Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"One Or the Other"

John McFetridge books include a trilogy of novels set 1970s Montreal featuring a young police constable named Édouard “Eddie” Dougherty: Black Rock (2014), A Little More Free (2015), and One or the Other.

McFetridge applied the Page 69 Test to One Or the Other and reported the following:
From page 69:
Caron had stopped by the bar and was talking to a waitress who was wearing a see-through nightie and nothing underneath. She was carrying a round tray with a highball glass on it and motioning to a table in the back corner of the bar and saying, “Peut-être une heure.”

Caron said, “Tout seul?” He was looking at a piece of paper the waitress had handed him, turning it over, looking at both sides.

“Juste lui et Melodi et Tom Collins.” She looked up at Dougherty and winked and said, “Je ne suis pas occupé.”

“Tant pis pour moi,” Dougherty said. “I’m working.”

“You don’t work all night, come back.”

“You’ll still be here?”

“Si tu reviens.” Then as Dougherty followed Caron she said, “See you later.”

As Caron led the way into the back corner of the room, even darker than the area by the stage, he handed the piece of paper to Dougherty. It was the band from a pile of bills, the words Royal Bank printed on it in blue.

In the corner a man was sitting with his back to the wall staring up at a young woman who was dancing — or at least moving a little — her naked crotch inches from his face.

“Okay,” Caron said, “la danse est fini.”

Dougherty put his hand on Melodi’s arm and they were eye to eye. She said, “No touching.”

“Time for a break.”

She got down off the little stand and picked it up, grabbing a folded-over bundle of bills from under one of the legs and her high-heeled shoes and shrugged at the guy as she walked away saying, “See you later.”

Caron said, “Come with us.”
Montreal 1976. The city is only a few months away from hosting the Summer Olympics and Constable Eddie Dougherty has been assigned to the task force investigating the robbery of a Brinks truck that netted almost three million dollars. Mostly Dougherty is being used as the muscle, shaking down the known criminals and chasing every lead in town.

On page 69 Dougherty and Detective Caron visit a strip club. They’ve received a tip that a man has been peeling brand new twenty dollar bills from a roll and buying a steady stream of table dances. And drinks.

It’s early in the book so Dougherty hasn’t started the serious questioning of his role as the bad cop in these encounters but he will soon. He’ll also be assigned to a hopeless murder investigation – the bodies of two teenagers have washed up on the shores of the St. Lawrence river. They may have been thrown from the Jacques Cartier bridge but they may have jumped. Or it may have been a murder-suicide. What it certainly isn’t is a priority.

One Or the Other is a police procedural and over the next 322 pages Dougherty will continue to work the Brinks robbery, take some shifts on Olympic security (including some undercover) and search down every lead on what he believes is the murder of two teenagers. So, yes, page 69 is representative of the rest of the book and I hope if someone skimmed that page they’d be curious enough to keep going.
Visit John McFetridge's website.

The Page 69 Test: Black Rock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Nothing Short of Dying"

Erik Storey is a former ranch hand, wilderness guide, dogsled musher, and hunter. He spent his childhood summers on his great-grandfather’s homestead or in a remote cabin in Colorado’s Flat Tops wilderness.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Nothing Short of Dying, his first novel, and reported the following:
This is a good question. Is page 69 representative of the whole book?

Let’s see.

About the book:

Sixteen years. That’s how long Clyde Barr has been away from Colorado’s thick forests, alpine deserts, and craggy peaks, running from a past filled with haunting memories. But now he’s back, having roamed across three continents as a hunter, adventurer, soldier of fortune, and most recently, unjustly imprisoned convict. And once again, his past is reaching out to claim him.

By the light of a flickering campfire, Clyde receives a frantic phone call from his sister Jen. No sooner has she pleaded with him to come rescue her than the line goes dead. Clyde doesn’t know how much time he has, or where Jen is located, or even who has her. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her.

Joining Clyde in his against-all-odds quest is a young woman named Allie whose motivations for running this gauntlet are fascinatingly complex. As the duo races against the clock, it is Allie who gets Clyde to see what he has become and what he can still be.

So, on page 69 we have these quotes:

“The barrel was warm and the car smelled of burnt powder. ‘What the hell just happened?’”

And--

“Somehow in a matter of days, I’d gotten involved with multiple drug-dealing gangs, Feds, and a girl who was starting to mean something. To me and everyone else. So much for the quiet life in the Yukon.”

The rest is conversation specific to the scene, so that part doesn’t pass the test.

But these two quotes do, I think, pass. The barrel of a gun is warm and shots have been fired. Clyde is in over his head again, and is giving up on his dreams of retiring in the quiet and cold. He is starting to like a girl. These are themes that play throughout the book, and so for the most part, page 69 is representative.
Visit Erik Storey's website.

My Book, The Movie: Nothing Short of Dying.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"All Waiting Is Long"

Barbara J. Taylor lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania, home of the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country. She has an MFA in creative writing from Wilkes University and teaches English in the Pocono Mountain School District.

Taylor applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, All Waiting Is Long, and reported the following:
All Waiting Is Long opens in 1930 at the Good Shepherd Infant Asylum in Philadelphia, a catholic home for girls who are pregnant and unmarried. Sixteen-year-old Lily, had hoped that, “her recently blossomed belly would turn out to be too much fried chicken and applesauce cake like Alice Harris next door, or better yet, stomach cancer like Mrs. Manley down the street,” but by page 69, she finally faces the truth and flashes back to the day she conceived:
Lily hadn’t expected to see George that day. He was supposed to be off at college that first full weekend in September. She’s gone to Grayce Farms with Little Frankie, in part due to her mother’s prodding. “Get outside and blow some of the stink off you”—her way of telling Lily to stop sulking. She noticed George at the far side of the wagon, but just as she started toward him, Janetta Baugess, the most buxom girl in Lily’s grade, pushed past her, settled next to George, and took his hand. “Stop teasing,” the girl was saying. “You know very well how to say my name.” She held up a finger as if to chide him. “It’s Jane,” she paused, “and etta.” She laughed. “My mother knew I’d never be a plain Jane.”

Lily dropped onto the bench across from them, pressing her palms into her lap to stop them from shaking. As Janetta prattled on, Lily learned that George had come home for his sister’s birthday, and intended to return to school on Sunday. Until then, the couple planned to spend every moment together. Lily looked up at George, trying to see the truth of the situation in his eyes, but he turned away from her and watched the horses. Being ignored is worse than being hated.
I love that line, “Being ignored is worse than being hated.” Someone once said that to me when talking about his childhood. A decade later, the words still resonate.
Learn more about All Waiting Is Long, and visit Barbara J. Taylor's website.

My Book, The Movie: Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night.

Writers Read: Barbara J. Taylor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 26, 2016

"Still Here"

Lara Vapnyar emigrated from Russia to New York in 1994 and began publishing short stories in English in 2002. She lives on Staten Island and is pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at CUNY Graduate Center.

Her new novel is Still Here.

Vapnyar applied the Page 69 Test to Still Here and reported the following:
I applied page 69 test to my novel, and this line jumped at me: “the horror of witnessing her mother being erased as a human being was indescribable.” I rushed to close the book.

So I decided to cheat and apply the page 99 test normally reserved for nonfiction. On this page, one of my main characters, Sergey is falling in love with a GPS in his car who has the perfect voice and the perfect attitude. “She sounded as if she were aware of Sergey’s limitations but didn’t mind them at all. He could miss a turn, miss a turn again, miss a turn-he wouldn’t be angry, annoyed, or disappointed. So what if he kept missing the turn? There was still plenty about him to admire.”

On page 99, there is graphic scene of Sergey’s jerking off to the word “recalculating” his GPS pronounces in Icelandic. It culminates in violent orgasm.

In a way, that’s the whole idea of my novel. All the crazy things we do in our technology-obsessed world to escape the fear of death.
Visit Lara Vapnyar's Facebook page.

Writers Read: Lara Vapnyar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Death at the Day Lily Café"

Degrees in criminology and social work, followed by years of clinical practice, helped Wendy Sand Eckel explore her fascination with how relationships impact motivation, desire, and inhibition. Combined with her passion for words and meaning, writing mystery is a dream realized. She lives in Maryland where she enjoys family and friends, pets, and living near the Chesapeake Bay.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Death at the Day Lily Café, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I watched as Lori and Doris sat down in the first row. A young man in the dress blues of a police officer was seated next to her. “That must be her son, Jamie,” I whispered to Glenn. “I want to meet him before he goes back to Dover.”

Glenn narrowed his eyes and nodded.

The casket was closed with a modest bouquet of flowers fastened on top. The preacher cleared his throat. He was an older gentleman who had already begun to perspire. He patted his forehead with a folded handkerchief as he began his eulogy. CJ must not have been a regular church goer because this man didn’t seem to know him. There were no personal stories or mention of his character. Instead he relied on the funeral boilerplate, stating that CJ was in a better place, that Jesus had already welcomed him to heaven, and his family would join him when their time came. Jamie shifted in his seat at that last remark.

Lori listened intently. Maybe hearing that CJ was already in heaven and no longer haunting her house was a welcomed relief. I scanned the crowd, wondering if the murderer was among the congregation. Pale light filtered through the stained glass windows, but it was still dark inside the small church. The pew was hard and creaked every time Glenn or I adjusted our position. I was relieved no one volunteered to speak when the minister offered the invitation. The service was over in exactly eleven minutes.

As we waited for Doris outside, Glenn said, “Well that was shorter than a Las Vegas wedding.”

“And about as sentimental,” I said.

“Look,” he said. “Here comes Doris.”

The air was thick with humidity as we watched her approach. She dabbed at her face with a handkerchief embroidered with pale blue initials. “Did you find a seat in that crowd?”

“It was certainly sparsely attended,” Glenn said. “How is Lori?”

“Haven’t you heard?”

“Heard what?” I said.

“They found the murder weapon.”

“And?” Glenn said.

“It’s the shotgun from Lori’s cabinet. It was in a dumpster on the college campus.”

“Any prints?” Glenn said.

“Yup. Somebody tried to wipe it clean but whoever it was did a lousy job. Sheriff said the perp was in a hurry.”

I noticed tears welling in her eyes. “Doris, are you all right?”

“No, I’m not.” She held the handkerchief to her nose. “I’m scared, Miss Rosalie.” A tear spilled down her cheek. She looked from me to Glenn and back to me. “I’m worried she might have done it.”

After further discussion with Doris, Rosalie and Glenn learn that CJ frequented the Cardigan Tavern and was known to have a temper.

“We’ll figure this out, Doris,” Glenn said. “The sooner the better.”

“That’s right.” I gave Doris a quick hug and she started back to the church. Once she was a out of earshot, I fanned myself with my program and faced Glenn. “Do you have plans this evening?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Want to get a cold one at the Cardigan Tavern?”
In Death at the Day Lily Café, the second in the Rosalie Hart mystery series, Rosalie has opened a café in a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It is her dream realized. On the day of the grand opening, just as the first few customers are streaming in the sunny room with ochre-tinted walls and tables topped with bursting ivory hydrangeas, Doris Bird rushes in the room. She needs Rosalie’s help. It seems her younger sister, Lori, has been accused of shooting her husband, CJ Fiddler, and the local sheriff is hell bent on proving her guilt.

On page 69, Rosalie and her best friend, seventy-two-year-old Glenn Breckinridge, are attending CJ’s funeral in their search for clues. This is a terrific representation of the book as it contains the lively dialog found throughout the novel and moves the mystery forward.
Visit Wendy Sand Eckel's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at Barclay Meadow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"The Stringer"

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Stringer, the latest story in The Ustari Cycle, and reported the following:
Excepting a sentence fragment from page 68, here’s what’s on page 69 of The Stringer:
Outside, police and ambulances raced by every little while, filling the air with strident panic. I found myself waiting, trapped inside my own body, for the lights to flicker and fail. That would be the next step, the power going off.

An intelligence like Lugal wasn’t well versed in acting appropriately in social situations, so it had me sitting very still, staring straight ahead. The Brokers buzzed and whispered, both about me and about the disasters that were spilling out of the TV set. I was crushed into a tiny corner of my own consciousness, paralyzed and mute, and panic kept nipping at my heels.

I realized with a start that my body was taking deep breaths. I was hyperventilating.

In the mirror across from my body, I looked calm and steady. Creepily steady. I thought about the complexity of running a living human body like a puppet—a living body with a resident consciousness, namely me. The instruction set had to be huge. As opposed to Balazul and the corpse of Mr. Landry, which just required inhabiting an empty vessel, Lugal had to deal with a nervous system if it wanted to appear alive, if it wanted to pass all the smell tests. Lugal wasn’t sending me on a murder spree, like Balazul had Landry doing. It was trying to use me as a Trojan horse. Get some Bleeders, then pick my brain and force me to cast something ugly, contribute to the attack, undermine the world.
I think it’s actually a great random page to land on: Anyone reading this will understand pretty quickly that the narrator is being controlled, that it’s part of a larger plan, and even glean a hint as to the purpose of his possession. In just four short paragraphs, you get a sense of what the story deals with, which I think serves the story pretty well.

At the same time, there’s enough weirdness here that you won’t mistake it for a police thriller or some other kind of book. I’ve always thought The Ustari Cycle sits uneasily between a bunch of genres (which has made marketing difficult). It’s Urban Fantasy in a sense, but it’s also Horror, with a twist of Detective Fiction thrown in. The central relationship reflects Of Mice and Men, which complicates things further. The references to insane stuff on page 69 at least guarantees that no one will mistake The Stringer for some other kind of story.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Somers's website.

My Book, The Movie: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: We Are Not Good People.

My Book, The Movie: We Are Not Good People.

My Book, The Movie: The Stringer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Midair"

Kodi Scheer teaches writing at the University of Michigan, where she earned her MFA. She was awarded the Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. As a fellow of the Sozopol Fiction Seminars, she traveled to Bulgaria to engage with an international community of writers, translators, and readers. Her stories have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, The Florida Review, Quarterly West, and Bellevue Literary Review.

Scheer applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Midair, and reported the following:
First of all, a couple of the characters in Midair would giggle at "69." The four girls are coming-of-age (no pun intended) in the late '90s, before porn was as widely available. There was no such thing as sexting, and at the time, Playboy seemed risque. So in some ways, the girls are more naive than teens today. By current standards, they seem a lot younger than 17 or 18.

To address the question of the "test," page 69 does highlight one of the major themes of the novel--expectation vs. reality--when Kat says, "There's no crying in Paris!" They're all disappointed by their first experiences in the city but they're hesitant to admit this. The page also introduces an important component of the plot: the truth portion of Truth or Dare. The game eventually proves harmful, and in the end, fatal.
Visit Kodi Scheer's website.

My Book, The Movie: Midair by Kodi Scheer.

Writers Read: Kodi Scheer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"I Will Send Rain"

Rae Meadows is the author of Calling Out, which received the 2006 Utah Book Award for fiction, No One Tells Everything, a Poets & Writers Notable Novel, and the widely praised novel, Mercy Train (released in hardback as Mothers and Daughters).

Meadows applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, I Will Send Rain, and reported the following:
I love the magical Page 69 Test. In I Will Send Rain, page 69 lands us smack in the middle of a pivotal scene where Annie and Samuel Bell, a husband and wife who have been quietly unraveling, have it out, as much as these stoic characters have it out. It’s the only time they confront each other in the book. The Bells are struggling with a failing farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the Dust Bowl, and they have begun to turn away from one another. Samuel clings more desperately to his faith and believes he is hearing God. Annie, who years before had begun to shut the door on God, is tempted by the attentions of another man, and for the first time is questioning her whole life. Earlier in the scene, Annie thinks Samuel has discovered her secret, but instead he reveals one of his own:
Annie finished her drink and rubbed her face. Samuel waited for her to speak but she didn’t.

“Fred and I were talking,” he said.

“Fred?”

“He has an idea. About the rain. About how to protect us when it comes.”

“Fred is an imaginative little boy.”

“I think he’s right,” Samuel said.

She shook her head, trying to regain the clarity she had felt a moment before.

“We’re going to build a boat,” he said, feeling the idea solidify for the first time.

Annie hid her eyes with her palms and dug her fingertips in her forehead.

“I know how it sounds,” he said.

“Do you?”

“It’s not crazy, though.”

“Please, Samuel. You are a farmer in a drought.”

Her bitterness stung him.

“Psalms 46, verse 10. Be still, and know that I am God,” he said.

“Please don’t quote Scripture to me.” She dropped her glass in the sink with an angry clang.

Samuel sank into himself.

“Fred is right,” he said. “I know it. And I will do what I have to do to keep us safe.”

His once tentative question about the rain, over the past weeks, had with Fred’s help crystallized into belief. With time Annie would have to see the truth of it.

“Stop!” she shouted, covering her mouth quickly with her hands.
This could be a scene where they connect and come together in a meaningful way, but instead they are driven further apart, or perhaps it’s indicative of how far they have already drifted. Neither can get through to the other, and they will continue to bend away—Samuel will begin to build a boat in a veritable desert, and Annie will consider leaving all of it behind. I think page 69 is quite representative of the book, even though it’s part of the only scene of its kind. Annie and Samuel harden their positions, which will have reverberations throughout the novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Rae Meadows's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mothers and Daughters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 19, 2016

"Survivors Will Be Shot Again"

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

Crider applied the Page 69 Test to Survivors Will Be Shot Again, the 23rd Dan Rhodes Mystery, and reported the following:
It happens every year.

Every. Single. Year.

What happens? Well you might ask. It’s the Page 69 Test, and each year when Marshal Zeringue asks me to participate, I eagerly open my new book, thinking, “This is it. This is the year when page 69 will have an explosion on it, or a car chase, or a slam­bang shoot­out, or a fight with Sheriff Dan Rhodes taking on a team of ninja assassins and giving them a good butt­kicking.

But alas, it seems never meant to be. Instead we get some small­town crime like a salad bar with no sneeze guard over it. Or somebody’s dog has dug up a neighbor’s flowerbed.

My books do have shoot­outs in them, though, and car chases. Even the occasional explosion. Not to mention alligators and feral hogs. Lots of feral hogs. It’s just that they’re never on page 69.

So what do we have this year? Again, no ninjas. Not even any feral hogs. We do have a scene that I hope will make readers a little curious about what’s going to happen later in the book, however. The scene is on the concluding page of the chapter. Sheriff Dan Rhodes is at the home of a murder suspect, picking up a revolver that the suspect, Billy Bacon, and his wife, Nadine, insist they own only for their protection against home invaders. Rhodes takes the revolver, anyway.

“‘What if the home invaders come tonight?’ Nadine asked.”

Billy takes his wife’s side and tells the sheriff that the revolver will be there whenever Rhodes wants to pick it up for testing.

“Rhodes passed the gun back to him. ‘All right, but keep it handy.’”

“‘We always do,’ Billy said.”

And that’s the end of page 69 and the chapter. I hope the readers want to know more about that revolver and whether the home invaders come. If you want to find out, you’ll have to read the book, though. I’m not telling.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Compound Murder, Half in Love with Artful Death, and Between the Living and the Dead.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes and Seepy Benton on the big screen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Addlands"

Tom Bullough grew up on a hill farm in Wales, where he still lives. He has worked as a sawmiller, a music promotor in Zimbabwe, a tractor driver, and a contributor to various titles in the Rough Guides series. At present he is a Visiting Fellow at the University of South Wales.

Bullough applied the Page 69 Test to Addlands, his fourth novel, and the first to be published in the United States, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Christ, you’re a dirty bugger, Griffin,” Oliver muttered as the two boys filed back down the aisle.

“Oh? Why’s that, then?”

“I seen what you drew.”

“Oh! Noah.” Griffin laughed, peering up at him sideways. He had ceased to grow some two years earlier, but remained as wiry and restless as ever. “Now, let’s face it, boy. He were on that boat for thirteen month. What the hell else were he going to get up to?”

They passed beneath the rickety gallery and wove among the people massing on the steps, spreading into the green-grey graveyard. The day was chill and threatening rain. The smoke of the men was pale against the muckery clouds. As the women gathered round Vera, Ruth and Siân, murmuring memories and commiserations, the two boys leant on the wall by the war memorial—their eyes on a nearby gaggle of girls, their hands in their pockets, since they were not allowed to smoke themselves.

“His boy binna here,” said Griffin. “Vivien, like.”

“He come to the funeral,” said Oliver.

“He shanna come back. You mark my words. What’s he gonna want with bloody Cwmpiban? Got himself the good life in Hereford, in’t he? Nice job. Nice car. Missus. Kids ... Christ, if I had a Ford Zephyr you wouldna see me for dust neither!”

“So. You getting soft on old Ruth, then, are you?”

“I’ll be soft on the beasts first.” Griffin grimaced.
Addlands begins in early January 1941 and ends in late December 2011 – it follows the years and the seasons together – so, on page 69, it is March 1957 and Oliver, who is born in the first chapter, is 16 years old: tall, golden-skinned, still channelling his urge to punch people through legitimate boxing, as yet merely eyeing up the girls.

Looking at it now I suppose that this passage belongs to a golden time for Oliver – or one he might come to look back on that way. It's a time when it seems that his life could go in any direction. Addlands is set in the Edw Valley in Radnorshire, a particularly obscure part of Wales (itself not unobscure, I know). As time goes on the English spoken by the characters becomes standardised by travel and incomers and radio and television, but in 1957 Oliver and Griffin are still using 'binna' for 'isn't', while the narrative still contains words like 'muckery', meaning 'damp and close'. This tight rural community abides, as does this Primitive Methodist Chapel and its various power structures, but the seeds of change are everywhere to be seen: in the 'ricketiness' of the chapel gallery, in the brazen disrespect of Griffin's illustrations, in Vivien's choice of a life in town. Even the clouds are heavy, threatening – although in Wales, to be honest, this is the usual state of affairs.
Visit Tom Bullough's website.

Writers Read: Tom Bullough.

My Book, The Movie: Addlands.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"The Gentleman"

Forrest Leo was born in a log cabin in 1990. He grew up in Alaska, and holds a BFA in drama from NYU/Tisch. While living in New York, he worked as a carpenter, a photographer, and in a cubicle. He now lives in LA, where he worked at Walgreens for one day. He writes plays and novels and things.

Leo applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Gentleman, and reported the following:
When I heard the idea behind the Page 69 Test — flip to page 69 in any given book and chances are it’s a fairly representative synecdoche — I was skeptical. I picked up several nearby books to satisfy myself that the notion was absurd. But when first The Scarlet Pimpernel, then Freddy and Fredericka, then Ender’s Game, and finally Middlemarch all bore out the notion, I had to confess there might be something to it. I opened to page 69 in The Gentleman and this is what I found:
A servant might have made eyes at a lady and been shot by a jealous husband. Or perhaps Babington became truly drunk and pinched a maid who squealed and jumped and upset a soup tureen which emptied its contents onto the lap of the Duke of Cumbria who fell backward and into the way of Mr Moncrieff who tripped over him and whose mask upon falling was pitched across the room and stabbed Lady Lazenby in the bosom causing her to drop her champagne flute which shattered on the carpet and a shard of which bounced and impaled Lord Earlsmere who dropped to his knees in pain and over whom Mrs Frazer, who was all this while preoccupied with jealousy for the pinched maid and was looking behind her at Babington instead do in front of her at the body of Earlsmere, pitched headlong, landing in a fireplace which immediately set her costume ablaze which in turn set the curtains alight which will by and by burn down the whole house.* I loathe parties.

“Did you meet me wife?” I say.

“Not yet. There are lots and lots of people, and everyone’s wearing a mask.”

“Isn’t it horrid?”

“Oh no!” she cries. “I’ve never had such a lovely evening. I feel as though I could dance until my feet bled. Everyone’s so beautiful and mysterious and romantic in their costumes. I’m upset with you, Nellie. I feel as though you’ve been holding out on me. Society parties are wonderful.”

*I was present at this party, and so I can say with authority that this is not what happened. However, I have heard that something very similar did occur once at a party given by the Count and Countess de Guiche in Paris. —HL.
If there’s a more representative page in the whole thing I’m not sure where it might be. This gives us our heroes — poet-protagonist Lionel Savage, his brilliant little sister Lizzie, his society wife Vivien, his aggrieved editor Hubert Lancaster — and our hero’s neuroses, which together make up the better part of the book.
Visit Forrest Leo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"The Last Treasure"

Erika Marks has worked as an illustrator, an art director, a cake decorator, and a carpenter. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and their two daughters. The Last Treasure is her fifth novel, following It Comes in Waves, The Guest House, The Mermaid Collector, and Little Gale Gumbo.

Marks applied the Page 69 Test to The Last Treasure and reported the following:
The Last Treasure examines the unstable marriage of two treasure hunters, Whit and Liv, and what happens when Liv’s ex-lover Sam joins them on a salvage mission of a sunken blockade runner off the Carolina coast.

Page 69 brings us to the morning of the big dive which Whit has orchestrated to reestablish his reputation as a successful treasure hunter after years of failed missions, but the reader can already sense something is wrong, that Whit is keeping a secret about the mission from his team—which includes Liv, whose faith in him is waning dangerously, and Sam who Whit has had to bring on board at the last minute.
Whit rubs his face, his jaw. He just wants to get to the site, start bringing everything up so there can be no contention, no doubt. He just wants it to be six already. But no matter how many times he cuts his gaze to the sky, that one damn streak of pink seems frozen , determined to sit on dawn’s rise for as long as possible. The surf keeps curling over the shore and retreating, the ticktock of its rhythm. He turns back to watch Liv as the even sound of her breathing matches it.

And in the seconds of quiet between the rise and crash of every wave, Whit swears he can already hear the gentle crack of her heart breaking.
The reader soon learns why Whit is so anxious to get the day going, as well as the reasons he fears he’s broken Liv’s heart once again, but I loved building the tension in this scene, as well as teasing out the layers of Whit, who is a deeply flawed but ultimately deeply-committed husband, even as he fears Liv’s reunion with Sam will undoubtedly force unresolved passions to resurface, which, of course, they must—and they do. As Sam suggests further down the page:
A flock of terns plunges to the water, their capped heads descending in unison, purple in the muted dawn light. Sam watches them from his seat on the sand, admiring their order and grace. He’s always the first one up. He and the birds. His dreams were strange and chaotic, but what else would they be after seeing Liv and Whit again after so long? Liv with Whit. It doesn’t make sense. They don’t make sense. Not the way he and Liv had—that’s for sure.
Learn more about the book and author at Erika Marks's website.

My Book, The Movie: Little Gale Gumbo.

My Book, The Movie: It Comes In Waves.

--Marshal Zeringue