Sunday, January 31, 2010

"City of Dragons"

Kelli Stanley is the author of the critically acclaimed Nox Dormienda, which won the Bruce Alexander Award for best historical mystery and was nominated for a Macavity Award. She lives in San Francisco, California.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, City of Dragons, and reported the following:
Miranda took two steps at a time, holding her hand against the wood shutting her out. “I think you do.”

The woman looked at her again. “Who are you?”

“I’m the woman who found Eddie. I was with him when he died.”

The woman met her eyes. This time she nodded. She opened the door, and Miranda stepped over the threshold into another small, dark foyer. It was as clean as the Braeburn but claustrophobic, with cherry-wood furniture and altar incense burning behind a lacquered screen.

“I get them.”

She walked up the narrow stairway, her small feet soundless. Miranda heard a knock, and then several voices, raised in discussion, speaking Japanese.

Time to meet the Takahashis.
So concludes page 69 and Chapter 7 of City of Dragons, at least in my advanced readers copy. This slice represents a couple of motifs that are central to the novel … PI Miranda Corbie’s tenacity in pursuing justice for the dead numbers runner, Eddie Takahashi, and her odyssey through 1940 San Francisco, from a Chinatown soda fountain called Fong Fong to Laurel Heights Cemetery to a high class bordello on Grant Avenue—where Miranda once worked as an escort.

There are other issues, too, of course—the tensions between Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans during the Sino-Japanese War and the aftermath of the Rape of Nanking … the casual racism and taken-for-granted brutality of the era. The ugliness that existed side by side with Benny Goodman jazz and Art Deco architecture and that breathtaking urban siren known as San Francisco.

I’ve tried to make City of Dragons a fresh take on classic noir … 1940 without the censorship of the era, and with a femme fatale as the hero rather than the villain. It’s both an homage and, I hope, an original … as is Miranda, former Spanish Civil War nurse, ex-escort, and now private eye.

She’s also a native San Franciscan. And on page 69, she’s entering a city she’s never known.
Read an excerpt from City of Dragons, and learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Breaking Out of Bedlam"

Leslie Larson is the author of the novel Slipstream, which won the Astraea Award for Fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Breaking Out of Bedlam, and reported the following:
Turns out I was lucky with page 69, as the passage does a fantastic job of conveying the spirit of Cora Sledge’s voice, which was my guiding light as I wrote this story. The clip opens in the middle of an argument between Cora and Marcos Rodriguez, the medical tech who takes her vital signs each day. Their banter, and the way that Cora is once again saying something she will soon regret, captures the feel of many of the comic scenes in the novel. So I’d have to say that page 69 is very representative of the book. Fingers crossed it would entice skimmers to hang on for the rest of the ride.

Breaking Out of Bedlam begins with Cora’s children forcing her into The Palisades, an assisted care facility, when they find her living on junk food, pills, and cigarettes. Miserable at being wrenched from her home, Cora decides it’s time to die, but Marcos’ care and kindness (along with small doses of contraband junk food, telenovelas, and the occasional cigarette) get her back on her feet. Deciding that truth is the best revenge, Cora begins to write a tell-all journal that reveals once and for all the secret she has guarded since she was a young woman. Intermingled with her reminiscences is an account of the day-to-day dramas at The Palisades—her budding romance with a new resident, feuds with her tablemates, and the cloud of suspicion that descends as a series of petty crimes sets everyone on edge. True to form, Cora wonders if Marcos, her only friend, is the one who is robbing the residents. The story builds to a climax as Cora’s revelations about her past mesh with the slow unraveling of intrigue in the present.

Page 69 illustrates the contradictions in Cora’s character—her hunger for redemption and her talent for self-destruction, her capacity for both naiveté and suspicion, her desire for love and her inability to accept it. The passage shows that despite her age and a life with more than its share of disappointment and struggle, Cora holds onto her wicked humor, her vitality, and her refusal to play it safe.

Page 69:
“Don’t you dare leave!” I yelled at Marcos. “There’s no need to be so touchy!”

He opened the door without even turning around.

“What about my things?” I hollered. “I gave you money! What did you do with it?”

He stormed back. “Thank you for reminding me!” he snarled so fierce that spit flew out of his mouth. His eyes shot sparks. He reached into his carryall and pulled out a paper bag. “Here are your cigarettes!” He slammed a pack of Marlboros down on top of my dresser. He pulled out another one and slammed it down, too. Boom! Like a gunshot. “Here are your cupcakes, and your corn nuts, and your chips.” Bam! Bam! Bam! The last one, the bag of Doritos, came down so hard I knew they’d be crushed to dust.

“Oh, and your newspaper!” He whipped the National Enquirer out of the bag so fast the pages flew apart and fluttered to the ground like a bird shot from the sky. “And your magazine!” He fired People at the floor on top of the newspaper.

“Marcos!” I hollered. “Don’t! Don’t do like that!” I tried to grab his hands. “I’m sorry, now. Come on! Quit acting crazy!”

He grabbed my hand instead. “And here, Señora, is your change!” He pried my fingers open and shoved the money into my palm. “One dollar and fifty-seven cents. You want to count it now, while I’m here?”

I closed my hand around the money and looked into his eyes. Sometimes I hated myself. Just hated myself. I tried to show him with my eyes how sorry I was, but he was too mad to see anything.

“Why didn’t you tell me you bought all this stuff?” I bawled. “Why didn’t you give it to me right away?”

“I forgot,” he said, huffing and puffing. “But I will never forget again.” He tore loose from my hand, picked up his things, and stormed through the door.

What an uproar. I slumped down in my chair and stared out the sliding glass door. I felt so bad for doing Marcos like that. Accusing him, after all he’d done for me.
Read an excerpt from Breaking Out of Bedlam, and learn more about the book and author at Leslie Larson's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Amy Greene was born and raised in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, where she lives with her husband and two children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Bloodroot, her debut novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Bloodroot, Doug Cotter is watching the girl he has loved since they were children leave him behind to marry the beautiful but sinister John Odom:
A week or so later, I saw Myra and John Odom together. He was waiting for her in the school parking lot, leaning against his car. Girls stood around giggling about how pretty he was, but he looked like the devil to me. Long and lean, tall and dark as a shadow, eyes black as pits. It was like he reeled her across the parking lot by an invisible hook in her perfect lip. I was standing close enough to smell her hair as she walked by, but she didn’t even see me.
Knowing that he has lost Myra forever, Doug goes to his friend and neighbor Haskell Barnett for comfort:
The next day, for the last time, I went to see Mr. Barnett. He was in the garden pulling weeds. When he saw me he took off his cap and wiped the sweat from his brow. He didn’t ask what I was up to. We stood for a while in silence, looking toward the woods at the edge of the yard where we had walked together so many times. “You were wrong,” I told him at last. “She won’t ever come around.” Then my knees came unhinged and I sank down in the black dirt. Mr. Barnett knelt with me and hugged me tight. “You’re the one she ought to be with, Douglas,” he said. “You and me both know it’s the truth. But Myra’s got a choice. Everybody’s got a choice. She just made the wrong one.
With his final words to Doug, Mr. Barnett sums up one of the themes of Bloodroot. In the writing process, I thought about how much inheritance shapes who we become; whether or not childhood suffering causes someone to inflict pain and suffering on others; whether characters like John are cruel by nature or have been formed by childhood abuse; whether it’s possible to overcome circumstances and achieve happiness. I also explored whether or not a dark love like John and Myra’s was destined or if they could have resisted their obsessive passion and saved themselves. In ways, Myra and John might be products of genetics and upbringing, but they have free will. As hard as it is to overcome inherited traits and circumstances—as Mr. Barnett says—everybody’s got a choice.
Read an excerpt from Bloodroot, and learn more about the book and author at Amy Greene's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Dying Gasp"

Leighton Gage has been a copywriter, an advertising creative director, a magazine editor, and a writer/producer/director of documentary films and industrial videos.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Dying Gasp, his third novel in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva series, and reported the following:
As regular readers to this site know, a book neither passes, nor fails, the Page 69 Test. The Test isn’t about scoring, it’s about matching readers with authors, and by golly, the instrument has just proved its efficacy once again. Five lines down, on page 69 of Dying Gasp, I find this:

“Someone who casually strangles a woman, then cuts her head off with an axe...”

Suppose you’re in a bookstore, browsing, and you read that fragment of a sentence. What are you likely to do? I’d wager you have three options:
1. You keep on reading.
2. You hustle Dying Gasp to the check-out.
3. You re-shelve the book - and go on looking for a cozy.
The line is plucked out of a conversation between Chief Inspector Mario Silva and his superior, Nelson Sampaio, the Director of the Brazilian Federal Police. Sampaio, a political appointee, knows little about law enforcement – and doesn’t care to learn. Line 14: “I don’t want an explanation. I just want to know how long.” (By which he means how long it’s going to take to find the perpetrator.)

There is, of course, no answer to that question. Asking questions for which there are no answers is somewhat a specialty of the director’s. He’s a very annoying man.

The victim, the true subject of their discussion, is not the woman who’s lost her head. It is, rather, a kidnapped girl, the granddaughter of an important politician. Sampaio wants her recovered so he can look good. Silva wants her recovered because he fears something horrible will happen if she isn’t. He senses they have little time. Line 22: “And time,” the director said, “is something we’re running out of.”

It is the sole instance in the book where Sampaio and Silva are in complete agreement.
Read an excerpt from Dying Gasp, and learn more about the author and his work at Leighton Gage's website and the Murder is Everywhere blog.

The Page 69 Test: Blood of the Wicked.

My Book, The Movie: Buried Strangers.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"The Godfather of Kathmandu"

John Burdett is a nonpracticing lawyer who worked in Hong Kong for a British firm until he found his true vocation as a writer. He has also lived in France, Spain, and Thailand. He is the author of A Personal History of Thirst, The Last Six Million Seconds, Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo and Bangkok Haunts.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Godfather of Kathmandu, and reported the following:
Page 69 begins: “The victim’s name was Frank Charles. He owned a luxury condominium on Soi 8.”

We are at the crime scene where a gigantic American lays disemboweled on a flop house bed with the top of his skull removed. The speaker is a colleague of Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the narrator: a Eurasian who spends much of his professional life bridging the gap between Thai and farang (Western) culture. The deceased was a wealthy Hollywood producer who rented the room, which he used to entertain prostitutes sometimes as frequently as three times a day. The slaying was elaborate, brutal, meticulous and seems to include implications of cannibalism. It is unlikely that a Thai girl could be the culprit. Indeed, there are no obvious clues except for a selection of books and screen plays from the Western noir tradition; but first Sonchai has to explain to his Thai colleague why so many Western men come to Thailand to participate in the flesh trade:-
“Don’t they have prostitutes over there?”

“Of course, but farang suffer greatly from a disease called hypocrisy. That may be why he was here in the first place. What does his passport show? How often did he visit Thailand?”

“Four times a year for the past ten years.”

I open my arms in a sort of invitation to Detective Sukum to share my dubious expertise on the subject. “It may be a safe working hypothesis that he was one of those famous farang who are also sex addicts, who make regular visits to Bangkok while pretending to be working on their laptops at home. There are quite a few literary figures like that, and even more from the California entertainment industry, and lots of judgmental British journalists as well, not to mention Hong Kong lawyers. That being so, he might have bought his condo for its proximity to Soi Seven.”

“What happens in Soi Seven?”

“The Rose Garden.”

“It’s a brothel?”

How to explain the Rose Garden? “Not exactly. It’s full of freelancers. It suits young mothers who need spending money whether they’re married or not, girls with boyfriends they need to service during the evening, women with part-time jobs who can slip out of the office to turn a trick or two before going home to supper.” It occurs to me that a homily is called for. “The unpalatable truth is that promiscuity makes men happy, and quite a few women, too, especially when they get paid.”
Whether by art or coincidence page 69 encapsulates the main themes of the novel: the popularity of global sex tourism; the blank incomprehension of ordinary Thais at the ways of Westerners; the inability of Western culture to contain or come to terms with heterosexual male promiscuity and the hypocrisy that arises there from; the huge wealth gap between East and West; the risk of dire consequences for foreigners who take too much for granted. I would say the “Page 69 Test” has worked perfectly in this case.
Read an excerpt from The Godfather of Kathmandu, and learn more about the book and author at John Burdett's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Alice I Have Been"

Melanie Benjamin, as Melanie Hauser, has published two contemporary novels.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Alice I Have Been, her first historical novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Alice I Have Been is actually very representative of the whole book, which is about the long, eventful life of Alice Liddell, whose childhood relationship with Charles Dodgson(aka Lewis Carroll) resulted in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. This page falls in the middle of a pivotal scene in which Dodgson is photographing the seven-year-old Alice in secret, resulting in the famous photograph of her as a beggar child that actually inspired me to write the book in the first place. Her older sister, Ina, has just discovered the two of them in a far corner of the garden; her growing jealousy and suspicion of the relationship is evident with her first sentence of dialogue to Alice:
“I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“I stole her,” Mr. Dodgson said with a smile for Ina, a conspiratorial wink for me. “I kidnapped her.”

“You?” Now I believed she was going to cry; she blinked her eyes, over and over, and took a step back, just as Mr. Dodgson turned to greet her.

“I’m afraid so. It was such a lovely day, I sent round a note this morning.”

“Just for Alice?” Ina managed to smooth her face, turning a deceptively placid gaze toward him.

“Yes, you see—I knew you would be such a help to your mother today, so I couldn’t possibly have been so selfish as to send for you. How is she, may I ask?” He smiled at her, so unruffled; I had to admire him. I knew I couldn’t have manufactured such a smashing lie on such short notice. I hadn’t imagined him to be capable of deception; today had been a revelation, in so many ways.
This section illustrates so well one of the central themes of the book, which is nothing is at it seems. Alice, at seven, is not sure why Dodgson isn’t entirely truthful to Ina (he lies about the reason for not sending for her); she only knows that he is, and that she, Alice, is the reason. This scene also illustrates her growing awareness of her power over this man, a power that, as a child, she cannot understand. She can only know that it’s there, and she boldly reaches for it, grabs it, and that will be the tragedy of both their lives. Ina, her sister, doesn’t understand what she’s seeing either, but she jumps to her own conclusion; a conclusion that will set in motion tragic events. And Charles Dodgson, the only adult present, instinctively lies to protect himself and Alice from—what, exactly? They were only taking a photograph in a garden. Yet he, too, knows that others may look at the scene and see it for something that it is not. Or is it? The truth remains hidden from them all, until it is too late. Lives have already been damaged irreparably; Wonderland is lost forever. None of the participants in this pivotal scene on page 69 will ever be the same.
Read an excerpt from Alice I Have Been, and learn about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"The Girl with Glass Feet"

Ali Shaw graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English literature and has since worked as a bookseller and at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Girl with Glass Feet, his first novel, and reported the following:
Below is page 69 of The Girl with Glass Feet in its entirety. Being the last page of a chapter, it’s pretty short. In it we catch the central character, Midas Crook, finishing his breakfast.
He sat there and poked his bacon while she was gone. This was a big deal. A very big deal. He looked down at his camera and wondered if it had got him into this as some kind of jealous punishment for spending too much time thinking of her. Yet he was relieved that he might still get his chance to photograph her with her consent.

He closed his eyes and felt some happiness for that, set as it was against the unsettling idea that she was turning into glass.
This moment – this chapter – marks a turning point for Midas. He’s a photographer who has lived for too long an isolated life, with only his camera for company. As such he’s unwittingly started to personify the device. He has a tendency to chat to it when he’s alone. But now he’s met a girl, Ida, and is starting to feel something towards her. The complication is that there’s something terribly wrong with her, and he’s going to have to come to terms with that as well as his nascent romantic feelings.

Although I wouldn’t say it’s particularly representative of the tone of the novel, what’s interesting about page 69, as opposed to page 68 or 67 and so on, is that it precisely marks Midas’s realisation, as he expresses it, that what’s happened to him in the previous pages equates to ‘a very big deal.’ It’s the turning point where the plot is set up and he finally understands the mess he’s in.

From page 70 onwards he’s going to have to start dealing with it...
Read an excerpt from The Girl with Glass Feet, and learn more about the book and author at Ali Shaw's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Beautiful Piece"

Joseph G. Peterson is the author of Beautiful Piece.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
During a deadly Chicago heat wave that’s claiming hundreds of lives, Robert, who’s stuck in his apartment alone, fears he’s going to be the next victim. In the apartment above him lives a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who talks obsessively about the corpses of his war experience while alternately listening to Die Meistersinger and Madama Butterfly.

One day, Robert ventures forth into the searing heat to gas up his car. Immediately he encounters enigmatic Lucy who is trying to escape her brutal fiancé, Mathew Gliss. On a whim, Lucy invites Robert to her apartment where she shows him her mysterious tattoo and tells him of her dangerous life with Matthew Gliss. She warns Robert that Matthew has a Glock automatic and if Matthew ever catches them together Robert should run, not walk, because Matthew won’t think twice of using that Glock to kill him.

Robert doesn’t even know what a Glock is, so he asks the Vet if he knows what a Glock is, and the Vet says: “You need a Glock, I’ll collect you a Glock, no problem.”

“I don’t need a Glock,” Robert says. “I’m only interested in what do you know about them.”

“Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll collect that Glock for you no problem.”

On page 69 Robert and the Vet are at the racetrack when the Vet mentions, much to Robert’s dismay, that he has collected the Glock. It’s the moment when Robert, the narrator, obtains, almost against his will, a Glock automatic, which he will inadvertently be required to use before the book is over. Here’s the scene in Robert’s own words:
On the way to the track he [the Vet] says to me: by the way, I collected that Glock. After the races what do you say you and I go plinking at the dump?

It’s another bad omen, I say to myself, that he’s collected the Glock to go plinking.

Hey, the Vet says on the ride out to the racetrack, I’ve collected it. You game to go plinking at the dump after the races?

And then during the races he says it again, in passing only, at the end of the fifth. We can leave now, if you want. I’m tapped out. What do you say we go plinking at the dump? I brought it with me.

What do you say, I think to myself, other than this is another bad omen? Have I stepped into a hornet’s nest? I wonder. And what have I done by bringing the Vet into it?

Want to go plinking?

Have you collected the Glock?

I have. What do you say we plink around with it?

And then I think: I’ve overcome every other bad omen that has gotten in the way. Why not overcome this bad omen as well? So I think: Why the hell not? And I told him: Sure, why the hell not? Hmmph. Very interesting, I think to myself. I, who wouldn’t own a Glock even if I could, am now headed out to the dump to go plinking with a Glock the Vet has collected.

We’re at the dump plinking with the Glock.

Why do you want this thing anyway? The Vet asks.

I didn’t want it. You’re the one who’s collected it, remember?

Oh, yes, beautiful piece of mechanicals, this gun here.
Listen to an audio reading and discussion of Beautiful Piece on Myspace.

Read excerpts and learn more about the book and author at Joseph G. Peterson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Murder in Mykonos"

Jeffrey Siger was a New York lawyer -- litigating high-stakes society scandals and other delicate public and private matters of domestic and international consequence -- until giving it all up to write full-time among the people, life, and politics of his beloved Mykonos, and spearfish in its Aegean waters.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Murder in Mykonos, and reported the following:
On tour for Murder in Mykonos, a #1 best selling English-language book in Greece, a best-seller in many US markets, and picked by several reviewers as among the best books of 2009, I at times adhered to the classic Ford Madox Ford adage, “Open any book [in this case mine] to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole work will be revealed to you.” Now, thanks to “The Page 69 Test,” I have an option.

Murder in Mykonos
is the debut novel in my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series from Poisoned Pen Press, and page 69 captures a sense of the 24/7 party ambiance one can expect to find on that legendary Greek island paradise—and a bit of the edge to suggest why when a young woman tourist disappears from the face of the earth no one notices. That is, until a body turns up on a pile of bones under the floor of a remote mountain church, and the island’s new police chief—the young, politically incorrect, former Athens homicide detective Andreas Kaldis—starts finding bodies, bones, and suspects almost everywhere he looks. Killings aren’t supposed to happen in tourist paradise. It’s Greece’s most unimaginable nightmare—one no politician wants to confront.

Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, another young woman disappears and political niceties no longer matter. With the investigation now a rescue operation, Andreas finds himself plunging into ancient myths and forgotten island places toward a shattering conclusion in a race against a killer with a missionary-like zeal to carry out his plan for her murder.

But wait, there’s more. The sequel, Assassins of Athens, just was released and in a starred review from Booklist is described as “international police procedural writing at its best.” When I apply my now most-favored Page 69 Test to Assassins of Athens, all I can say is, “BINGO!”
Page 69:


The man at the end of the bar extended his hand, “My name is Panos and welcome to Panos’ Place—the best place in all of Mykonos for making friends.” A small crowd of middle-aged men around him parted as she moved toward the empty stool to his left.

“Thank you.” She was about to add “sir” but caught herself. She sensed he’d be insulted if a young woman treated him with the respect due an elder.

“Would you like something to drink?” He waved to a very hot-looking young Greek behind the bar. He was about her age, tall with dark hair, dark eyes, a dark, well-toned body—she pulled her eyes off him. No need to inflame her need any further, especially since she was about to start drinking.

“As …” She caught herself about to say “aspró krasí”—“white wine” in Greek—“my friends back home would say, ‘Wine would be fine’—white please.”

“And where’s home?” Panos’ piercing blue eyes didn’t fit his trusty, hound-dog face. His hair seemed just as confusedly located. Pirate-style, cascading dark brown curls should not share the same head with bushy, salt-and-pepper eyebrows and a drooping, even grayer, walrus mustache. Overall, Annika saw walrus.

“The Netherlands.”

The men around them had been quietly listening but now exploded in Greek.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeffrey Siger's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 15, 2010


Laura Bynum was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1968. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois, and earned an MA in Mass Media and Interpersonal Communications from Eastern Illinois University. In 2006 she attended the Maui Writer’s Conference and was awarded its top prize — the Rupert Hughes Prose Award — for an early draft of Veracity.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Veracity, her debut novel, and reported the following:
On page 69, Harper has come back to work after having lost rights to her child. It was part of the plan. She had to prove herself unfit and have her daughter removed to the custody of strangers in order to join the underground resistance without putting the girl in danger. But the cost has proven too high. Harper doesn’t think she can go through with her recruitment, as we see in her discussion with Evans, a mailman who works in the Murdon Building and who’s also a courier for the resistance:
“You’ve had a lot of visitors today,” he says. “I hope you don’t mind one more.”

I unplug my earphones. Turn off my computer. For kind Evans, I lie, “I don’t mind.”

He puts a hand on my shoulder. Wants me to look at him when he talks. “Miss Adams, I’ve come to make sure you’re still planning that trip we talked about earlier this summer. The one to Chesney.”
I pat Evans’s hand, still on my shoulder. His skin is loose. It slides over the bones as if not attached. “I’m sorry. I’ve changed my mind about a vacation this year.”

. Evans smiles sorrowfully at our use of such a term. What we’re discussing is just the opposite. “Oh, Miss Adams.”

I shake my head. “I don’t think I could enjoy it.”

“That’s not always why someone takes a vacation, is it? Some of the best things I’ve done in my life have been done on vacation.”

I grab my purse, my keys that are already out on my desk. “Good night, Evans.” I leave without looking back. “Thank you anyway.”

I drive to the grocery store and go straight to the liquor aisle. It’s become my routine.
On the next page, Harper is picking out her choice of liquid salve when her recruiter appears. While maintaining his anonymity, he escorts Harper out of the store and into the quiet of the back alley where he restores her to her mission with nothing more than a few moments of human touch and understanding.

Aside from being a near-future, dystopian piece about the importance of speech and our part in sorting truth from opinion, Veracity is a love story between a mother and her child. I believe Page 69 is the perfect bird’s eye view of that love.
Browse inside Veracity, and learn more about the book and author at Laura Bynum's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Paganini’s Ghost"

Paul Adam grew up in the north of England and studied law at Nottingham University. He began his writing career as a journalist and has worked in Rome as well as England. He is the author of The Rainaldi Quartet.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Paganini’s Ghost, and reported the following:
Paganini’s Ghost is a murder-mystery set in Italy, featuring Cremona violin maker Gianni Castiglione and his detective friend Antonio Guastafeste. It’s the sequel to The Rainaldi Quartet, the book in which the duo made their first appearance a couple of years ago.

A Parisian art dealer is found murdered in a Cremona hotel room, shortly after a recital in which a dazzling young Russian virtuoso has played Paganini’s legendary Guarneri violin, the Cannon. In the dead man’s wallet is an unidentified scrap of sheet violin music, and in the hotel safe the man has left a mysterious locked gold box.

As Gianni and Antonio investigate the murder, the story taking them to Paris and London, they find themselves following a trail that links back through time to Paganini, his lover Elisa Bonaparte and Catherine the Great of Russia, as they gradually unravel a mystery that has remained unexplained for more than a century.

But you wouldn’t know this from Page 69, which is something of a lull in the storm of activity that precedes, and follows, it. The opening to Chapter Six, the page is a moment of quiet reflection when Gianni takes a break from detection to return to his violin making and muse on his long career as a luthier. It’s something I believe every good thriller needs – a break from the action, which can get very wearing if it’s too relentless, and a chance for the reader to get to know, and understand, the leading characters better.
Read an excerpt from Paganini’s Ghost, and learn more about the author and his work at Paul Adam's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Gutshot Straight"

Lou Berney has written feature screenplays and created TV pilots for, among others, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Focus Features, ABC, and Fox. He is the author of The Road to Bobby Joe and Other Stories, and his short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, New England Review, and in the Pushcart Prize anthology. He has taught at the University of Oklahoma; the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and Saint Mary's College in California.

Gutshot Straight, his first novel, was written during the 2007–08 film and TV Writers Guild strike.

Berney applied the Page 69 Test to Gutshot Straight and reported the following:
I love the idea of the Page 69 Test, but – I’ll be honest – I also thought it was pretty much pure hokum. But then I applied to to my novel, Gutshot Straight, and, holy shit! I was actually kind of spooked how well that one page represents my novel as a whole, and the characters in it.

What’s happening on page 69 of Gutshot Straight is that one of the main characters, Gina, is trying to find a buyer in Las Vegas for some valuable postage stamps (at least that’s what she thinks they are at this point in the novel). To do so, though, she’ll have to elude the very bad guys who are after her and the stamps.
She drove back to the Strip. She slipped through the lobby of the Venetian in her cap and sunglasses. Without, she hoped, being spotted. She put down a couple of bills for a room, went upstairs, then came back down to complain about the smell of puke in the room. The room didn’t really smell like puke, but it was such a plausible lie the desk clerk didn’t blink. He switched her information in the computer and gave her a key card for a new room two floors up.

Gina had no intention of using the new room. She hurried back to the old room, where she’d left the door propped open with the brass security claw.

If someone had spotted her, or if the desk clerk ratted, Gina didn’t intend to make it easy for them.
Many of the characters in my novel are very good liars, and they often operate at a high level of craftiness. It – lying, craftiness – is what they’re naturally gifted at, like math. But the characters are human and they don’t ALWAYS operate at a high level of craftiness. What fun would that be, right? So page 69 ends this way:
She raided the minibar for a protein bar and a miniature bottle of vodka. She dragged the yellow pages out from beneath the nightstand and flopped them open on the bed.

She leafed to the “S”s.

Stamps and Coins, Rare – Dealers.

That was easy. Gina finished the vodka and protein bar and realized how sleepy she was. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept, not counting maybe an hour or two in the suffocating trunk of the Town Car that left her more tired than when she started.

She tore the page out of the phone book and decided to take a nap.
Taking a nap is probably not the safest, smartest decision Gina could make right now, given the circumstances (bad guys scouring Vegas for her). But that’s kind of what Gutshot Straight is about – how hard it is to be anything but human.
Read an excerpt from Gutshot Straight, and learn more about the book and author at Lou Berney's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Starfist: Double Jeopardy"

David Sherman is a former U.S. Marine and the author of eight novels about Marines in Vietnam, where he served as an infantryman and as a member of a Combined Action Platoon. He is also the author of the military fantasy series Demontech.

Dan Cragg enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1958 and retired with the rank of sergeant major twenty-two years later. He is the author of Inside the VC and the NVA (with Michael Lee Lanning), Top Sergeant (with William G. Bainbridge), and a Vietnam War novel, The Soldier's Prize. He recently retired from his work as an analyst for the Department of Defense.

Sherman applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, Starfist: Double Jeopardy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Double Jeopardy, Starfist book 14, is and is not representative of the book as a whole. It is in that it shows something of how Dan Cragg and I strive for accuracy and verisimilitude. Thirty-fourth FIST, the primary unit in the series, is about to be given orders for a deployment, possibly once more against the toughest opponents they have faced in the past. The characters on this page are third level, never central to the action. Therein, page 69 is not representative. Most of the novel, in this book and the entire series, concerns the Marines of third platoon, Company L, of the infantry battalion of 34th Fleet Initial Strike Team. There is an ongoing backstory, showing the lives (and loves) of the Marines on their home base; most of that backstory in this book comes before page 69. The rest of the novel follows the Marines on the deployment. The Marines find themselves in a three- or four-sided conflict, depending on how one looks at it. Some scenes or entire chapters are shown from the points of view of members of the other sides. Again, verisimilitude--Dan and I like to show that there is a universe beyond the strict confines of one platoon.
Learn more about the book at the publisher's website, and visit David Sherman's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Double Black"

Wendy Clinch is the founder of, the premier internet community for women skiers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Double Black: A Ski Diva Mystery, and reported the following:
As you’d expect, Double Black contains a fair amount of skiing. And that’s what you see, when you open to Page 69.

But there’s a lot more to the book than just sliding down the slopes. Double Black features Stacey Curtis, a young woman who ditches her cheating fiance and heads for a Vermont ski town to live the life of a ski bum. Instead, she stumbles upon bitter family warfare, financial intrigue, a hunky ski patroller, and yes, a dead body. More specifically, a dead body in a bed, strangled with the oily chain from a chainsaw.

The victim is David Paxton, son of Andy Paxton, patriarch of the family who owns the local ski area. Andy’s been considering selling the mountain to a large conglomerate who wants to turn it from a small family operation into a real estate venture. And though David was set against the deal, Andy’s other son, Richie, is more than a little interested. Did he kill his brother and if so, was this the motivation? Or did someone else do it for a different reason entirely? Double Black follows Stacey Curtis through a ski slalom’s worth of plot twists as she tries to figure it out.

Page 69 marks the beginning of Chapter 11. Andy is heading out for a little night skiing with Chip Walsh, friend and Spruce Peak ski patroller. Here, he discusses his feelings about selling the mountain and the changes he’s seen over the years. The chapter alternates between Andy’s reflections and Stacey’s frantic search for a ring she may have lost at the crime scene, which could mark her as a suspect in David’s murder.

Page 69:
Andy Paxton and Chip Walsh, on top of the world.

Even in the late evening and under a black sky as clear as glass, there was a steady wind up there. There always was. It bit their cheeks raw as they stood stripping the skins from their skis and folding them into their backpacks. The two of them worked in silence and by moonlight, in a bright open patch of snow near the top of the main lift. Once the skis were ready they took off their headlamps and put on goggles with clear lenses and put on the headlamps again. Thirty yards downhill the Peak Lodge stood empty and dark, just an angular blot against the whiteness of the moonlit snow.

Andy sighed. “I guess the day’s going to come when I won’t be doing this anymore.”

Thirsty from the long climb, Chip took a bottle of water from his pack and drank off half of it. “It’ll be a while, I think.” He supposed that Andy was lamenting his advancing age. “And if I can keep at it even half as long as you have, I’ll think I’ve done all right.”

“I’m talking about trespassing on my own mountain, sonny. One day I’ll be trespassing on somebody else’s.”
Read an excerpt from Double Black, and learn more about the book and author at Wendy Clinch's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Some Girls Are"

Courtney Summers lives and writes in Canada, where she divides most of her time between a camera, a piano and a word processing program.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Some Girls Are, and reported the following:
Some Girls Are is YA novel that contains a pretty brutal look at girl-bullying. This bit of page 69 is a glimpse of (some of) its aftermath. I think it's representative of the tone and style of SGA, but if I'd have anticipated the test, I would've tried to make the passage a little more explosive. :)
I watch him straighten. He looks as bad as me, maybe worse. Unshaven, dirty, disgusting, wrecked.

It’s only been a week.

He glares at me and then he gets close, so close his mouth is inches from mine. I’m afraid he’s going to do something like he did at Josh’s party, and I wonder if anyone would do anything about it if he did, because they all hate me.

“Die,” he says, and then he walks away.
Read an excerpt from Some Girls Are, and learn more about the author and her work at Courtney Summers' website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"True Confections"

Katharine Weber is the author of the novels Triangle, The Little Women, The Music Lesson, and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, True Confections, and reported the following:
Page 69 of True Confections is a riff on the narrator’s impossible mother-in-law Frieda and her obsessive cooking habits. Alice’s struggle with Three-Freezer Frieda, as she is known behind her back, begins on the first page of the novel. On page 69, she observes: “Frieda loved to cook and bake and freeze. How many times did she confound my kids by inviting them over with a promise that she was baking her delicious walnut cookies, only to offer them semi-thawed, dried-out walnut cookies from the freezer? These they were expected to enjoy while sitting at the kitchen table breathing in the wafting aroma that lingered from the day’s baking, while racks of soft, warm, fragrant walnut cookies cooled all over the kitchen in preparation for layering in wax paper and entombment in those plastic freezer boxes she cherished.”

While page 69 makes no mention of most of the major elements in the novel -- from the ins and outs of candy production and Alice’s accidental burning of a classmate’s house (which earns her the lifelong nickname “Arson Girl”), to issues of race and religious identity, the problematic nature of a candy inspired by Little Black Sambo, the subtle racism in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice’s explanation of the failed Madagascar Plan of the Third Reich -- this page exemplifies the frustration that drives her story. Alice’s narrative is a non-stop sardonic report on the Ziplinsky family from her vantage point as the non-Jew who has married in but has never really achieved insider status. She knows them intimately but she is not really one of them and she never will be.
Learn more about the book and author at Katharine Weber's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue