Saturday, December 4, 2010

#11 Thriller: The Clown House (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: The Clown House
GENRE: Thriller

When his younger brother is murdered in Phoenix but the police don't investigate, wealthy lawyer Roger Steele returns home and draws on a network of powerful old friends to conduct his own investigation, only to discover his brother was a player in the deadly world of Mexican drug cartels. But when Roger uncovers a network of Arizona officials who protect and profit from the cartels, one of his "friends" orders Roger killed and he has to rely on a member of his brother's cartel for protection.

I assume my pals are going to kill me, but so long as they don't get creative, I can live with that.

Back in town, they duct-taped me to a two-by-four, wrapped a wool blanket around me, snug as a bug, and topped everything with a coarse burlap hood that smells of sweat, sweet onions and jalapenos. Now I'm in the desert, a six-foot-two totem pole leaning against the sliding door of their old Chevy van.

I don't blame them. Business is business. Still, when the best you can hope for is your old friends finishing you off quickly, the numb resignation that conceals your raw panic is like gift-wrap on a frisky puppy--pathetically inadequate.

To my surprise, Carlos removes the hood. I shake my head like I'm exiting the shower, urging my follicles to release a few hairs to drift over to the shag carpet in the back of the van. For Debbie's sake, I want to leave behind as much DNA as possible. But Carlos thumps me upside the head with his gloved hand and says, "You want I put the hood back?"

My captors know a thing or two about evidence.

When it comes to evidence, blood beats hair, but they haven't cut me yet, so I bite my tongue hard and let the salty fluid accumulate in my cheek. The moment they remove the tape from my mouth, I'll turn and spit into the van.

Bloodsplatter--the victim's last retribution, the resourceful detective's best friend.


  1. I'm intrigued by who he is. I'm not sure about the sentence: Still, when the best you can hope...--That kind of left me wondering too much what he meant that my mind wondered from the present. That may be just me, I'm dense that way. LOL.

    I would read more.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I'd change "but" to "and" in the first sentence of your logline.

    I get a very vivid sense of what's happening to this character, and I love the way he's trying to leave evidence. Not my usual genre, but I'd read on.

  3. Confusing (is the 2x4 parallel with his body, and what's the point?) but intriguing.

  4. The logline is a tad wordy and feels like it is missing the final consequences. The "one of his...killed" is also awkward.

    As for the excerpt - I don't think this is the first 250 words. It sounds like it is coming from near the climax in the story. If it is the first 250 words, you've lost me. The logline says this is about him discovering his brother's murder and this excerpt is from after he figures out his friends want to kill him. The writing is okay but overall, I'm confused.

  5. The logline didn't do anything for me... didn't make me interested. However, I really liked your excerpt. Loved the protag's tone and his way of phrasing things... he's definitely a distinct character.

    I did wonder, like Holly, whether this was the first 250 words or from somewhere in the middle.

  6. I think this is the first 250 words. I think it's the brother's death that we're seeing first, but I could be wrong.

    What I didn't care for was the casual attitude of the victim. I understand that he knows there is no way out and he's trying to leave evidence, but I'd like to see some sort of emotion--fear, anger, sadness, even disappointment.

  7. The logline was too long and confusing for me, but I really liked the writing and voice in the sample page.

    If this is leading up to the climax, like Holly suggested, I suspect this story begins in medias res. That's usually not my thing, but since this is a thriller, it doesn't bother me. I'd read on, simply because I like the voice.

  8. I'm a sucker for a good voice and for a protagonist (I assume?) who's able to keep his cool and do something productive in a situation like this. The logline is definitely pretty convoluted though, which is a pity when based on this excerpt, your prose is actually clean and succinct.

    I'm not generally fond of in medias res openings either, but this one works for me because I immediately have a good sense of character. I'd kind of hate to go back in time after this, though, just to get back to this point later on. I think you potentially lose momentum doing that. But without having read the rest of your novel, I can't say whether or not you managed to pull it off.

  9. Logline:
    -Too long and overly detailed. Simpler is better.

    Line comments:
    -Great first sentence

    Wow. Great ending. Wonderful voice, very interesting opening--I really like this.

  10. Really like this, great voice and atmosphere and definitely a page-turner for me. Only sentence I don't like is: ' I shake my head like I'm exiting the shower, urging my follicles to release a few hairs to drift over to the shag carpet in the back of the van.' which feels clumsy to me, plus not sure about the whole leaving evidence part generally, if they know there's evidence in the van, wouldn't his captors clean it off or just dump the van?

  11. Love the protagonist's voice, the clever way he describes a bad situation in calm, cool-headed terms. I think this author has the voice down pat and I'd read more just to hear more from protagonist.

  12. Loved the log line. It promises lots of adventure and intrigue!

    Excerpt - This disappointed me. First, it seems to start after everything promised in the log line has already happened, so I'm not getting to be a part of all that intrigue.

    Second, it's all told. I'm not feeling what's it's like to be tied up to a 2 x 4. I'm not feeling the hot desert sun or the cold desert nights. What does Carlos look like? How many bad guys are there? Are they the kind of bad guys who enjoy their work, or are they just doing their job?

    The MC just talks and talks, and he talks like it's just another day. I'm not feeling any tension or fear, nor do I have any sense of place or atmosphere.

    Perhaps consider adding some texture to this. Show us what's happening instead of telling us.

  13. Logline - As we've seen with many in this auction, this seems a bit long for a logline. Could you trim this down?

    Excerpt - Very interesting first line. The kind of first line that makes you sit up and take notice. Creative? The last line in the excerpt is also a great one.

    I'm wondering about the timing for this scene. If it's the first 250 words of the novel, is there going to be a lot of time shifting? You're starting somewhere in the middle but going to be going back to fill in the backstory? I don't mind that, but dating the passage might make it easier if that's what you're doing.

    The protagonist has an amazingly cool head and is very pragmatic. If this is how he's going to continue though the novel, from my perspective, it's going to be an interesting read. The voice is solid and doesn't waver and has a wonderful touch of sarcasm (always a plus in my opinion).

    You've got me hooked! Good luck!

  14. Here's a bid to read the first 25 pages.

  15. I bid 40 pages.

    Laura Bradford
    Bradford Literary Agency


  17. I'm not really hooked. I'm confused at who the first-person narrator could be if the one involved in drugs is the protagonist's brother, not the protag himself. If this is the protagonist and a flash-forward to the end, I tend to find those cliched and a little boring, so it would make sense that I'm not hooked.

    The voice works well (though there are a few cliches to watch out for, as well as overuse of similes--though similes are a staple of pulp noir so if you're going for that voice you succeeded).

    However, my confusion has more to do with the matching up of the logline to the sample piece. Each stands alone quite nicely (though generally it's harder to sympathize with a rich protagonist who knows how to work the angles already than for an underdog; depends on how it's handled)--it's just that put right next to each other it's confusing, as the "I" of a book is generally assumed to be the protagonist.