12.20.2006

HH Com 199 (195)

Return to a time when a man's honor is the most precious thing he possesses, his word the one thing he will never break. The Vacant Chair, a Civil War mystery, pits honor against the dictates of duty and the reverence due family when a Union soldier risks everything to shield a Confederate prisoner from paying for the crimes of a man who'll do anything to protect his family's honor -- even kill his own brother.

When the endless tedium of winter camp is shattered by murder, Union Lieutenant Jack Logan will put his command, his freedom, and ultimately his life on the line in his determination to discover which of his men is a faithless murderer. Unlike his superior officers, Jack doesn't see anything just about hanging a Rebel prisoner for the crime when there's not a shred of evidence against him. A spy he might be, but a murderer? That remains to be seen. Jack's defense of the Rebel proves as hazardous as the investigation he undertakes against orders. Between them, the murderer and the men Jack is expected to obey strip away everything Jack holds dear as he struggles to understand what besides the necessities of war can bring one man to kill another. Before he's done, Jack will discover his best ally in an enemy prisoner and his worst nightmare in the eyes of one of his own men. And that sometimes, what is just and what is honorable are two very different things.


This is blather. Be specific. You're talking in cliches. Give me three specific actions, and the decision he has to make.

I'd actually be interested in reading abook that says "what is just and what is honorable are two very different things" but you're going to have to hook me with some specifics first.

13 comments:

Writerious said...

Is the author a fan of Owen Parry's "Abel Jones" mysteries, beginning with "A Faded Coat of Blue?" Excellent series if Author hasn't read them yet.

cm allison said...

Not my genre, but my husband would definately read, you have something here!

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting, but you could have trimmed the hook down to a few sentences in which you reveal the developing relationship between Jack and the prisoner and the fact there's a murder that the prisoner is ccused of and he didn't do. From there, I'd like to know if they get separated from the men and have to side with each other and help each other, are they getting shot at, etc...not all, but just give me the feel that the guy's not just tied to a tree and it's Jack's charge to investigate it all while the prisoner just bites at anything that walks by.

December Quinn said...

I had a hard time getting through that marathon second sentence.

I agree, this does sound interesting. But it's not as concise as it should be.

wanderer said...

Yes, I am. I agree it's an excellent series.

Off to work on being specific in my hook. :) This has been a very educational experience, thanks!

Inkwolf said...

A question--wouldn't they have executed the spy for being a spy anyway? In which case, I can see your hero fighting to continue the investigation, and maybe even shielding the reb from unjust accusations, but in war time, being a spy is considerably worse (and less honorable) than simply being a murderer.

Just my thought, I haven't actually made a study of the Civil War or its times and values.

Hypergraphia said...

I think I could get into this one, but that's because my current genre phase is historical fiction and my WIP is about the underground railroad. I would read this.

I'm also now interested in the Abel Jones Mysteries - thanks writerious...

katiesandwich said...

I actually liked this. And having grown up in Ulysses S. Grant's boyhood town, where everyone is just wacko over Civil War stuff, I generally hate anything having to do with the Civil War. If you ever get this published, market it in Georgetown, Ohio. People will buy the crap out of it. Best wishes!

wanderer said...

To inkwolf: The attitude was a little different during the Civil War. The Rebel soldier was wearing his own uniform, so he's not technically a spy -- if he were in a Union uniform or civilian clothes, he would be, and could be executed for it. So he's technically a prisoner of war, not automatically assumed to be a spy unless additional information is found that proves he is. So the murder charge is more dangerous to him (at the start, anyway).

wavybrains said...

I had to read each sentence two, sometimes three times. I like your premise alot, but you need to focus on tight, readable sentences to make it sing.

xiqay said...

I kind of like this, if I understand the premise. I like stories that defend the wrongly accused, hunt for justice, etc.

Jack defends the Rebel from being accused of the murder, only to learn that the murder victim was killed by his own brother--or is the murderer Jack's own brother. Is something like that right?

Choice between justice and honor--interesting, but I guess I'm not clear on what would be honorable about letting an innocent man hang. So I'm having difficulty imagining these two things on opposite sides of the equation.

Good luck.

Twill said...

If he's not a spy, then don't use that term in your hook. Use "enemy" or whatever. Lots of history buffs will immediately pick up the quibble about "they hang spies anyway" and assume you haven't done your research.

I'd lose the first paragraph, streamline the second and make it more specific, and I'd put quotes around "just" in the following line...

Jack doesn't see anything ["just"] about hanging a Rebel prisoner for the crime

HawkOwl said...

I hate authors directing imperatives at me. I pay you to entertain me. You don't get to tell me what to do.

Other than that, I find murder boring, and all that navel-gazing of Jack's didn't interest me at all. I can get that much philosophy on Battlestar Galactica any day.