Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #47

GENRE: Adult Mystery

Wiry and strong as a rod of rebar, Lamar Gallivant was gifted with an uncanny aptitude for math, baseball—and burning shit down.

He hung out behind a shoe store until the black Mercedes rolled up at exactly 10:20. The sleek four-door, with tinted windows and Georgia plates, slowed to a crawl as the passenger lobbed a disposable cell phone into leaves piled near the curb. Once the sedan was out of sight, Lamar retrieved the prepaid burner and powered it up. A text message spelled out his target’s address.

Lamar hiked his baggy jeans and tore through the heart of Charleston’s river-carved peninsula. Blowing past college chumps. Dodging tourists. Sidestepping businesswomen. At East Bay Street, he zigged north alongside the Cooper River. Property values and fashion sense nosedived with each stride. Rainbow Row gave way to sun-bleached blah. Broken street lamps replaced copper carriage lanterns. Seersucker couture morphed into overstuffed stretchy pants.

Nine blocks later, the road forked at the dilapidated row houses and subsidized apartments of Fleet Landing. The east-side neighborhood, less than two miles from the opulent Battery and South Carolina’s most stately antebellum homes, was almost dead—close enough to call the coroner. Lamar plopped on a bench to retie his boot laces and shake off a flicker of unexpected jitters. He longed for the inky darkness that’d made him invisible on his previous jobs.

He should bolt—call it quits.

But fifteen grand was a lot of money.

The trouble with trouble…


  1. Love the opening line... drew me right in. I would definitely read more. A few places where I was distracted by words/phrases: 1. "prepaid burner". Even though it's clear he's talking about the phone, the word "burner" doesn't seem right. 2. I thought we were in GA (due to the plates) at first. Could you instead say "out of state" plates? 3. Though I love ALL the descriptions, you might be able to choose a few and leave out the rest to keep the story moving forward. Great job.

    1. OTOH, I had no problem with either of these. Burner is clear, the meaning known to most readers by now... and the context in the next line clarifies further. And I assumed they were _not_ in GA because of the reference to plates. He wouldn't notice GA plates in Atlanta, say.

  2. I like this! Your voice gives us a great sense of who Lamar is--unprincipled, confident, and a little snide ("sun-bleached blah", etc.)

    If he has to run to his destination, where he will (presumably) commit arson, his choice to wear jeans struck me as odd. I would absolutely notice a strange man in jeans sprinting through the city. If he wants to stay invisible, why not pretend to be a jogger? Or take another mode of transport?

    Overall, this is strong and hooks the reader immediately. Great job!

  3. Great setup, good voice. And good description of Charleston, too. But then we get into transportation, which depletes the tension you've built. We don't yet need to know why he received the burner in the tony part of town and now has to hoof it to Fleet Landing. That's good stuff about Charleston (though I thought Fleet Landing was closer to the tourist area), but it's not tense stuff. Maybe he has the jitters to start, thinks about ditching the burner, except that the fact the Georgia car delivered it right on time scares him, makes him confident they can find him if he doesn't follow through. I don't know, but something that creates a level of tension that equals the excellent writing overall.

  4. Nice description. Well done for setting the tone. I would keep reading.

    HollyD entry 16

  5. A great voice and I do like the description..just a bit less to keep the pace. I am engaged with the character and the set up..definitely a page turner. Like others, I was a bit confused why he ran through people, making people remember him, and why he would walk so far to a job. I like the last section where he regrets taking the job. It sets the reader up for action.

  6. Wicked opening line. I love it. The voice is clear and powerful straight-away. The description of the setting as he runs from one part of the city to another works for me. It also sets up a vivid, fast pace. And, I'm engaged fully. I want to read more. I get that money is motivating his gig - and the fact that he doesn't want to be doing it but for the money has me looking forward to knowing why. *LOVE* Rainbow Row gave way to sun-bleached blah. Broken street lamps replaced copper carriage lanterns. Seersucker couture morphed into overstuffed stretchy pants.
    well done!

  7. The portrayal is accurate and transporting, however, it hinders the streamlining of the action

    Entry #40

  8. Great gripping beginning. The descriptions were well-worded but could maybe use some light trimming to keep the action flowing.

  9. This opening had a very "noir" feel to it.That bit of wonderful moral ambiguity and intrigue. Would read more.

  10. Nice use of language to set the tone and build character (college chumps tells us about Lamar) Good rhythm to the sentences, it sets a nice pace. Good Luck!

  11. Great set-up. We get a sense of the character right off the bat and there’s already tension and intrigue. Lamar sounds like a fascinating character and I’m really interested in learning more about him. I’d love to know why he needs the 15K (not that we all couldn’t use 15K) but I also have the sense that maybe that info is right around the corner. I wasn't hung up on the term burner or on the GA plates, rather I wanted more about who Lamar was, but that's also subjective. I'm always looking to connect with the characters I'm reading about so am always wanting more from them.


  12. Very good article. I’m facing many of these issues as well