Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #41

TITLE: The Bootlegger's Bible
GENRE: YA Alternate History

One letter—that’s all it would take to destroy us. As my father returned from the mailbox, I knew that letter had arrived.

“Deliver this as soon as possible, Evelyn,” Papa said.

Reviewing the envelope, I caught sight of our boss’s seal—a shimmering golden C. It may not have been the draft letter we were expecting, but it was just as dangerous.

I prayed my father wanted me to bring it to anyone else but them. I’d even prefer it be for Mr. Mitchell. At least he was decent. As decent as an irritable speakeasy owner could be, I guess. But those dogs across town put his curt demeanor to shame. Stealing from under our noses and lying their mouths off. They were the nastiest bootlegging rival we could’ve come by. Even their polite nods scared me straight into the pews.

I ignored the sudden tapping of my foot. “Shouldn’t one of the boys do it?”

“No, that would give us away.” Papa peered over his shoulder to my older brothers sitting at the kitchen table, scrutinizing the latest newspaper headline about the war. “God has a plan, and He needs you to do this for us.”

The worried eyes behind my father’s glasses provided no comfort. “Are you sure this isn’t Capone’s plan?”

After a sharp hush, he covered my mouth with a calloused hand. “Take this to the Cohens.” I held back a gasp at the mention of their name.  “And whatever you do, don’t read it.” 


  1. Yes! Hooked! I love the idea of a YA alternate gangster history story, and this is a stellar beginning for it. You've set-up the story. I know what Evelyn's family is into, that they have rival bootleggers, and I'm dying to know what is in that letter. It's also interesting how they are obviously religious, but into some dirty work. I really hope someone picks this up because I want to read more!

  2. More, please! This is great! I already have a sense of the world and what things are like--the details you've used here are just perfect. And I don't usually go for alternate history, but this has got me hooked for sure.

  3. Love it, love it love it. I'm a little confused with her referring to her father as father sometimes and Papa other times. I think she would refer to him as Papa all the times and not use father. I would love to know what there plan is . My favorite line is "Even their polite nods scared me straight into the pews." Great beginning.

  4. I really like this, especially the Capone reference. The only criticism I have is that the sentences read kind of choppy in the beginning. Particularly this bit: At least he was decent. As decent as an irritable speakeasy owner could be, I guess. But those dogs across town put his curt demeanor to shame. Stealing from under our noses and lying their mouths off.

    But that is truly the only criticism I have. I think it's a great start. Good luck!

  5. Great opening. I love the letter and suspense it creates. I also dig the Capone reference, and would totally read this. :) Good luck!

  6. The set-up and stakes are fascinating. And I love the voice. The only suggestion I have is giving clues for physical place sooner. I didn't realize they were in a kitchen until the end of the excerpt--I was picturing a speakeasy. :)

  7. I'd probably keep reading because I want to know what's in the letter, and I have no doubt that our intrepid MC is going to read it as soon as she gets out of sight of her father. Otherwise, I'm pretty lost. Which is fine. It's way better than trying to tell all in 250 words. Good luck!

  8. Nice! I'm not usually into historicals, and I haven't read much alternate history, but this is intriguing. The whole 1920's vibe just comes off the page. I feel it.

    There's one paragraph where the sentences feel a little clipped ("I prayed my father..."). On one hand, it gave me that smoky feel of someone telling a story in a darkened room, almost noir, a "listen here, I'm gonna tell you a story." On the other hand, the fragments were a little distracting. I wonder if there's a way to find a balance between the two.

  9. This is not the type of book I normally read, with that said I want to keep reading. The one thing I would change--at least in the first few pages of the book--is the use of Papa and father for the same person, I had to read it twice to make sure I wasn't missing something.

  10. You’ve got a strong opening line and give us a sense of the setting straight away with clues like “speakeasy” and “Capone.” You’ve also got danger from page one, which will help grab readers. The balance between historical diction accuracy and not sounding too dry or losing that relatable YA voice in a non-contemporary setting is a tough one with historical fiction, and you have a good balance here, so make sure to keep that throughout.

  11. I must be hooked. I've begun seeing this group as Irish hooch sellers. Even the narrative has an Irish swing to it. And, yes, I would definitely read on. What in the world is in that letter? Good title.