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Asking for volunteers to read a couple chapters

samzheresamzhere BannedPosts: 10,923 Senior Member
I'm asking for some volunteers to read a couple chapters of my in-progress mystery novel.

Nothing earth shaking, just a meeting at the cop shop, conversations, and a dark surprise at the end.

What I'd appreciate would be feedback on the dialogue mostly -- does it sound realistic? Do each of the characters have a particular "voice"? (One fault that some writers have, pretty annoying, is when all the characters sound the same, use the same sentence structure and word choice, stuff like that.

I'm posting the chapters here, but understand that I've altered some of the harsh language. That's all that I changed. But you have to change the "frigging" to the r-rated word. Otherwise there are no changes.

What I'm asking is for an assessment of the "flow" and rhythm of these 2 chapters, the balance between dialogue and narrative, the way the conversations flow, that kinda stuff.

And of course if you find any errors, please sound off.



  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    The story before... Private detective Mitch King was visiting his gangster pal, Julio Cardozo and his daughter Cheryl. Leaving the auto-parts warehouse where they had HQ, Mitch notices he's been tailed. He phones his buddy Detective David Meierhoff, who arranges for a Houston cop to stop the Impala of the tail and run the occupant's name, etc.
    Mitch thinks this is great until he goes home, finds that when the cop stopped the Impala, the cop was shot dead.
    Characters include Capt. Joe Duggan of Homicide, Meierhoff's boss.


    I’d stuck my stupid face into a situation and my smug satisfaction at getting a gangbanger arrested had turned to tragedy. Another death, courtesy of good old Mitch King. I was such a sterling guy.

    So to celebrate my success, I proceeded to get staggering drunk, not pussyfooting around this time, heading straight for the 101-proof bourbon. And as I chugged shot after shot, somewhere in my despair I knew that this childish behavior wouldn’t assuage a single thing. It would only draw me deeper into misery. Nevertheless I kept at it until I essentially passed out.

    I woke fairly early, about nine, sprawled on my sofa. I found that despite the volume of booze I’d wallowed in, my head was relatively clear and free from pain. Either I’d not drunk that much, or what I most feared, I was becoming acclimated to the booze. I told myself I’d deal with that later, and decided to just go through the motions, whatever those may be.

    Joe Duggan had phoned, asked me to come into Homicide and talk about what I knew. So next I called Meierhoff for more details on the shooting. The Impala license plate had passed the quick check Officer Deely ran on his in-car computer before he was shot. The car was owned by a sales engineer for a local petroleum firm, stolen from a longterm parking lot at Bush airport and therefore not yet reported missing. The car later turned up in east Houston, down by the ship channel. CSI was now checking for prints or other evidence.

    On the TV news, police were closemouthed about further details, simply asking that anyone with information contact CrimeStoppers or HPD, and yes, to be very careful about approaching suspects. Someone who would murder a cop in broad daylight wouldn’t hesitate to kill again.
    * * *
    The new homicide headquarters is a big step up from the old cop shop on Reisner. HPD leased a modern office building in midtown and remodeled it for headquarters, with floors for homicide, robbery, vice, and other major crime divisions. The offices were spacious, comfy, and modern, all the communication goodies, wi-fi everywhere like you’d expect. Cop heaven had also been properly adjudicated, there being Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and MickeyD franchises on the ground floor.

    I parked in the adjacent garage and took the second level walkway over, elevator to Homicide on four. Every cop I saw was grimfaced and had a business-only look. The uniform police had a small black band of mourning stuck across their badges, text in silver on the band, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit, or No One Attacks Me With Impunity. This Latin slogan an ancient one, derived from the Scottish Order of the Thistle, now a universal statement of solidarity within law enforcement worldwide whenever a colleague met death at the hands of evil.

    I had caused yet another death, cost someone else his life. Would I continue to spread my disease among even those whom I didn’t know, had never met? Was there any cure for my infection, the plague that raged inside me? Some way to immunize myself, or at least others? Again, I decided to table the thoughts for now. Maybe forever. Thinking leads to pain. Better to not think at all.
    * * *
    I was a few minutes early when I stepped into Joe Duggan’s office, and good that I was. He was already impatient and fuming. “About friggin’ time! Buncha folks waiting in the conference room. But sit your tail down for a sec before we go over. I got a couple personal questions.”

    Last year that would have been impossible, Joe’s old office had been jammed and cluttered with crime folders, murder books, reports, stacked on every available flat surface, chairs included. The revised Captain Joe Duggan Mark II had however banished surrounding disarray along with shabby clothing, and Joe’s new office was impeccable, two flatscreen computers displaying HPD logos, TV monitor above a filing cabinet, photo of wife Helen neatly arranged on his desk, plaques and awards in fine array along the wall. And three orderly visitor chairs, one occupied by
    David Meierhoff.

    I sat down. “What can I do for you?”

    “Tell Unka Joe. Why the hell were you hanging around the Cardozo place?” His grin was predatory.

    “Cheryl Stern is a client of mine. And the fact that she’s Julie Cards’ daughter is confidential, don’t let’s forget.”

    “Haven’t forgotten, pal,” Joe said curtly. He was miffed I brought it up. Then, “So what about Julie Cards himself? How’s he involved?”

    I thought it best not to mention anything that Cardozo talked to me about, even among friends like Joe and David. “He’s not involved. Julio Cardozo is retired, anyway. He—”

    “Retired? Retired from friggin’ what?” Joe interjected. “Auto parts distributor or a friggin’ gangster? He runs the Fifth Ward Apaches, in case you don’t friggin’ know!”

    “Whatever,” I said wearily. I was becoming defensive now, and regardless of the tragic situation, I didn’t need Joe Duggan or anyone else impugning my personal affairs.

    Meierhoff intervened on my behalf before I could object further. “Joe, we already talked this into the ground. Mitch has Cheryl Stern as a client from last fall. You know how that went down, her being kidnapped, the shooting. I asked Mitch yesterday whether Cardozo himself was a factor, he assured me not, and I’m good to go on that point. It’s off the table, far as I’m concerned.”

    Duggan stared at Meierhoff, then me, back to Meierhoff. He raised his arms in a gesture of acceptance. “Okay. We’ll get into that later. Let’s get to the meeting. The others will wonder where the hell we went.”

    We all snagged coffees from a concession station and carried them to the adjacent conference room. Joe’s cup was a big ugly ceramic mug that identified him as World’s Best Cop, while Meierhoff’s bore the Houston Grand Opera logo. I was stuck with a flimsy foam thing that held about a third cup. Figures.
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    First thing I saw when entering the conference room was boots. A pair of hand-tooled beauties decorated with an Alamo theme were propped on the table. The boots were worn by Texas Ranger Arvis Danforth. He was about six-three, slender and athletic, salt-and-pepper hair cut just long enough to offer a Western take without being gaudy, a perfectly trimmed mustache to balance. Danforth was a handsome man with the weathered appearance of someone as used to the saddle as his Ranger issue SUV. His attire was completed by light brown slacks with a law enforcement-style stripe down the leg, a white Western-style dress shirt, bolo tie, a silver Lone Star badge on his belt, and a fine leather holster that matched the boots. In the holster was a big 1911 .45 pistol, a Kimber I thought.

    Ranger Danforth was sitting next to a man who appeared his polar opposite. He was FBI Special Agent Ed Scudder, an older guy, unkempt grey hair, a well-used tan overcoat, slightly rumpled appearance. Agent Danforth bore a striking resemblance to actor William B. Davis, the subversive Cigarette Smoking Man from X-Files. And the fact that Danforth was a chain smoker didn’t help dispel the image. He told us that he’d often get stopped by people in airports, asking for his autograph.

    “What do you do?” we asked. He smiled, shrugged. “I just sign ‘Bill Davis’ and thank them.”

    To Danforth’s right was Detective Juanita Hertza, head of the HPD Hispanic gang unit. I’d never actually met her, just knew her by sight. I figured she was here to gig me on being pals with Julio Carodzo, pick up on the mantra where Joe Duggan left off. Hertza was about forty, a heavyset Latina, face worn and tired, lined with worries concomitant with her difficult job. She looked unhappy and probably wanted everyone else to know it.

    The three cops were looking through copies of the Slicer file, discussing entries, nodding to one other when we came in. We shook hands all round, sat.

    Meierhoff took the lead. “You all know about yesterday, the ambush of Officer Deely.” David then quickly outlined the thread of events to ensure that everyone was up to date. “Now,” he said. “I want to focus on what exactly happened with the Impala. Mitch will fill us in from his perspective.”

    So I repeated what I’d told David, how I’d spotted the tail a block away from the Cardozo place. That I’d phoned him and set up an intercept. The intercept that led to murder.

    “Was the tail a close one or did he sit back?” Scudder asked. “Pro job, amateur?”

    “Made no attempt to drop away, put cars between us, otherwise conceal, like it didn’t matter. But he did keep back far enough that I couldn’t tell who was in the car, even how many people there were.” I shrugged. “So it may have been an amateur or a pro who simply didn’t give a damn.”

    “And you figure he knew it was you?” Danforth asked.

    “Probably. Why else would he pick me to follow? There are people in and out of the warehouse all the time. But soon as I pulled out, he was behind me.”

    Detective Hertza had been frowning the whole time, and now she opened a folder before her, swung it around for me to see. A photo of Cardozo, apparently shot from a telephoto lens as he was getting into a car. He was younger, the picture from a few years back. Hertza poked at the image, glared at me. “You know who this is, right?”

    “Yes, ma’am. Julio Cardozo, aka Julie Cards. He’s the legal guardian of my client, Cheryl Stern.”
    Her gaze was dark. “And you know he’s a gang leader and overall thug?”

    I sighed. Here we go again. “Yes,” I replied. “I’m a private investigator. We often have clients who are on the other side of the law. Kind of like attorneys.”

    “Nothing like attorneys,” she snuffed. “I’d like to know exactly what you were—”

    “Juanita,” Joe Duggan surprised me by injecting. “I’ve already gone through this. Mitch here is straight with me and I’ll vouch for him. I’d prefer we focus on the murder, if we can.”

    Hertza wasn’t dissuaded. “I think it’s relevant and I think that Mister King here knows more than he’s letting on.” She ponked her stubby finger at the photo of Cardozo, glowered. “How are you involved with Julie Cards’ criminal enterprise? Are you getting kickbacks for feeding him confidential information? Information such as what might be discussed here?”

    “Ma’am?” Ranger Danforth leaned forward, a placating smile on his slender face.

    “Don’t call me ma’am, Officer Danforth! You’re older than I am!”

    Danforth spread his hands in a peacemaker gesture. “My apologies, Detective.” He then turned on his best smile. “I realize you’ve got plenty of issues here, and want to explore them. But mebbe it’s be better you take them offline, chat with Mitch later, ’cause we need to focus on the shooting right now.”

    There was silence for a moment. Then Hertza squinted at Danforth, Duggan, and me in turn, harrumphed to indicate her displeasure. “Okay. For now, okay. But I’m not through with hotshot King here. Not by a darned Oklahoma mile.”

    Duggan nodded his approval and glanced around the table, eyebrows raised, asking for further comment.

    Meierhoff looked at me. “Mitch, think back carefully, because this is important. Are you absolutely certain he didn’t follow you to the warehouse first? That you might’ve been tailed from your house?”

    I thought about this. “Good point. How would he know I was going to see Cheryl Stern anyway? He’d have no clue. She phoned me and I drove right over, never planned it or told anyone.” I was lying through my teeth about the visit, but hey, didn’t everyone massage the truth?

    “Ya see?” Joe said. “No way the tail’s gonna just sit at the warehouse, hoping you’ll stop by.”

    “But you didn’t see the Impala until after you left the warehouse, right?” Danforth scribbled in his notebook as he talked.

    “Sorry, guys.” I shook my head. “I can’t really tell. I was preoccupied, thinking about what Ms. Stern wanted. I might have been tailed on the way over, yeah.”

    We talked a while longer, then Duggan stood up. “Okay, Mitch, I think we’re done for now, unless anybody can think of anything.”

    And predictably, Detective Hertza had her say. She shook the folder at me and gave me a tweaky smile. “Mr. King, I want you in my office immediately. It’s five-oh-seven, one floor above. We’ve still got some things to talk about.”

    I nodded sheepishly. I was stuck and would likely be grilled forever, if she wanted to string things out. There went my afternoon. “Do I need to consult my attorney?”

    Hertza frowned. “Not unless you plan on confessing your involvement with the Fifth Ward Apaches.”

    I sighed inwardly. More bull, more denials. And more headaches. Hertza left the room, striding quickly away, but not without staring at me again, pointing up to her office a floor above.
    Everyone else was gathering notes, downing the final dregs of coffee, shuffling around the room. Ranger Danforth reached over to an adjacent shelf and retrieved his spotless and perfectly blocked white hat. It was of course Western style, but not the deep-range cowboy cut, more of the wealthy cattleman style. On anybody else it would look foolish. On Danforth, it was just right.

  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    Joe tugged my sleeve. “We’ll be waiting for labwork on the Impala, keep searching for leads. Give me or Meierhoff a call if something comes up.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “In the meantime, Mitch, stay safe from this trophy-hunting jerk.”

    “Trophy?” I asked.

    Meierhoff grimaced. “Yeah. Stole the cop’s badge after he shot him.”

    “You mean…” I said.

    Duggan finished my thought. “Poor sonsagun layin’ on the ground, bleeding out, and the killer gets outta his car and rips off the badge. Uniform torn, the stickpins busted, not part of the gunshots. So we know he took it.”

    “Any idea why?” I asked.

    “Nope,” Meierhoff said. “Trophy is all we can figure. And don’t tell this to anybody. We’re keeping that point confidential.”

    I got ready to trudge up to five, nothing to add to the meeting that made sense.

    Then Agent Danforth glanced at me. “Regarding the guy picking you to tail, what’s the chance there’s a bug on your car?”

    “A bug? Tracer? I never…”

    “Damn! Hang on,” Duggan said, picking up the desk phone on the conference table, punching a number. “This is Captain Duggan. Yeah, Homicide. Is Bobby Pinter there? Yeah, I’ll hold...” Duggan looked at us. “CSI’s up on six, Pinter’s their best bug planter and finder.”

    I shrugged. “Never crossed my mind.”

    “Jesus, Mitch,” Meierhoff griped. “You’re the darn private eye. Stuff like that should be second nature to your business.”

    “Don’t use ‘em much, too many lawsuits. Besides, any evidence I obtain using a car tracker is likely inadmissible in civil court, my case blown before I even—”

    Duggan waved us to silence. “Bobby? Joe Duggan here. Yeah, I’m fine… Look, you got a few minutes? Yeah. Bring your car tracker detector thingie, all your gear, come on down to the homicide conference room, you know where it is… Yeah… There’s a car in the…” Duggan looked at me. I pointed west and nodded. “…the parking garage, we want you to give it a quick scan. Naw, no warrant. Owner’s here, gives permission. Sure, see you in a couple.”

    I knew Bobby Pinter casually, although not from his being a CSI. Pinter was close pals with my business partner, Andrew Capshaw. Andrew, never Andy, always Andrew, was openly gay but I was unsure whether Pinter was still in the closet. So when he came into the room and we were introduced, we shook, and I simply said to the others, “We’ve met.”

    Pinter was a short, stocky Anglo guy in his forties, brushy dark beard and long hair done up in a biker-style pony tail. He was one of those men whom gays call “bears” for their chunky and hirsute appearance. From chatting with him on occasion, I’d found him an intelligent, educated criminologist, albeit prone to occasional displays of arrogance. As are we all, for that matter.
    The six of us strolled over to the garage where I’d parked the 4Runner. There was enough firepower among us to furnish a small war, especially considering Ranger Danforth’s pistol.

    “That’s the biggest damn forty-five I’ve ever seen,” I told him, smiling.

    He returned the grin. “You think?” He unsnapped the keeper strap and hefted the 1911 from its holster. “Kimber custom longslide. Half inch longer barrel, y’know.”

    We all admired his pistol, emitting moans and ooohs typical when a handsome firearm is shared. It’s a guy thing. The Kimber was engraved with a Texas Ranger logo, other Western-oriented decorations, beautifully worked.

    Danforth returned the 1911 to its holster. “Daughter and son-in-law gave it to me, celebratin’ my 20th with the Rangers. First off I thought it was too, well, gussied up. But it kinda grew on me, now I like it.”

    Joe clapped Danforth on the back. “Arvis’ daughter works for the feebs, FBI field agent. Hubbie too, the same.” Danforth nodded, happy.

    We then broke up the little confab, turned our attention to my 4Runner. Bobby Pinter opened a small shoulder bag and took out a gadget that unfolded to look like a metal detector you’d use at the beach to hopefully find pirate treasure but instead locate old beer cans.

    “If you find something,” Meierhoff cautioned, “don’t touch it. We might get DNA and prints.”

    Bobby sniffed, laughed. “Hey, Detective, this ain’t my first fish fry, y’know.” Yes, a bit of arrogance, to be sure.

    It took Pinter less than ten seconds. His finder’s handset beeped, an LED flashed. “Got one here, under the back bumper.” He rummaged in his pack, retrieved a long mirror with flashlight attached, knelt and glanced. “Surveytech model five-sixty. Buy ’em anywhere. Short battery life, limited range, but otherwise okay for amateur stuff.”

    The rest of us looked at each other, smiled. CSI techs aren’t cops, don’t carry guns, and don’t go around arresting crooks like on TV, but they’re still damn good at their job.

    Pinter stood up, dusting his jeans. “I take it this is primo evidence?”

    “You betcha,” Joe said. “Everything points to it coming from the creep who killed Officer Deely.”

    “Jeez. Lemme get some pics before I touch it.” Pinter took his digital evidence camera, clicked views of my car, the rear, the bumper, underneath. He dictated everything into a recorder, waved it at us. “Logging the info, keeping the evidentiary trail clean. That way it’s unimpeachable in court.”

    Pinter then checked the rest of the SUV but found nothing. He gloved up, knelt behind my bumper again, took a thin prybar, and jiggled the tracker off my bumper, letting it fall gently into a plastic zipbag. He glanced up at Duggan.

    “I’ll get the DNA started and check for prints right now. And we’ll run the serial number, see who bought it, where.”

    “This is a priority case, Bobby, no delays,” Duggan said. “Have your boss call me if there’s a problem.”

    “Will do. I’ll get on it asap. The DNA will take time but I can get you the rest of the stuff quick, probably this afternoon.”

    Pinter verified my car registration and contact info, then scooted away to his lab. We all then uneasily shook hands and I went straight home. Detective Hertza could take a flying leap.
    On the way I kept an eye peeled for any suspicious cars tailing me, saw none. I parked under my carport and headed up the walkway.

    A small padded postal envelope was propped against the screen door. No stamps, no label, nothing written on it. I picked it up carefully by the edges. Something inside, heavy and metallic. I cautiously pried the seal open with my Kershaw, let the contents slide onto the concrete.

    A Houston Police Officer’s badge, splattered with blood. Wrapped around it, a note, printed neatly, For Mitch, and the phrase Nemo Me Impune Lacessit.
  • DanChamberlainDanChamberlain Senior Member Posts: 3,395 Senior Member

    Take it for what it's worth, but I like the story. If you want me to beta read the whole manuscript, shoot it off to me in an email. Are you ready to publish? If so, I see a couple of little things. Going with Solstice?

    It's a source of great pride for me, that when my name is googled, one finds book titles and not mug shots. Daniel C. Chamberlain
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member

    Take it for what it's worth, but I like the story. If you want me to beta read the whole manuscript, shoot it off to me in an email. Are you ready to publish? If so, I see a couple of little things. Going with Solstice?


    Thanks for the feedback, Dan. No, the book is quite a way from finished, I've now got about 20k words and it will top out at 70k-80k. I'm however going strong and expect the book to be ready mid-year.

    I'm gonna try to shop the book around this time, try some agencies, y'know.

    Appreciate the offer on your reading the book through when it's done. We'll cross that river when the book is completed. Thanks!

    The book is in constant flux. How I write is to churn out 3 chapters or so, a sequence of events, the go back and revamp the earlier chapters. So I'm continually writing new stuff as well as revising prior, keeping the book (and my brain, ha ha) fresh.

    For example, in the beginning, I've started in medias res, taking about 3 paragraphs from a later chapter and putting them at the beginning, then having a quick flashback to earlier in that day. This allows me to add some punch to the story straight off.

    The rhythm of the book is going nicely now and I've got a lot of good ideas to put in the narrative. Some writers have block but I don't seem to be one of them, more goodies in the memory banks than needed. I think the habit of writing new chapters but also returning to earlier passages helps sustain the juices.

    I'm emailing you chapter 1, in pdf, for your feedback. It's only 2 pages so an easy read.
  • orchidmanorchidman Senior Member Posts: 8,192 Senior Member
    Have you got an English version Sam.............? ( I am not good at reading 'American')
    Still enjoying the trip of a lifetime and making the best of what I have.....
  • DoctorWhoDoctorWho Senior Member Posts: 9,496 Senior Member
    Better than wading through Cockney talk or other regional talk.
    "There is some evil in all of us, Doctor, even you, the Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say, you do not improve with age. Founding member of the G&A forum since 1996
  • rberglofrberglof Senior Member Posts: 2,731 Senior Member
    OK Sam I am hooked, need more!
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    orchidman wrote: »
    Have you got an English version Sam.............? ( I am not good at reading 'American')

    Just remove all the guns and firepower and you'll have the bowdlerized version of the story. Here in Yankville we like some shootin'.

    Later I'm introducing an Aussie surgeon, tough gal who won't take xxx from anybody -- she'll become Mitch's new squeeze. Sorry I didn't make her a Kiwi but it's not too late to change. could easily do this, but I need the following:

    1. Best medical school in NZ.
    2. Shore area in NZ where sharks patrol -- she jokes w. Mitch about sharks.
    3. Assuming #2 region also has plenty of sailing -- she has her own small boat.
    4. City or large town where she was born, not the largest cities, so I can add variety.
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    rberglof wrote: »
    OK Sam I am hooked, need more!

    PM me w. your email and I'll send you the first dozen chapters or so, in pdf. Realize it's "R" rated, okay?

    Anyone else wants to sample the new book "Blood Vengeance" just PM me your email. And after reading, if you want to offer me some suggestions or if you find errors, feel free to vent, okay?
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,428 Senior Member
    I'm up for a little interesting reading, Sam- - - -and I believe you've got my email stashed away somewhere. Good story so far!
  • terminator012terminator012 Senior Member Posts: 3,929 Senior Member
    Sam, you need to hook up with my wife on this reading. She reads 4 or 5 books a week. Carriers her kindle to bed with her and sleeps with it under her pillow.
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    Sam, you need to hook up with my wife on this reading. She reads 4 or 5 books a week. Carriers her kindle to bed with her and sleeps with it under her pillow.

    Well, both my novels are available for Kindle, and cheap, like $3 each. "Blood Spiral" is the first, "Blood Storm" the second. Reviews for each are of course posted w. the books. Assuming that she likes hardcore mysteries, that is.
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