renaissance to a wholly new life was a great journey for me, too. I think you’ll find a blend of humor and poignant moments throughout the novel.
Read an excerpt from Dating da Vinci, and learn more about the author and her work at Malena Lott's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Shot Girl"

Annie Seymour, a crime reporter in New Haven, Connecticut, is the protagonist of four novels by Karen E. Olson: Sacred Cows, Secondhand Smoke, Dead of the Day, and the newly published Shot Girl.

Olson applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
Page 69 of Shot Girl doesn’t have a lot of action, but it’s very indicative of the book’s tone and plot. In this book, police reporter Annie Seymour is tangled up in the death of her ex-husband outside a local nightclub. She’s been struggling with being taken off the police beat while the case is open and seeing her nemesis Dick Whitfield being given her job, something she’s been afraid of throughout the series. It’s also clear from early on that Annie knows more than she’s telling the reader — and her city editor, Marty Thompson:

Marty stood up, an imposing figure at 6-foot-4, and led me by the arm to Charlie Simmons’ vacant office. Charlie must’ve had an early Friday night date. When the door was shut behind us, he turned to me.

“Renee told me in confidence that you were seen talking to Ralph Seymour just before he was shot. And that you were seen outside just after he was shot.”

I took a deep breath. “Yeah, I did talk to Ralph, and she knows it. We talked about it last night. I was outside because I heard the shots and wanted to find out what happened. There’s nothing mysterious about it.”

I hoped I was convincing enough so he’d leave it alone.

Marty studied my face for a few seconds, and I forced myself not to look away. Finally, he said, “One of her sisters saw you near your car after the shooting.”

I knew what he was getting at now. “So you think I shot at Ralph, he keeled over, and then I put my gun back in my car afterward? The parking lot isn’t far from where Ralph collapsed.”

Marty sighed. “I’m just telling you what’s out there.”

Jesus. He meant the gossip.

“Tom let me go,” I said.

Despite the door being closed, we heard the scanner screech about an accident. On reflex, I put my hand to the doorknob, but Marty shook his head. “No, Annie, Dick’s got this.”
Read an excerpt from Shot Girl, and learn more about the author and her work at Karen E. Olson's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"The Murderers' Club"

PD Martin lives in Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of three crime novels: Body Count, The Murderers’ Club, and Fan Mail (now available in Australia and New Zealand and due to be released in North America and the UK in May 2009).

She applied the Page 69 Test to the mass market edition of The Murderers' Club and reported the following:
The Murderers’ Club is about an elite group of serial killers who communicate online, via a chat room.

Page 69 features the tail end of one of the brief chat room scenes that are scattered throughout the book to give readers an insight into the minds of four serial killers. In this way, the page is representative of the book because it gives the reader a sneak peek at this medium.

However, the actual scene doesn’t really give you an accurate picture of just how evil the characters are or what they’re up to – it doesn’t help that p.69 is actually at the end of a chapter, so it’s only half a page! Take a step back, to p. 68, and we get more of an insight:

NeverCaught: Can’t believe it’s only Sunday. Another four days until I get my next chance.

BlackWidow: You’ll just have to wait, Never.

NeverCaught: Easy for you to say. You got the first kill – Malcolm.

In terms of the chat room scenes, one of my personal favorites appears on p. 51:

AmericanPsycho: Our first kill has made its mark.

BlackWidow: You know what they say – it’s never as good as the first time. I mean the very first.

NeverCaught: My first was definitely special, but I enjoy it more now.

AmericanPsycho: Sex or murder?

NeverCaught: Both.

AmericanPsycho: My first was fantastic. It was the same person.

BlackWidow: Yes, they’re inextricably linked for me. It’s hard to have sex with someone and then not kill them.

As you can guess from the above extracts, the Club sets in motion a particularly nasty plan – and when bodies turn up, Aussie FBI profiler Sophie Anderson is on the case. However, this is another area in which page 69 is NOT representative of the book – it doesn’t feature my main character, Sophie.

Sophie Anderson is an ex-police officer from Australia who now works for the FBI as a profiler. She also experiences nightmares and waking flashes about her cases that often come true. In fact, the Sydney Morning Herald described The Murderers’ Club as: “The Silence of the Lambs meets Medium, with a passing nod to Patricia Cornwell.”

I think this description, coupled with the knowledge that my books are fast-paced police/FBI procedurals with lots of forensic and criminal psychology details, gives the reader a good idea of what to expect from The Murderers’ Club and my first book, Body Count. Probably a better idea of the book than the half-page extract that is p.69!
Learn more about the book and author at PD Martin's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Thirteen Orphans"

Jane Lindskold is the bestselling author of the Wolf series, which began with Through Wolf’s Eyes and concluded with Wolf’s Blood, as well as many other fantasy novels.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Thirteen Orphans, and reported the following:
When I was invited to participate in the Page 69 Blog, I will admit, I found myself feeling both interested and somewhat overwhelmed.

I’m a believer in making each page pay. So I decided to take a deep breath and see if page 69 of my newly released novel Thirteen Orphans would contain something to keep potential readers reading.

However, I decided that I wasn’t going to let my fondness for my own work deceive me. I had a book signing the very next day. I decided I’d wait until I had an audience to find out what was on page 69, and test what their response would be.

Saturday Night. Page One Books, Albuquerque. After explaining what I was going to do, I opened a copy of Thirteen Orphans to page 69. To my consternation, it started in mid-sentence. I said: “Should I go back to the first full line?” and immediately heard, “No! Go for it.” So I did.

...possibly the Japanese market. You can tell because there are no Arabic numbers on the tiles.

The paragraph goes on to talk about mah-jong sets. Okay. Not too bad. Analysis of puzzles or of mysterious items always catches me. Next paragraph.

Riprap ate the French fry, then went on. “You don’t look Chinese. Your daughter... Maybe she does if I stretch my imagination...

More mystery. A question of heritage. I speed my eyes down the page. Why is this important? Ah-hah!

“Are you familiar with generational feuds?” Gaheris went on.


“Well, being the descendant of your great-grandfather has set you up to be targeted by one such feud.”

I heard stirring from my audience. Apparently, generational feuds were a Good Thing as far as readers were concerned, especially feuds where at least some of those targeted have no idea they are vulnerable.

A little more discussion, as Gaheris seeks to convince Riprap that he alone of all his family is in particular danger. Then, as page 69 comes to an end:

At last, Riprap spoke very softly. “Tell me what would be on the lid of the box holding my great-grandfather’s set.”

Brenda heard herself answering. “A dog. The Dog.”

“And yours has a rat. The Rat...”

I finished the paragraph and looked up. My audience burst into spontaneous applause.

I grinned. “Shall we see what’s on page 169?”

And we did.

So my assessment, supported by that of about forty listeners, is that if you read page 69 of Thirteen Orphans, you’ll want to read more. I hope you’ll give it a try.
Learn more about the book and author at Jane Lindskold's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 8, 2008


Jan Brogan is a former correspondent for The Boston Globe and a freelance magazine writer. Her novels include Final Copy, A Confidential Source, and Yesterday's Fatal.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Teaser, and reported the following:
Page 69 captures my protagonist, Hallie Ahern, a newspaper reporter and recovering gambling addict, at her best. She is drawing information out of a reluctant source. In this case, it’s a fifteen-year old girl, Whitney Connors, who is about to reveal how she and her girlfriends got involved posting suggestive videos of themselves on a social networking site.

Hallie knows when to push for information, when to commiserate, feign ignorance, or just shut up and listen. A teenage girl is among the more skittish of possible sources. It takes a certain skill.

The setting on p. 69 also helps reveal the backdrop for the story. Whitney’s home is filled with large-screen televisions, laptops, and webcams used as a parenting tools. The mystery is all about the underside of that technology.

Hallie has given up the blackjack table at Foxwoods, but she has not addressed her compulsive nature or addiction to action. She always pushes her investigations a little too far. Here she’s set herself up for the adrenaline rush by agreeing to interview the teenager at her East Side home. Hallie has to keep an eye on the driveway, anxious the entire time that one of Whitney’s parents might come home early, kill the interview and her front page expose.

It’s a small tension, but it sets up the increasingly dangerous risks Hallie is willing to take as her investigation begins to reveal the criminal ring exploiting these young girls.

My books always have three plots running. What this page doesn’t capture is the newsroom subplot, the online pressures altering the journalistic landscape and changing the way Hallie must do her job. There’s also no hint of the conflicts in Hallie’s romantic relationship with prosecutor Matt Cavanaugh, and how their investigations into Newport, Rhode Island’s oceanfront criminal element may collide.
Read an excerpt from Teaser, and learn more about the author and her work at Jan Brogan's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"Spider Season"

John Morgan Wilson is a veteran journalist and fiction writer. His Benjamin Justice mysteries have won the Edgar Allan Poe Award (AKA "the Edgar") for best first novel and three Lambda Literary Awards for best gay men's mystery. The latest is Spider Season (St. Martin's Minotaur), the eighth in the series, which began with the Edgar-winning Simple Justice in 1996, recently reissued by Bold Strokes Books.

Wilson gave Spider Season the Page 69 Test and reported the following:
The title Spider Season came to me one Spring afternoon as I was gardening in the small yard of my West Hollywood home. I lifted a stepping stone to uncover a bulbous black widow guarding a nest of cocooned eggs. I was startled, of course, but also inspired, and the title for my next novel came to me instantly.

At the time, I was just starting the manuscript, the eighth novel in the series. This time out, Benjamin Justice publishes his memoir, hoping to exorcise some demons and find redemption for a long ago scandal involving fabricated sources that destroyed his promising journalism career. Instead of providing Benjamin a degree of peace, the book's publication draws out several equally troubled people from his dark past and triggers a wave of harassment and intimidation that turns deadly.

Spider Season seemed an apt title for a story of poisonous creatures crawling out of the woodwork to instill fear and loathing, a "tangled web" mystery of growing paranoia and suspense. As events escalate, they ensnare not just Benjamin Justice, but a number of vulnerable people close to him. As I continued to write, I did some research into spider behavior, which had an unexpected influence on character and plot.

Two characters vital to the story are featured on page 69. Maurice and Fred, Benjamin's elderly landlords, have been important secondary characters since the series began with Simple Justice in 1996. A devoted couple for five decades, they have acted as a kind of moral anchor for Benjamin, providing him with a stable, supportive family that he never knew as a young man. In Spider Season, Maurice and Fred are in their eighties and facing personal challenges of their own. Fred, so burly and robust in earlier years, has grown especially frail. Page 69 underscores this, as well as the deep love and commitment the two men have for each other, along with a shared sense of gay history.

Because Spider Season is so dark and driven by suspense, the passages on page 69 are probably less representative than others of the tone and intensity of the novel as a whole. Yet this section involving Maurice and Fred helps to establish a poignant subplot about relationships and aging, endings and beginnings, that becomes woven significantly into the main plot line as it develops.

In a sense, Spider Season brings the Benjamin Justice series full circle, resolving a number of storylines and issues from earlier novels. Turning fifty, my protagonist faces personal choices about violence, love and family that are crucial to his emotional and physical survival. The book can be read on its own or as part of a series. What will happen to Benjamin in the future remains uncertain. Even I don't know that yet.
Learn more about the author at www.johnmorganwilson.com, where you can read the first chapter of Spider Season in its entirety.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain"

Kirsten Menger-Anderson's short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in the Southwest Review, Ploughshares, Maryland Review, Post Road, and Wascana Review, among other publications. Her work has been short listed for the Richard Yates Award, the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers, the Iowa Review Story Contest, and the Andre Dubus Award.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her recently released debut book, Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain begins:

"I'd be seen, as I saw my father, only in the thick lines of my nose or in the mossy brown color of my hair. Mother would have nothing if I disappeared. It was selfish of me to try."

The line is from the story "My Name is Lubbert Das," which is narrated by Lubbert Das, who was born with a stone in his head. His condition and subsequent cure are typical of the ones found in the book. Had this test been for page 169, the lines would tell of a Macy's clerk receiving electroshock therapy for a condition that is no longer diagnosed; page 269 relates the story of a woman who believes her illness may be related to her Silicone implants. The chapters move through time chronologically, each telling a medical tale of the times, and as we peer in at Lubbert on page 69, we see him and his mother consulting with Dr. Theodorus Clementius Steenwycks, who has just finished explaining that he could drill "an acorn-sized hole" into the boy's head to cure his dim-wittedness. Page 69 continues:

"Next week," Mother said. "I can bring him next week."

The faith in medicine and its power to heal appears repeatedly in the book. Characters eagerly quaff radium tonics with hopes that they will become more fertile, lobotomize siblings to cure madness, or rub hands over each other's skulls to diagnose personalities. We might see these techniques as primitive, even frightening now, but in the context of each story, the characters desire them. The page continues:

"Both Mother and Doctor Steenwycks stood, and in the mirror I could see them staring down at me. The room was large and the ceiling high, and for a moment I couldn't move. I'd remain forever in this one grand room of Doctor Steenwycks's grand house, which smelled sweet like honeysuckle and old like the docks."

The POV of this page is less typical of the book. Of the thirteen stories, only three are told from the first person. However, a number of the stories are set in the homes of doctors, so the setting is not unusual. The page continues:

"You take care of your mother now." Doctor Steenwycks extended an arm to help me rise, but when I turned from the mirror to take his hand, he'd moved it to the other side. He was backward, like everything since Father died and cart seventeen stopped arriving for my chopped kindling because the British were bad people. Perhaps the king's soldiers burned their furniture, too, though the only time I'd seen polished wood chairs in flames, the furniture had been stolen..."

The history of New York City unfolds throughout the book, which follows NYC from its days as New Amsterdam to British colony to the booming metropolis of today.

If you like page 69, please check out page 1, where Doctor Olaf van Schuler himself indulges his peculiar perversion: slicing heads.
Read an excerpt from Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain, and learn more about the author and her work at Kirsten Menger-Anderson's website and the "Regarding Dr. Olaf" blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"The Delivery Room"

Sylvia Brownrigg is the author of several acclaimed works of fiction: four novels, Morality Tale, The Delivery Room, Pages for You, and The Metaphysical Touch, and a collection of stories, Ten Women Who Shook the World.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Delivery Room, and reported the following:
This is, possibly, cheating—but I applied the page 69 test to my novel The Delivery Room in two different editions of the book.

The Delivery Room is set in London, which helps to explain why it was published in Britain before here in the U.S. (which in turn explains why it is coming out so soon after my comic novel Morality Tale). So I’ve taken a look at page 69 in the U.S. and UK versions.

The novel is the story of a Serbian therapist, Mira Braverman, working in London, and the narrative moves back and forth among different characters: sometimes we see the patients from Mira’s perspective, at others we see her from the patients’ point of view. This allows for complex and at times comical explorations of the perceptions and misperceptions in the therapist-patient relation.

In the UK edition page 69 takes us into a session between Mira and a patient she thinks of as “The American,” an ex-pat who writes a humorous column called “Broad from Abroad” for an English newspaper. We hear Jess trying to explain her feelings about her work—”It’s not that I think it’s worthless, or a waste of time, exactly—I mean, I keep people entertained, I’m smart, they can have a little vicarious glamour through me if I write about bad behavior at some book party or other—”

—At which point Jess stops herself to reflect internally on how that really does make her sound trivial, and to wonder how she could better express it to Mira.

My aim in the novel is to allow each character room for his or her own thoughts, which helps illuminate the gap there often is between how we understand ourselves and how others understand us, a gap that exists even (or perhaps especially?) in “The Delivery Room,” the room where therapy goes on.

In the U.S. edition, page 69 includes Mira’s memories of her country, Serbia. The novel is set in 1998 and 1999, the period that led up to NATO’s bombing of Serbia, and Mira is quietly reflecting on how hard it is to explain to anyone, even her beloved husband Peter, the meanings of the names and places she has left behind.

I think either selection gives a reader a sense of some of the different emotional territories covered in my novel, which was described in the UK as “an outstanding novel—for once, the word ‘unforgettable’ is justified.”
Read an excerpt from The Delivery Room, and learn more about the author and her work at Sylvia Brownrigg's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue