Thursday, May 30, 2013

"The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope"

Rhonda Riley is a graduate of the creative writing program at the University of Florida.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope, her recently released debut novel, and reported the following:
At first glance, page 69 may seem more like a transition scene. But, in fact, there is a lot happening. On that page, the narrator, Evelyn’s parents arrive at the farm she is taking care of. Nineteen-year-old Evelyn was there alone during a huge storm that brought a stranger to her, someone who has changed dramatically and now looks very much like her. On this page, Momma and Daddy come to check on Evelyn and they meet the stranger, Addie, for the first time. Evelyn tells them the lie she made up to explain Addie’s similarity to her. She wants to protect Addie, and she is certain no one would believe the truth. While she is doing that, the low inaudible vibration of Addie’s voice, calms the scene. And though neither Evelyn or the readers knows it at the time, Momma’s reaction to Addie is tainted by her own secret, a secret that will not be revealed until the second half of the book. The long-term love story between A. and Evelyn is not so evident on this page, but their complicity is. Evelyn covers for Addie and Addie uses her voice to sooth and change the tone of the situation, as she will throughout the novel. Most readers seem to focus on the relationship between A. and Evelyn, but for me, Evelyn’s relationship with her mother is also very important. This page certainly reveals the beginning of the novel’s theme of lying and story-telling, it begins the books exploration of the ways we reveal or hide ourselves even in love, in all kinds of love, not just romantic sexual love. The most important elements of the novel are there on page 69, but I think a reader popping open the book and checking that page might not see that. It is not a particularly dramatic scene.
Learn more about the book and author at Rhonda Riley's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Sight Reading"

Daphne Kalotay's fiction collection, Calamity and Other Stories (Doubleday), was short listed for the 2005 Story Prize, and her debut novel, Russian Winter (HarperCollins), won the 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Fiction Prize, made the long list for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and has been published in 21 foreign editions.

Kalotay applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sight Reading, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
“What I want you to learn,” Conrad Lesser said that first day, leaning back in a wooden swivel chair so that his flaplike ears seemed even larger, “more than anything else that you learn in this class, is how to love music.”

Remy and the others nodded reverently. The class was small; besides Remy there was a pretty brunette named Barb; a Russian boy called Mischa; twin sisters named Penelope and Pauline; and a timid blond boy (the youngest in the class) who said his name so softly, no one caught it. Each of them had been assigned a new piece to learn by heart, and Remy could tell that each of them was terrified.

The blond boy was asked to go first. He had been assigned Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major, and as he began to play, with a definite flair but also somehow too slick, Remy recalled some of the musical friends she had known who flew from continent to continent to compete in contests and had this same, overly polished air.

Mrs. Lepik had forbidden Remy to follow that path; she said it was bad to always be in the spotlight, that competitions narrowed one’s creative field, that by playing the same carefully perfected pieces over and over, one’s playing became mannered. Remy supposed this was what had happened with the blond boy, who seemed to have modeled his playing on Jascha Heifetz; his bowing and slides, his very stance, were recognizable, almost a pose. Lesser told him to stop.

“It’s very clear which recording you’ve been listening to,” Lesser said. “A marvelous one. But what you’re doing now is an imitation. A copy. If this were a math exam, you wouldn’t copy, would you?”

The boy shook his head.

“Do you know why it’s wrong to copy?” Lesser didn’t wait for an answer. “Not just because it’s unoriginal. It’s that it’s insincere.”

The boy said something too soft for anyone to understand.

“We must always, every one of us, play from the heart. In fact, please sit down. Let’s hear from one of your colleagues.” He motioned for Remy to stand.
This is the first time I’ve ever done this test with one of my books, so I was delighted to find the page pretty representative of the book as a whole. This scene takes place on the first day of summer-long master class that the young violinist, Remy, has auditioned for. She is one of three protagonists in the novel, a soulful character, serious and driven to succeed as a musician but passionate in other ways, too, and what she learns from this teacher will ultimately change the course of her life--and of the two other main characters. By pushing her harder than she has been pushed in the past, Conrad Lesser enables Remy to act on her desires in ways that have life-altering ramifications. Yes, she will learn “how to love music.” But in being genuine and true to herself as a musician, she expands emotionally as well, eventually wondering if it might in fact be more important to love—and be loved by—another human being.
Learn more about the book and author at Daphne Kalotay's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"All the Summer Girls"

Meg Donohue is the bestselling author of All the Summer Girls and How to Eat a Cupcake, which was translated into Dutch, German, Italian, and Polish. She has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives San Francisco with her husband, two young daughters, and Cole, her endearing Taiwanese rescue pup.

Donohue applied the Page 69 Test to All the Summer Girls and reported the following:
Page 69 of All the Summer Girls both is and is not representative of the book as whole. I’ll start with the ways it’s not: The scene on page 69 is not set at the beach, and it doesn’t mention summer, both of which are integral to the tone and setting of the book. Page 69 is representative of the book because it’s a conversation between old friends, and the book revolves around the friendship of three women—the ways and reasons each woman, and their friendship, has changed over the years. The chapters are told from alternating points of view, rotating between each woman. Page 69 falls in one of Vanessa’s chapters; it is the scene in which she reveals to her friend Kate that she is thinking of reconnecting with an old boyfriend. Kate has her own issues going on, which the reader knows from her chapter, and in this phone call we see the way information is passed between the friends, how some things are left unsaid, and others are misinterpreted. Some secrets are bared, and others kept longer still.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Donohue's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: How to Eat a Cupcake.

Writers Read: Meg Donohue (April 2012).

My Book, The Movie: How to Eat a Cupcake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Son of Destruction"

Kit Reed's books include a new novel, Son of Destruction and The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories, which features some Reed classics as well as her personal favorites over several decades, including six new stories, never before collected.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Son of Destruction and reported the following:
Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on? I think so. No allusion to spontaneous human combustion, which is at the center of the novel, but a representative slice of "society" in Fort Jude, Florida, where these human fires take place.
God damn Davis, he lit up like it was Christmas morning. "Great, I'll need the weekend to pack. Do you want to me to pick up cartons or can I borrow the roller bags?"

I'm glad Steffie crashed into the kitchen just then, before I screamed at him. She thumped through the Florida room in a panic, calling, "Mom?" like the world was ending. "Dad?" She tumbled into the living room with her hair gone wild and when she saw us facing off, all hostile and stony, she stopped cold, and I can't tell if she was disappointed, or just surprised "Oh! You're all right."

"Steffy!" And we tried so hard to keep her out of this. "Honey, of course we are."

"I was so scared!"

She looked so stricken that, forgive me, I yelled at her. "Well, get a grip!"

And God damn Davis, he just blinked, sticky sweet and bland as custard pie. "Scared, honey? Tell Daddy what you're afraid of."

What do you think she's afraid of, you sniveling cheat. I was furious at Davis, but that's not who I hurt. "Go upstairs and get decent. You look like shit!" She ran out sobbing even though I called after her, trying to make it right. "I bought you a great dress. Carter's coming to the party, Sallie made him swear."

Now she's upstairs, crying in the tub.

Davis let loose as soon as she cleared the room. At least she didn't have to hear her dad swearing and slamming as he stomped out through the Florida room and drove away. That's the beauty of central air. We're sealed up tight against heat and street noises and outside interference of any kind.

Except Bobby, waiting for somebody to answer the bell. I have to to wipe my hand across my face and go to the door with a smile. Live in this town long enough and you learn how to do that in seconds, bump up the rheostat so nobody knows what just happened or how bad it was, and I will be charming. "Bobby?"

"No Ma'am." Who is this lovely man? Look at him! Good-looking in a blurred, messed-up kind of way, with such a hopeful grin that you just know he's OK. I come to the door a walking shipwreck, and here he is on my doorstep, like a gift. "Mrs. McCall?"

"Nenna. It’s short for Genevieve." As if we're already friends.

"I'm Dan. Your daughter left her backpack and I..." He hands it off like a calling card.

"Oh, you must be from the school."
He takes a little bit too long to answer but that's OK...
Learn more about the author and her work at Kit Reed's website.

My Book, The Movie: Son of Destruction and The Story Until Now.

Writers Read: Kit Reed.

--Marshal Zeringue

"The Story Until Now"

Kit Reed's books include a new novel, Son of Destruction and The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories, which features some Reed classics as well as her personal favorites over several decades, including six new stories, never before collected.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Story Until Now and reported the following:
One of my all-time favorite stories starts on page 69; it's called "High Rise High" and this is the opening page:
The situation at the school is about like you'd expect: total anarchy, bikers roaring through the halls pillaging and laying waste; big guys hanging screaming frosh out of windows by their feet, shut up or I let go; bathroom floods and flaming mattresses, minor explosions and who knows how many teacher hostages; this is worse than Attica and the monster prom that puts the arm on Armageddon is Saturday night. The theme is Tinsel Dreams; expect wild carnage fueled by kid gangs sallying forth to trash your neighborhood and bring back anything they want. Who knows how they got out of the citadel? Who can say exactly how they get back in?
An interesting thing has happened. Nobody's cell phone works inside the walls. Worse. The land lines have been cut so you can't phone in.

Then there is the problem with the baby. See, this Bruce Brill, he tries to get down with the kids, you know, call me Bruce, but the kids call him the Motivator? He's always, like, "Come on, if you want to, you can get a C," big mistake trying that on Johnny Slater: "Why are you holding back like this? You could go to MIT!" Well, that and his stupid play. OK, this is what you get for pissing Johnny off. He and his gang have snatched your pregnant wife, they broke into your house while you were scrubbing your hands in front of English class, we'll Macbeth you. Johnny is holding pregnant Jane in the woodworking shop while his seven best buds rig the table saw to rip her fuckin in half. Boy, you should hear her scream. Listen, when Mr. McShy the band teacher begged them to let her go the seven of them did, yes they did smash sensitive Eddie McShy's Stradivarius over his sensitive head; while he weeps and the pregnant lady screams for help, Johnny uses the splinters to pick his front teeth.

It's Teach, this eager jerk Bruce Brill, that alerted us in the city. "I tried to tell you but you wouldn't listen." Look up from supper and Teach is on your screen sobbing for Global TV. "Now it's too late."

Hunkered down in his office with a handful of survivors, deposed principal Irving Wardlaw shakes his fist at the TV. Frankly, the riot broke out because Bruce tried to make Johnny play a fairy in his "Midsummer Night's Dream." Fucking Shakespeare, what do you expect?
Learn more about the author and her work at Kit Reed's website.

My Book, The Movie: Son of Destruction and The Story Until Now.

Writers Read: Kit Reed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"The Caretaker"

A .X. Ahmad was raised in India, educated at Vassar College and M.I.T., and has worked internationally as an architect. His short stories have been published in literary magazines, and he’s been listed in Best American Essays. The Caretaker is his first novel, to be followed by Bollywood Taxi next year. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Ahmad applied the Page 69 Test to The Caretaker and reported the following:
Much to my chagrin, page 69 of my thriller, The Caretaker, was a quiet scene.

The protagonist, a recent Indian immigrant, has just come home, and stands in the doorway of a borrowed house in Martha’s Vineyard, looking in at his wife and young daughter. At first glance, just a quiet, domestic moment.

And yet: things are not what they seem.

Someone wants to kill this man. He has just been attacked by a savage dog, and killed it with a knife, utilizing skills learned years ago in the Indian Army.

He hides his wounds from his wife and daughter, because they are, for once, happy. In the midst of a brutally cold winter, he has illegally moved them into a rich man’s empty mansion. Here his family, warm and safe, can wear Indian clothes and pretend they are back in India.

This is why the man hesitates at the doorway. Looking in at his own life, he savors this moment of domestic bliss. But he knows that it cannot last, because there is a darkness out there.

The Caretaker is, after all, a thriller. Here’s an excerpt from page 69:
It is dark by the time Ranjit gets back to Aquinnah. He parks outside the house and unbuttons his shirt to check for scratches: his shoulder is bruised, but, thank the Guru, his skin is unbroken, the thick canvas jacket having absorbed the impact of the dog’s assault. The jacket is ripped and useless now. Taking it off, he stuffs it into his toolbox before entering the house.

He expects Preetam to be on the phone, but instead it is quiet, and he can hear the low murmur of voices.

Standing in the entryway, he sees Preetam sitting on the gray leather couch, with Shanti on the floor below her. He watches as Preetam gently combs through the tangles in Shanti’s long, curly hair, then pours oil from a bottle and massages it into her daughter’s scalp. The sickly sweet fragrance of coconut oil fills the room.
Learn more about the book and author at A.X. Ahmad's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Angel Baby"

Richard Lange is the author of the story collection Dead Boys, which received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the novel This Wicked World. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and his fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2004 and 2011. He lives in Los Angeles.

Lange applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Angel Baby, and reported the following:
Angel Baby is the story of Luz, the beautiful, abused wife of a Tijuana drug lord, who decides to escape her husband’s clutches and return to the U.S. to reclaim her young daughter, who is being raised by relatives. The getaway doesn’t go as smoothly as she planned, however, and she finds herself on the run with a bag of her husband’s money and his pimped-out Colt .45. In the course of her journey across the border and through Southern California, she crosses paths with an alcoholic human smuggler nursing a tragic secret and a death wish, a ruthless ex-gang member ordered to track her down, and a corrupt border cop who will go to any lengths to get his hands on the money she’s carrying.

Page 69 is the first meeting between Luz and Malone, the man who’ll be driving her across the border. It takes place in a Tijuana body shop under the watchful eye of a pollero named Freddy.
The car’s horn bleats twice, and a voice calls out in English, “Open up, already.”

Goyo waddles over and takes hold of the gate, drags it sideways. A beat-up silver BMW pulls into the lot. The engine sputters and dies, and darkness and quiet return. Luz lowers the gun into the pack but stays where she is, back pressed against the chain-link fence.

A white man steps out of the car, some beach bum, tall and thin, older, maybe thirty, thirty-five. He’s wearing a T-shirt advertising a surf shop, plaid shorts, and black Converse tennis shoes. Surely this isn’t the guy Freddy’s been talking up all day, his best driver. This pendejo can’t even keep his hair out of his eyes, keeps having to brush it back every time he turns his head.

“Just so you know, this isn’t going to be a regular thing,” he says to Freddy. “Nighttime is the wrong time to be fucking around down here.”

“If you have trouble with anyone, tell them you know me,” Freddy says.

“Yeah, right,” the bum says. “I do that, I’ll end up in the river.”

“Hey, we’re all going to end up in the river someday,” Freddy says.

He leans in close to speak quietly to the bum. The bum listens for a while, nodding agreeably, but then suddenly stops Freddy and says, “In the morning? You didn’t say anything about in the morning.” Apparently, there’s a disagreement over the details of the trip. Not being able to hear what’s being said, all Luz can do is watch the men argue in urgent whispers. The bum puts up a fight, but Freddy is relentless and eventually gets his way. He slaps the bum on the back and steers him to where Luz is waiting.

“Now come and meet our friend,” he says. “She needs our help.”

“There any beer around?” the bum asks.

“Goyo,” Freddy calls and tips an imaginary can into his mouth. Goyo grunts and walks into the office.

Freddy brings the bum over, and Luz moves away from the fence, standing up straight to look down her nose at him. His blue eyes are bloodshot, and he looks as if he could use a shower.

Señorita Luz, this is Kevin Malone, who’s going to take you across,” Freddy says.

Malone lifts his chin by way of greeting, doesn’t even meet her gaze. It’s like he could take or leave this job. This infuriates Luz. She can’t believe she’ll be putting her life in the hands of this cabrón.
Angel Baby zooms along at a relentless pace; you’ll be hanging on for dear life after the first page, I promise. But there are also characters you’re going to care about, cheer on, and grieve for, because all the thrill and chills in the world don’t mean anything if you’re not emotionally involved with the people in peril. It’s a lean, mean crime novel, one that takes you on a wild ride, but also breaks your heart.
Learn more about the book and author at Richard Lange's website.

Writers Read: Richard Lange (August 2007).

The Page 69 Test: This Wicked World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Benjamin Franklin's Bastard"

Sally Cabot lives in Brewster, Massachusetts, with her husband, Tom. A lifelong resident of New England, she is active in the local historical society and creates tours that showcase the three-hundred-year history of her village.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Benjamin Franklin's Bastard, and reported the following:
Much to my delight, once I’d agreed to write this blog, I discovered how neatly page sixty-nine reflects several of the main themes in Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard. Franklin fathers a child with one of the “low women” he admitted in his autobiography that he visited. On discovering the child’s existence and the poor chance at life it faced in its present circumstance, Franklin claims the child, brings it home to his brand-new common-law wife, Deborah Read, and asks her to raise the child as her own. Deborah, uneducated, unworldly, and already compromised by the desertion of a former husband, feels she has little choice, if she wishes to remain with Franklin, but to accept this child. Page sixty-nine describes the scene where Deborah meets her new son:
Deborah looked at the infant and saw Benjamin; there could be no doubt of it. There was the wide forehead and the dimpled chin; there, already, were the round, intelligent eyes that looked at every new thing with such great interest. But what of those things that hadn’t come from Benjamin? By now Deborah knew every inch of her husband’s square, solid flesh, and it couldn’t account for the pointed little chin, the delicate nose, the long, slender fingers.

Benjamin made as if to hold the child out to Deborah but she took a step back, concealing her cowardice by saying, “Let me get his pap.” She retreated to the kitchen and Benjamin followed; she set the bowl and spoon on the table and waved Benjamin to the chair before it, but he shook his head.

“His first meal must be from his new mother,” he said, pushing gently at Deborah’s shoulder till she’d backed up into the chair, placing the child in her arms. “Meet William,” he said. “William, meet your mother.” The small face puckered. Deborah dipped the spoon and thrust it at the infant – he took it at once in a great gulp that made him sputter; he took another and settled his surprising weight against her, his eyes – Benjamin’s eyes -- fixed on Deborah’s. She felt as she looked at him that he knew more than she did already, that he knew better than to trust her. Yes, already his eyes had drifted away and fixed on Benjamin as he ate, as if they were long acquainted.
This passage signals much of importance about Deborah Read: that she loves Franklin, that she struggles all her life to keep up with his stellar trajectory, that she doesn’t handle this sudden inheritance of his bastard well. It further reflects the insecurities, resentments, and jealousies that might accompany an adoption in which the child is a constant reminder of a partner’s betrayal. The scene foreshadows two other voices/themes in the book -- the bastard son and his struggle to find his way beside a father who eclipses him and a mother who can’t quite accept him, and the “low woman” who manages to physically but not emotionally relinquish her child. These three characters lock into orbit around the sun that is Franklin and propel the book forward from this early scene.
Learn more about the author and her work at Sally Cabot's Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Benjamin Franklin's Bastard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"A Case of Redemption"

Adam Mitzner is the author of A Conflict of Interest and the new legal thriller, A Case of Redemption.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Case of Redemption and reported the following:
At the start of A Case of Redemption we learn that Dan Sorensen is a former partner of a major New York City law firm who has left the practice of law 18 months earlier after his wife and daughter are killed in a car accident. He is approached by a family friend to take on the case of an up and coming rapper named Legally Dead, who has been accused of murdering his pop star girlfriend.

Page 69 contains an important scene in the book: a discussion between Dan and Nina in which Dan expresses his hesitancy to take on the case of Legally Dead. Nina tells him that she thinks that Legally Dead is innocent, and that's why she's on board. However, she also tells Dan that he has to have his own reasons for becoming involved. As Dan considers the issue, he realizes that representing Legally Dead might be his last, best chance to put his own life back on track. The page ends with Dan pressing the send button to file his notice of appearance with the court that he would be counsel of record in the murder trial of Legally Dead.
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Conflict of Interest.

Writers Read: Adam Mitzner (May 2011).

My Book, The Movie: A Conflict of Interest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Dear Lucy"

Julie Sarkissian is a graduate of Princeton University, where she won the Francis Leon Paige Award for creative writing, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She lives in New York City.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dear Lucy, and reported the following:
From Page 69 of Dear Lucy:
“‘How much longer, Baby,’ I ask.

Then we are quiet while the baby thinks about how much longer.

Then Samantha says, ‘He’s almost ready.’”
On page 69 of Dear Lucy, Lucy, a learning-disabled young woman, and Samantha, a pregnant teenager, both living and working on a mysterious farm, talk intimately on Samantha’s bed. Lucy asks Samantha when her baby will be born, and Samantha tells Lucy, just a little longer. As they are talking, an unopened letter falls from Samantha’s diary. Lucy can’t read but is nonetheless fascinated by words and considers a letter to be a scared object because it is a form of communication - something Lucy cherishes in any form. Lucy asks who the letter is for, and when Samantha admits the letter is for her, Lucy asks why Samantha hasn’t opened the letter. Samantha disregards Lucy’s question.

On the this page the reader learns that Samantha has been telling lies about the relationship between her and her baby’s father. Samantha, unwilling to taint Lucy’s naïve understanding of love and family, has been telling her that the father of the baby doesn’t know where Samantha is, and that Samantha has no way to get in touch with him. But when Lucy relays to the reader the letters addressing the envelope: TO SAMANTHA, FROM ALLEN, we know that the father of Samantha’s baby does indeed know how to contact her, though we don’t yet know why Samantha chooses not to open his letters.

Page 69 introduces Samantha’s duplicity in regards to her past, as well as highlights Lucy’s tenderness for, and lack of understanding of, the written word. Both these themes are essential emotional through-lines of Dear Lucy.
Learn more about the book and author at Julie Sarkissian's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Better Food for a Better World"

Born and raised in Redondo Beach, California, Erin McGraw received her MFA at Indiana University and has lived in the Midwest ever since. Along with her husband, the poet Andrew Hudgins, she teaches at the Ohio State University and divides her time between Ohio and Tennessee.

Her newest novel is Better Food for a Better World. Before that she published The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard (a novel), The Good Life (stories), The Baby Tree (a novel), Lies of the Saints (stories, and a New York Times Notable Book for 1996), and Bodies at Sea (stories).

McGraw applied the Page 69 Test to Better Food for a Better World and reported the following:
An idle reader flipping to page 69 of Better Food for a Better World might not know exactly what's going on, but that reader will figure out pretty quickly that something's going on. One of the characters, Sam, is explaining to his co-worker Nancy that absolutely nothing is wrong with him standing alongside pretty, lithe Cecilia in a dark room where Cecilia has been playing her violin. Nancy, no fool, frowns at them and says, "What would you have done if David or Vivy had walked in?" David and Vivy are Sam and Cecilia's spouses. They all work together, and Nancy thought they knew everything about one another, until she stumbled in on this.

Sam smoothly assures Nancy that nothing at all is amiss. No, nothing is peculiar about Cecilia playing her violin for him in the dark. No, sir.

Nancy cries, "Don't you listen at Life Ties?"--Life Ties being the marriage-support group they all belong to. Nancy may be a little lead-footed, but she's trying to prevent what she's sure she sees--Sam and Cecilia plunging into a marriage-wrecking mistake. And Sam and Cecilia don't have the least interest in listening to Nancy. At least not by the bottom of page 69.
Learn more about the book and author at Erin McGraw's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Erin McGraw & Max and Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Onion Street"

Reed Farrel Coleman's eighth and latest Moe Prager mystery is Onion Street.

Coleman applied the Page 69 Test to Onion Street and reported the following:
Page 69 of Onion Street is more representative of the tense tone of the novel than of the novel itself.
… He’d won the rabbit’s foot in Coney Island for shooting a red star out of a piece of paper with a BB submachine gun.
The twenty year old Moe Prager sits in his brother’s car, spying on his best friend, Bobby Freidman. As Moe watches, he notices Bobby pull out his key chain and on that chain is that rabbit’s foot. Bobby, whose parents are old school Communists, don’t much care for their son because he likes money. He likes making it and he likes spending it.

As Moe watches, he recalls joking with Bobby about how he’d won the rabbit’s foot.
… “Shooting a red star,” I said. “don’t tell your parents or they’ll send you to Siberia.”

I remember he just kind of laughed, but I think he kept the stupid rabbit’s foot as a kind of Fuck you to his parents...
But there’s nothing funny about what’s happening in pg 69 or in the previous 68 pages. Moe’s girlfriend Mindy, a campus radical, has been beaten into a coma and left to die on the streets of Brooklyn. As she fights for her life in the hospital, Moe is staking out an address which he has been led to believe is somehow connected to the attack on Mindy. Just as he is about to check out the address himself, Moe spots Bobby opening the door to that address. Moe’s head fills with questions. Why is Bobby there? Why does he have keys to the front door? Moe has no answers and does the only thing he can do.
… Bobby was stepping through the white door and closing it behind him. I fought my natural curiosity, sat tight, and waited. My patience was rewarded. Less than five minutes after he went in, Bobby came flying through the white door. His head was on a swivel, turning right, then left, then right again. He was breathless, panting, his chest heaving, but it was the panicked look on his face that really got my attention. Sucking in big gulps of frosty air, blowing staccato clouds of steam out of his mouth, he seemed to be trying to calm himself down before taking another step. Then, after he’d seen that no one was walking his way from either directions, Bobby rushed into his Olds and fishtailed away, smoking his rear tires on the slick pavement at he went.
What had Bobby seen in the apartment? Moe didn’t know, but he was about to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

Writers Read: Reed Farrel Coleman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Grail of the Summer Stars"

Freda Warrington, who was born in and lives in Leicestershire, England, is the author of twenty novels. The recently released Grail of the Summer Stars is her third Aetherial Tales novel, her first series to be published in the United States. The first, Elfland, was named Best Fantasy of the Year by RT Book Reviews.

Warrington applied the Page 69 Test to Grail of the Summer Stars and reported the following:
The ‘Page 69’ test is such fun – I’ve applied it before (to Elfland) and it worked out quite nicely, showing a pivotal scene in the protagonist’s life. Of course, every page should do this but it won’t always be the scene the author would have chosen to showcase! So I’m pleased to find that page 69 of Grail of the Summer Stars – my third Aetherial Tale for Tor – contains a crucial encounter for my character Rufus.

Rufus is an age-old Aetherial (a non-human, elf-like-but-not race who live in the contemporary world) from an ancient civilisation known as the Felynx, and he's a bit of a “baddie”. He loves bringing mischief and mayhem to those around him, with the odd bit of genocide thrown in. However, believing his brother Mistangamesh to be dead (see Midsummer Night), he’s embarked on a grief-stricken orgy of self-destruction which has led him to the depths of evil – illegal arms-trading. Somewhere in the wilds of the Pakistan/ Afghanistan border, he has lost his Jeep in an earthquake and found his way to the nearest town, where he meets a seismologist calling herself Dr Orla Connelly. Rufus strongly suspects Orla of being his long-lost sister Aurata, with whom he once had an incestuous relationship. After a long day spent digging survivors out of the rubble, they are resting in Orla’s tent, playing a game of “Who’s going to admit it first?”
The ground began to tremble with a prolonged aftershock.

“Now one of us should make a joke about the earth moving,” said Rufus.

“The earthquake is due to faulting within the lithosphere of the subducted Arabian Plate as it grinds beneath the convergent plate boundaries,” she murmured.

“I’m not sure that’s funny, but the way you say it sounds incredibly sexy.”

“Oh, it is.” She smiled, more with her eyes than her mouth.

They lay in silence, waiting for the movement to subside. Orla stared upward, as if absorbing every nuance. He still couldn’t believe that she’d become a scientist, a doctor, part of a team. That was true human camouflage. He’d never troubled to learn anything in particular, still less to attend a university or give any credence to human qualifications. She’d evolved, and he felt oddly inadequate. But, after all this time, who wouldn’t change? Even the ancient, timeless Felynx. The question was not whether they’d changed, but how much the changes actually mattered?

Now they were engaged in a strange dance around each other, both secretly knowing the truth but daring the other one to speak first.

“One of us should begin,” said Orla. “What are you thinking?”

Finally Rufus said, “I used to dream about you. You were calling to me from some kind of limbo with grey walls. Nine-tenths of me was sure you perished in Azantios, but the last tenth insisted that you must still exist . . . somewhere.”

He heard her release a small breath of exasperation. “Who do you think I am? Rufus, we both know, so why can’t we say it aloud?”

“It might break the magic,” he said softly.

Her eyes narrowed, irresistibly seductive. “Magic? Rufus, please. Is it gun-selling that’s turned you so romantic?”

“All right.” He paused. “It’s gentlemanly to go first, but I hesitate because I’ve made grave mistakes in the past. I was convinced I recognized someone, so convinced that I couldn’t accept I was monstrously wrong. Now I have the same feeling about you, but I don’t trust it.”

“This time, you probably should trust yourself, Rufus. I have been calling you. Gods, it took you long enough to hear me!”

“Calling . . .?” He stared into the deep fire of her eyes. “Tell me your real name. I’ve already told you mine.”

“No. You must say it; then I’ll tell you if you’re right.”

“This is turning into a game.”

“No game.” She trailed a finger from his shoulder to his elbow. Her voice was honey. “This is more important than you can imagine.”

Grinning, he leaned off the mattress and picked up her notebook and pen lying nearby. “All right, I’m going to write your true name on a piece of paper. Then you say it out loud, and we’ll see if it matches what I’ve written.”
While Rufus isn’t the main protagonist – that role is shared by a new character, Stevie, and the supposedly dead Mistangamesh – he is a definite antagonist, a major player crucial to the plot. Was Rufus responsible for attacking Stevie and stealing an enigmatic painting from her? And why has the artist – her old flame Daniel – gone missing? The story takes Stevie and Mist from an industrial museum in Birmingham (UK), to the village of Cloudcroft (where they seek help from characters we met in Elfland) and on a weird and terrifying journey through the Otherworld to the colourful deserts of Nevada, as they try to unravel a tangle of unearthly mysteries. Each Aetherial Tale can be read on its own, but it's nice if you read all three because there's a big background arc that resolves in Grail.
Learn more about the book and author at Freda Warrington's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Elfland.

The Page 69 Test: Midsummer Night.

My Book, The Movie: Midsummer Night.

Writers Read: Freda Warrington.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Where the Light Falls"

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Katherine Keenum graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in English and earned a Ph.D. in medieval studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She worked in the publicity department of the New Orleans Public Schools, taught in the expository writing program at Yale University, and served as the executive editor of the book publishing program of the Council on East Asian Studies at Harvard University.

Keenum applied the Page 69 Test to Where the Light Falls, her first published work of fiction, and reported the following:
I laughed out loud when I opened Where the Light Falls after receiving the invitation to take the Page 69 Test. Right smack-dab in the middle of the page was a chapter break with lots of white space above and below it.
The next thing they knew, they had been disgorged into Paris.


Getting Started

For their first week, Jeanette and Effie had reservations at the Pavillon des Dames, a hotel on the Left Bank recommended by Miss Whitmore. As soon as their porter found their four-wheeled fiacre, Effie handed him his tip and read off their address to the driver: Her accent was bad, but her delivery had the ring of authority. In dealing with city cab drivers, she was back in her element.
Can’t we choose something more representative? I thought. Yet the more I looked, the more I realized that applying the Page 69 Test here points to two valuable lessons. First, although the tactile sensation of turning a new page may help emphasize the change from one chapter to the next in a printed book, it cannot do so if the page design calls for continuous flow nor can it ever do so in an e-book. For writers today, therefore, it is more important than ever to make sure narrative rhythm, continuity, and contrast between chapters are controlled by the prose. Second, in this case, the end of Chapter Six and beginning of Chapter Seven were places where I had condensed in response to an editorial call for shortening the overall manuscript. Out went enlivening dialogue and incident that contributed to atmosphere more than the plot. Lesson learned: In my current work-in-progress, I am resolved that by the time an editor sees the manuscript, it will contain no extended passages that anyone would think for a moment could come out!
Learn more about the book and author at Katherine Keenum's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Katherine Keenum and Palmer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Love Me Anyway"

Tiffany Hawk is writer living near Washington D.C. whose work has appeared in such places as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Traveler and on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Her debut novel, Love Me Anyway, is a darkly funny look into the emotional heart of the airline industry, with all its allure, loneliness, and ever-present temptations.

Hawk applied the Page 69 Test to Love Me Anyway and reported the following:
I was looking forward to this test, but I have to admit I also wondered how I would feel if it turned out to be a lame page. I couldn’t believe what I found – the one page that is simultaneously the most and least representative of the story. Page 69 opens the chapter called How to Be a Flight Attendant, the only chapter that is written in the second person. It’s meant to speak for all of the characters, and yet it isn’t from the perspective of a single one of them, though it does hint at Emily’s soon-to-ignite love affair.
How to be a Flight Attendant

There is only one way to survive life as a new flight attendant. Appear perfect. Luckily, this comes easy for you. You have been pleasing people all your life.

Arrive twenty minutes early for your four a.m. check-in. Carefully pin each strand of your hair into a wisp-free French twist. Buff your black high-heels on the Buffmaster electric shoe shiner in the pre-flight groom room. Cheerfully welcome three hundred and twelve passengers with a well-feigned enthusiasm for pre-dawn departures. Try not to let the guy in 14E remind you of the last man you kissed. With 26,000 flight attendants, the odds of running into him are slim.

Push the beverage cart down the aisle and pass out OJs and coffees and decafs.

Make sure to place the napkins face up with the airline’s logo pointed towards the passengers. You have to be careful. A girl was actually sent home from training for blowing this one.

Ask the man in 17H. “Can I get you something to drink this morning, sir?”

“I don’t know if you can, but you may get me a sparkling water with lime,” he says with a scowl.
It’s a short page, but I like that it encompasses so much of what the book is about – the day-in-the-life details of the airline world, the anonymity and loneliness of being on the road, the constant opportunities for fleeting intimacies, some of which prove impossible to forget.
Learn more about the book and author at Tiffany Hawk's website.

My Book, The Movie: Love Me Anyway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Domestic Affairs"

Bridget Siegel, author of Domestic Affairs: A Campaign Novel, has worked on political campaigns at the local, state, and national levels. A graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, she is now an actor, writer, and political consultant. She lives in New York City.

Siegel applied the Page 69 Test to Domestic Affairs and reported the following:
Page 69 starts with a young fundraiser spewing inside-baseball campaign speak to some heavy hitting donors and ends with “Olivia sat up a little, jolted by the touch of his (the Governor's) hand on her shoulder ...". While a reader might be more intrigued with a turn of the page, when the Governor's hand falls to a comfortable resting place on the small of the young fundraiser's back, I do think page 69 is pretty representative of the book on the whole. If I've done it right it's a behind-the-scenes look at political fundraising with a behind-the-behind-the-scenes affair.
Learn more about the book and author at Bridget Siegel's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Domestic Affairs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 13, 2013


Terra Elan McVoy has been reading and writing since she first learned how to, and her whole life has been motivated by her enthusiasm for those two things. She received her BA in English at St. Andrews University, and an MA in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She has worked as an event coordinator at a major chain bookstore; an editorial assistant at an NYC publisher; as manager of an independent children's bookstore; and as Program Director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival. She is the author of Pure, After the Kiss, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, Being Friends with Boys, and Criminal.

McVoy applied the Page 69 Test to Criminal and reported the following:
From Page 69:
I wanted Dee holding me again, like he had been only an hour ago. Making the world only him and me and nothing else.

“Go in there,” she gestured to the bathroom around the corner, “look in the mirror, and you tell me just how happy you are.”

“Maybe you should do that yourself,” I spat, turning around and leaving her there alone in her clean kitchen.

But when I went to wash my face and brush my teeth, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t meet the eye of my reflection for more than a few seconds at a time.

Bird and I had fought before. Usually, after, we didn’t even apologize. She didn’t like dwelling on much of anything, but especially not ugliness. But apparently she’d been dwelling on her dislike for Dee even more than I thought. And now that it was out, I didn’t know how long it was going to stay around.

The next morning, I kept out of her way. I was still mad, too. She had to do her KFC job though, and I had to go to work myself, so that made avoiding her easier. When I got home we ate dinner at the TV and then went to bed, not talking more than we had to. I was calmer at that point, but it was clear she still needed space. I understood she was mad about the police, because they freaked me out too. But they hadn’t come around to ask me anything else today...
Surprisingly enough, this is a nice little microcosm of Criminal. It mentions Dee (Nikki’s boyfriend), and Bird (Nikki’s roommate/best friend), and also how much Bird dislikes Dee. It also mentions the police, and that Nikki isn’t feeling so great about what’s going on, so you get a touch of the crime element here too.

Bird and Nikki’s relationship is actually one of the most emotional parts of the book for me. Bird is the foil in Nikki’s life for Dee, but unfortunately, Nikki favors the destructive love she gets from her boyfriend, over the stronger, more difficult love of her best friend. The arc of this friendship —how Nikki betrays Bird, and what Bird does as a result— is one of the ways in which Criminal is not actually so different from my other books, though. As somebody who is blessed with amazing, long-term friends —with whom I’ve experienced a variety of ups and downs—I really enjoy writing about the bonds between friends, how and why they get broken, and how you make amends over time (if at all). I think if you look at all of my books, actually, that’s a consistent theme with me.
Learn more about the book and author at Terra Elan McVoy's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Summer of Firsts and Lasts.

My Book, The Movie: Being Friends with Boys.

Writers Read: Terra Elan McVoy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"The Glass Wives"

Amy Sue Nathan lives and writes near Chicago where she hosts the popular blog, Women's Fiction Writers. She has published articles in Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune and New York Times Online among many others. Nathan is the proud mom of a son and a daughter in college, and a willing servant to two rambunctious rescued dogs.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Glass Wives, and reported the following:
What a shock to turn to page 69, which is the last page of Chapter 5, and find the crux of The Glass Wives within the few lines printed there.
Beth reached into her pocket and pulled out her smartphone. “Let’s make a list of everything you need.”

Evie knew what she needed, and Beth wouldn’t find her at the grocery store.
This is a turning point in the novel—the actual premise itself—when Evie, the main character, cautiously agrees to share her home, and living expenses, with her ex-husband’s young widow and baby. It’s this admission, acceptance—this resignation, if you will—that leads Evie on the path to altering her own perception of what it means to be a family.

And that’s what The Glass Wives is all about.
Learn more about the book and author at Amy Sue Nathan's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Amy Sue Nathan & Mitzi and Lizzie.

My Book, The Movie: The Glass Wives.

Writers Read: Amy Sue Nathan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Where You Can Find Me"

Sheri Joseph is the author of the novels Where You Can Find Me (Thomas Dunne Books 2013) and Stray (MacAdam/Cage 2007), as well as a cycle of stories, Bear Me Safely Over (Grove/Atlantic 2002). She has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the Grub Street National Book Prize, among other awards. She lives in Atlanta and teaches in the creative writing program of Georgia State University.

Joseph applied the Page 69 Test to Where You Can Find Me and reported the following:
I’d actually looked at my book awhile back with “The Page 69 Test” in mind and was disappointed that it seemed to fall in a lull. Just a few pages before, or after, there was strangeness and drama. On page 67, Marlene Vincent is in the cloud forest of Costa Rica with her 14-year-old son, Caleb, newly recovered after a three-year disappearance; one minute she’s rapturous and the next gripped with an illogical rage, the feeling that this is a stranger and not her child. On page 72, we’re in Caleb’s head as he encounters what he believes to be the ghost of a girl he knew while he was missing. In comparison to either, Page 69 struck me as kind of blah: a visit to a wildlife center where Marlene’s mother-in-law, Hilda, has taken her family to show them a pair of jaguars she hopes to reintroduce into the wild.

So I was surprised when a writer friend who’d offered to interview me on stage at my first book event asked me to read from, of all pages, 69. At this point in the story, Marlene is fixedly observing Caleb as he interacts with a new friend his age, Isabel; meanwhile Stancia, who run the wildlife center, inquires after Hilda’s “missing son” (Marlene’s husband Jeff, left behind in the States). Stancia gives the group a tour of her makeshift wildlife hospital while explaining how some of the orphans came into her keeping:
“Critical age is very important,” Stancia was saying. “It is the time each animal learns what it is, if it is a coati or a motmot or a spectacled owl.” They had stopped at the cage of the owl, which blinked at them from a near branch and clacked its beak softly. “This one, he was kept by a farmer from when he was a baby, so he thinks he’s a person. He can’t unlearn that. Now he must live here always.”
So page 69, while quieter on the human drama, offers a useful glimpse of the novel’s central themes. Questions of critical age, in as much as they can be applied to human beings, have everything to do with this boy who was abducted at age 11 into a life with strangers, under traumatic and largely unknown circumstances. The key question for Caleb, and for the book, is one of identity: whether he can truly return to his family or whether he has been, like the owl or possibly the jaguars, too altered by his experience to safely fit.
Learn more about the book and author at Sheri Joseph's blog and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 10, 2013

"The Slippage"

Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker and the author of several acclaimed books of fiction, including Superbad, Superworse, and A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both: Stories About Human Love. His fiction, essays, and journalism have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Paris Review, Zoetrope: All Story, McSweeneys, and Opium, and he has been widely anthologized.

Greenman applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Slippage, and reported the following:
On page 69 of my book, the title has just been introduced: or rather, the concept of the title. The book is called The Slippage, and the concept of the slippage, which is actually part of page 67, comes from something that Tom, one of the main characters, says to William, the main character. Tom is an artist who makes charts and he defines the slippage as the moment when you start to lose your footing in the world—not your grip on reality, exactly, but your sense that your actions are especially meaningful, or that your choices truly direct the course of your own life. Instead, you start to see that maybe things happen without your input, and out of your control, that the universe is less hostile or friendly than ultimately indifferent. A different kind of crisis settles in. Tom tells William about the slippage at the end of a chapter, and page 69 is the beginning of the next chapter, and William is waking up in bed at night only to discover that his wife is not beside him. Don't worry! She's not missing or kidnapped or anything! She has just gone to the living room, where she was "sitting with her legs folded under her...television...on, but not the volume." A little while later she plays with a tube of lipstick, "swiveling it up and down, and William started to feel transfixed by the way it always went back where it came from." There are some of William's first conscious experiences of the slippage, and some of his last—one of the things about the book, I think, is that no one really learns. It's not based in epiphany. People go up and come back down like lipstick in a tube, and also like lipstick mostly what they do is leave a little trace of themselves, no less but no more.
Learn more about the book and author at Ben Greenman's website.

The Page 99 Test: A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both.

Writers Read: Ben Greenman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Is This Tomorrow"

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, which sold to six countries, went into five printings, and was a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick, a Costco "Pennie's Pick" and a NAIBA bestseller. Pictures of You is also a USA Today ebook bestseller and is on the Best Books of 2011 List from the San Francisco Chronicle, Providence Journal, Kirkus Reviews and Bookmarks Magazine. It's also one of Kirkus Reviews Top 5 books of 2011 about the Family and love.

Leavitt applied the Page 69 Test to Is This Tomorrow, her tenth and latest novel, and reported the following:
This is so funny, this page 69 test, because when I chose a portion for my readings, I actually chose pages 66-72.

This section is when 12-year-old Jimmy has vanished and the 1950s suburban neighborhood is in chaos. They’re already paranoid about the threat of Communism and a child vanishing disrupts their belief that the suburbs are paradise, that nothing bad can possibly happen in such an environment.

Cops are swarming around, questioning all the neighbors. Ava Lark, Jewish in a Christian neighborhood, divorced at a time when such a thing is pure scandal, a working mother at a time when women’s work was tending house and kids, with more than a few boyfriends and a relationship that seemed a bit too close with Jimmy, is suspect. These pages are about the cop questioning her, and as he does, we learn that he’s more interested in how she’s different from everyone else, than whether or not she has any real information about what really happened that terrible day.
View the trailer for Is This Tomorrow, and learn more about the book and author at Caroline Leavitt's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Pictures of You.

My Book, the Movie: Pictures of You.

Writers Read: Caroline Leavitt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"American Dream Machine"

Matthew Specktor is the author of the novels American Dream Machine and That Summertime Sound, as well as a nonfiction book about the motion picture The Sting. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, The Believer, Tin House, Black Clock, and, among other publications. He is a senior editor and founding member of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Specktor applied the Page 69 Test to American Dream Machine and reported the following:
Page 69 of American Dream Machine catches its characters in mid-argument. Beau Rosenwald, the novel's protagonist, is going up against his boss, a natty, closeted master of Old Hollywood named Sam Smiligan. It's 1968, and everything is coming apart at the seams. The argument is about whether Beau's client, the director Stanley Donen, should do a movie called Staircase (which Donen actually did direct in real life) or a hipper, shaggier film called Mellow Yellow, a sort of deadpan comedy in the vein of Blake Edwards' The Party. Beau, who represents the new Hollywood, is advocating for the latter. He will lose this argument, and within a page or three will lose any number of other things: temper, dignity, perhaps a button or two on his fly. He's about to let it all hang out.

"Why don't you get a job for those circus geeks you represent," Sam sneers at Beau, speaking of the sorts of actors, the Harry Dean Stanton types, represented by the younger agent, naturally unintelligible to one more inclined to Cary Grant and Rock Hudson.
Because they don't need me, Beau wanted to say. Because that's the way the business is turning. It's men like Stanley, your clients, who are in danger of extinction.
American Dream Machine is filled with such collisions. The book is a series of such clashes, really, a sequence of battles in which the irresistible force of one person's imagination comes up against the immovable object of another's. It how films are made, companies are built, and really, if you look at the tectonic plates of our country's political life--to say nothing of our own, personal, private ones--it's easy to see a scene like this as representative of all kinds of things. Besides which, there is the question of extinction, of obsolescence, which Beau himself will come up against later in the novel. We all do. Any shapely novel, I think, contains itself in microcosm over and over again. This one does, at least.
Learn more about the book and author at Matthew Specktor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


David Walton won the 2008 Philip K. Dick Award for his debut novel, Terminal Mind.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Quintessence, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Quintessence is representative of one of the three main characters, that of Catherine Parris, a young, independent, aristocrat's daughter who will run away to join a voyage to the end of the world. She has just told her father about a creature she saw... a creature that can turn invisible, walk through walls, and is armed with sharp teeth, pincers, and a scorpion-like tail. Far from frightened, Catherine draws the creature and analyzes it in her characteristically scientific style. Her father, however, is more concerned with her safety:
Father stared at the parchment silently for a long time. He tapped where she had written 'insubstantial'. "You saw Sinclair's beetle?"

"I saw it. This manticore is just as real."

He seemed to come to a decision and stood abruptly. "We'll search the house. Wherever you go, I want Henshawe with you, or one of the other servants. Someone is to sleep with you at all times. If you see it again, or even think you do, scream for help."

"How will you search the house for something invisible?"

"Maybe Sinclair will know." He pointed a finger at Catherine. "But no more experiments. I don't want you luring this thing anywhere near you."

"If I set out more meat, it might come again. You could see it yourself, and we could try to catch it."

"No. That's an order, Catherine. I'll talk to Sinclair, but in the meantime, I want you safe."
It doesn't tell you much about the other main characters, but it does capture the spirit of scientific discovery and sense of wonder that is so central to the book, as well as the danger of uncovering too much.
Learn more about the book and author at David Walton's website.

Writers Read: David Walton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 6, 2013

"The Clover House"

Henriette Lazaridis Power is a first-generation Greek-American who has degrees in English literature from Middlebury College; Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar; and the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at Harvard for ten years, serving as an academic dean for four of those. She is the founding editor of The Drum, a literary magazine publishing exclusively in audio form. A competitive rower, Power trains regularly on the Charles River in Boston.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Clover House, and reported the following:
The entirety of page 69 from The Clover House:
glass ceiling of the atrium should be and see a panel of white-painted wood with a light fixture hanging from it. Two of its three bulbs have burned out.

“Got a three-story ladder?” the man asks with a laugh. “The landlord won’t bother until that third bulb goes.”

“That used to be glass,” I say.

“Used to be a lot of things, young lady.”

And this is why my mother never tried to take me inside. If anyone had waved to her as we stood before the house all those summers, she would have ignored the signal, all the better to preserve in her memory what would always be the most important version of the house. I take a few steps into the foyer, toward the tall oak door that must have led to the front sitting room. Boots and umbrellas lean against the corner by the door. A peephole has been drilled through the oak and covered over with scratched plastic.

I know the man is watching me with amusement as I spin around slowly, taking in the handful of things about the house that I assume have not changed. There is a wide expanse of wall where the walnut mirror once stood--I am sure of it--and the swinging door Irini, the cook, would push through coming in from the kitchen, and the railing around the landing on the third floor, where my aunts and Nestor dangled their baskets and hooks. Yes, it is changed now, but the space is still the same, redolent of everything I have ever imagined in it.

“When did you lose the house?” the man asks.

“We didn’t lose it,” I say, turning to face him. But I don’t know that this is true. Perhaps we lost it in the Second World War, or in the civil war that came after it, or during the junta. No one has ever explained this to me.

“Well, when was the last time your family lived here?”

“Sometime after the war.”
It turns out that this page does present some of the key issues in the novel through a scene in which the protagonist, Callie Brown, visits her family’s former home in Patras, Greece, and asks to be let inside to look around. The house is a grand, neo-classical structure once occupied by her mother’s well-to-do family, but it has passed out of the family’s possession at some point--sometime after the war, as Callie says. Callie has long been bewildered by the mystery of what happened to the family--their wealth, their social standing--but more importantly by the bitterness and sadness that cloud her mother’s life and that seem to have something to do with the loss of the house. This little scene introduces the idea that, to paraphrase the man, things used to be different and that loss is an essential part of existence. Unlike her mother, Callie has no memory to lay over the reality before her. She has come there to recapture something of what her family has lost--by reimagining it, or by discovering it.
Learn more about the book and author at Henriette Lazaridis Power's website and blog.

Writers Read: Henriette Lazaridis Power.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"The Book of Killowen"

Set mostly in Ireland, Erin Hart’s archaeological crime novels (Haunted Ground, Lake of Sorrows, False Mermaid) have earned praise as “emotionally and intellectually gorgeous,” (Publishers Weekly), “exceptionally crafted” (Library Journal), and “intelligent, eerie, utterly compelling” (Jacquelyn Mitchard).

Hart applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Book of Killowen, and reported the following:
From page 69: and there a chair, or a table with a vase of flowers, that beautifully set off the paintings. What was it like to have such an eye, Stella wondered, thinking of her own drab sitting room with its insipid wallpaper and matching suite.

The young man left her alone while he went upstairs, giving her a chance to look around. The paintings in the front room were angry seascapes, thick-painted stormy skies and waves and weather, the paint applied with such passion that you could almost hear the surf. Not just grays and blues and greens, but also shades of yellow, brown, and purple. Stella went up close, and studied the nearest canvas. How did a person work at close range like this, and understand what effect the brush strokes would have at a distance? There was mystery in it, how the eye perceived the parts and the whole. She glanced up the stairs and saw no sign of the young man returning. So she made a quick round of the ground floor, from the rooms in front with their large casement windows that looked over the street, to the back rooms—a galley kitchen stocked with wine glasses, coffeemaker and tea urn, industrial dishwasher. The kitchen adjoined a tiny room that functioned as an office, with desk, file cabinets, and a glowing laptop. On the laptop screen was a spreadsheet with recent sales to museums. Stella had to stifle a curse as she glimpsed the number of zeroes behind each figure. She slipped from the room and took up her previous position just as the young man appeared again at the top of the stairs.

“Mairéad says she’ll talk to you in the studio. I’m sorry I neglected to introduce myself—Graham Healy—I’m her assistant.”

Stella followed him up a graceful cascade of pale marble held in place with a wrought-iron railing. Orchestral music poured down from above, louder and louder as they traveled upward, past the living areas on the first floor, all the way up to a garret at the very top of the house, transformed by a bank of windows on the north wall into a painting studio. A whiff of mineral spirits assaulted the nostrils, and music blared loudly from speakers all around the room, filling the airy space with the throb of violins and cellos, the crash of cymbals and booming kettle drums. Mairéad Broome signaled the young man to turn down the music, and as he did so, Stella’s gaze traveled through an open doorway to a bedroom where the walls, sheets, and furniture were all stark white. Amid the rumpled luxury of bedclothes she spied a few discarded garments—his and hers, from every appearance.
The character in this scene is Stella Cusack, the Garda detective who becomes the third protagonist in The Book of Killowen. She’s just arrived at a Georgian house in the center of Dublin to interview the wife of a man whose body has been found in the boot of a car buried in a Tipperary bog. The wife, Mairéad Broome, is an artist and—as this passage makes clear—a suspect in her husband’s brutal murder. Stella’s got her own problems (wandering husband, stroppy seventeen-year-old daughter), which aren’t outlined here, but I think this passage is an early glimpse of the way she approaches her work, and offers an insight into her powers of observation. I think Stella’s own troubles allow her to see all the messy layers of other people’s everyday lives, and enable her to read situations like this for nuances and interactions between people that will help in her investigation. Some readers have very little patience for descriptive writing; I’ve met people who admit that they just skip over passages like this. But description is absolutely essential to my kind of story. I especially love showing what physical spaces reveal about the people who inhabit them. I hope this passage shows how setting can underscore and illuminate character, both the observer and the observed.
Learn more about the book and author at Erin Hart’s website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 4, 2013

"The Gila Wars"

Larry D. Sweazy's Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger western novels include The Rattlesnake Season, The Scorpion TrailThe Badger's Revenge, The Cougar's Prey, and The Coyote Tracker.

Sweazy applied the Page 69 Test to The Gila Wars, the latest novel in the series, and reported the following:
From page 69 of The Gila Wars:
The room was empty. Darkness surrounded Josiah, and for a long moment he listened to see if he could hear anything other than his own breathing and heartbeat. There was nothing, not even the distant cluck of a chicken. A black cloak had fallen over the world, covering him along with it.

He stared at the ceiling, glad that he felt very little pain. His face still stung, but the salve that had been placed there seemed to have worked. The bandage was off, and thankfully, infection hadn’t set into that wound. Taking a branding iron to his face was beyond the grasp of his imagination. The pain would last long beyond the initial sizzle, and the scar would ride with him for the rest of his life. A reminder of his failure to see what was coming next with the two unnamed men in the cantina. A closer fight, one with worthier opponents, and the same outcome would have been easier to carry. But he didn’t have to worry about that. The deeper scar he would carry, if he lived on to see another day, would be hidden, like most of his other scars.
In this scene, Josiah Wolfe has been shot in the face with a shotgun during a confrontation in a cantina on the Texas border. His very survival is in question. Since this is the last planned book in the Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger series, this section of the novel captures the book perfectly.

If Josiah does survive, he will be scarred by this incident, externally and internally, for the rest of his life. It also brings to light the immediate dangers of living in the time (1875). Medicine had not evolved, and a simple infection could kill a man just easy as a gunslinger. The wound on his face was cauterized to alleviate any existence, or spread, of infection, and he has yet to see the consequences of this act on the rest of his life.

Ultimately, this scene is an example of Josiah’s spirit. He’s made mistakes, he’s fallible, all too human, definitely not a super hero. Although this is a “genre” novel, a paperback Western, it has always been my goal to write fully realized adventures, and not skimp on character development. Whether I have been successful or not, is up to the reader, but for me, this has been the adventure of a lifetime. It has been a great pleasure writing Josiah Wolfe’s stories.
Learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger’s Revenge.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Bones.

My Book, The Movie: The Devil’s Bones.

The Page 69 Test: The Coyote Tracker.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy & Brodi and Sunny.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 3, 2013

"A Dual Inheritance"

Joanna Hershon's books include Swimming, The Outside of August, and The German Bride. Her writing has appeared in One Story, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road, the literary anthology Brooklyn Was Mine, and was shortlisted for the 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Dual Inheritance, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
…people were climbing steps and walking in clusters toward dinner on Mass Ave. “Not you. You’re different.”

“Is that right?”

“You know you are. Listen to you. You’re taking me to task! You are so disappointed in me right now. You are disappointed in everything and everyone, and it kills you. That’s why you’re different. Because you can’t stand it. And also, although you have shown nothing near your potential and you are in some ways—let’s face it—kind of lazy, you want to save the world.

Hugh looked down at the sidewalk and, despite himself—Ed could tell—he smiled. “And you’re going to help me do that?”

“No,” Ed said, “of course not.”

They started to walk again, and when Ed suggested they eat dinner, when he said he was starving and Hugh expressed little surprise, because Ed was always hungry—always starving—Ed finally said, “I apologize.” But it lacked a certain sharpness.

“That’s okay,” Hugh replied. But it wasn’t, not exactly.
As it happens, page 69 of A Dual Inheritance is eerily representational of the whole novel. Here are Ed and Hugh as seniors at Harvard: unlikely friends who will have an unforeseen influence over each others lives, even as their friendship goes on to end just as abruptly as it began. They have just come from a particularly intense visit to Ed’s fairly squalid childhood home. This was a spontaneous trip, and not only was Hugh (from decidedly grander digs) unprepared, but Ed’s father was taken off guard. After Ed’s father behaves true to character and Ed becomes enraged and saddened, they leave, and Hugh quietly suggests that perhaps they should have both—Ed’s father and Hugh—been given fair warning. Ed knows Hugh is right, but instead of apologizing, he attacks Hugh’s character. After this outburst, Ed tries to be just as honest as he assesses Hugh’s more promising traits. The tension and love that’s evident here on page 69 is at the heart of the novel and asks the question: can a friendship define your view of the world?
Learn more about the author and her work at Joanna Hershon's website.

The Page 69 Test: The German Bride.

My Book, The Movie: The German Bride.

Writers Read: Joanna Hershon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"Bristol House"

Beverly Swerling novels include the City of Dreams series, a four-volume historical saga set in old New York.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Bristol House, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Dom Justin
From the Waiting Place

the great mercy you have shown in assigning me to this place in Purgatory where I might atone for my many sins.

I must go on, for as yet I have not told the worst of them, and I sense that on the other side time grows short and the woman’s danger increases...

When I left the Jew’s house, Rebecca was again waiting in the stand of trees beside the river. But this time when she pressed against me, the hair shirt of the Carthusian rule, a garment we wear always beneath our habits, scraped against my skin, and I was reminded of the suffering of eternal damnation. It was enough to overcome the carnal heat that burned my flesh, though my cock stiffened at the mere thought of the sin to which I had not as yet succumbed.

I returned quickly to the Charterhouse, but despite the urgency to be back in my cell before the bell rang for the midnight office, I was forced to pause when I saw nailed above the great doors the quarter part of the carcass of the Venerable Father. It had been put there since I left, and below it was a notice saying the thing must not be removed, “on pain of an even more terrible death for he who did the action and all who encouraged him therein.”

Giacomo the Lombard, known also as the Jew of Holborn
From the Waiting Place

I do not know why I am commanded to tell my story, nor who it is who listens. But I am grateful to be in this place that is neither earth nor Gehenna, where the eternal fire burns. I have, I know, much for which to atone, and I am promised that to tell what happened between me and my daughter and he who was known in the Charterhouse as Dom Justin will help erase their stain. So be it.

I am not required to tell everything: not how I came to leave Lombardy and smuggle myself into London to seek greater fortune, nor of the sweet young maiden I married there, a Lombard who was secretly a Jew like myself and a number of others, nor of her death hours after she gave birth to our first
Bristol House is a novel that takes place in London during both the 21st and the 16th centuries. I think anyone opening the book to page 69 after having looked however briefly at the information on the inside cover flap will know they're reading something from the historical section.

And as it happens, this page is truly evocative of the Tudor story. For one thing it offers an introduction to the two voices that tell the historical part of the novel. For another, it has just that blend of sacred and profane that I've used throughout. Mostly because that's what I think life is – sacred and profane in equal measure. Page 69 also illustrates the themes of sin and reparation which are so much a part of the story, as well as drawing attention to the mystery that links the two periods. "I sense," Dom Justin says, "that on the other side the time grows short…"

The "other side" is where Annie, the contemporary young American heroine and an architectural historian, is staying in a London apartment building known as Bristol House. And where she's trying to unravel the mystery which reaches from Justin's time into her own. You also know at once that Justin is breaking his monastic rule when he speaks of the "urgency to be back in my cell before the bell rang…" And perhaps you'll be intrigued that a man known as the Jew of Holborn is speaking from Purgatory.

I wasn't sure what genre I was writing in when I started this book. The publisher decided to call it a "supernatural thriller." I'm content with that. I hope readers are as well.
Learn more about the book and author at Beverly Swerling's website and blog.

Writers Read: Beverly Swerling (August 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue