Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Beginning 777

I curled over in my stateroom bed, trying to get some shuteye, trying to think of anything but the roll of the ship and the scrambled eggs inside me threatening a U-turn. It finally hit me why Dr. von Tinkerbaum insisted I sail back to the states instead of fly. My nerves couldn’t get to me if my guts had first dibs.

When I heard a rap at the door, I figured it was the steward with a fifth of whiskey, my only resort for a good knockout out since the doc said he didn’t trust me with goofballs. “Come in.”

The door swung open to a nifty-looking pair of gams. My eyes traveled up, past the cigarette skirt and the wide-brimmed hat she held in her hand, liking what I saw on the way, until I hit the dame’s face—or, rather, it hit me. The broad was a two-bagger. She had big bucked teeth, nearly no chin, and a crooked nose. Her brow flesh sagged over the left eye and the right side of her mouth looked like it was in a perpetual smile. Even her dark hair was frizzy.

She musta noticed me staring at her mug, cause she said, "What're you starin' at, Shamus?" I was about to apologize when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror over my dresser. She said, "What the fuck? How did the gutted carcass of a blobfish get over my head?"

I helped her yank the thing off. Underneath she looked like
Rita Hayworth. "Christ," she said, "no wonder my auditions have all gone south lately."

Anyway, that's how I met my wife, and we've never been happier, right Rita?

Opening: Vivian Davenport.....Continuation: Evil Editor


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

"Hi. I'm Butter, Butter Faciano." She held out her perfectly manicured hand to be kissed. "I hear your the man to talk to when things go wrong."

Things had definitely gone wrong. I concentrated on her hand, hoping to distract myself from her face. Her legs called to me. My brain kept screaming, "No one with stems like those could be that ugly!"

I looked up again; Sea-sickness wasn't the only reason my eggs wanted to make an encore appearance.


She looked me directly in the eye. A total silence seemed to suck all the air out of the room. “I’m your father, Fred!”

--Gwen Ever

My stomach make a right as the boat went left, and I lost my scrambled eggs. They didn't look much different on the floor than they had on the plate.

The dame gave me the Evil Eye. "I suppose you expect me to clean that up," she said, in a rusty screech that could have killed a dog from a block away. It was the kind of voice you knew had to go with a face like that. When I heard it, I knew what it meant. My luck had finally run out.

I spat and sat up straight so I could choke out an answer.

"Mom!!! How the HELL did you find me?!!"


Damn, when was I going to learn never let my guard down.

“Well hello there… just a moment beautiful.”

I turned on a heel snatching the glock off the night stand and slid it into the back waistband of my pants under my jacket as I tucked my shirt in…just because there was going to be a mess didn’t mean I had to look like one. In the second my back was turned, the chameleon’s transformation was completed. The homely face evened out and now, sweet as pie with a twinkle in her genetically altered eye, she barged in and sat down on the edge of the bed. If all the assassins morphed into a beauty like this one, I wouldn’t be in hiding.


_*rachel*_ said...

I like the description in the last paragraph--it's got voice and life to it.

I think the first paragraph could be trimmed. I'd cut the scrambled eggs bit and the doctor sentence, then open the nerves sentence with "at least."

Not a bad opening. I'd keep reading, though it doesn't sound like my genre.

Evil Editor said...

Assuming this is hard-boiled film noir narration, I'd expect the guy to collapse into his bed, not curl over. I'd also change "my only resort for" to "my only shot at." And there must be a better adjective for gams than "nifty-looking."

Also, if it's a straight-up story, you don't want to use the name Dr. von Tinkerbaum, because it gives the impression it's a comedy. And if it's a comedy, you still don't want to drive that point home with a name, at least not in paragraph one. Be more subtle. (If it's a comedic short story, okay, you can keep the name.

In either case, this guy would just use the last name without the "Dr."

Sarah Laurenson said...

I liked this. The beginning drew me in enough to click over and read the rest. Not my usual genre, but it's got a good voice and decent pace.

I liked the scrmabled eggs U-turn.

It can use some tweaking as EE mentions.

Dave Fragments said...

I would really like to know if this is comedy or straight-up.

writtenwyrdd said...

I normally like this sort of voice, but this one's a bit too strong for me. Like Dave, I wondered if it were supposed to be comedy. And "nifty" bothered me as well.

I liked the U-turn line, but having vomit mentioned in the first page is not winning me over. Not sure if I'd be making a U-turn myself and put the book back on the shelf if I read that on the first page.

The voice does work, though. And I have a strong sense of the type of guy your pov character is. My expectations are for a mystery of some sort.

Dave Fragments said...

One of the reasons I asked if this was parody or straight up is that It seems to me that there are two types of "noir" or pulp style detective story.

The first is characterized by the movie CHINATOWN and involves characters who are terminally and irredeemably flawed. Jake Gittes enters the story with dirty hands, corrupted by whatever past sin he committed and he ends the story with even dirtier hands, having created more harm than good. He solves the crime but loses the ethical battle. He does not gain redemption or put right over wrong.

Then there is a second style that has a central character who redeems himself and is "semi-good." Sam Spade in THE MALTESE FALCON is semi-good. He alone understands the lure of the gilded falcon. So is Rick Blaine in CASABLANCA. These characters are noir-ish but they are not fatally flawed. They succeed at being good despite their flaws.

Could a writer parody both those styles? Yes, but one of those is a steep, nearly Sisyphus-like climb.

closeblog said...

Wow, you guys are so clever! Thanks so much for your input. I cracked up at the continuations and really like the suggestions (cut the eggs and doctor, collapse not curl, change resort for to shot at). I'm definitely going to make those changes.

As far as the genre, it's a murder mystery set on a transatlantic liner in 1961. There's comedy in it, and I tried to add a bit of a noir voice with the MC because he's a private eye (who tails straying husbands). The MC isn't fatally flawed, but he is flawed. He's recovering from a nervous breakdown--1961 terminology--after the only love of his life dumped him (she was carrying another man's child). Actually, he binged on hookers, pills, and booze in Rome and detoxed in a sanitarium. However, they called that a nervous breakdown in 1961 pop lit and movies. He's going to get mixed up with another woman--or shady broad--on the crossing, and I'm hoping the action, twists, and characters keep the reader engaged.

closeblog said...

Oh, yeah, the ugly dame is the fraternal twin of a beautiful sister. The beautiful sister was born ugly, and while a plastic surgeon was making her beautiful, the other twin, born beautiful, became disfigured in a car wreck. Contrived? Damned straight! That's what I like to work from.

batgirl said...

It flows pretty well, but I felt the narrator was trying too hard with the Chandleresque style, which may be why several readers were unsure whether it was straight or parody. Maybe ease up a bit on the noir-lingo?

closeblog said...

Thanks! I'll lighten up on the noir lingo. I actually do lighten up in most of the novel (of what I have written so far, about 31K words). I guess I went overboard (pun intended) with it at the start.

Beth said...

In addition to what EE said, watch out for places where you put distance between the character and the reader by using filtering phrases such as "I heard" and "I figured." Just state things directly.

Not sure what you meant by "two-bagger"--unless that's how many bottles it would take to encourage romantic feelings toward this woman?

Anonymous said...

"Not sure what you meant by "two-bagger""

Wow! I will tell you at great risk: Beer Goggles aside, the woman is so ugly that that you put two paper bags over your head just in case one comes off during sex.

That's about as sexist as it gets. Considering that the story is set in 1961, it make sense that a private dick would say that.

I'm Anonymous because I'm ashamed to admit that I know what this means.

Beth said...


Oh, I see. Ahem. Thanks.

batgirl said...

Wait, wait! This is how I've heard it:

one-bagger - you put a bag over her head so you can stand to go to bed with her.

two-bagger - you put a bag over her head, and one over yours to make sure.

three-bagger - a bag over her head, over your head, and one over the dog's head because you don't want him to see what you brought home.

coyote - you wake up in the morning and she's asleep on your arm, so you gnaw your arm off like a coyote in a trap rather than wake her up and have to speak to her.

Beth said...

This place is nothing if not educational.

closeblog said...

Thanks, Beth. I've tried to be careful of the "I heard, I figured" but, duh, there it is, right there in the second paragraph. I'll fix it.

And a two-bagger can work both ways. A woman can put a bag (or two) over a man's head. And it can work between the same sex, also. Yeah, I know it's rude, but I wanted to emphasize the character's hideousness.