Thursday, April 07, 2011
Guess the Plot
The Handcuff Kid
1. Sold into servitude by his foster father, Jack joins a traveling vaudeville show, performing as an escape artist. It's not a bad life, except for the fact that he never gets any applause because the audience is dead.
2. His name is Jeffy, he's eight, and his superpower is the ability to catch criminals by throwing magical handcuffs at them. His sidekick, Mittens, is a talking house cat.
3. He prowls the roughest part of town, a pair of handcuffs hanging from each of his belt loops. He moves so fast he can cuff half a dozen criminals before they can even fire their weapons. He's the non-violent crimefighting twelve-year-old known as . . . The Handcuff Kid.
4. Little Jack Ormond takes his police officer father's handcuffs to school for show and tell. When Jack busts an illegal crack smuggling and prostitution ring working from the school nurse's office, he becomes America's newest hero, the Handcuff Kid.
5. When Police Chief Roy Hansen gives his son plastic handcuffs for his eleventh birthday, he ignores the disapproval of his ultra-liberal neighbors. But when the same handcuffs are found on a murdered hooker in a seedy hotel room, the Chief begins to re-think the age-appropriateness of the toy.
6. As kids, the neighbor boys never wanted to play ball with Willie. He just wasn’t any good. But now they’re older and baseball games have turned into petty theft. When the neighborhood kids discover that Willie has a knack for unlocking locks, they suddenly want him to play.
Dear Evil Editor,
I am currently seeking representation and hoped my young adult novel might interest you. The Handcuff Kid [Coincidentally, that's what the ladies used to call Evil Editor back in my college days.] is the story of Jack Karr, juvenile delinquent extraordinaire, a foster kid whose one constant in life is his love and admiration of Harry Houdini.
Jack arrives at a new foster home only to discover that his foster father, a mad professor, has sold him into servitude in purgatory. [Isn't it about time we overhauled the screening process for foster parenting?] Under the evil eye of the Amazing Mussini, Jack becomes a member of a traveling vaudeville act [show] and, with a motley gang of kids, travels around purgatory entertaining the dead.
Having no thespian-like skills, Jack’s only act is to perform a few of the tricks of Houdini. All he wants to do is to get back to the land of the living, but the more dangerous the tricks he performs the more the dead like him, and Jack becomes the star of the show. [When you finally find your audience, and it's the dead, it's time to look for a new act.] In a daring escape attempt Jack risks his life to perform Houdini’s most perilous trick—the Chinese water torture cell. [The only thing worse than the Chinese water torture, in which you're strapped down and a drop of water is dripped on your forehead every few minutes until you go insane, is going to a vaudeville show and finding out the first act is some guy being subjected to the Chinese water torture.]
The story stresses ingenuity and resilience—a little man-made magic in tough times—just like [as] Houdini did throughout his life.
Interspersed between the chapters are one-page bits on the life of Houdini and his tricks. [Cool. Though possibly more cool to a middle-grader than YA.] The novel tops out at 54,000 words. Thanks for your time.
Not sure why the foster father is a mad professor; he sounds more evil than mad. If being trapped in purgatory is a tough sell you might consider putting the traveling vaudeville show somewhere in the mortal realm, like the Catskills. Being sold into servitude in the Catskills has to be as bad as being sold into servitude in Purgatory. And your audience is still pretty much dead people.