Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Literary Orgasms, Pit Bulls, and Low-Life Shysters

From Paul...

ACT THREE: THE ORGASM. In his blog, Robert Gregory Browne takes the three-act dramatic structure -- set-up, confrontation, resolution -- and fiddles with it a bit. His provocative new categories: Seduction. Foreplay. Climax. "Without masterful seduction and foreplay it is virtually impossible to reach a satisfying climax." Who can argue with that? I look forward to Bob's next book, "Whisper in the Dark." Especially the last 30 pages.

WHEN TAGS AND KEYWORDS FAIL: The title of my new novel is "Illegal." Amazon, as you know, has developed nifty marketing techniques to interest page-surfers in similar books. So, at the bottom of "Illegal's" Amazon page is this question: "Looking for 'Illegal' Products?" Then this suggestion: "The Dog Pit - Or How to Select, Breed, Train, and Manage Fighting Dogs." I'm not sure if the book contains a chapter on avoiding detection. If it does, apparently Michael Vick never read it.
Another pleasant read for a Spring evening is "The Breeding and Management of Fighting Cocks." Then there's the DVD called, "Off the Chain," described as "an unprecedented look into the underground world of dog fighting."

OPENING LINES: I was signing and schmoozing at San Diego's wonderful "Mysterious Galaxy" bookstore over the weekend. A lawyer in the audience told me he had tried to sell a novel but ran into a brick wall when an editor told him that unless the first sentence grabbed her, she would never read the second line. I don't know if the editor had A.D.D. or was just trying to show how busy she was.

We can all think of great openings, but I wonder if that editor would acknowledge them. For example...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..." To which that editor might have replied, So which was it! Make up your mind, already!

"Call me Ishmael." Hmmm. Call you that? Why? Is it an alias?

"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish." Old man? Bad demos. Fishing alone? How about a girl in a thong? And who wants to read about a lousy fisherman anyway? Bor-ing!

"I am an invisible man." Sorry, Ralphie. We don't do sci-fi.

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." Light of my life? Hey, Vlad. Avoid cliches like the plague!

"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter." Good Lord, have you never studied syntax, grammar, the basic rules of English?

I will leave you with the opening line of "Illegal." If you want to critique it or provide me with your favorite openings, feel free!

"Judge Rollins drew a handgun from beneath his black robes, pointed the snub-nosed barrel at Jimmy Payne's chest, and said, 'Who you pimping for, you low-life shyster?'"



  1. James O. Born3/31/2009 9:48 AM

    This is a little inside but do you remember a federal judge in Miami named Roettger? I might have the name a little off. He carried a gun onto the bench. Very colorful guy.

    Good post.


  2. Jim,
    I was friendly with Judge Morphonios a/k/a "Lady Ellen," who wore mini-skirts under her robes, a pink ribbon in her hair, and a handgun in a shoulder holster.

    There was a famous Miami judge (name escapes me) who kept a box of cigars in his desk. In paternity cases, when he ruled with the plaintiff-mother, he would hand the male defendant a cigar and say, "Congratulations! You're a father."

    Fewer characters today. Everything's gone bland.

  3. All the judges I've met are bland by comparison.