10.17.2006

Run up to the Crapometer-hook examples 2

Jack Reacher was alone, the way he liked it, soaking up the hot, electric New York City night, watching a man cross the street to a parked Mercedes and drive it away. The car contained one million dollars in ransom money. And Edward Lane, the amn who paid it, will pay even more to get his family back. Lane runs a highly illegal soldiers-for-hire operation. He will use any amount of money and any tool to find his beautiful wife and child. And then, eh'll turn Jack Reacher loose with avengeance--because Reacher is the best man hunter in the world.

flap copy THE HARD WAY by Lee Child (Delacorte:2006)



Drinking espresso in NYC, Reacher sits...watching. Possibly, even relaxing. Yah, that's not gonna last. Soon he's helping a man whose wife and daughter have been kidnapped. This man knows how to wage war, but all-out war will only get them killed. What he needs is a hunter, an investigator; what he thinks he has is a man he can control.


Lee Child website



Jack Reacher, Lee Child's serial hero, savouring an espresso in a cafe in New York, sees a man drive a car away. When he goes back to the same cafe the next day, he is approached and questioned, and allows himself to be drawn into the affairs of a gang of mercenary warriors. The car had been loaded with a $1 million ransom and driven away by the kidnappers who had taken the mercenary chief's trophy wife. By the time it's over, after several sharp plot twists, he's in a gunfight and burying bodies with a backhoe.

Child is a skilled writer, without literary pretensions. His novels are all plot and pace, appealing to fans of suspense and action thrillers, military fiction and tough-guy detective fiction. Jack Reacher used to be an officer in the US Army Military Police, who lives on the road, with the clothes on his back, the money in his pocket, his strength, and his wits. He vaguely resembles John D. MacDonald's legendary Travis McGee, who lived on a houseboat, but Reacher is rootless.

He is more like a character from a spaghetti western, an ominous drifter who breaks the law, but honours a higher law. In real life, the detachment is usually found only in monks, and the violence in serial killers. A man with Reacher's code of honour can't exist outside of a social setting. A man who cares for others will have a different kind of life. This kind of novel appeals more to fantasies of power and freedom than to social values, although there is a chivalrous ethic at work.



Tony Dalmyn at Blogcrritics


Reacher is in New York, living as anonymously as he always has, with no drivers’ license, no place to call home, no possessions except for the clothes on his back and the toothbrush in his pocket. And, of course, the shoes on his feet, which play a surprisingly large role in his story. Reacher is enjoying a double espresso when he witnesses something entirely ordinary: a man getting into a car. Being Reacher, he remembers everything about this event: the clothes the man was wearing, the make of the car, even the license plate number. But he thinks nothing of it until he returns to the same café the next day for another double espresso, and a man asks him questions about what he saw.

Reacher finds himself drawn into a desperate fight to retrieve the kidnapped wife and stepchild of a former soldier now turned mercenary, Edward Lane, a man who seems to be addicted to adventure, violence, and wealth. He is surrounded by a group of men in his own mold, most from the highest level of soldier in their countries of origin – Navy Seals, Special Forces, the hardest, toughest guys. They’re soldiers with a bit of a taint on them; maybe they got a bit too enthusiastic about their jobs, maybe they are the sorts of men who were at Haditha or My Lai. And their toughness has changed; they have softened a bit in their physical capabilities, and toughened in their mental and ethical acceptance of extreme violence as a means of making money. This group is essentially one of bullies, with their leader the biggest bully of all – but one whose wife is missing.

Reacher investigates, but his investigation isn’t of the kidnapping alone. Instead, he looks hard at Lane, who lost his first wife through a kidnapping and has a dubious past and present. He watches as Lane pays a ransom without flinching, despite the large sum demanded. He asks questions, finds witnesses, talks to those who know and those who don’t. He picks up friends and makes enemies, as he always does, and doesn’t take any garbage from anyone.


Review by Terry Weyna in Trashotron.com

23 comments:

Kelley Bell said...

"Jack Reacher's got nothin’ on me! I'm the queen O' Crap baby, wearin’ my crown with pride!" The rejected writer screams manically while pacing the floor like Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.

(Sorry. Just venting.)

kitty said...

Where's the rest of your blog? There are no archives, no pictures of Mr. Spongeworthy, no links, no nothing !!

Talentless said...

So, a hook is not a review and a review is not a hook?

snarkaholic said...

Lane runs a highly illegal soldiers-for-hire operation.

As opposed to legal ones?

Alphabet said...

I have two problems with the 'hook; approach.

First, it is inapplicable to literary fiction - there may be the occasional literary book for which it's appropriate, but many would sound really dull.

Second, I don't read hooks; I seldom read reviews, and I don't read the backs of books, either. I read the first page, and if I want to keep reading, I buy the book. Surely there must be other people who don't want a trailer that gives away some of the main incidents and encapsulates the central predicament of the book? Especially when so many hooks cleave to a cliche'd presentation and lean heavily on the word 'must'.

Maya said...

I adore Jack Reacher and have since his first appearance in "The Killing Floor."

But I've always thought of him more like Shane than Travis McGee. Comfortable with violence; uncomfortable with the ties that bind. And, after the gunfight, he always rides off into the sunset.

HawkOwl said...

Talentless - Um, no. They're not even close. Though a review could have a hook.

These still suck, and I'm not saying that because I don't know the difference between literature and advertising. I'm saying that because it makes me go "wow, I can't believe someone is trying to sell me this crap." The book sounds like crap, and the "hooks" are obviously not doing their job at all as far as I'm concerned. Double suckage.

December Quinn said...

Thanks for posting this one! Lee Child's self-blurb tells me exactly what I need to know--both about the book and about ow to write my own.


Kitty, I've (or rather, my internet connection's) been having trouble with Miss Snark's blog for a week or so since the pics went up. Maybe that's why you're not seeing them?

Anonymous said...

"snarkaholic said...

Lane runs a highly illegal soldiers-for-hire operation.

As opposed to legal ones? "

Oh, you innocent one...
May I suggest you do a search on words such as Sandline? Blackwater? Soldiers for hire?

Eric said...

The problem here for me is not so much the hook, but the book.

It's like those triple cheeseburgers they push on TV these days. Yanno, the ones with nine strips of bacon and twelve ounces of secret sauce wrapped in a burrito and deep fried. I'm sure somebody's mouth is watering, but it just makes me ill.

And I love meat! Wait, that didn't come out right.

Eric said...

Alphabet,

At first I was going to totally disagree with you...but then I thought of a few favorites that definitely fit your point.

I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a hook for any of Salinger's work, for example. Other than "read this, it's just wonderful," that is.

Then again, maybe I'll learn better after this crapometer hook dealio.

tlh said...

@alphabet: "Especially when so many hooks cleave to a cliche'd presentation and lean heavily on the word 'must'."

I don't particularly mind this. "Must" means the hero has no choice but to act, and that's where heroes shine. And cliches become cliches when they go from familiar to overused; familiar means instantly understandable and that can be a useful tool.

I think the flap copy actually works very well. First, it's targeted at a specific audience -- "soldiers-for-hire", "best man hunter in the world", "alone, the way he liked it" are all going to appeal to the reader who wants to read this book. Which isn't as obvious as it first seems; I've read many back blurbs that are downright misleading.

It tells enough about the initial situation to be intriguing, but it doesn't give too much away. We can infer something goes wrong in the ransom process because Lane has to turn Reacher loose, but the specifics and results are left for us to discover.

The short, punchy sentences point towards a short, punchy read.

The excerpt from the website doesn't impress me as much; it circles around and is a bit flabby. Maybe not enough in the way of specifics?

The first review hits most of the points I expect from a review, certainly, but it doesn't have the emotional impact of the flap copy or the excerpt. And it wasn't very well organized.

I'm always a bit miffed when I read a sentence in a review that starts out "by the time it's over"; I'd kind of like to find out what's going on about then for myself by reading the book.

While the flap copy gave me the idea, the final review is the one that made me decide to email a link to the book to a friend who is re-reading Morrell right now.

Replace the closing paragraph that gives too much away with something punchier and it would have been a great "hook" (but way over the word limit).

If I had to pick a style for the crap-o-meter, I'd go with the flap copy. I think it'd be easier to keep to the word limits than a review, and it also looks like a lot of fun to write one.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to re-read my precious and prized John D. MacDonald novels and listen again to the amazing audio versions read by the unmatched Darrin McGavin.

It is better to take lessons from a master than an inept student who didn't pass the course.

Anonymous said...

Way too long. So long that I had a fit of snarkyness trying to get through the last one.

Reacher is in New York, living as anonymously as he always has, with no drivers’ license, no place to call home, no possessions except for the clothes on his back and the toothbrush in his pocket. Sounds like the date from hell And, of course, the shoes on his feet, which play a surprisingly large role in his story.The last time shoes were used in a major trial, it failed to impress the jury. Ditto thisReacher is enjoying a double espresso when he witnesses something entirely ordinary: a man getting into a car. Being Reacher, he remembers everything about this event: the clothes the man was wearing, the make of the car, even the license plate number. Let's hope he remembered to brush his teeth. But he thinks nothing of it until he returns to the same café the next day for another double espresso, and a man asks him questions about what he saw. This is when Reacher discovers the double espresso is laced with LSD

Jane Doe said...

December said:
Kitty, I've (or rather, my internet connection's) been having trouble with Miss Snark's blog for a week or so since the pics went up. Maybe that's why you're not seeing them?

Jane Doe says:
Me, too! I keep getting booted off and getting strange messages from the incomprehensible section of my computer's brain.

Glad to know it's not just me . . .

Madeline F said...

I really liked the first, the flap copy. It was concise and snappy. Well, actually, I connected with "hot, electric night". It helped me get a much better feel for how to visualize the scene, and how the character liked the scene.

The second is flabby. "Possibly"? Do I care about Heisenberg in a hook? I'm reading through and mentally striking out everything lame... The last sentence is pretty good all by itself.

The third... I'm not like my high school English teacher with a complete hate on for the passive voice, but "had been" has no place in a hook.

The fourth, again with the "maybe," "most", weaselly meaningless words like "desperate." Blah.

Anonymous said...

Don't like any of them. And I don't think they would impress an agent if used in a query by an unknown author.

That's the problem I have with writing a good query ... how do make your book sound different and compelling? I think both of the examples Miss Snark posted are relying more on fans of the author buying the book regardless, rather than trying to hook people who aren't familiar with the writer.

rkcooke said...

Snarkaholic,

Contributors to the Iraq war effort (in numbers of soldiers):

1. U.S. armed forces
2. British armed forces
3. Private contractors (i.e. soldiers for hire)

Sadly reminiscent of Rome.

aussie mouse said...

Crikey - it's a global problem. I'm having technical problems with Miss Snark's blog too (but not any of the other blogger blogs I read).

I finally figured out that I can stop her blog crashing IE if I open up the comments in a new window and close that window before returning to the main blog page.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I couldn't resist.

Child is a skilled writer, without literary pretensions. How the hell do you know that? Maybe he reads Proust, maybe he knows Shakespeare like you know pair of silicone tits

His novels are all plot and pace, Wrong. If you can describe the main character, then the novel is character driven (see your following comments).appealing to fans of suspense and action thrillers, military fiction and tough-guy detective fiction.

Jack Reacher used to be an officer in the US Army Military Police, who lives on the road, with the clothes on his back, the money in his pocket, his strength, and his wits. Oh, don't wimp out there! Give us a few more phrases for that sentence. Such as his wits, a plastic comb in his back pocket, a folded picture of a girlfriend in the eigth grade and a list of vegan restaurants.

Southern Writer said...

My mom told me if I couldn't say something nice, not to say anything at all.

" -------- "

MaryKaye said...

He's in a gunfight burying bodies with a backhoe!

This I gotta see; oddest fighting style ever. But maybe using
a gun would be a bit more effective?

Mary Kaye

Charlie Anders said...

Actually, I get review copies of tons of literary novels all the time, and I also get the catalogs from many companies that publish literary fiction. And it's been ages since I saw a new literary novel that didn't have a hook.