Nine Digits

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Joe’s first novel, Nine Digits, tells the story of Nee-Nee Marcus’ quest to win $100 million on a reality TV program.

“A quote on the novel’s back cover compares it to Norton Juster’s 1961 classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and…Duret’s book really does begin to approach the witty, imaginative, and accessible brilliance of that genre-busting work.”

From Kirkus Reviews


When Nee-Nee came home from school she thought there had been an explosion at her house. There were so many cars and people and police cruisers that it had to have been an explosion. Or a fire. Or a tornado. Marticus probably had blown them all up. That thought brightened her mood considerably.

She pushed her way across her front lawn.

There were a bunch of kids from school, and not the kids that she usually hung with. By the front door, there was a cluster of younger girls who were excitedly hopping up and down trying to see into the front hall of Blisters. What was going on? She heard one of the girls—she knew that voice, it was Valerie Villager—shriek, “I saw him! I saw him! He’s in there!” and then all the girls in the little knot began to hop up and down with even greater agitation.

Nee-Nee pushed her way into the knot. “WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?”

But the girls were too involved in trying to see into her front hall to answer.

Nee-Nee put her hands on Valerie’s shoulders and turned her around to face her. “Valerie. What is going on here?”

Valerie was a pretty girl with soft beautiful buttery skin. She spent hours on making up her eyes to give herself a striking—slightly raccoon-like—look. She certainly was wide-eyed now.

Valerie said, in a wide-eyed way, “Oh my god, Nee-Nee, oh my god. Aren’t you excited? You are so lucky. Why didn’t you tell us?”

The cluster of girls with Valerie now focused on Nee-Nee and they crooned together in a chorus, “Oh why? Oh why? Ooh Ooh. Why Didn’t You Tell Us?”

Nee-nee was bewildered. She was not a patient person at the best of times. “What? What! WHAT??”

Valerie—“And by the time we got here, all the film trucks were here and I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE IT. NINE DIGITS! RIGHT HERE!!! YOU ARE SO LUCKY!!”

Valerie was hopping up and down again in the sheer excitement of the words.

Nee-Nee froze. OH. MY. GOD. “It’s Nine Digits?” She grabbed Valerie by the shoulders and shook her. “You are sure? You are sure? Nine Digits is at my house?”

Nee-Nee’s mind usually moved along at a pretty quick clip but now her thoughts were like Sonic the Hedgehog when he is supercharged and karooms off walls and buildings at wilder and wilder angles. Nine Digits had come to her house! Oh My GOD. After all. They had loved her after all. Oh My GOD! Nine Digits had come after all. Nee-Nee screamed as the full import hit her. My GOD!!! Nine Digits Was Here!! Nine Digits had come to choose her. They had come after all!!