Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Random Acts of Heroic Love"

Danny Scheinmann is a writer, actor and storyteller. He lives in London.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Random Acts of Heroic Love, and reported the following:
Random Acts of Heroic Love contains two stories which interweave until they unite at the end of the book in a big reveal.

One narrative is set in the First World War on the Eastern Front. Moritz an Austrian soldier is captured by the Russians and taken to a POW camp in Siberia. Obsessed with his childhood sweetheart, he escapes in 1917 and tries to get back to her. He walks six thousand miles across war torn Russia, fleeing the Cossackas and the Bolsheviks. It takes him three years.

Page 69 falls in the other story set in the 1990’s. Leo wakes up in a hospital in South America and discovers his girlfriend is dead. He can’t remember how he got there or how she died. Grief stricken, he has to organise for her corpse to be flown home. As his memory returns he blames himself for the tragedy.

Page 69 is the first page of chapter 6 and as such contains only half a page of text. It represents a hiatus in the intensity of Leo’s grief as he has to come to terms with the practicalities of organising funerals and autopsies. In many ways it is very untypical of the book and of Leo’s story. There is none of the drama of Leo confronting the body of his girlfriend and none of his subsequent attempts to rebuild love from the ashes of his loss.

Had it fallen a little later we might have found ourselves in the midst of one of the bloodiest battles of the first world war where twenty thousand men died in a single day or we might have witnessed Moritz’s capture and escape.

But no, page 69 moves the story on, it is mere exposition, a breathing point, a page which is neither epic or emotional but factual.

The book is loosely based on true events. I was in a bus crash, I lost my girlfriend. I reappraised my life and came to one conclusion; that the only thing that counts is love. Not money, not status, but love. In the end as Tennyson said “Love can vanquish death”. And this book is a celebration of love.

Random Acts has been translated in to 19 languages and was a huge bestseller in the UK but if all they had was page 69 to sell it to them I don’t think anyone would have bought it.
Read an excerpt from Random Acts of Heroic Love, and learn more about the author and his work at Danny Scheinmann's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 27, 2009

"Drink, Play, F@#k"

Andrew Gottlieb is a comedy writer who has written sitcoms (The Single Guy, Watching Ellie, Hope and Faith), feature films (Agent Fabulous), and books (In The Paint, Death to All Sacred Cows, Hechingers Field Guide to Ethnic Stereotypes). Currently he is an Executive Producer of Z Rock airing on the Independent Film Channel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Drink, Play, F@#k: One Man's Search for Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand, and reported the following:
If one were to randomly open my novel, Drink, Play, F@#k to page 69, would he or she read on? An interesting question that could easily be answered without resorting to hypothesis – but that would involve getting out of my chair, and I just ate a huge sandwich. So, allow me to hypothesize: yeah – he or she would probably read on.

I was actually surprised to discover that page 69 contains a pretty accurate summation of one of the book’s major themes (as if a book that has the word “f@#k” in the title could even have any major themes). On page 69 we are introduced to Rick, one of the book’s most important characters, who ends up guiding the protagonist in his search for fun, adventure, and some well-needed emotional and mental stability. Here’s the crux of Rick’s personal philosophy:

He believed that most people just wanted to live a fun life. If they had a chance to do it again, they would prefer to live an interesting life. And if they got a final crack at it, they would choose to live a good life. But Rick was committed to doing all three at once.

Wanting to have fun, hoping to be interesting, and striving to be good feel like very different and conflicting drives. The degree to which we focus on one more than the other two often defines us. But Rick is living proof that you can have your cake, and eat it too, and then go out for ice cream. It’s all a question of attitude, openness, and appreciation.

The rest of the drivel on page 69 is completely superfluous – although there are some laughs there. Also, I’m proud of the fact that the phrases “buck naked,” “steak joint,” and “strip club” can all be found in the second paragraph.

Learn more about Drink, Play, F@#k at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Dog On It"

Spencer Quinn lives on Cape Cod with his dog, Audrey.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Dog On It, and reported the following:
Page 69 is not a bad representation of the book. Chet and Bernie are in the middle of interrogating Ruben, a lowlife character who may have information concerning the disappearance of Madison Chambliss, a teenage girl at the center of the mystery. We get a sense of Chet’s narrative style:

“Already told you,” Ruben said. “I drove her.” Or something like that. I didn’t really hear because at that moment my jaws were clamping around Ruben’s leg.

We sense Bernie’s intolerance of anyone disrespecting Chet:

“Call off your damn dog.”


“Oh, God, come on, man.” Ruben wriggled around on the floor.


I unclamped. It took everything I had.

“Maybe take a minute or two, Chet.”

Bernie was right. I walked around a bit, snapping up the burger in an absentminded way.

But mostly we get to enjoy two professional crime solvers at the top of their game:

“Think,” Bernie said. “We really want to know, Chet and I.”

Ruben glanced at me, fear in his eyes, no doubt about it. I was licking burger juices off my lips. “Nothin’ happened,” he said. “I was feelin’ a little romantic. She wasn’t in the mood.”

“You don’t look like the romantic type.”

Ruben frowned in a thoughtful way, like maybe he was learning something about himself.
Read an excerpt from Dog On It, and learn more about the book at the Simon & Schuster website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Crime of Fashion"

José Latour is one of the Spanish-speaking world’s top crime-fiction writers and is a former vice-president of the International Association of Crime Writers. In 2002, he left Cuba for Spain, and immigrated to Canada in the fall of 2004.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Crime of Fashion, and reported the following:
In Crime of Fashion’s page 69 there is a brief reflection on the fashion industry by a former model and an even briefer phone call that she makes while on the way to a fashion show. Fashionistas won’t find revelations or new information about that business in that page.

However, crime fiction readers who are not familiar with fashion learn more about the character there, and how her take on the world of fashion has evolved over the years.

I don’t think that a person who limits his reading to page 69 would be interested in reading on. That page provides no indication of the crimes that will be committed, nor the rest of a rather complicated plot in which some are murdered by an unanticipated killer.

Concerning the Page 69 Test blog, I would like to give an opinion, if I may. Trying to guess how well or badly written a book is — or how interesting or boring the story is — just by reading a single page compares to deciding on whether or not to watch a painting or a sculpture by examining one square inch at its center.
Browse inside Crime of Fashion, and learn more about the book and author at José Latour's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


David Moody self-published Hater online in 2006, and without an agent, succeeded in selling film rights to Guillermo del Toro (director, Hellboy 1 & 2, Pan’s Labyrinth and the upcoming Hobbit series) and Mark Johnson (producer, The Chronicles of Narnia).

Moody applied the Page 69 Test to Hater, now available from Thomas Dunne Books, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Hater, my ordinary, brow-beaten, relentlessly hassled ‘hero’, Danny McCoyne, gets a pretty strong indication that the world is beginning to tear itself apart. Unfortunately, he’s too wrapped up in himself and his own problems to realise the implications of events being reported on the TV news from a street corner just a few miles from home. Danny is frustratingly self-obsessed; too busy grumbling about the fact that he’s spending yet another Saturday night / early Sunday morning at home in front of the TV to realise that ‘the Hate’ is spreading and is inching ever closer towards him and his family.

In Hater society crumbles with terrifying speed as a result of an unstoppable and inexplicable epidemic of violent attacks on individuals. There’s no pattern to the violence, no apparent reason and no apparent cause. There are no obvious connections between the attackers and their victims or, indeed, between any of the attackers themselves.

By page 69 of the book, Danny has already witnessed first-hand several bizarre and horrific incidents. At this stage, however, they seem to him to just be coincidental, but this scene is a turning point. As he sits alone and watches the news, he slowly begins to realise that everything he’s seen may be interconnected. Even more terrifying is the realization that this may only be the beginning and that things could easily get much, much worse.

For a while longer, Danny will still be able to bury his head in the sand and pretend nothing’s happening. But there’ll come a point when that’s no longer possible, when he’ll have to face facts and make a stand for his family. He’ll be able to lock the doors and bolt the windows, but will he be shutting the Hate out, or locking it in?
Read an excerpt from Hater, watch the video, and learn more about the author and his work at David Moody's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Pleasing the Dead"

Deborah Turrell Atkinson lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is the author of the Storm Kayama novels: Primitive Secrets (2002), The Green Room (2005), and Fire Prayer (2007).

She applied the Page 69 Test to the latest Storm Kayama book, Pleasing the Dead, and reported the following:
“Security. I must see ID.”

Storm had heard stories about missing fingers as a sign of allegiance to the Yakuza. She eyed the guy. No tattoos crawling up his neck, but his collar was buttoned and the shirt had long sleeves. She was leery about handing over her ID.

The day attorney Storm Kayama arrives in Kahului, Maui to help Lara Farrell set up her new dive shop, someone bombs a restaurant. Then things get serious.

When one of Lara’s employees kills himself and one of his young daughters, Storm begins to ask questions, which leads her to discoveries she never wanted to know.

“The men like them very young, you know. They call it selling spring,” Lara’s manager tells Storm. Stella’s gaze flickers to where bone-thin Keiko is restocking file drawers.

Coaxing information from the terrified women, Storm finds that the facts point to the shadowy Yakuza, one of the most efficient organized crime cults in the world. Comfortable in the diverse cultures of the islands, the group’s tentacles ensnare local businesses, real estate, and politics.

It is on page 69 that Storm first realizes the Yakuza is involved in the deaths of island residents. At the bottom of the page, when she races away from the fingerless clerk, she doesn’t see him at the building’s entrance. The last sentence on the page is: “He watched her drive away and chattered into his cell phone.”

Storm finds herself up against a lethal and faceless enemy, in a place where disposing of a victim is as easy as dumping her in shark-infested waters. But who is hunting whom? Storm is caught in a struggle to the death, and begins to realize that surviving doesn’t always mean living. For some, the ghosts of the past may be more painful than the anguish of the present.

Pleasing the Dead juxtaposes real-life problems like the Japanese mob and trafficking in young women against the idyllic panorama of Maui. And all is not what it appears to be in paradise.
Learn more about the author and her work at Deborah Turrell Atkinson's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Boca Knights"

Steven M. Forman divides his time between Massachusetts and Boca Raton, Florida.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Boca Knights, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is not representative of the rest of the book except for the first person narrative and the protagonist’s way of expressing himself. Boca Knights is the story of one man’s intolerance for intolerance and his lifelong battle to defend everyone’s right to live as they choose in peace. Eddie Perlmutter was Boston’s most decorated, fearless policeman from the 1960’s to the end of the millennium when, at sixty years old, he is forced to retire due to a lifetime of violent injuries. A friend gets him a job in the warm weather of Boca Raton, Fl as a golf course ranger. Eddie is wired with the DNA of his relentless grandfather, a Ukrainian orphan who had killed twice by the age of fifteen. Eddie is a stranger in a strange land when he enters the pristine environment of the land of gated communities, golf courses and ustabees. (I ustabee a doctor, I ustabee a lawyer) The story revolves around Eddie’s unshakeable resolve to live and let live even if he has to kill someone in the process. The story is also about how he evolves into the more cerebral Boca Knight and transforms a placid community of ustabees into a wannabee army of Boca Knights. The book could have been entitled United States Knights because being a Boca Knight is a state of mind.
Read an excerpt from Boca Knights, and learn more about the book and author at Steven M. Forman's website and MySpace page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"The Little Giant of Aberdeen County"

Tiffany Baker has a graduate degree in creative writing from UC Irvine and a PhD in Victorian literature.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, and reported the following:
Page sixty-nine of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County gives you an excellent, little slice of the whole novel. Truly, the main character, has just been orphaned by her father's death, and she is being shipped off to live with the Dyersons, who are "the most genuine of upstaters." In this passage, we learn that the Dyersons have weedlike roots sunk into the history of Aberdeen. Like weeds, they're not the most attractive part of the town, but they aren't going anywhere, either. The mini-story of James Dyerson, a tragic veteran of the Civil War, tells you this.

I had so much fun writing all the down-and-out, hardscrabble Dyerson characters. I like to think of them as Aberdeen's underbelly, the darker foil to the proper history of the Morgan family of doctors. They're related to Tabitha, the witch, and maybe that's why they live such poor, broken lives--a fate Truly is joined to. Even if they do always lose at cards, horses, and everything else, my heart still belongs to them. In the end, I'm always going to pick the underdog.
Read an excerpt from The Little Giant of Aberdeen County.

Learn more about the author and her work at Tiffany Baker's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 20, 2009


Paul Harding has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught writing at Harvard and the University of Iowa.

applied the Page 69 Test to Tinkers, his acclaimed debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Tinkers is about one of the novel's protagonists, Howard Crosby, coming home late to a family dinner after having had an epileptic seizure while out on his rounds as a peddler in the backwoods of northern Maine, in 1926. His wife, Kathleen, is alarmed by and resentful of his illness, and is not equal to the task of handling it. In a sense, she refuses to accept his condition and in this case has made her four children sit in silence in front of their dinners while they all wait for Howard to come home, as if when he does, their lives will simply restart in a more proper place and time, one where they are not made even more hapless and impoverished than they already are by his affliction. The page occurs just before Kathleen makes the decision to have Howard committed to an asylum, so it represents the book on the brink of the axis around which the plot turns.

By the time they had eaten and cleared the table and changed for bed it was quarter after ten. Kathleen never acted as if anything were wrong. She ignored the four- hour gap during which she made her litter sit before their plates and wait for Howard. When he came into the driveway slumped in the cart, Prince Edward pulling slow but certain, and staggered through the door, she took up with the evening again as if it was five in the afternoon, as if she just slid the five o'clock hour to the nine o'clock one, or took the four hours between them and banished them or tyrannized herself and her children into a type of abatement, leaving each of them and herself with a burden of four extra hours which each would have to juggle and mind for the rest of their lives, first as a single, strange, indigestible puzzlement and then later as a prelude to the night nearly a year later when she and the children again sat in front of full plates of cold food waiting for Howard, waiting for the sounds of the cart and the mule and the jangling tack and that time he never came back at all.
Read more about Tinkers at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Toni Jordan lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she is a freelance copywriter.

applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Addition, and reported the following:
The publisher’s gorgeous design for Addition makes this page 69 test easy--it’s the first page of chapter 6 and has just a little paragraph:

I sleep in a single bed because I have a horror of the vast expanse of doubles. Before my sister’s wedding we stayed, each bridesmaid in her own room, in a five-star hotel filled with gamblers

Over the page, (the page 70 test?), the paragraph goes on to say how the main character, Grace, feels comfortable in her own single bed. ‘I know its width and length in hand spans and kicks and there is no spot so far from my body that it cannot feel the heat of my blood.’

It's hardly long enough to be representative of anything, but I like this section for a number of reasons: firstly, I feel it’s quite unlike me and, I think, exactly how Grace would feel. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing a made-up person so well that you feel confident in how she would sleep. Grace counts things, so I thought she would feel uncomfortable in too big a space because she would have trouble with unknown quantities. Her single bed causes some difficulties when she meets and falls for Seamus, but love always finds a way.

Secondly, I quite like the rhythm of this bit, when you read it out loud. It’s not Richard Ford (my all-time perfect rhythm hero) I know, but I’m quite happy with it.

And finally, I like this bit because I wrote it in a creative writing class I was taking at the time I wrote Addition. The more fiction I write, the stingier I become; these days I can’t bear to waste anything. Can a failed novel beginning be recycled as a short story? Can a terrific line of dialogue overheard on the train be expanded for a new character? Some might call it abject laziness; I prefer diligent economy.
Browse inside Addition and visit Toni Jordan's website.

Writers Read: Toni Jordan.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Jack London in Paradise"

Paul Malmont is a Copy Director at an interactive advertising agency in New York. He has written for the Cartoon Network,, Pfizer, Ricoh, Microsoft and a host of other corporate clients. His work has also won awards from Communication Arts and The One Show, and has been included in Time Magazine’s “Best of…”

Malmont’s short film, The King of the Magicians, was a commendation winner at the UK Festival of Fantastic Films and premiered at the Los Angeles International Film Festival.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Jack London in Paradise, and reported the following:
A casual reader attracted by my book’s catchy title, attractive cover, glowing reviews on the back, and prominent placement on the New Fiction table might flip to page 69 and express their reaction this way. “WTF!”

The whole page is full of italics except for weird headers like “His Mother’s Warning: Beware Crossing the Italian for Fear of the Evil Eye” and “Jack Meets the White Light.” These are little capsule vignettes about a boy named Jack. What is going on?

Let me try to explain what’s happening on page 69 of Jack London in Paradise in one simple sentence: It’s 1915 and Hobart Bosworth, a filmmaker, is desperate for another Jack London movie hit to secure his fortunes in Hollywood but his relationship with the famous author has soured over money issues so Bosworth is trying to track London down and by this scene is on a ship crossing the Pacific to Hawaii where London and his wife have gone into retreat and while Hobart is on this journey I’m parceling out little bits about London’s remarkable life and adventures in different ways so that information is conveyed dramatically and one of the ways we do this is have Bosworth projecting one of his silent London pictures, John Barleycorn, on a sail of the becalmed ship and what is shown is some important scenes from the movie and Jack London’s life.

Here are things about the book a reader unfortunately won’t get from page 69: the adventure of crossing the Pacific, the shark hunt, the passionate love between Jack and Charmian London, Duke Kahanamoku’s legendary minute-and-a-half long run down Waikiki bay, drug and alcohol abuse, sex, and the destructive power of the imagination set in an amazing period of Hawaiian history. So if said reader does pick it up, why not skip page 69 and go right to page 1? Then page 69 will make complete sense when it finally arrives.
Read an excerpt from Jack London in Paradise, and learn more about the book and author at Paul Malmont's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Murder in Four Parts"

Bill Crider's first book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series won an Anthony Award for Best First Novel. His short story "Cranked," which appeared in Damn Near Dead, was nominated for an Edgar Award.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the new Dan Rhodes mystery, Murder in Four Parts, and reported the following:
As I understand it, the purpose of the Page 69 Test is to look at the page and see if it’s representative of the whole book and to decide if a reader skimming that page be likely to read on. Well, let’s take a look and see what we have on page 69 of Murder in Four Parts. Here’s an exchange that caught my eye:

Rhodes didn’t see any point in arguing, so he changed the subject.

“Did Cecil ever say anything to you about an alligator?”

“An alligator?” Faye Lynn was incredulous. “What are you talking about?”

“We got a call about an alligator today. It was in a ditch right across from that property you own out on the county road.”

“Who called you? It must have been that Royce Weeks. He’s always got something to complain about.”

“Royce doesn’t have anything to do with this,” Rhodes said, hoping he was telling the truth. They still hadn’t established the identity of the random chicken.

Anyone who’s read my blog can tell you about my interest (some might say “obsession”) with alligators. So page 69 is representative in some ways not just of the book but of my career. The random chicken is something new, but to my surprise, chickens turn out not only to be a minor plot device in this book but a major one in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes book coming out next year. A new obsession? No, just something that developed in the course of the writing. Someone might be saying, “But what about the feral hogs?” Don’t worry. They make a cameo appearance, but not on page 69.

As for whether people would read farther into the book after seeing this particular page, maybe that depends on whether they want to find out about that random chicken. And, of course, the alligator.
Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, and Of All Sad Words, as well as an excellent write-up about Dan Rhodes on the big screen at "My Book, The Movie."

Check out Bill Crider's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"The Samaritan's Secret"

Matt Beynon Rees is an award-winning crime novelist who lives in Jerusalem. Major authors have compared his best-selling writing with the work of Graham Greene, John Le Carre, Georges Simenon and Henning Mankell. The French magazine L’Express called him “the Dashiell Hammett of Palestine.”

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, the third Omar Yussef mystery, The Samaritan's Secret, and reported the following:
If you've noticed only one thing about the Palestinians, I'll bet it would be that they don't have much to laugh about. It's true that life is rough in the West Bank and Gaza, but one of the ways I've observed Palestinians cope with the strictures and dangers of their lives is humor. When I first came to Jerusalem 13 years ago, Palestinians had a good line in Yasser Arafat jokes (mostly based around the fact that he wasn't so good-looking.) Their situation has only gotten worse since then, but their humor remains one of their most appealing characteristics.

On Page 69 of my new Palestinian crime novel, The Samaritan's Secret, my detective character Omar Yussef flirts amusingly with his young friend's fiancée and is scolded good-naturedly by his wife.

But the flirting has a serious side, as he mentions that the Prophet Muhammad had more than one wife. Omar, who's almost 60 years old, defends his jesting suggestion that he take a second, younger wife: "The political power of the Islamists is growing…It's important to stay in their good books. If I take a second wife, they'll assume that I'm religious, and I won't even have to pray to prove it."

One of the key themes of the novel is the battle between the Islamists of Hamas and their relatively secular rivals for control over the seething alleys of the casbah in Nablus, the West Bank's most violent town. Omar is commenting on the power of Hamas, which even in the couple of days he has spent in Nablus preparing for his friend's wedding, is evident to him.

Throughout the book, Omar is irascible, humorous and deeply committed to uncovering the truth beneath the political corruption of Palestinian society. In many ways it's his flirtatiousness and openness with women – his wife and his favorite granddaughter in particular – that keeps him from slipping into the macho madness that often grips the people around him.
Visit Matt Beynon Rees' website and blog, and watch The Samaritan's Secret video.

The Page 69 Test: The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

My Book, The Movie: The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

The Page 69 Test: A Grave in Gaza.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Death Was in the Picture"

Linda L. Richards is the editor and co-founder of January Magazine and a regular contributor to The Rap Sheet.

applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Death Was in the Picture, and reported the following:
Death Was in the Picture’s Page 69 occurs at a telling moment. Not a lot is happening in terms of the mystery that carries this story through. However, we come across narrator Kitty Pangborn, secretary to gumshoe Dexter Theroux in 1931 Los Angeles, just as she meets one of the central and key characters in the second novel in which Kitty features.

At the beginning of Death Was in the Picture, Theroux was hired to follow Laird Wyndham who is an old-school Hollywood star. In Kitty’s words (back on page 10) “You’d have to have been living on the moon and surviving on its green cheese for the last half dozen years not to know the name and face of the biggest motion picture star there had ever been and probably ever would be.”

So Wyndham is an actor. More: he’s a movie star, with all the weight those words carried in that part of Hollywood’s history. Page 69 of Death Was in the Picture is the first time Kitty has met Wyndham face-to-face. To her, he’s an icon: it’s a momentous occasion. She entreats herself to “remember the details” of the meeting. This is, she reasons, a moment that won’t happen often in a girl’s life. For me the scene conveys one of the things we share with 1931. Oh: lots of things are different, sure. But show a girl a movie star? She might just grow a little weak.

So, page 69, from Death Was in the Picture:

I made myself remember the details, it seemed likely I’d want to take them out later and replay them. At a gesture from Wyndham, Dex and I took the two seats opposite him, the table between us. Dex looked as comfortable as he always did and I tried to follow his example. This was not, however, a normal day. Laird Wyndham was sitting directly across from me. Close enough, I realized, that if I stretched out a leg, I’d be able to touch him with my toe. Close enough that, with the right crossbreezes, I’d be able to catch a whiff of his scent, and he -- I thought headily -- mine.

I was so caught up in thoughts of toe-touching and possible scent exchanges that I missed the earliest part of the conversation. Nor did I later regret it. How often, I reasoned, would I have Laird Wyndham practically almost to myself in this way? I knew what they were talking about anyway, or thought I did. The small talk that marks the earliest part of human interaction: I’m here because of this, you’re here because of that.

But his hair.

Up close -- this close -- I could see the irregularity of his part. And I could see that while his hair did not appear especially thick, there was a lot of it, dark chestnut in color, waved back so neatly it looked almost creamy. Thick, dark cream. A lock of it fell over his forehead and dipped toward his left eye.

“She’s not taking notes.” I’m not sure if the words themselves stirred me or the fact that they were about me. Probably both. There was amusement in Wyndham’s voice and I found myself only lightly mortified that he should have found me out so quickly. It was likely not the first time a young woman had finagled her way into his presence.

“Hear that, Kitty? Your lack of note taking is inviting concern.” I smiled timidly at Wyndham, then cast Dex a disapproving look. He paid no attention.
Learn more about the author and her work at Linda L. Richards' website.

View the Death Was in the Picture trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Death Was the Other Woman, the first Kitty Pangborn novel.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Super in the City"

Daphne Uviller was superintendent of her family’s building in the West Village for ten long years. She is a former Books/Poetry editor for Time Out New York and has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsday, New York, Allure, and Self.

applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Super in the City, and reported the following:
It turns out I love page 69 of my book! Who knew? For better or worse, it captures the wacky, somewhat breathless feel of the whole book, and tells the reader a lot about one of the main character's closest friends, Lucy. Lucy is forever searching for love -- often in the wrong places -- and this page details one of the very New York City-centric ways she does this: she writes "Middle of Brooklyn Bridge, Sun, Noon" on all her ten-dollar bills, hoping that she'll meet a man that way. When that doesn't work, she starts writing "3 Lives Books, Sun, Noon" instead -- a reference to my favorite bookstore in the city.
Read an excerpt from Super in the City, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Visit Daphne Uviller's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Blonde Roots"

Bernardine Evaristo was born in London to a Nigerian father and an English mother. Her first novel, Lara, won the EMMA (Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards) Best Book Award in 1999. A former Poet in Residence at the Museum of London, she won an Arts Council of Britain Writers' Award in 2000.

applied the Page 69 Test to Blonde Roots, her first prose novel, and reported the following:
Blonde Roots is a novel about a world where Africans are the masters and Europeans are their slaves. It’s a satirical reversion of the transatlantic slave trade that also comments on how modern-day racism is rooted in the racist ideology that was developed to justify the slave trade.

My white, English protagonist Doris has been kidnapped as a child into slavery, and the novel opens in Londolo, the capital of the United Kingdom of Great Ambossa where, as an adult, she is owned by an African (Ambossan) chief and slave owner. The novel charts her desire and attempts to escape back to the Motherland: England.

I have also altered the geography of the world so that on my map Africa is located where Europe is and vice versa.

On page 69, Doris is trying to escape Londolo, having just been transported underneath the city on the Underground Railroad, the disused subway system. Dropping in on this page a reader won’t understand that Doris is white, but they will see that she is in a state of crisis, perhaps escaping someone and most definitely afraid of some thing. What is clear is that she’s disadvantaged, vulnerable, panicking, wild and famished. Ezinwene is a young woman sent by the Resistance to help her escape. It might also become clear that I am playing with time frames too. The novel is set in the past, but at times it feels very contemporary. Perfume bottle shaped like a woman, gold crowns, cocoa butter and pointed teeth? The novel is actually littered with more obvious anachronisms, although less so on this page.

Here’s the extract:

We mounted a few steps to a landing where I could see a shimmer of light through a slit in the wall. I soon discovered it was a door because when he unbolted it a vicious blast of midday sun and noise exploded upon us like the roar of a furnace flame. I recoiled as if burnt, ready to scamper back into the safety of the tunnel, but he turned around to face me, his willowy outline silhouetted against the bright daylight.

‘Wait,’ he said, and left.

I never saw him again. He had said all of two words to me.

Before I had time to bolt the door and panic my next helper arrived bearing a package of food in banana leaves.

‘Hi’ she said cheerily, popping her head around the door as if I were an old friend she was just dropping by to visit. ‘You can call me Ezinwene!’

I recognised the smell of Ylang Ylang perfume, from the fragrant isle of Madagascar. It came in a bottle shaped like a voluptuous woman and it was Madama Comfort’s favourite. Whiffs of her sickly-sweet scent usually turned a corner long before she did, giving us time to walk double-quick in the opposite direction.

I must have looked wild and famished because the young woman immediately handed the package over and watched with bemused fascination as my eyes watered and my hands tore into a dish of chicken in coconut sauce on a pile of tepid semolina.

When I finished I licked my fingers dry, one by one.

Ezinwene was young and came from a family of means, that much was obvious from the two gold crowns on her front teeth. (A rich Ambossan made damned sure everyone knew it.) Her lips were huge and soft and stained ruby from tobacco flowers. Her cinnamon skin glowed with the combination of a healthy diet and expensive moisturisers like cocoa butter and shea oil. Her teeth were fashionably sharpened to a point.
Read an excerpt from Blonde Roots, and learn more about the book and author at Bernardine Evaristo's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"Eon: Dragoneye Reborn"

Alison Goodman lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was the 1999 D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellow at Melbourne University, holds a Master of Arts, and teaches creative writing at the postgraduate level.

Her books include Singing The Dogstar Blues, a science-fiction comedy thriller, which won an Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and was listed as a C.B.C. Notable Book and an A.L.A. Best Young Adult book of 2004. Her second novel, Killing the Rabbit, is a crime/thriller for adults published in the U.S. by Bantam Books.

Her novel Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (titled The Two Pearls of Wisdom in the Australian edition and Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye in the UK) was recently awarded the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel.

Goodman applied the Page 69 Test to Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and reported the following:
I’m happy to say that if you casually flick through my novel Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and land on Page 69, you’ll get a good dose of mystical swords, a cryptic helper, a nasty antagonist, plus a bit of intrigue – all good fantasy genre markers! It is the page where my main character, Eon (who is a sixteen year-old girl masquerading as a boy), receives a pair of swords from a crusty old armsman for a ceremonial fight that will decide her fate.

Finally, he frowned into the dim depths of the armory, then disappeared for a few minutes, bringing back a plainer pair of swords. The two hand guards were decorated by a simple ring of alternating moonstones and jade, each translucent gem set in a silver moon crescent.

“Powerful luck bringers,” he said, brushing a thick thumb over the stones. “These two haven’t been used for a long time – too short and light for most. But they’ll do you just fine.”

The idea of luck and bringing luck is very entrenched in the ancient oriental world that I have created, as is the use of jade and sun/moon symbols. And of course, the swords are not quite what they seem…

He held them out and I closed my hands around the leather-bound grips. A roiling anger burned through me, blinding me with bursting lights, flooding my mouth with a sour metallic taste. It was a vicious rage, powerful, cold, and its center, very, very frightened. Or was that me? Startled, I let go. The swords clattered onto the marble floor.

The swords have rage woven into their steel and play a very important part in the novel. They become even more important in the concluding sequel that I am currently writing, but I can't say any more as it would be a huge spoiler!

Page 69 also helps to consolidate a secondary antagonist who makes life very difficult for Eon in the early parts of the novel: Swordmaster Ranne who is training her for the ceremony.

“Idiot!” Ranne roared starting towards me with his fist raised.

Calmly, the armsman stepped in between us. “No harm done, Swordmaster. No harm done,” he said, scooping up the swords. He turned a thoughtful gaze on me as he deftly racked them in a large wooden stand. “They must have very old energy,” he said cryptically.

I opened my mouth to say I didn’t want them, but he had already bowed, and retreated into the shadows of his domain.

Finally, structure-wise, this “receiving the swords” scene on page 69 is a short flashback embedded in the action leading up to the big ceremonial fight. I placed it at this point in the narrative to bring home the special quality of the swords and to start setting up their peculiar power in the big sword fight that occurs in the next chapter.
Read an excerpt from Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, and learn more about the author and her work at Alison Goodman's website and MySpace page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Houston, We Have a Problema"

Gwendolyn Zepeda is the author of a short-story collection called To the Last Man I Slept with and All the Jerks Just Like Him and the children’s book, Growing Up with Tamales, a 2009 Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended Title.

applied the Page 69 Test to Houston, We Have a Problema, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Houston, We Have a Problema begins with the protagonist, Jessica Luna, starting a half-hearted argument with her sister about said sister’s failure to live up to their family’s stereotype of womanhood.

“You didn’t have time? It’s not like you have a job,” said Jessica. Sabrina had quit her receptionist gig at Halronburco a year ago. “Shoot, Mami works hard all day, then throws a big barbecue and sends everybody home with leftovers. What’s your excuse?”

Her sister points out that Jessica is no paragon of barbecue virtue, herself – a point our protagonist must concede.

The rest of the page shows us Jessica being bored with her sister’s friends’ conversation about property taxes. Then, she reflects on the fact that her sister used to be her idol. But Jessica no longer aspires to a spiral perm and a “glamorous” executive assistant job.

I was disappointed that my Page 69 didn’t feature any especially funny lines, or even a thwarted sex scene. But I was pleasantly surprised that it touched on what, to me, is the hidden heart of the book.

I wanted to write “women’s contemporary fiction” and am unabashedly proud of having met all the criteria for that genre. At the same time, I’ve always been interested in inter-cultural relationships and the various methods in which people attempt to cross socio-economic class lines. I wanted to have Jessica think about those topics, but in the way that most people do on a daily basis, and not while using phrases like “socio-economic class.”

So I like that my Page 69 indicates what was on my mind. Hopefully, people interested in those topics will be encouraged by that page to check out my book. As for people who aren’t interested in those topics, they can skip to Page 71 and check out the thwarted sex scene.
Read an excerpt from Houston, We Have a Problema, and learn more about the book and author at Gwendolyn Zepeda's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 6, 2009

"Flight Into Darkness"

Sarah Ash's fantasy novels include Children of the Serpent Gate, Lord of Snow and Shadows, Prisoner of the Iron Tower, Moths to a Flame, Songspinners, and The Lost Child.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Flight into Darkness, and reported the following:
Flight into Darkness is the second of the two books of my fantasy series ‘Alchymist’s Legacy’ which tell the story of Celestine de Joyeuse, the daughter of a magus who was burned at the stake for practicing the Forbidden Arts. His legacy to her is a guardian spirit whom she calls the Faie… but the Faie has yet to reveal her true identity to her young mistress.

A reader recently emailed me, mentioning how intrigued he was at finding a fantasy series in which gunpowder and eighteenth century weaponry can be found alongside dragons and daemons. I really appreciated that comment! Because in writing this series I wanted to evoke an Age of Reason not unlike our own and confront the enlightened thinkers and scientists with the raw forces of an ancient and powerful magic that they can neither explain away nor begin to understand.

If you open Flight into Darkness at page 69, you’ll find Celestine very far from her native Francia. She and her fellow agent, Jagu de Rustéphan, have come to the remote kingdom of Azhkendir. Disguised as a priest and his servant boy, they are traveling on a secret mission to visit the Monastery of Saint Sergius. But they’re playing a dangerous game in venturing into territory so recently conquered by Francia’s oldest enemy: Tielen.

It took a good quarter hour’s tramp up the cliffs to reach the Osprey’s Nest – a dilapidated little inn overlooking the White Sea. The keen breeze off the rough sea below was a constant reminder that the spring thaw had only just melted the ice and Celestine was soon shivering.

“It’s rather remote,” she said, gazing at the single lantern glowing in the gathering dusk.

Jagu set down his bag on the rocks and took out two of the books of prayer he was carrying. “Let’s not take any risks,” he said. Concealed within a secret compartment in each book lay a pistol, powder, and shot. “Here.”

“Lucky the Tielens didn’t search us too zealously,” Celestine said, priming the second weapon. “Or should I call them Rossiyans now? That officer was a Tielen; I could tell from his accent.”

“According to our sources, the troops currently occupying Azhkendir are from Field Marshal Karonen’s Northern Army.” Jagu finished loading his pistol and tucked it beneath his priest’s robes. “Let’s hope we’re not obliged to use these.”

There’s another underlying tension which Celestine and Jagu have yet to acknowledge: his feelings for her, which, as they venture into the wilds of Azhkendir together, may be increasingly hard to hide. She’s still hurting from the heartbreak of losing the love of her life, and has thrown herself into her work.

So how representative of Flight into Darkness is this extract? Celestine and Jagu are about to make a disturbing discovery at the monastery. It seems that they are not the only ones interested in the secrets concealed within its ancient walls, secrets that will draw untamable forces of darkness into their world unless they dare to make a stand against them.
Read an excerpt from Flight into Darkness, and learn more about the author and her work at Sarah Ash's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"One More Bite"

Jennifer Rardin is the author of Bitten to Death and three previous novels in the Jaz Parks series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to One More Bite, the latest novel in the series, and reported the following:
One More Bite, which released to US readers on January 5, 2009, takes fans of the Jaz Parks series on a brand new adventure, in which our heroes must assassinate an assassin. But this killer’s got skills. Including, of course, the ability to hide his/her identity.

On page sixty-nine of the US version of the book (the UK version is in mass market size so it reads differently) we find our heroes, Jaz and Vayl, narrowing down suspects. Is this single page representative of the rest of the novel? Yes and no.

From page 69 you can deduce that Jaz and Vayl are more than just coworkers. And their troubled histories keep them mired in such a way that it’s hard for them to move on with their lives. You also get a sense of Jaz’s voice, a strong, sassy melody you’ll be humming long after you’ve finished the story.

What this page misses is the action. Readers tend to pick these books up and keep them in-hand until they’ve read the entire story because the pacing is so quick. All the books in the series, including One More Bite, also contain numerous laugh-out-loud moments. But even though you won’t be giggling when you get to the bottom of the page, I think you’ll read on. If only to find out what happens between Jaz and Vayl. Their relationship is one of the most fascinating aspects of this book, and this series. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

Excerpt from One More Bite—Page 69:

sad bowl of ashes and the samples I’d be handing off to some stranger during the opening ceremonies tonight. Vayl accepted the whole story with nothing more than a lowering of the brows, his substitute for any of a number of the four-letter words that relieved the worst of my stresses.

I moved on to the part that had burned holes into my guts. “Viv’s on the level with her story. Whether that makes her our killer or not . . .” I shrugged, unable to go on. Those pictures. Jesus. You could distance yourself from the victims. But not from Viv’s stoned and tragic face. Especially when you put it next to the before shot of an outgoing debate team member with a promising political career ahead of her.

“Viv’s had it pretty rough since. She dropped out of college. Doesn’t see any of her friends. Works at the library in her hometown and lives with her mom and Iona.”

“So do you believe she has simply come because her mother will not let her stay home alone?” Vayl asked. “That she is, indeed, Bea? Or that she truly intended to find someone like us all along?”

“I prefer choice number three.”

Vayl’s brows lowered. “Disturbing, is it not, that the living allow the dead to exert so much power over them?”

We stared at each other for a second and then shook our heads, trading sheepish grins. “We’re a couple of hypocrites, Boss.”

He inched closer. “I wish you would not call me that.”

I lifted my chin so I could look into his eyes, glittering like gems in his immobile face. “Sverhamin, then?”

“Ahh.” His breath blew across my lips. “When you agreed to accept me as such, did you ever think you would find yourself here?”

“In Scotland?”

He gave me that semi smile that made my knees want to buckle. “Why is it that you love to tangle with my patience?”
Read an excerpt from One More Bite.

Learn more about the author and her work at Jennifer Rardin's website, MySpace page, and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: the Jaz Parks Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"The Empty Mirror"

J. Sydney Jones is the author of twelve books, including the nonfiction Hitler in Vienna, 1907--1913, the guides Viennawalks and Vienna Inside-Out, and the suspense novel Time of the Wolf. In 1968 he was a student in Vienna and later returned to live there for almost two decades. He currently lives near Santa Cruz, California.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Empty Mirror, and reported the following:
The Empty Mirror is a historical mystery and thriller set in Vienna during the summer of 1898. The mystery involves a brutal series of murders, the last of which has implicated the painter, Gustav Klimt, for it was his model who was the victim. My fictional protagonist, the lawyer Karl Werthen, teams up with an actual historical figure, Dr. Hanns Gross, one of the pioneers of modern criminology, to prove Klimt innocent. This mystery, however, soon morphs into a much wider conspiracy that leads to the very seat of government; that is, to the Habsburgs themselves. It also puts Werthen and Gross into grave danger.

Page 69 in my novel comes at the final page of chapter five and marks the first time that the reader might have an inkling of the wider conspiracy at the heart of the novel. The first quoted passage below is spoken by Gross to his friend and colleague, Advokat Werthen, as they attempt to identify the murder weapon employed in the series of murders. The second interior monologue comes from ... Well, read and discover:

“No, my friend. I am a student of such esoterica as blades and guns. I believe our man has come into possession of one of these new-fangled serrated scalpels the British firm of Harwood and Meier has been experimenting with. Serrated blades leave such feathering and for that reason the technology has not heretofore been used for scalpels, intended for clean, easily repaired cuts. The Harwood model, however, boasts added septic protection as a trade off for the light feathering. Whereas our man was using a traditional steel scalpel or razor before, he has recently switched to the serrated scalpel. And that is, I guarantee you, Werthen, hardly a needle in a haystack. To my certain knowledge, there are only a handful of distributors of the Harwood and Meier blades in this country. We will start then with the distributors and work back to the purchasers. Even if stolen, the blade in question had to originate somewhere.”


He had followed the tall lawyer back from the prison to the building that housed Vienna’s forensic laboratory. The dandified lawyer had no idea he was being tracked; an amateur for certain. And he was getting into water that would soon engulf him and his professor friend. For the moment, they were simply paddling about, testing the water. He smiled at his metaphor. That was good, just paddling about. But sometimes even amateurs get lucky, hit the right current.

For now the two were no threat to him or to his

Another smile slashed his gaunt face. He really was being clever today.
Operation, indeed. It was nearing the end, though, and he felt a kind of sadness at that thought. These murders had been a challenge worthy of him.

He looked up again to the windows of the forensic laboratory and shook his head.

No, they were not a threat. For now.
Read an excerpt from The Empty Mirror, and learn more about the author and his work at the official J. Sydney Jones website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 2, 2009

"The Toss of a Lemon"

Padma Viswanathan is a fiction writer, playwright, and journalist. She was awarded first place in the 2007 Boston Review Short Story Contest.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Toss of a Lemon, and reported the following:
I was surprised and gratified to see that p. 69 of my novel deals with a key event, so surprised that I checked pp. 59, 79, 89 and 99 to see whether they do, too. Page 89 is about a tangential character, but all the others deal with essential matters, reassuring me that--perhaps--I really did need over six hundred pages to tell this story. Back to 69: it describes how people are behaving after the death of my main character's husband. His cousin irritates the widow, Sivakami, with his theatricality, though he's quite sincere; the servant, Muchami, who identifies with Sivakami, has had his head shaved to match her in one of the many restrictions and humiliations she faces as a Brahmin widow in the early 20th century. Most difficult to write was the reaction of the two-year-old son, who has suffered the departure of a father who never fully loved him, and now must also endure the withdrawal of his mother, owing to those traditional strictures:

Vairum is now insatiable in his need for attention. At night, Sivakami holds him... During the day, though, from sunrise to sunset, he is not supposed to touch her. These are the new rules. When Vairum comes to her for the comfort of her lap, she must back away from him, offering explanations he doesn't accept. Finally, he gets angry and slaps out at her knee or her hand, and once, her head. This is not mere violence, it is sabotage: she must bathe again and wash her sari. From time to time, she gives in and permits him the lap, since she will have to bathe anyhow. This sometimes happens twice in a day, so that her saris haven't time to dry. Vairum gets damp, sitting in her lap and holding onto her; they both catch cold.

The defining vectors of the book are at work on this page: Sivakami is slightly aloof and isolated from her Brahmin neighbors. She is more at ease with Muchami, who is smarter and more loyal than most of her caste-mates. And though Sivakami loves her little boy fiercely, she is unable or unwilling to break with orthodoxy to protect their relationship: p. 69 shows glimmers of a future conflict of magnificent proportions.

I'm not sure much of this would come through to the scanner of random pages, though, nor whether it needs to. When I apply this test to a book, I'm mainly interested in the prose style: is it fun? It's tougher for me to judge my own work this way, since I write to amuse myself, but I think the narrator's way of talking (I should mention that although the book reads as though it's in third-person, there is in fact a character telling the story), her tongue-in-cheekness, and her sympathy for the characters are evident on this page.
Read an excerpt from The Toss of a Lemon, and learn more about the book and author at Padma Viswanathan's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"The Piano Teacher"

Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong and graduated from Harvard College. A former features editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines, she currently lives in Hong Kong.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Piano Teacher, and reported the following:
It was hot, hot, hot. The sun hid behind clouds for brief moments and then blazed out again...

"Tell me your story," she said, after allowing herself a minute to digest what that meant. She was still vibrating with the strangeness of the situation--that she was out at the beach with a man, intentions unknown.

"I was born in Tasmania, of Scottish stock," he said mockingly, as if he were starting his own autobiography. He sat up and crossed his legs--a swami.

This is the part of the book where Claire goes to the beach with Will. Claire Pendleton is a provincial young newlywed from England who has come to Hong Kong with her husband. She takes a job as a piano teacher to a young Chinese girl, the daughter of a wealthy Chinese couple. Will Truesdale works for the Chinese family as a chauffeur, an unusual situation as he is English, and even more so because he is reticent and difficult. The two meet and slowly start to come together, an awkward, sometimes hostile dance.

The Piano Teacher alternates between two time periods. The 1950s, when Will and Claire meet, and a decade earlier when Will himself first comes to Hong Kong and meets Trudy Liang, a vivacious, beautiful Eurasian socialite, right as the Japanese prepare to invade Hong Kong. The Piano Teacher is a story of the war and what happened to these people, who led lives of enormous privilege in Hong Kong, lives that were changed dramatically by the events of the war.
Listen to an interview with Janice Y. K. Lee and an excerpt of The Piano Teacher.

Read an excerpt from The Piano Teacher, and learn more about the book and author at Janice Y. K. Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue