Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Beyond Absolution"

Cora Harrison published twenty-six children's books before turning to adult novels with the "Mara" series of Celtic historical mysteries set in 16th century Ireland.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Beyond Absolution, the third book in the Reverend Mother Mystery Series, and reported the following:
By a piece of bad luck, page 69 in Beyond Absolution turns out to be the beginning of a chapter, chapter six, and so is a short page. And to add to its shortness, each chapter which deals with my main character, Reverend Mother Aquinas, opens with a quote in Latin from the works of her namesake Saint Thomas Aquinas – with English translation beneath it. The Reverend Mother is a great admirer of Thomas Aquinas and she finds support for many of her views on life and people from his pithy sayings, such as: ‘To bear with patience wrongs done to oneself is a mark of perfection; to bear with patience wrongs done to others is a mark of imperfection and even of sin’.

However, this page also brings in Dr Scher who is a favourite character of mine. An elderly man, descendent of a Jewish immigrant, he is humorous, compassionate, quick-thinking and attractive. On this page we hear him before we see him. He is joking with a new recruit to the novitiate. It would be a few minutes before he arrived at her room, she guessed. The girl was homesick and her tear-stained face would make him take trouble with her.

The Reverend Mother, also, turns her thought to this new recruit. She had promised to give the girl a month’s trial, but that was: Before she had heard that the girl had been seeing visions, just like Sister Bernadette at Lourdes and had imagined herself a nun in the making.

However the Reverend Mother hopes that soon the girl will see that that she is unhappy and will agree to go home for a few months and to think again about her vocation. She is worried about the child but tells herself that: ‘Judging by the giggles that greeted Dr Scher’s feeble jokes, she was tiring of the angelic and melancholic pose adopted when first admitted to the convent.’

So, the luck was against me with this page 69 as it is, if one counts the words, barely half a page. On the other hand, I am reasonably satisfied as I think two of the main people in the book, the Reverend Mother and Dr Scher, show their characters. Dr Scher his kindness, his liking for jokes, his interest in all whom he meets and the Reverend Mother, who also shows concern, displays her quick-witted, common-sense, her deep sense of responsibility for those in her convent and, perhaps above all, her wisdom.
Visit Cora Harrison's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cross of Vengeance.

My Book, The Movie: Beyond Absolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"The Devil's Cup"

Alys Clare lives in the English countryside, where her novels are set. She went to school in Tonbridge and later studied archaeology at the University of Kent.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Devil's Cup, and reported the following:
On page 69, Josse, his brother Yves and his son Geoffroi are on their way north from Kent to join King John and his army, reputed to be in East Anglia. Josse has been summoned by the King because they knew each other when they were young and Josse has always been faithful to the Crown, even when it’s on the head of someone as contrary, slippery and headstrong as John. Josse has been known to reflect that, despite John’s deep character flaws, he just can’t root out his affection for him. I’ve adopted Josse’s attitude, so that my version of King John presents a man who can be both ruthlessly cruel and totally unreasonable, yet also humorous, self-deprecating, wry and, to a very few, affectionate and loyal.

The page is representative of the book in that we have some of the main characters travelling through the land and intent on reaching their goal for a reason they consider very important; Josse has found an encampment where the standard flying is that of someone else loyal to the King, so it’s looking as if he’s going to be successful. As to whether a reader skimming through would read on, I can only say I hope so because there’s good stuff to come.
Learn more about The Devil's Cup at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 18, 2017


Scott Reintgen has spent his career as a teacher of English and creative writing in diverse urban communities in North Carolina. The hardest lesson he learned was that inspiration isn’t equally accessible for everyone. So he set out to write a novel for the front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms.

Reintgen applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Nyxia, and reported the following:
From page 69:
It’s only as we head back to our rooms at the end of the day that I realize the real significance of our win: it has me in first place. I remind myself there’s still a long way to go, but as I fall asleep that night, there’s a smile on my face. For the first time, I feel like I belong here, like I actually deserve to go to Eden. I know that when I wake up in the morning, I won’t just be content with the top eight.

I want to win.
To my great delight, Nyxia passes The Page 69 Test.

This brief section highlights what the entire story is about: Emmett’s entrance into an in-space competition that could change his life forever. One big question I wanted to ask in this book was, “What happens when you find your lottery ticket, but other people are reaching for it, too?” And more importantly, “How much of your humanity are you willing to let slip through your fingers in order to go home a king?” In this scene, Emmett’s clearly feeling positive about his chances of succeeding. But that feeling changes. He has highs and lows in the competition. Bones will break. Enemies will be made. And through all of it he will have the choice to fight hard or fight dirty.

There are two important pieces of the novel that are noticeably absent on this page, however: there’s no mention of nyxia, the substance Emmett’s being trained to use and the entire reason for their mission to the alien planet. Finally, we have no mention of the 9 other contestants that have boarded Genesis 11 alongside Emmett. These characters—and their varying friendships with Emmett—act as a strong centerpiece for the entire novel.

Still, I could read this excerpt and give someone the general idea of what’s happening in the story. So let’s call Nyxia a Page 69 Test success.
Visit Scott Reintgen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"The Laird Takes a Bride"

Lisa Berne read her first Georgette Heyer book at fourteen, and was instantly captivated. Later, she was a graduate student, a teacher, and a grant writer — and is now an author of historical romance.

Berne applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Laird Takes a Bride, and reported the following:
My heroine, Fiona Douglass, has been forced to take part in a Bachelor-like situation, and is the only candidate who despises the very idea of it. At this particular interval in the story, she’s riding her horse away from an ancient monastery, to which she and a large party have traveled on a sightseeing jaunt. She’s mulling over the events of the day. At 27, she is, in 1811, very much in “old maid” territory, and wonders uneasily if jealousy motivated her, earlier, to engage in some sharp badinage with a much younger woman.

She’s also recalling some of the things said by a little girl she’s recently met, who has an unnerving tendency to utter opaque, sibylline remarks — The Laird Takes a Bride is set in Scotland, and this is a tiny, tiny tip of the hat to Macbeth’s Three Witches — and she’s puzzling over their significance.

We see Fiona, then, on a kind of temporal pivot: she’s thinking about what happened today, she’s musing about the past and questioning if her best years are behind her, and is also wondering, with some apprehension, what the future will bring.

So is page 69 representative of the book as a whole? To a large degree, yes, as it portrays my heroine as a thinking, feeling human being who’s struggling to make sense of her life. But it doesn’t happen to also reveal the story’s fluid point of view which offers insight into the psyche and circumstances of Fiona’s counterpart, Alasdair Penhallow. You’d have to back up to page 66 for that, or read on to page 72...
Visit Lisa Berne's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Laird Takes a Bride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 15, 2017

"A Lie For A Lie"

Robin Merrow MacCready is the author of Buried, recipient of the Edgar Award for Best YA novel. She teaches reading and writing to middle school students, and lives in Maine with her family.

MacCready applied the Page 69 Test to her latest YA novel, A Lie for a Lie, and reported the following:
A Lie For A Lie takes place over the course a summer in the life of seventeen year old Kendra. The story begins when she sees her father with a woman who is not her mother. Rather that confront him; she spies on him. On page 69, she and her friend Bo have just found out that the relationship is more serious that they thought. “He was trying to insinuate himself into her life, like he wanted it to last.” This is a great disappointment. The relationship doesn’t seem to be a fling. This is also about the time the reader is realizing that Bo wants his friendship with Kendra to be more serious than it is, but Kendra is crazy about another guy. He gives her a gift that reminds her of their childhood games together—not his intention. When she arrives home from being with Bo, she sees her mother dressed up and ready to go out. To her this is a sign that her mom is doing better emotionally and maybe her father’s bad behavior, if it’s found out, won’t be as damaging to her as she thought.

But not everything is as it seems…
Visit Robin Merrow MacCready's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Lie for a Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"Spring Break"

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, Playing With Fire, and the newly released Spring Break.

Elias applied the Page 69 Test to Spring Break and reported the following:
From Page 69:
‘What were they talking about?’ Jacobus asked Yumi.

‘The Feldsteins?’

‘No, the Cooney cluster.’

‘Mainly about how much Aaron Schlossberg would be missed. What a great man he was. How much he did for the conservatory. You know, things that would be appropriate for the occasion.’

‘You mean the customary bullshit,’ Jacobus said.

‘Yes, that’s accurate,’ Yumi replied.

‘I assume that’s after they noticed you. Did you hear what were they talking about before that?’

‘No. The sound is too live in that room. It’s all a wash. All I can say is that they seemed ...concerned about something.

‘The food poisoning incident,’ Lilburn said. ‘This Dr Pine is a doctor, after all. Maybe they’re worried about medical expenses, or legal action. Or, perish the thought, maybe even about people’s health!’

Jacobus heard Lilburn slap at a mosquito.

‘Possible. But that’s over and done with,’ Jacobus said. ‘The more recent incident is Aaron Schlossberg found dead slumped over a piano keyboard.’

It began to drizzle.

‘I think we’d better go.'
This Page 69 excerpt underscores multiple currents of conflict in Spring Break. The scene is a gathering to comfort the wife of Aaron Schlossberg, famed composer of the Kinderhoek Conservatory of Music who has just died. Jacobus recognizes the artificial grieving of other faculty members who had no love lost for Schlossberg and who are customarily at each others' throats. There is also the coterie of conservatory bigwigs, whose main concern is money and who view Schlossberg's death more as an impediment to their plans than as a loss to the music world. Finally, there is also the sense of unease of the unresolved manner of Schlossberg's death. Was it diabetes, food poisoning, or something else?
My Book, The Movie: Spring Break.

Writers Read: Gerald Elias.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"Alan Cole Is Not a Coward"

Eric Bell is an author of middle grade fiction.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel, Alan Cole Is Not a Coward, and reported the following:
Alan Cole Is Not a Coward is the story of a twelve-year-old boy who is blackmailed over his secret crush on another boy in his class. Page 69, which opens chapter six, begins with Alan at the dinner table. Alan’s family is a major source of stress: his older brother is the blackmailer, his father is emotionally abusive, and his mother is a non-presence. The dinner environment is oppressive—even Mom’s tasty chicken stew doesn’t leave much of an impact—and so Alan retreats to a familiar setting: the art world. For Alan, art is like breathing; his attempts to change the world via a portrait of someone’s face permeate the novel. In the middle of this tense situation, he narrates:
I’m thinking about the principles of design Mrs. Colton went over today in art class, and how the scene in front of me would look if I painted it. Where would the emphasis be? On the clock? At the head of the table? On the carefully prepared food? Where would the movement flow? What patterns would be repeated?
This is Alan attempting to make sense of the illogical world before him. He doesn’t understand why his brother hates him so much, where his father’s anger stems from, why his mother has withdrawn from affection. His quirky new friends befuddle him and he struggles with the possibility that his crush might not reciprocate Alan’s hidden feelings. The world is overstimulating and messy and confusing. So when Alan turns to the vocabulary of his art, it’s with the goal of understanding his own world a little better. Throughout this chapter he sees things through an artist’s lens, noticing patterns and movement and other aspects of his toolkit.

Page 69 does not showcase any of the book’s humor—the family scenes are when the book is at its most serious—though Alan does mention the hot pepper flakes from the stew “practically leave scorch marks as they dribble down my throat,” which hints at the normal tone of his narration, full of exaggerated comparisons.
Visit Eric Bell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 11, 2017

"Lone Wolf"

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. Best known for their Hanno Stiffeniis series, featuring a Prussian magistrate in a country invaded by Napoleon and the French, they have more recently launched a contemporary series set in Italy, where they live. The Seb Cangio novels follow the exploits of a forest ranger as he combats Mafia infiltration of the unspoilt national park in Umbria where he works.

The authors applied the Page 69 Test to their latest novel, the third in the series, Lone Wolf, and reported the following:
It’s always intriguing to open your novel at a specific page and see what you’ve got.

In the case of Lone Wolf, page 69 finds all of the major characters – with one notable exception – on the same page. Marshall McLuhan, the inventor of the page 69 test, would be ninety-nine percent pleased!

The good guys – Seb Cangio, gorgeous Lucia Rossi of the Italian carabinieri, and Inspector Desmond Harris from New Scotland Yard – are cooped up inside a tiny surveillance booth. They’re watching a security video of passengers arriving on a flight from London as they go through customs control at the small provincial airport of Assisi in Italy.

The reader doesn’t know it yet, but two of the people in the video are already dead.

Dead men don’t talk, of course, but a video can tell you a lot about them. One man is nervous, the other is not. They ignore each other, yet both men were carrying false passports. Is it a coincidence, or is it a conspiracy? And one of them went back to London, while the other man did not. If they were together, what the heck were they doing in Italy?

That is what the investigators have to discover.

The solution will turn out to be far more disturbing than the reader might imagine.

Why bring a British brain surgeon to Italy? And why are so many Italian doctors dropping like flies? Above all, what does the fearsome ’Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, have to do with it?

Only Seb Cangio can read the signs. He’s from Calabria, he knows how the ’Ndrangheta works.

But even Seb cannot guess exactly what is going on. Not until he finds himself laid out helpless on an operating table in a private clinic in idyllic Umbria…

The ‘one notable exception’ mentioned above is one of the most frightening men alive, as Seb Cangio is destined to discover. Our editor asked us to add an extra chapter featuring ’Ndrangheta boss, Don Michele Cucciarilli – “he’s so deliciously evil,” she said.
Visit Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Cry Wolf.

My Book, The Movie: Cry Wolf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 9, 2017

"Murder Take Three"

Eric Brown began writing when he was fifteen and sold his first short story to Interzone in 1986. He has won the British Science Fiction Award twice for his short stories, and his novel Helix Wars was shortlisted for the 2012 Philip K. Dick award. He has published sixty books, and his latest include the crime novel Murder Take Three, and the short story collection Microcosms, with Tony Ballantyne. His novel Binary System is due out in Autumn. He has also written a dozen books for children and over a hundred and forty short stories. He writes a regular science fiction review column for the Guardian newspaper and lives in Cockburnspath, Scotland.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to Murder Take Three and reported the following:
From Page 69:
The scriptwriter was silent for a time. “It’s just occurred to me. The film. With the leading lady dead... I’m sorry. You’ll think me crass.”

Langham shook his head. “Not at all. What will happen to the shoot?”

“There’s been a lot of money and time invested so far, and I don’t know whether insurance would cover any losses. My guess is that Dennison will find a stand-in. There are plenty of American actresses in London, or actresses who could fake an accent. And to be honest it isn’t that demanding a role.”

Langham hesitated, then asked, “What do you know about Dennison’s relationship with Suzie?”

“I must admit, I don’t know whether it was just a physical attraction, or if there was anything deeper. There was a twenty year age difference. It can’t have been that easy to relate to someone young enough to be your daughter.”

Ambler indicated a finger-post point to the village of Hambling. “Take the turning and it’s a couple of mile away. Haggerston House is a mile out of the village on the other side.”

Langham took the turning and wound down the window. He glanced at Ambler. “You said you were stationed there during the war.”

“For almost a year.”

“Did you have much to do with Desmond Haggerston?”

“No, not much at all. He was pretty much a recluse. He must have been in his early seventies then, and remote... depressive.” Ambler shrugged. “On the few occasions I did meet him, I got on rather well with him. You know what they say, Donald?”

“What’s that?”

“Misery likes company.”
In Murder Take Three, the fourth of my Langham and Dupré mysteries set in Britain in the 1950s, writer Donald Langham has just started work as a professional private investigator. His first client is American movie star Suzie Reynard, currently shooting a murder mystery film at Marling Hall, an Elizabethan manor house situated in the Norfolk countryside. The film’s director Doug Dennison– Suzie’s lover – has been receiving threats and Suzie is convinced his life is in danger.

On arriving at Marling Hall with his fiancée Maria, Langham finds the film set awash with clashing egos, petty jealousies, ill-advised love affairs and seething resentments. Matters come to a head when a body is discovered in the director’s trailer.

It would appear to be an open-and-shut case when someone confesses to the murder. Donald and Maria are not convinced – but why would someone confess to a crime they haven’t committed? If Langham is to uncover the truth, he must delve into the past and another murder that took place more than twenty years before.

Page 69, near the start of chapter twelve, has Donald Langham driving to Haggerston House with the film’s script-writer, his old friend Terrence Ambler. They’re trying to find one of the suspects, Desmond Haggerston, who seems to have given the police the slip. They suspect that the old man might have fled to Haggerston House, a few miles from where the murder was committed.

On the way, through leafy country lanes, they discuss the fate of the film, and Langham questions Ambler about the dead actor’s relationship with the film’s director, and probes the script-writer about Desmond Haggerston.

I think page 69 is pretty representative of the book as a whole, in that it’s largely dialogue-driven, and shows Langham as a concerned, friendly individual whose gentle questioning gets to the root of the mystery. The page also serves to characterise the people spoken about, as well as the people speaking. Untypically for the book, no one is drinking alcohol!
Visit Eric Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: Murder Take Three.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 8, 2017

"Bad Girl Gone"

Temple Matthews is an American born author and screenwriter with several films to his credit, including Disney’s Return to Neverland.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Bad Girl Gone, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I was bombarded with fast, ugly images from his brain. He was a sick and twisted man, he crowded thoughts a whirlwind of repulsive memories. I saw Mick's face. Mowrer was remembering how he killed Mick by hitting him the head with a pipe wrench--it was so horrible, playing in slow motion in the sicko's brain...
Any reader would be compelled to read on if she looked at page 69. It fully encompasses the various elements and themes submerged in the book, and it's a ghostly moment when Echo is able to enter the body and mind of a killer.
Visit Temple Mathews's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Dark River Rising"

Roger Johns is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor with law degrees from Louisiana State University and Boston University. During his nearly two decades as a professor, he served on the editorial staffs of several academic publications and he won numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and his scholarly writing. Johns was born and raised in Louisiana. He and his wife Julie now live in Georgia.

Johns applied the Page 69 Test to Dark River Rising, his first novel, and reported the following:
Dark River Rising is a mystery set in present-day Baton Rouge. From page 1, paragraph 1, police detective Wallace Hartman knows she’s dealing with the most startling murder she’ll ever encounter: “Wallace Hartman had never seen a dead man move, but the guy in front of her was definitely dead, and definitely moving. He just wasn’t going anywhere. There was a crudely sutured incision just below his rib cage and his abdomen heaved with a sinuous reptilian rhythm. Wallace’s mind recoiled from what her eyes insisted was true––that a snake was slithering among his innards searching for a way out. The corpse looked like it was belly dancing its way into the hereafter.” Wallace certainly needs to find out who did this, but just as importantly, she needs to know why. By page 69, Wallace and a federal investigator with his own interest in the murder have been introduced and the nature of their relationship has been established. Two pivotal events occur on page 69 itself: Wallace and her federal colleague discover they’ve been seriously deceived by someone who should have been willing to help, and they find an unexpected ally who gives them a glimpse into just what kind of odds they’re going to be up against––a burned house that looks a lot like arson, a missing researcher, and a cover-up by the researcher’s higher-ups.
Visit Roger Johns's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"The Plague Diaries"

Ronlyn Domingue is the internationally published author of The Mercy of Thin Air and the Keeper of Tales Trilogy—The Mapmaker’s War, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, and The Plague Diaries. Her essays and short stories have appeared in New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Shambhala Sun as well as on, The Nervous Breakdown, and

Domingue applied the Page 69 Test to The Plague Diaries and reported the following:
In The Plague Diaries, the last book of the Keeper of Tales Trilogy (which can be read in any order), Secret Riven’s fate is to release a plague to end an ancient pestilence. Her mythic call involves an arcane manuscript, a strange symbol, and a 1,000-year-old family legacy.

From page 69:
The hall with its round table and familiar rug had disappeared. Vines covered the walls and most of the doors. Tree trunks reached from floor to ceiling. Boughs of greenery made an impenetrable canopy. Crystal and metal lamps hung above and the lush green carpets below belied the initial illusion. A brown rabbit darted from a grouping of ferns.

Behind my mask, I watched the other guests. They, too, had taken efforts to adorn themselves beyond recognition. Some were so wildly attired I couldn’t tell whether they were men or women, although I determined that was the intent. Most, however, had chosen formal wear exaggerated in design and textiles.

A balding man with a bear muzzle mask wore a brilliant pink long-tailed velvet coat. He spoke with a woman whose bosom burgeoned far past bodily limits, giving shape to the two iridescent beetles that sat upon the striped orange and yellow mushroom that was her skirt. Her hair piled into a tidy nest on her head, out of which peeked a stuffed red squirrel, and the mask across her face was woven into the coiffed strands.

The music reached a crescendo then collapsed into silence. A squeal pierced through the applause. A woman burst from the northeast corner, chased by a laughing man whose cape dragged the floor. From the opposite corner, near the servants’ stair, twelve people carrying trays heaped with food stepped into the hall. They walked gingerly, their bodies below the waist like sheep, with white fleece legs and hoofed feet, which forced them to step on hidden tiptoes. On their heads were hats with sheeps’ ears. The men’s torsos were bare, and the women’s breasts were covered by triangles of fleece held in place by strings.

I followed behind them into the ballroom. The breeze through the open windows couldn’t dissipate the weighty scent I’d encountered in the tunnel. To my right, in the distance, musicians stood on a dais. Below me, braided blue mats padded the floor. Ahead, several tables were heaped with every possible delicacy—meats, cheeses, fish, dried and preserved fruits, breads, pastries, custards. Crystal decanters held the gem hues of liquors and wines. Guests formed a line to the tables, each taking a platter and a goblet to fill.

Everyone spilled into the hall and sat among the trees as if at a picnic. I retreated to the darkest shadow I could find, sipped my punch, and ate until I couldn’t swallow another bite.

In my hidden place, I listened to the music and observed the guests.
Page 69 reflects the book’s style and one of its most important themes.

Told in first person from Secret’s observant perspective, this novel focuses on details. When the attention is on physical ones, the story becomes highly visual, something a reader can picture with clarity. In this scene, Secret attends a masquerade ball hosted by Fewmany, the magnate, at his manor.

The theme of hiding—both physically and emotionally—is strong on this page. Decorations obscure the manor’s familiar surroundings. Guests are masked and costumed so that they cannot be identified. Secret, as usual, doesn’t engage with anyone, choosing instead to watch everything at a distance. Soon enough, especially during the plague, everyone’s true natures will be revealed.
Learn more about the book and author at Ronlyn Domingue's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's War.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker's War.

The Page 69 Test: The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

My Book, The Movie: The Plague Diaries.

--Marshal Zeringue