9.04.2006

3rd SR Crapometer #61

Dear Miss Snark,

I am seeking representation for my debut work - a 102,000 word mainstream literary novel titled * * * * .

On April 2nd at 9:15 p.m. in the small town of Sweet Clover, Ron Bergen believes he arrived home drunk to find his wife Ruth murdered on the kitchen tile. He remembers kneeling on the floor next to her. He cried and passed out next to her before calling the police three hours later. When Ron’s prior assault conviction surfaces, the investigating detective suspects Ron killed her and left the house to dispose of evidence. Ron’s son blames his father for the murder as well. The two men have exchanged accusations since Ronnie announced he was gay. No one in Sweet Clover believes in Ron’s innocence, and even he is beginning to wonder.

As the police investigate his story, Ron investigates himself. Every morning Ron faces murder, lost opportunity, guilt, and the emerging question of how a man is to live his life. (I'd think the emerging question is who killed Ruth, but I'm willing to throw girls into quarries on page one, so clearly I'm crime minded)

I have enclosed the first 550 words for your consideration. Thank you for your kind attention.

Regards,

Author

Interesting idea. The actual writing doesn't make me jump up and down. It's not crisp. It's mushy. It's like playing the notes of the sonata without thinking about how all those notes form a whole. I'd read on because of the idea.

Also, we get no idea of plot in the cover letter.

This much I know is true: I wouldn’t have left Ruth dead on the floor like that. I chanted it to myself as I zipped my jacket. That mantra reduced my entire marriage to Ruth to one sentence. An April snow storm the night before left a dusting of snow over the headstones. A row of poplars along the fence creaked in the wind. I felt a hundred eyes on me as I walked through the snow. Only a daisy casket spray and fresh dark soil identified her new grave. Daisies, for Christ’s sake. I would have never left her there under a blanket of gay flowers like that.
Ronnie chose the daisies. While I was at the police station listening to the investigating officers construct a murder timeline, Ronnie chose a black lacquer casket too. He probably sobbed into a handkerchief and pointed at things like he finally had no words of his own. I imagine him saying things to the funeral director like, the black lacquer harmonizes with my mother’s classic desires. What does Ronnie know about desire between a husband and a wife?
I stared down at her grave. I imagined her under the soil, still and watchful in the blue satin bedding. A cold wind played with the snow across the cemetery, zigzagging the drifts and swirling it up into tiny tornados. The gusts quivered the pink ribbon with the word Mother written in script. She looked nestled in my imagination, protected in blue satin and black lacquer. I pulled my flannel collar up to my chin. Ruth deserved red roses.

“You wouldn’t tell her you loved her if her life depended on it,” Ronnie had said at the Methodist church. He yelled it actually. “Did her life depend on it, Dad?” He stretched the word Dad out into an accusation. He stepped in front of the casket like he might stop me from saying goodbye to my own wife. A few dozen Sweet Clover Methodists raised their heads and lowered their tissues to watch my grown son in a rabbit fur coat yell at me. We were in church, for Christ’s sake, so I just walked away. I don’t care what the town thinks happened that night. I wouldn’t have walked away from Ruth.

I’ve heard that we remember things after they die. If that’s true then Ruth knows the truth. There’s no way I killed her. She knows she was already dead when I came home. She wouldn’t blame me for being drunk either. She saw me cry next to her on the kitchen tile. She knew me then and still does.


The wind picked up. The pressure in my head squeezed shut my mind. I wanted to crawl down into the blue-black and lie next to her. My small drinking heart might die under her six feet of freshly turned soil. I know I wouldn’t have killed her and left her alone to die. I told Ronnie that. I wouldn’t leave her.

I bent down and tore out the stakes that held the casket spray in place and dragged the ridiculous thing over to my truck. Ruth’s grave was a raw wound of earth in the snow without the flowers. Ronnie will know I took it, but who cares? I threw the daisies into the back on the truck and got in. I had a new mantra: Who cares?

The only action in this happens off the page in the church. Why are we wandering around the churchyard ruminating instead of at the church with the smell of flowers and fear and grief?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like the writing, even if we are strictly in Ron's head. I find I care.

McKoala said...

Good morning! Actually, nearly bedtime here. Have a good day, look forward to seeing all your hard work tomorrow. Thanks for everything you have done.

Madame T said...

That opening line sounds very much like the opening line to "I Know This Much To Be True" by Wally Lamb.

Anonymous said...

Don't think you can use those five words to open and not put yourself in Wally Lamb's shadow. Might want to rethink that.

I know this much is true is a very readable, and very good literary novel. Read it and weep.

Frainstorm said...

Author: Cool idea. Just for ... oh, call it research, read Dennis Lehane's Mystic River. Wow, what a story, and it's all I kept thinking about while reading your query and imagining your protag. You could do worse than emulate Dennis Lehane when constructing a good story.

Have fun!
John

December Quinn said...

I liked the writing, too, but I didn't understand how Ronnie first just pointed, sobbing, at a casket "like he had no words of his own"; then in the next line is explaining how the black laquer melds with his mother's classic tastes.

Bernita said...

Found it intriguing.
Don't make the cops too dumb,please.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

I like the writing too. Something quirky about it.

Miss Snark, how come you're redacting certain titles and publishing others as a matter of interest?

And keep up the good work, it is appreciated!

Anonymous said...

I rather enjoyed this. It needs some work, but I found myself actually reading it all the way to the end. Keep polishing this one. It's a keeper. But the query needs major work. Snooze.

srchamberlain said...

I guess I'm in the minority here. I read a lot of literary novels (for work and otherwise) and the writing to me doesn't even approach the literary level. When you don't have much of a plot, you really have to sell your audience on your ability to make them see ordinary images in an extraordinary way. The writing's perfectly competent, but also perfectly ordinary. It might be time to hit the bookshelves again, author.

Southern Writer said...

Sorry, you lost me with the descriptions. No self-respecting gay guy would pair black lacquer with daisies. The casket needs calla lilies or white roses, maybe. It also needs a white interior, not a blue one. And the pink ribbon clashes with the whole thing.

There's also a lot of repetition here that doesn't move the story forward. I generally go for angst, but this didn't convince me to care. Sorry.

Natalia said...

Once again, cool premise, but the writing meanders.

Calla lillies are a good suggestion, listen to Southern Writer.

I am not a huge fan of the opening paragraph, but you say something interesting in it:

"That mantra reduced my entire marriage to Ruth to one sentence."

That could be your hook. If you expound on it a little, and not bury it in that paragraph so much.

Rei said...

I like the writing. It went on too long, but I liked it.