Saturday, June 30, 2012

"The Queen’s Vow"

C. W. Gortner, half-Spanish by birth, holds an M.F.A. in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California and has taught university courses on women of power in the Renaissance. He was raised in Málaga, Spain, and now lives in California.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Queen’s Vow ends a chapter in which the book’s protagonist, Isabella—the queen who later sent to Columbus to America—is still an embattled princess, caught between vicious intrigue at court and her own resolve to succeed:
If Enrique made a bastard his heir, it would be an affront to his divine right to rule. He would divide the realm ... and invoke chaos. He would invite God’s wrath upon Castile—and upon all of us.

You’re at court now. Here, you must learn to dissemble if you are to survive.

“What shall we do?’ Beatriz whispered and I opened my eyes. She stood with hands clasped, pale with worry. I had to be strong, for her and for Alfonso. I had to see us safe.

“Whatever we must.”
Page 69 is actually quite indicative of the rest of the book. Though powerless in many respects, Isabella is smart enough to see which way the wind has started to blow and decided to take action to protect herself. She’s coming into her own, both as a future ruler and a woman, shedding her naive trust in others to begin to rely on her innate sense of purpose. This page marks the beginning of an extremely dangerous period in Isabella’s life, when circumstances plunged her into accusations of treason and eventually forced her to go to battle for her throne against her half-brother, King Enrique.
Learn more about the book and author at C. W. Gortner's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Queen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Threaded for Trouble"

Janet Bolin's love of sewing, knitting, crocheting, quilting, and machine embroidery led her to invent the village of Threadville where the supplies for all these hobbies, and experts to untangle all those unavoidable snares, are only a short walk away. Bolin's love of reading, writing, and mysteries caused her to add some rather nefarious activities to Threadville, along with a slightly reluctant sleuth named Willow who co-opts her best friend, Haylee, and Haylee's three (yes, 3) mothers to help solve murders.

Dire Threads (2011), the first Threadville Mystery, was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and for a Bony Blithe award.

Bolin applied the Page 69 Test to Threaded for Trouble, the second novel in the series, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
"Don't you know the old saying? 'Bend over and touch your toes. I'll show you where the needle goes.'"

I covered my mouth to prevent a snort of laughter. Dr. Wrinklesides no longer shocked me, but he could still surprise me. "I'll give you a picture of a wing needle. It won't puncture you and let out all that hot air." I tore a photo from a catalogue and gave it to him.

He left with the picture, not a needle, in his shirt pocket.

The dogs and I had a quick dinner, then I kissed them good-bye and ran across the street for storytelling, undoubtedly mixed with a bit of gossip, at Tell a Yarn.
This short page ends a chapter and is fairly representative of Threaded for Trouble. It includes characters who do or say the unexpected, Willow's two dogs, and the setting, Threadville, a village of needlecraft stores where people love to get together and, yes, maybe even gossip. Willow's search for clues is threaded through this page and the rest of the book. A "killer" sewing machine lives up to its name; Willow can't let that machine shoulder the blame.

There. If I ever need to describe the story in a rhyming couplet, I'll be ready.
Learn more about the book and author at Janet Bolin's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Janet Bolin and Laddie and Lacy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Reavis Z. Wortham is the author of The Rock Hole, hailed by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Top 12 Mystery Novels of 2011. A finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award, the second novel in this Red River Series, Burrows, recently received a starred review from Publishers Weekly: "Wortham's outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole (2011)... combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror."

Wortham applied the Page 69 Test to Burrows and reported the following:
Burrows picks up the story line only months after The Rock Hole’s surprise ending. The Parker family is physically and mentally healing from their experiences with a serial killer, and the tight-knit rural community of Center Springs returns to life as usual in the northeast Texas bottomlands, circa 1965.

As the weeks pass, Ned’s grandchildren, ten-year-old Top and his tomboy cousin Pepper, struggle with personal issues resulting from their traumatic experiences at the Rock Hole. They now find themselves in the middle of a nightmare for which no one can prepare.

Lyndon B. Johnson is President, Beatlemania is in overdrive and gasoline costs 30 cents a gallon when Ned Parker retires as constable in Center Springs, Texas. But his plan to live a quiet life as a cotton farmer will soon change. A phone call leads Ned to a body in the Red River and the discovery rips him out of retirement to help his nephew, the newly elected constable Cody Parker. Together they work to head off a multi-state killing spree that sets northeast Texas on fire.

Cody and Deputy John Washington, the law south of the tracks, follow a lead from their small community to the long abandoned Cotton Exchange warehouse in Chisum. Stunned, they find the Exchange packed full of the town’s cast off garbage and riddled with booby-trapped passageways and dark burrows. Despite Ned’s warnings, Cody enters the building and finds himself relying on his recent military experiences to save both himself and Big John. Unfortunately, the trail doesn’t end there and the killing spree continues until the river exacts its own justice.

On page 69, Ned Parker, his nephew Cody Parker, and Judge O.C. Rains are in their usual rearmost booth in Frenchie’s café, Chisum’s local hole-in-the-wall eatery just down the street from the county courthouse.
O.C. sipped his coffee. “Well, anyway, back to what we were talking about. Kendal is still out there and I’ve got a pretty good idea him and that partner of his killed Josh and them, and that Jennings boy not long after. Now we can’t find hide nor hair of Kendal, and all those investigators think he’s still around here. He knows enough people in this county that he can stay hid the rest of his life.

“The investigators have set up shop down in the basement at the courthouse, but they’re thinking he’s gone back north. They told me they’d be out moving tomorrow and searching up in the Kiamichi, because they got a tip he was hiding up around Cloudy.”

“I’m not sure of that.” Cody worried his coffee cup. “I’ll nose around and see what I turn up, but I doubt we’ll see him, though, unless he gets drunk and runs into somebody.”

“That’s what might happen,” Ned told him. “It’s the screwy things that get people caught. I’ve seen it.”

“You saw a lot when you were constable,” Cody said. “Which of those old stories have stuck with you the most?”

Ned’s eyes twinkled. The ones I ain’t telling you.”

Ned motioned for O.C. to lean in. They spoke quietly for a moment, knowing that everyone in the café listened to their conversations. “I’m hearing that folks are starting to worry that The Skinner might have come back to town and killed that feller and dumped his body in the river.”

O.C.’s eyebrows rose.

“What have you said?”

“Told the ones that asted me that it wasn’t nothin’ like what The Skinner had done, and that I thought he’d gone to Mexico.”
Their discussion is insightful in two ways. The tight-knit community has always helped those in need, and relatives especially take care of their own, even those who have broken the law and are on the run. It was that way when the Center Springs was founded in the mid-1800s, and continues to this day. Ned finds himself working within their own support system to find a demon who takes trophy heads of his victims.

On this same page, the Skinner once again surfaces in conversation. He terrorized the county in The Rock Hole, and disappeared at the novel’s climax. Local residents fear his return and that the Skinner is now taking heads.

This new threat, the dark secrets the Parkers and Judge Rains must keep, and their struggles to preserve a rapidly changing way of life in the mid-1960s show that Camelot is truly gone, and life continues in a world gone awry.
Learn more about the book and author at Reavis Z. Wortham's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Rock Hole.

My Book, The Movie: The Rock Hole.

Writers Read: Reavis Z. Wortham (June 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Park Lane"

Frances Osborne was born in London and studied philosophy and modern languages at Oxford University. She is the author of Lilla’s Feast and The Bolter, a San Francisco Chronicle's Book of the Year and No.1 bestseller in the UK. Her articles have appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the Daily Mail, and Vogue. She lives in London with her husband, George Osborne, and their two children.

Osborne applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Park Lane, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Park Lane is where we first see radical Edwardian politics knocking aside rigid class boundaries to bring two very unlikely people together. This place in the novel is an important turning point for both the plot as a whole, and all three of the principal characters. What happens in this scene will set the three of them on a collision course.

On page 69, we are seeing events through the eyes of disillusioned debutante Beatrice Masters. She has been persuaded by her charismatic aunt, Celeste, to be daring enough to go and hear militant suffragette leader Mrs Pankhurst speak at a rally. Mrs Pankhurst has mesmerized Bea and made her want to do anything for her. However when the rally descends into violence and Bea is separated from Celeste, she learns that rule-breaking comes with risks attached. She must decide whether to embrace those risks.

Here Bea has escaped from the mob, only to find herself in yet more unfamiliar circumstances - with a strange man from a very different background. Although he has rescued her, he is now almost ignoring her. Bea is growing increasingly frustrated by the fact this man appears impervious to the charms that she is very much aware she has. She realizes that if she is going to escape the narrow confines of her life then she must be prepared to enter an unpredictable world.

As for how page 69 will set Beatrice on a collision course with housemaid Grace and her brooding brother, Michael, whom she is deceiving, you will have to read on.
Learn more about the book and author at Frances Osborne's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Bolter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Spy Mom"

Beth McMullen graduated from Boston University with a degree in English Literature and received an MLS from Long Island University. After landing a gig with Reader’s Digest, she eventually realized she’d rather write books than condense them.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Spy Mom, and reported the following:
This is a little complicated for Spy Mom because Spy Mom is actually two books in one. It contains last years Original Sin and the sequel To Sin Again in one neat package called Spy Mom.

So page 69 is really page 368 in this 2-for-1 edition.

This page finds Sally trying to hack into The Agency’s network to uncover information about a terrorist organization called Righteous Liberty and a man named Richard Yoder.

Her son Theo, who’s five years old, would rather she play with him and keeps bugging her to hurry up and do whatever it is she’s doing so they can get on with it. He sits on her lap, plays with her hair, messes with the computer, anything to get her attention.

Meanwhile, Sally realizes her computer skills are not so great and she’s going to have to figure out another way into the network if she is going to get the information she needs. In the old days, when she was an active agent, she had resources. Now, she’s on her own.

It’s complicated.

I like this page because so much of these books are focused on how a person can be a parent and something else at the same time and this is illustrated nicely here. Something as simple as hacking into a secret government agency’s network is mad that much more difficult when you throw a kid into the mix.

Make organic applesauce. Play Legos. Save the world. Meet Sally Sin, everybody!
Learn more about the book and author at Beth McMullen's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Original Sin.

Writers Read: Beth McMullen (July 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Kings of Midnight"

Wallace Stroby is an award-winning journalist and the author of the novels Cold Shot to the Heart, Gone 'Til November, The Heartbreak Lounge, and The Barbed-Wire Kiss.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Kings of Midnight, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Kings of Midnight comes at a fairly quiet part in the narrative. Benny Roth, an old-school wiseguy, has come back to New York after many years in the Witness Protection Program, living in the Midwest under an assumed name. Benny found his life in danger in the aftermath of the (real-life) 1978 Lufthansa heist, in which six armed men walked out of the Lufthansa cargo terminal at JFK Airport with some $8 million in untraceable cash. In the months that followed the robbery – the largest ever on American soil at that time - most of those responsible were murdered, killed at the behest of their own gangland bosses, who reasoned it cheaper to kill them then pay them their shares.

When the last of those bosses dies, Benny returns to his old Brooklyn haunts, with a young girlfriend in tow and an idea where some of that long-gone money might be stashed. But another old-time mobster is after it as well, and Benny’s long-celebrated luck might finally be running out. Few of his old friends are around anymore. And those who are might just be gunning for him.

For Benny, Brooklyn is also a city of ghosts and painful memories. His bouts with alcohol and drug addiction cost him his family. His wife, Rachel, left him years before, and later died of cancer. His now-adult children have disowned him.

On page 69, Benny pays his first visit to the Queens cemetery where Rachel is buried. He brings yellow roses, her favorite, and, kneeling at her grave, he recalls the night when, still in the Program, he came home – drunk and stoned – to find his house empty and his family gone.
He’d come home late to a silent house, a note on the kitchen table. In a haze, he’d walked the empty rooms, looking for signs of them. Then he’d gone out and sat on the front steps in the cold, looked up at the starry sky over the cornfields, too numb to feel much of anything.
He leaves a stone on her grave, tucks the roses alongside the headstone, then heads back to his car.
Finally got the chance to say good-bye, honey, he thought. Sorry it took so long.
Benny drives off into an uncertain future, just as his own past is rounding on him with a vengeance.
Learn more about the book and author at Wallace Stroby's website and The Heartbreak Blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2012

"We Only Know So Much"

Elizabeth Crane is the author of the story collections When the Messenger Is Hot, All This Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, We Only Know So Much, and reported the following:
I had a feeling that any random page of the book would be both representative of the book, but that more than likely it would only focus on one of the six main characters in the book; most of the chapters focus in closely on one character, though there are a number of scenes where the whole Copeland family is gathered (and hilarity, of course, ensues). You wouldn’t get any sense of the rest of the family drama from this scene, but it’s a page I actually have bookmarked for readings, so there’s that.

On page 69, Priscilla, the nineteen-year-old bitchy fashionista daughter is in the middle of an interview for a new reality show. She’s struggling to come up with the right answers, and it does speak to the core of her issue: at this point, she doesn’t really know where she’s going in life.
What are you studying?

I haven’t picked a major. I’m thinking about dropping out.
Priscilla actually thinks this is a right answer, that her willingness to drop out is a sign of her commitment to being on a reality show.

More expressionless nods and note-taking from the panel, nods that Priscilla can not read, so many freaking blank freaking nods. So she covers, just in case.

Well, I mean, but maybe not. I don’t know.

Name three of your favorite hobbies.

What do you mean, like, stamp collecting or something?

Yeah, like that.

Priscilla thinks hard. She definitely has no hobbies. Is texting a hobby?

Not really...



Oh, okay ... what about reading magazines? Priscilla loves magazines, has an expanding file full of pages she’s torn out with outfits she admired, and a separate folder for accessories. She’s never thought of this as a hobby. She’d started it as an idea file. Ideas for what, she’d always been unsure of. She reads everything from InTouch to Elle to Teen Vogue. It fits in her purse. She almost says this.

No, more like—maybe games you like, or keeping a journal or something?

No, not really, I guess. Priscilla is getting worried now. This is not going well. Why does it suddenly seem like she has no life? She’s never thought that before.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth Crane's website.

Writers Read: Elizabeth Crane (April 2008).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"The Year of the Gadfly"

Jennifer Miller is author of The Year of the Gadfly (Harcourt, 2012) and Inheriting The Holy Land (Ballantine, 2005). Her journalism has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Marie Claire, Allure,, and The Daily Beast.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Year of the Gadfly and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Year of the Gadfly, is a terrific microcosm of the novel. It encapsulates the themes of secrecy and moral ambiguity that pervade the book and hints at the whirling, action-oriented plot. The page is written from the first-person perspective of Iris Dupont, a 14-year-old aspiring journalist, whose only friend is the ghost of Edward R. Murrow. In this particular moment, Iris is reeling from recent events at her high power prep school, including a flash mob, in which a cafeteria-full of students gang up on one of their peers and a science class exercise based on the shock experiments of Yale psychologist Stanley Milgrim. Iris is in the process of investigating a new science teacher, whom she suspects was behind the flash mob (and who made the students participate in the Milgrim-like exercise). She is about to learn that he has been lying about his past--that his motives for withholding information are extremely complicated--and that his true secret is much worse than she ever could have expected.
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Jasmine Nights"

Julia Gregson is the author of Band of Angels and East of the Sun, a major bestseller that won the Romantic Novel of the Year Prize and the Le Prince Maurice Prize.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Jasmine Nights,  and reported the following:
On Page 69 of Jasmine Nights, my hero, Dom Benson, is experiencing a moment of acute anxiety about tracking down a girl he has met only twice and become obsessed by.

Dom is a young fighter pilot, the girl, Saba, a singer. They met at the burns hospital where Dom was being patched together again after being shot down in his plane, and where Saba came to the ward one night to sing for the patients.

During the course of the impromptu concert she leaned down and kissed him. At this moment of crisis for Dom, that kiss brings hope, restoring him to his youth, his sense of a future, and confusion : it could mean nothing - she was a professional entertainer after all, part of the job was to get men to fall in love with her.

Before his accident, Dom, who is half French, was an ‘it’ boy at Cambridge University and had no such doubts. He was clever, funny and reckless. A steady stream of girls visited his room and he was a cynic about love, and relationships, breaking many hearts. The war, the temporary loss of his own good looks, has taken this old self confidence away from him.

On this day (on page 69), he has decided to track down Saba.

Since his discharge from hospital, they’ve had one date in London. He gate crashed her successful audition for ENSA, the organisation that entertains the troops, and heard her sing again. He knows that she may already have been posted to any one of a dozen countries overseas, but is desperate to find out more about her. Hence this visit, to Tiger Bay in Cardiff where her family live, on the flimsy pretext that she’d left her coat in the bar where they’d had a drink together. He is full of self doubt about his motives and his mission:
Because what did he know about the girl ? Only that she sang and that he admired her courage and that for that one moment when he’d told her where his skin graft had come from’ (it was his buttocks) they had both roared with laughter again, like young people.
As he walks down the poor streets where she grew up, his mood of self doubt deepens. It is so foreign here, and he has only met her twice and he has a growing sense that she will be a dangerous person to know.
Learn more about the book and author at Julia Gregson's website.

The Page 69 Test: East of the Sun.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Heading Out to Wonderful"

In addition to the novel A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick is the author of the acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. He lives in a small Virginia town.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel Heading Out to Wonderful, and reported the following:
Of course, it had to be a sex scene. Page 69 of Heading Out to Wonderful turns out to be a lengthy description of the wedding night of Boaty Glass, an overweight 48-year-old man who has just married Sylvan Glass, a virginal 17-year-old whom he has recently purchased for $3000 and a tractor. The book is set in the Shenendoah valley of Virginia in 1948, and page 69 begins “…startled by the vastness her, her expanse of skin, her breasts, her deep pink nipples, the shimmer of her skin, pale and powdery everywhere except her arms and her face.”

It ends: “ He took her hand as they lay in the dark, waiting for sleep, his sweaty palm engulfing her dry one until she pulled it away and rubbed it on the bedspread.”

So, we know right away that theirs is not the most successful coupling in the history of literature. Awkward, inept and short, their lovemaking, it would seem.

I love sex scenes. I am often criticized for having too many of them, but I think, in the telling of a story, that sex is important and should be discussed. To me, we have two basic and eternal forms of communication – talking and sex – and sex is its own kind of speech. It speaks of passion, of affection, of disdain, or a whole gamut of human emotions which cannot be expressed any other way. My characters say with their bodies the things they cannot express in words, just as we do in life, everything from hopeless love to mere hopelessness. There is, of course, joy, but there is also often a degree of fear, of trust and mistrust unspoken but enacted.

And I believe, as a writer, I have a responsibility to write about sex with the same degree of passion and clarity and skill that I would, I hope, bring to the physical act itself. Is it pornographic? Some people would say so. Is it necessary? I would answer emphatically yes.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Goolrick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"In the Kingdom of Men"

Kim Barnes's books include two memoirs, In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country—a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize—Hungry for the World, and the novels Finding Caruso and A Country Called Home.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, In the Kingdom of Men, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Rafiq, the lean Lebanese beautician, worked at the rats in Ruthie’s bouffant, combing his way up from ends to scalp, and I was next. I needed a new style, Ruthie had insisted, for my interview with Sun and Flare in Dhahran. “I know the editor, Nestor Reedy,” she had said when I opened my mouth in surprise, “and you need a hobby so you don’t go bonkers.” I wondered whether she somehow sensed in me that desire I had felt as a girl to be the maker of my own stories. All those diary pages, all that dreaming... “Your head is in the clouds,” my grandfather said to me, “and that’s not the same as heaven.”

The dryer’s heat made the beauty shop hotter than the air outside. “The bathroom faucet broke,” Maddy was complaining,“but do you think Burt could fix it? No, sir. He can drill a well a mile deep but can’t plumb a faucet. I had to call in the coolies.” I focused on the familiar pages of Aramco World, then used it as a fan. I had garbed myself in slacks and a seersucker blouse, but Ruthie sat cool in her sleeveless white shell, black capris, and pearly red flats.

“Did you hear about Katie Johnson?” Candy leaned in, her voice breathy and sharp. “They flew her out last night. Nervous breakdown.”

Maddy started to respond, then cut her eyes my way, needles clicking. I pretended to be absorbed in the magazine, imagining the articles I might write if I could report what I heard at the beauty shop.

“Gin is going to be reporting for Sun and Flare,” Ruthie announced as though reading my mind.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” Candy said, her voice tipped with jealousy, “but Ross won’t let me work.”

“Ross is crazy,” Ruthie said, and nodded to me. “Your turn.”

She slid from the chair before Rafiq could release the foot pump.
How could you not keep reading a page that begins with a lean Lebanese beautician? I’m just sayin’…

I feel lucky. This is a scene that I’m really fond of because it sets up all kinds of interactions that will inform the story. Part of the Arabian American Oil Company’s obligation in the 1960s was to employ as many Arabs as possible—but only the men, of course. I came across the Lebanese hairdresser in the journals of an American expat and found the irony irresistible.

The Aramco wives represent the microcosm that is the compound, with all its various hierarchies: My main character Gin, out of poorest Oklahoma, is a “fresh young thing” with a handsome, ambitious husband. She threatens the older and very vain Candy Fullerton, a social climber who is married to the district manager. Maddy Cain, whose husband is a man of great integrity, has been made bitter by all her years in the desert and lets her resentment show, while Ruthie, married to a Cajun driller, is Gin’s best friend and has the spirit of someone who takes the party with her wherever she goes—she is the party. (What isn’t apparent in this scene is another conflict: Ruthie is Jewish, Maddy, fundamentalist Christian, and they are inside a gated compound in the middle of the Arabian Desert. At a future point in the story, Maddy will say to Gin, “You seem like a nice Christian girl. I’m surprised that you keep such company.”)

It’s Ruthie who will serve as Gin’s coming-of-age guide and teach her the ropes of “camp” life, including how to spend time so that “time doesn’t spend you.” The more independent Gin becomes, the more risks she takes, until what might seem at first like a novel of manners turns increasingly toward betrayal and intrigue.
Read more about In the Kingdom of Men at Kim Barnes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 8, 2012


L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer.

Modesitt applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel Princeps, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Princeps describes the entry of Quaeryt and Vaelora into a ball hosted by a noted High Holder of Tilbor. Quaeryt is the princeps of Tilbor, second to the governor in the regional government of the province. As such, he would not normally be invited to such a gathering, because government officials are seen as below High Holders. Even the governor is invited only as a necessity. But… since Quaeryt is married to Vaelora, and she is Lord Bhayar’s younger sister, there is no way High Holder Thurl can avoid inviting the couple.

Part of the initial meeting with the High Holder follows:
“…We appreciate your grace and hospitality,” [replied Quaeryt]. Glancing beyond Thurl, where but a handful of couples stood, generally near the sideboards offering wine, Quaeryt could see that his browns represented the most severe attire of anyone present.

“We can do no less.” With a smile, Thurl turned to those following Quaeryt and Vaelora.

Quaeryt understood that Thurl had meant those words literally, no matter how graciously uttered.
This scene on page 69 and the following pages foreshadows the difficulties Quaeryt and Vaelora will have in dealing with High Holders for the remainder of the book, and the very high stakes involved in dealing with High Holders… even when such High Holders are obviously in the wrong.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Target: Tinos"

The Greek Press called Jeffrey Siger's work “prophetic,” Eurocrime described him as a “very gifted American author...on a par with other American authors such as Joseph Wambaugh or Ed McBain,” and the City of San Francisco awarded him its Certificate of Honor citing that his “acclaimed books have not only explored modern Greek society and its ancient roots but have inspired political change in Greece.” Target: Tinos, the fourth novel in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, follows up on Jeffrey Siger's internationally best-selling Murder in Mykonos, Assassins of Athens, and Prey on Patmos: An Aegean Prophecy.

Born in Pittsburgh, Siger practiced law at a major Wall Street law firm and established his own New York City law firm before giving it all up to live and write on the island of Mykonos.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Target: Tinos and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Chapter Eight

When Andreas’ mother asked him to come along with her to the final fitting, his first reaction was, “Why me?” He knew as much about fashion as he knew about rocket science, probably less. But, his sister couldn’t come and, as the only other child in his mother’s life, Andreas went because he knew how anxious she was to look just right. His mother said she’d never bought a dress “this important” before and wanted it to be “perfect.”

Her home was not far from his office. She’d moved there as a young bride, it was where her son and daughter were born, and her hero cop husband died. The old neighborhood was unrecognizable from when Andreas grew up there. Greek was no longer the dominant language. No language was. It was a hodgepodge of languages, people, and cultures. It was also dangerous.

Andreas and his sister had begged their mother to move but she refused to leave her home, even to live among her grandchildren. All Andreas could do was ask the local police commander to keep a special eye on his mother’s place, and the word on the street was “stay away, it’s protected.” But new trouble moved into the neighborhood every day, and it took time for them to get the word.

Andreas sat at a traffic light two blocks from his mother’s place. The colors and faces passing by were very different from his childhood memories. He guessed at their nationalities. As a cop he was pretty good at that. Profiling some would say. Self-defense said others. Members of certain groups just seemed to commit certain crimes. They specialized. Cops knew that but couldn’t say so publicly.
I’m amazed at how perfectly page 69 captures the personal and professional dilemmas confronting Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis in this, his fourth Greece-based mystery-thriller. Less than a week before his wedding Andreas is ordered by his boss, Greece’s minister of public order, to arrange for the termination of an investigation into the murder of two gypsies found charred beyond recognition and chained together amid bits and pieces of an incinerated Greek flag on the Aegean Greek island of Tinos.

The Greek government fears that those in Europe who seek to deny Greece further financial bailout assistance might use the murders to paint Greeks as intolerant and indifferent to the plight of non-Greeks; a volatile, irrational, and emotional argument but one, if believed, could turn world opinion against Greece and bring disaster to the country. At least that’s what Andreas is told. He’s not convinced, and the story takes off from there.

Target: Tinos was written long before Greece’s current crisis but the issues it raised have come to pass as the country finds itself amid social and political turmoil unlike any it’s faced since the overthrow of the nation’s military dictatorship in 1974. Greece has just witnessed the electoral meltdown of the two political parties that led the country since 1974 and the election to Parliament of a neo-Nazi fringe group spewing unvarnished hatred for immigrants.

In a world where immigrants are so often used in trying economic times as political scapegoats for a nation’s failings, results can be catastrophic. That is the backdrop for Target: Tinos, a story Publishers Weekly in a starred review called “superb…a winner,” The New York Times described as “another of Jeffrey Siger’s thoughtful police procedurals,” Kirkus Reviews said is “a complex portrait of contemporary Greece to bolster another solid whodunit,” Library Journal saw as “fast paced…interesting and highly entertaining,” and Booklist wrote “throbs with the pulse of Greek culture…an entertaining series.”
Learn more about the book and author at Jeffrey Siger's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Mykonos.

The Page 69 Test: Prey on Patmos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Don't Ever Get Old"

Daniel Friedman's writing has been published at McSweeney's, Yankee Pot Roast, Science Creative Quarterly and The Big Jewel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Don't Ever Get Old, his first novel in the Buck Schatz Series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Don't Ever Get Old is actually in the middle of one of my favorite scenes in the book. The hero of the story, 87 year-old WW2 veteran Baruch "Buck" Schatz, is hunting fugitive Nazi officer Heinrich Ziegler. Earlier in the book, his grandson, William Tecumseh "Tequila" Schatz contacted the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and discovered that their dossier on Ziegler is missing. So, they tracked down a former Wiesenthal Center employee named Avram Silver, who had worked on the matter. Silver was living in Israel, now working for the Israeli government in an unspecified capacity Buck called him long-distance, and the conversation turned nasty because Buck thought Silver was withholding information.

Two days later, a six-and-a-half foot tall Hasidic Jew with a Russian accent shows up at Buck's house, claiming to be a dignitary from the Israeli Diaspora ministry. Buck immediately distrusts this guy.

Here's the excerpt:
I looked at the way those big, sinewy hands folded around the coffee mug, and I considered all possible implications of Avram Silver’s good job with the Israeli government. Forty-eight hours had elapsed since the former Nazi-hunter hung up his phone on me and Tequila. Had he set this behemoth loose on us?

“So when did you make aliyah?” I asked.

“I emigrated to the Jewish homeland in 1992,” Steinblatt said.

“Right after the Soviet Union collapsed.”

“Yes. It was tumultuous time. I feared for the safety of my family.”

“Because you were Jews?”

He paused a tick before answering, and I saw feral intelligence flickering in his dark, deep-set eyes.


He had to be ex-Russian military or former KGB. An undercover Mossad assassin, right there at my damned kitchen table. Or maybe he was a simple flack for the State of Israel who just happened to be unusually large. My doctor had warned me to report any paranoid feelings; they were an early sign of dementia among the elderly.

I cleared my throat.

“So, who was it again who told you to come by and talk to me?”

“I spoke to someone with the Memphis Jewish Federation,” he said.

“You didn’t talk to Avram Silver?”

His face hung slack and expressionless. “I don’t know who that is.”

I took a long sip from my coffee.
Learn more about the book and author at Daniel Friedman's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Hand Me Down"

Melanie Thorne earned her MA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Davis, where she was awarded the Alva Englund Fellowship and the Maurice Prize in fiction. She was a resident at the Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat in 2011, and her work has appeared in various journals, including The Greenbelt Review and Global City Review.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Hand Me Down, her first novel, and reported the following:
I lucked out and found that page 69 is one of my favorite scenes in the book and is very much representative of a few major themes in Hand Me Down, particularly the strength of the bond between the narrator, Liz, and her little sister, Jaime. At the top of page 69 they are alone in the truck their drunken father has just driven off the road.
Her blond hair covered her face and she didn’t move. I couldn’t tell if she was breathing...On the floor at Jaime’s side, I swept her hair off her chilly forehead, pressed two fingers to her damp neck, and found a pulse.
Liz has spent her whole life doing her best to protect her little sister: from their father’s drunk driving and angry fists, from their sex-offender step-father’s inappropriate gestures and lingering touches. In this scene, Jaime is unconscious, and Liz is terrified. Throughout the book, especially once the sisters are separated, Liz is fearful for her sister’s safety. This scene is a prime example of why.
“Jaime, wake up.” I yanked on her eyelashes and she didn’t flinch. “Okay, drama queen,” I said, and shook her shoulders. “Enough already.” Her head flopped to the side on a neck made of taffy. The pulse at my temples increased to a vibration, a buzzing warning in my brain building like a swarm of bees...I cradled her head and lifted her upper body into my lap...smoothed her clammy skin with my hand and wrapped my arms around her torso. “Hey, little sister,” I said. “I’m here.” I rocked us gently back and forth like I did at night when Jaime’s nightmares scared her into consciousness, like I’d done when Mom’s and Dad’s screams burrowed through the walls.
Liz loves Jaime so much, more than anything else in the world, and in this moment, she thinks Jaime might be gone. At this point in the story, Liz and Jaime’s mother has just started dating the creepy guy she will later marry and choose over her daughters, but right now, Liz is only starting to realize how alone she and Jaime really are. Liz vows to be tougher if Jaime makes it through this night.
I kissed her limp hand. “This isn’t funny, Jaime,” I said. I poked each of her fingertips with my nails. “Open your eyes.” It looked like she was sleeping, but she was so pale. Tears streamed down my face and for the first time in years, I didn’t know what to do.
This scene also shows Liz helpless, a state she tries hard to avoid. She blames herself—as so many kids do—and if Jaime doesn’t wake up, it’ll be her punishment for not being vigilant enough. She will later have to learn to find a balance between safety and sacrifice, figure out how to accept that it’s not her fault, but for now, all she can see is that her sister is hurt and there is nothing she can do.

Page 69 ends with: “Jaime,” I said softly. “Where’d you go?”
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Thorne's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue