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 naïve 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.
“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.