3rd SR Crapometer #72-probably a partial

Dear Miss S:

Forty years ago, Henry Barton starred in the television series The Scarlet Knight. Now he wastes away in a California retirement home, forgotten by all except Tony McGraw, a 13-year-old devotee of the show. On the eve of a theatrical update of the series—produced by Henry’s estranged daughter—Henry sallies forth like a modern Don Quixote to prove he’s the real Scarlet Knight.

Henry’s first attempts at superheroics are minor, such as trying to rescue a prostitute from the customers Henry believes to be rapists. But soon he sees greater evil around him in the form of a conspiracy to destroy the city with giant robots masterminded by the Scarlet Knight’s archenemy the Black Dragoon, whom he thinks has wormed his way into the mayor’s office. This leads Henry to a daring break-in of city hall to retrieve evidence and a final showdown with the Black Dragoon—a stuntman recruited by Henry’s daughter—on the roof of a theater the night the Scarlet Knight film premieres.

The story alternates between the fanciful world of the Scarlet Knight imagined by Henry and the real world seen by Tony, the unwilling sidekick trying to get his friend home safely. As Henry’s madness deepens, jeopardizing both their lives, Tony loses his na├»ve beliefs about loyalty and heroism. He comes to see the naked world in all its terrible glory.

The Naked World is a 70,000-word dark literary comedy that updates the Cervantes novel for a modern audience. I think it’s important to note the novel of Don Quixote bears little resemblance to the well-known stage play Man of La Mancha. The former is not about reaching for impossible dreams so much as it is about keeping your feet on the ground. This is the spirit I’ve tried to capture in my novel.

May I send you a copy? Thank you for your time.


that's a good query letter. I'm not so sure it's a book I'm going to love, but it's a good letter.

Chapter 1

“I never wanted to be famous. I just wanted to be an actor,” Henry Barton told me once in his apartment. I had just put in the DVD of the pilot episode of The Scarlet Knight. He said this as his name came onto the screen in bold yellow letters while a section of horns belted out the triumphal theme song. “Acting is all I ever wanted to do.”

True to his words, Henry remained an actor right until the end. He was famous for nine months—from the fall of 1968 until the summer of 1969—but by the time of his funeral, only a handful of fans made the trip to Malibu where he was interred next to his wife. His death received only a back page mention in entertainment sections around the country and didn’t warrant any acknowledgement on television shows more concerned with the latest drunken exploits of Lindsay Lohan.

(this is your lead)
A gunshot wound to the abdomen compounded by old age and a bad heart was listed as the cause of death, but abandonment compounded by loneliness really killed him. Henry never cared about being famous, but every actor needs an audience. An actor without an audience has no choice but to manufacture one.

I blamed myself for years about what happened. If I hadn’t bought him the DVD player, if I hadn’t shown him how to use it, if I hadn’t put off my visits during exam week then maybe nothing would have happened. Maybe Henry would have lived many more years; maybe he would still be alive today.

I was only thirteen when it happened with a thirteen-year-old’s priorities. Like any kid, I never thought an adult might need me to be strong for him. I didn’t think an adult as old as Henry might still have problems too big to handle on his own.

I'd read on. You've gotten past the difficulty of the 13 year old's voice by telling it this way. I think that's a good choice.


Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with Miss Snark as to where this story begins - and I'd certainly go on reading from that point!

Kimber An said...

Oh, I like this one! I'd read it! I'd be really annoyed if it didn't have the perfect ending though.

Rick said...

This gets my interest, but one odd thing bugs me about the setup - in this day and age, it's hard for me to believe that even a one-season wonder from the late 60s would have only the single kid as a fan.

This could be finessed in the book (and maybe it is), but I'd expect the show to have some kind of organized fandom out there.

Anonymous said...

I'd definitely read this, as long as you lose the reference to Lindsay Lohan, which seems really out of place and distracting.

desert snarkling said...

I love the premise for this one. I'd read on, and would be interested enough to forgive the prose if it were less than perfect.

Anonymous said...

I liked this too, especially with Miss Snark's suggestion on what to snip. The plot listed in the query also sounds like it could be pretty great. Good luck, Author! I hope I get to read this someday.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Totally agree. I'd read on.

Jenny Rappaport said...

I've debated long and hard about commenting on any of these... (and please feel completely free to delete this comment, Miss Snark, if you feel it's not appropriate).

But I wanted to concur that I'd ask for a partial on this one, and that I'd honestly love to see one.

Anonymous said...

Since my kids have just discovered The Three Stooges, Batman and The Lone Ranger -- this resonates with me. Good luck with it. :)


Inigo said...

I actually like the Lindsay Lohan reference - I suspect she'll be performing drunken exploits for a good number of years, yet. The voice engaged me, and I want to read more.

Sherry Decker said...

I'd keep reading.

BJ Nemeth said...

You did a great job comparing your work to Don Quixote in the cover letter. It's a comparison that any agent or editor will immediately understand, allowing you to focus on the details of your story.

Most queries that attempt comparisons like this end up sounding like a bad Hollywood pitch. ("It's like the movie Die Hard, but takes place in an office building.") This is at least partially due to the fact that you talk about the original with reverence, rather than just stealing themes or plot points.

I understand the Lindsay Lohan reference, but it immediately shook me out of your story. Of course, if you start where Miss Snark suggests (and I agree), you lose that problem.

I really like the concept, and I'd definitely read further to see if it was written in a style that suits me.

Gerb said...

I liked this one. Very much. Great concept. I would absolutely keep reading.

Manic Mom said...

Okay, so writer, are you sending your query and partial to Jenny Rappaport? You just got a request from an agent...

whoo hoo!

It pays to get snarked! (Or in your case, it pays to dodge the crapometer!)

Diana Peterfreund said...

I like everything about it except for the condescending note in the query letter explaining the difference between Man of La Mancha and DQ. Is it really important to note that?

McKoala said...

Also liking this one.

Linda Lindsey said...

Bittersweet. I would definately pick this up if I saw it on the bookshelf.

Precie said...

I love good updates of classic novels. I'd definitely read on!

Ryan Field said...

Diana Peterfreund said: I like everything about it except for the condescending note in the query letter explaining the difference between Man of La Mancha and DQ. Is it really important to note that?

I wondered about the same thing. Was it necessary to explain this? And, this query reads more like a one page synopsis than a blurb. I prefer it, but I've always been told to keep it short and sweet in the beginning. Three to five sentence description of the novel, list of writing credentials and the specifics (genre, word count, etc...).

I personally prefer this as a query letter, and agree that it's good and would make me want to continue, but I can't help wondering how many agents, according to their guidelines, wouldn't agree.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE your query.

I didn't love the technique of looking back: 'as a thirteen-year-old' ...
I'd prefer you start when the story starts, and not (sorry Miss Snark!) worry about needing a technique to 'get around' the voice issue. A book written FOR thirteen-year-olds might need a 13 y/o voice, but if it's aimed at adults, adult readers will expect a more mature voice, so I don't think you'd have a problem.

boris i. said...

This reminds me a lot of a Takashi Miike film that came out in 2004 called Zebraman.

This is the summary from IMDB:
"Being a failure as a teacher and a familyman, Shinichi tries to escape everyday live by dressing up as "Zebraman", the superhero. Although the TV series whas canceled after only 6 episodes, this cannot stop him from acting out his escape fantasy in a self made zebra-suit. He get's more then he could ever wish for, when his black-and-white dressed alter-ego seems to be the only thing to stand between absolute (green) evil and a happy ending."

It also involves a young child who believes that Zebraman can be a real hero and giant monsters. I also think that the first heroic deed that Zebraman performs is to try to save someone from being raped.

Just thought it a strange coincidence.

Anonymous said...

Huh. This story line has already been done on an episode of Kim Possible. Sponge Bob too.

writtenwyrdd said...

An updated Don Quixote. It could work. Seems tricky, but if you pull it off, bet you get the movie made, too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone.

BTW, for anyone else who wants to suggest similarities between this and anything else other than Don Quixote/Man of La Mancha, please understand I've been working on this idea for close to fifteen years in various forms. And seriously, Kim Possible and Spongebob? WTF?

Anonymous said...

I liked clarifying the difference in theme between DQ and MOLM. Many people know the musical better than the book, so it's not unreasonable to make one's theme clear.

luna_the_cat said...

I also spotted the similarity to Zebraman. That said, I would also read this book. And probably buy a copy for my husband, if the rest of the book holds true to its vision.

What a few others have said, though -- no real need for the Cervantes/Man of La Mancha explication.

Stacy said...

I thought of SpongeBob myself. Don't WTF this, check it out. Crazy old retired actor who thinks he's a real superhero, with an adolescent as the only person who thinks he can do it - it's uncanny.

Anonymous said...

"with an adolescent as the only person who thinks he can do it - it's uncanny."

Except Tony doesn't think he can do it. Tony is just trying to get his friend home, as stated in the query. He knows what's really going on. So I guess that's where the uncanniness ends.

And no, I don't sit around watching Japanese movies and children's programming to fish for ideas. I find the implication more than a little insulting.

Anonymous said...

This and #48's queries seem to be opposites and yet both are loved. I'd put this one into a synopsis category, whereas #48's seems to be very concise.

So is the main thing to get across that there IS a plot, not necessarily the plot itself in a succinct manner?

Anonymous said...

"Except Tony doesn't think he can do it. Tony is just trying to get his friend home, as stated in the query. He knows what's really going on. So I guess that's where the uncanniness ends."

Ah but that is exactly how it happens in Kim Possible. Seriously.

It is too long to explain the whole episode but it is spot on.

Not saying you stole it, just that it is not so original. But then, nothing is, right?

Fed Up Author said...

Not saying you stole it, just that it is not so original. But then, nothing is, right?

Well obviously if I'm adapting a classic book then it's already not "original" so what's your point? If you aren't saying I stole it then why even bring this up? Everything reminds people of something else; what's the sense in bringing it up if you aren't accusing me of plagiarism? I'd love to know the thought process that went into such responses...if there is one.

If you want to discuss MY work, then fine. If you want to discuss Cervantes or Man of La Mancha, also fine, because I mentioned those in the query. But I don't care about Kim Possible, Spongebob, or obscure Japanese films that I've never seen and have no interest in seeing.

Jeez, where's Miss Snark's gin pail?

Anonymous said...

Author--I actually thought the same thing with the Spongebob comment, but didn't want to bring it up. I don't think you have to get snarky about it! People are just commenting and are free to do so.

I really liked the query and the sample page. I would read on. Your recent comment as a "fed up author" has turned me off and would turn an agent off as well I'm guessing.

Anonymous said...

uhhhh bubba ho-tep anyone?

Fed Up Author said...

I don't think you have to get snarky about it! People are just commenting and are free to do so.

You know what they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. And whenever people bring up free speech my position is: people CAN say whatever dumb things they like; the issue is whether they SHOULD say them. Just because you're able to say something doesn't mean there's any need for you to do so.

In this case, what does saying my book (or any book) is like Spongebob, Kim Possible, Zebraman, or the Holy Bible add to the discussion? Not one bloody thing. Does it help me at all? Of course not.

So by all means, go on and play this stupid game of "This Reminds Me Of..." until the end of time just to see how many you all can come up with. It's your time to waste.

"Your recent comment as a "fed up author" has turned me off and would turn an agent off as well I'm guessing."

If an agent hates that I stick up for myself, then I don't want anything to do with that agent.

(But then think how much publicity brawls with idiotic people at book-signings or whatever would get. Not to mention the possible reality TV angle off that. Cha-ching!)

Beth said...

Dear fed-up author--

Miss Snark liked your submission.

A reputable agent de-cloaked to say she liked your submission and would like to read more.

A few snarklings found fault with it. Those were honest reactions, most likely, but even if they were the sour grapes of envy, what does it matter?

You are a good writer who has been a given a gilded chance. It behooves you to be gracious and polite, even to your critics, because that is the behavior of a mature writer.

If I were the agent who just offered to read your work, I'd be having second thoughts about working with someone who comes across as a spoiled, arrogant jerk and cannot take simple criticism with grace.