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Jumping the Gun

Crime Thrillers/Suspense

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#1 Terry P

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 03:07 PM

I'd love a critique of my query. I'll critique anyone's query in return. Thanks!

 

Ex-cop, private eye Palmer is a soulful, transplanted Midwesterner who lives in the New York suburbs in a distinctly unconventional household – his lover’s an ex-con he’d once busted, her daughter’s a recovering opioid addict -- that’s about to be blown apart by two dangerous men back from the past to settle old scores.

 

One is Palmer’s former nemesis, a dirty New York City cop who’s allegedly extorting Palmer’s client, a seductive, blind Greenwich Village restaurateur. The cop and the client are secretly lovers. They attempt to murder her husband for his insurance money and frame the murder on Palmer. Palmer foils the plot and smashes the cop’s face, but now the cop is dead set on killing him.

 

The other threat comes from Frank Vogel, Palmer’s lover’s ex-husband. After years away, he’s come back from Florida to reclaim her. She tells him to go to hell, but her teen daughter Ally’s been rebelling against her, and Frank is her way out. Impulsively violent and full of fractured ambition, Frank pulls Ally into a bizarro-world, gunrunning spree involving high-grade assault weapons, a sleazy guns-for-drugs dealer and an alt-right Catskills militia. Worse, Frank teams up with the cop Palmer had pummeled. The cop double-crosses Frank and kidnaps Ally to lure Palmer into a trap. To save her, Palmer kidnaps his own client as a bargaining chip, but the woman has a surprise for him he never sees coming.

 

In my 92,000-word crime thriller, JUMPING THE GUN, a Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager-ishly philosophical detective meets Elmore Leonard’s restless two-bit hoods. It’s one of three completed, unpublished novels in my PI Palmer series. Each is written to stand alone.



#2 pigeononthemoon

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 08:19 PM

Ex-cop, private eye Palmer is a soulful, transplanted [we can figure out he's a transplant through context] Midwesterner who lives living in an unconventional [use a more informative word than unconventional - like 'secret' or 'forbidden,' because it's not clear that this is something that can be used against him] household in the New York suburbs: [colon here]in a distinctly unconventional household – [get rid of the dashes for smoother reading] his lover’s an ex-con he ’d once busted, [no comma here] and her daughter’s a recovering opioid addict. [period here] that’s ['His secret' or some other wording. My first thought upon reading was, 'what's about the be blown apart?' I wasn't sure if you meant a literal explosion, so make the subject clear.] about to be blown apart by two dangerous men back from the past to settle old scores.

 

One is Palmer’s former nemesis is a dirty New York City cop who’s allegedly extorting Palmer’s client, a seductive, blind Greenwich Village restaurateur.  This sentence has interesting content but reads as clunky. Insert some names because I'm starting to get confused about who's who. I would name at least the cop. The cop and the client are secretly lovers. They attempt to murder her husband for his insurance money and frame the murder on Palmer. Palmer foils the plot and smashes the cop’s face, but now the cop is dead set on killing him. [I'm confused about whether this is backstory or it happens in the book.]

 

The other threat comes from Frank Vogel, Palmer’s lover’s ex-husband. After years away, he’s come back from Florida to reclaim her. She tells him to go to hell, but her teen daughter Ally’s been rebelling against her, and Frank is her way out. Impulsively violent and full of fractured ambition, Frank pulls Ally into a bizarro-world, gunrunning spree involving high-grade assault weapons, a sleazy guns-for-drugs dealer and an alt-right Catskills militia. Worse, Frank teams up with the cop Palmer had pummeled. The cop double-crosses Frank and kidnaps Ally to lure Palmer into a trap. To save her, Palmer kidnaps his own client as a bargaining chip, but the woman has a surprise for him he never sees coming. [This is reading like a synopsis. Think of a query as the back cover summary of a book. Do we need to know how everyone is intricately related to one another? Nope. Give us hints about tangled family affairs instead. And cut out the play-by-play of events.]

 

In my 92,000-word crime thriller, JUMPING THE GUN, a Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager-ishly philosophical detective meets Elmore Leonard’s restless two-bit hoods [too wordy, and I don't know who any of these people are. It's totally possible an agent familiar with the genre will, but I'm just letting you know. Too many adjectives regardless.]. It’s one of three completed, unpublished novels in my PI Palmer series. Each is written to stand alone. 

 

I hope this helps. Good luck! I would greatly appreciate it if you gave me query a read: http://agentqueryconnect.com/index.php?/topic/38314-romance-the-glow-up/



#3 lnloft

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 08:23 PM

I'd love a critique of my query. I'll critique anyone's query in return. Thanks!

 

Ex-cop, private eye Palmer is a soulful, transplanted Midwesterner who lives in the New York suburbs in a distinctly unconventional household – his lover’s an ex-con he’d once busted, her daughter’s a recovering opioid addict -- that’s about to be blown apart by two dangerous men back from the past to settle old scores. There's a cool set up in here, but it's lost in a rather cumbersome sentence. It takes way too much effort to parse out what's going on here. And when you do manage to do that, it's actually kinda vague on what the story is. You've given us a set-up about Palmer's life, but the story itself is simply "some guys are going to wreak havoc in Palmer's life to settle scores". That's not enough to go on, and not hook-y enough. The starting point I generally advise people for their hook is to look at the inciting incident of their story. So what kicks your story into gear? Maybe Palmer is assaulted by an unknown assailant. A mysterious client walks into his office with a case. I don't know what it is, but start your hook from there. You don't have to keep your hook as that if you find something better, but that's where I'd start working from.

 

One is Palmer’s former nemesis, a dirty New York City cop who’s allegedly extorting Palmer’s client, a seductive, blind Greenwich Village restaurateur. Your sentences continue to be cumbersome. You have a subordinate clause being subordinate to another subordinate clause, which isn't wrong, just clunky. The cop and the client are secretly lovers. They attempt to murder her husband for his insurance money and frame the murder on Palmer. Palmer foils the plot and smashes the cop’s face, but now the cop is dead set on killing him. This is reading like a synopsis. And also, I think this is backstory, but I can't tell because it's present tense.

 

The other threat comes from Frank Vogel, Palmer’s lover’s ex-husband I read this wrong originally as "Palmer's ex-lover", which I thought was really taking this story in a different direction. After years away, he’s come back from Florida to reclaim her. She tells him to go to hell, but her teen daughter Ally’s been rebelling against her, and Frank is her way out. Impulsively violent and full of fractured ambition, Frank pulls Ally into a bizarro-world, gunrunning spree involving high-grade assault weapons, a sleazy guns-for-drugs dealer and an alt-right Catskills militia. Worse, Frank teams up with the cop Palmer had pummeled. The cop double-crosses Frank and kidnaps Ally to lure Palmer into a trap. To save her, Palmer kidnaps his own client as a bargaining chip, but the woman has a surprise for him he never sees coming. This again is reading like a synopsis.

 

In my 92,000-word crime thriller, JUMPING THE GUN is a 92,000-word crime thriller. It's a Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager-ishly philosophical detective meets Elmore Leonard’s restless two-bit hoods I don't know these references, which isn't too much of a problem since I don't read this genre, but I'm more concerned about the wordiness that makes it hard to keep track of what you're saying. It’s one of three completed, unpublished novels in my PI Palmer series. Each is written to stand alone.

So. Yeah. A couple problems here. Sorry. A lot of this reads like a synopsis, just telling us things that happen instead of showing (yes, show don't tell still applies within the limited confines of queries). It also feels like there are two different stories going on here, one about Palmer dealing with a dirty ex-cop and one about Palmer dealing with his lover's ex-husband. You have a couple sentences as it the end that give a nod that they're in the same story, but most of the query doesn't feel that way. So you're going to need to find a way to interweave the two. If you can't show that these two plot lines are connected, then the agents are likely to assume that your book just bounces between two unrelated stories. Alternatively, you could focus your query on just one of these, with a token acknowledgement of the other. Since the paragraph about Frank is bigger, I'm assuming that's a little more prominent, so it might work to focus on his plot line, with a line noting that he's got help from an ex-cop who holds a grudge against Palmer because of a former case, although you need to be careful with that to make sure you're not introducing a new element unexpectedly late in the query. Anyway, the point is that structurally this doesn't work right now. Start with an inciting incident hook, then delve into the plot. And show us the stakes. What happens if Palmer fails?

 

Stylistically, I think this needs some tightening up, too. (Sorry I'm really taking a sledge hammer to this thing.) There were a lot of lengthy sentences that I had trouble following because they had too many elements to them; I highlighted some of the worst offenders above. And while you did a good job of limiting the number of names you drop, so I see you did your homework on that, there's still a lot of characters, and I'm having a hard time keeping track of them all: Palmer's lover, the cop (who is not to be confused with ex-cop Palmer), Palmer's client (who is also referred to as "the woman"; be consistent in how you refer to characters in your query).

 

So my advice on all this: simplify. Break down sentences to simple structures (you can always plump them back up later); write your query in its most bare-basics form (again, then you can go back in and add stuff as needed). One of the important things to remember, that I quickly had to learn for writing my query and that I continue to dole out as advice, is that while you have all the context of who these people are and what is going on, we don't. So tell us what's happening in it's simplest form. If there's something you can cut out, go ahead and try it.

 

It's tough, it sucks, I know. But you can do it. Deep breath. Once more into the breach. Good luck.



#4 Terry P

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 05:06 PM

Second Draft

 

Thank you pigeononthemoon and inloft for both of your critiques. They're really helpful!  

 

Pigeononthemoon, I'll critique your query.

 

Here's another stab at mine. Am I on a better track here?  Again, thank you!

 

A trap made of razor blades inside a mailbox snaps down on a mailman’s hand. As the mailman bleeds to death, Frank Vogel gets his ex-wife’s address. He’s coming home.

 

Private eye Palmer has never loved a woman like Candice. She’s funny, gorgeous, has a beautiful singing voice, and a heartbreak daughter recovering from an opioid addiction. They live together in the New York City suburbs.

 

Candice is Frank’s ex.

 

Frank is going to take Candice and his daughter back from Palmer one way or another. But Palmer was a cop for fourteen years and knows scum when he sees it. He finds clues connecting Frank to the mailman murder and gets the cops after him, but it may be too late. Frank has already got his daughter in his clutches. He’s taking her on a wild and increasingly desperate gunrunning spree with a dirty cop. To save her, Palmer must knowingly walk right into his own potential death trap.



#5 pigeononthemoon

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 10:03 PM

 

A trap made of razor blades inside a mailbox snaps down on a mailman’s hand. As the mailman bleeds to death, Frank Vogel gets his ex-wife’s address. He’s coming home. 

 

Private eye Palmer has never loved a woman like Candice. She’s funny, gorgeous, has a beautiful singing voice, [I crossed out 

'gorgeous' because I'm remembering a post the Query Shark made about how agents are sick to death of lady characters being described by their looks. But also you only need three things, and 'gorgeous' was the least interesting of the three.] and a heartbreak daughter [

heartbreak daughter sounds weird to me and I'm not sure what it means] recovering from an opioid addiction. They live together in the suburbs of New York City suburbs[Former New Yorker who has never heard the phrase "New York City suburbs." But also this is weirdly vague. Is it Queens? Upstate NY? Jersey City? Why is it more important to say 'suburb of NY' than the actual place that it is?]

 

Candice is Frank’s ex. 

 

Frank Candice's ex Frank is taking her and their daughter back even if STAKES. [one way or another is too bland. Which ways? Even if he...has to KILL PALMER? I dunno. Tell me! Also what does he do that alerts Palmer to him? Imagine if this were all from Palmer's POV, something like, "Candice's ex Frank sent Palmer a threatening letter..." or something.]going to take Candice and his daughter back from Palmer one way or another. But Former cop Palmer was a cop for fourteen years and knows scum when he sees it. He finds clues connecting Frank to the mailman murder [I didn't connect this to your opening sentences and also the opening was clunky. Maybe try introducing the elements in this order: Palmer. Candice. MURDER. Frank. FRANK IS MURDERER.] and gets the cops after him, [weird phrase] but it may be too late. Frank is already has [by show us. How??? When???] has already got his daughter in his clutches. He’s Frank has already kidnapped his daughter. They're on a wild and increasingly desperate gunrunning spree with a dirty cop . To save her, Palmer must knowingly walk right into his own potential death trap. [Zinger ENDING.]

 

I hope this helps! Sounds like a solid story but it needs restructuring still. I think this is a step in the right direction because the story and its stakes feel clearer to me now.



#6 Terry P

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 07:21 PM

Thank you for helping me with my query! I'll eagerly critique anyone's query as payback. I find even the briefest comments help me see my work from a different perspective and keep me from getting stuck.

Third Draft (most recent)


Private eye Palmer is a soulful Midwesterner in love with an ex-con he’d once busted. They live together with her daughter in Ossining, NY. Freshly sprung from prison, her ex Frank kills a mailman to get their address. He’s going to take Candice and his daughter back even if it means killing Palmer.

While making violent threats against Palmer, Frank secretly sweet-talks his daughter into his clutches. The only way for Palmer to get the cops on him is to find evidence connecting him to the mailman murder, but it may be too late. Frank and his daughter are on a wild and increasingly desperate gunrunning spree. To save her, Palmer must knowingly walk right into his own potential death trap.

JUMPING THE GUN is a 92,000-word crime thriller. Palmer has similarities to Reed Farrel Coleman’s private eye Moe Prager, and Frank could fit in among Elmore Leonard’s restless two-bit hoods.


Questions: Is this too bare-bones? Needs more details?
Thanks

#7 pigeononthemoon

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 07:26 PM

Private eye Palmer is a soulful Midwesterner in love with an ex-con he’d once busted. [Ah! The hook is SO much better!] They live together with her daughter in Ossining, NY. Freshly sprung from prison, her ex Frank kills a mailman to get their address. He’s going to take Candice and his daughter back even if it means killing Palmer.

While making violent threats against Palmer, [This bolded phrase read as clunky to me] Frank secretly sweet-talks his daughter into his clutches. The only way for Palmer to get the cops on him is to find evidence connecting him to the mailman murder, but it may be too late. Frank and his daughter are on a wild and increasingly desperate gunrunning spree. To save her, Palmer must knowingly walk right into his own potential death trap. The phrase I bolded makes it sort of sound like the daughter sides with Frank. If that's what you intended, I think make it clearer (say she was persuaded/brainwashed/etc); otherwise make it clear she's being held against her will.)

JUMPING THE GUN is a 92,000-word crime thriller. Palmer has similarities to Reed Farrel Coleman’s private eye Moe Prager, and Frank could fit in among Elmore Leonard’s restless two-bit hoods. 

 

Not bare-bones at all! It's easy to follow and I think you finally got to the soul of the story. You're nearly there!!



#8 Terry P

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 05:31 PM

Thanks, pigeononthemoon. You're too good to me. I'll take a look at your latest draft as soon as I can. Thanks again for your help!



#9 pigeononthemoon

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 05:47 PM

I haven't written my latest draft yet! I need a break, ha. But I'd certainly appreciate that later this week. Thanks!

#10 lnloft

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 08:52 PM

Thank you for helping me with my query! I'll eagerly critique anyone's query as payback. I find even the briefest comments help me see my work from a different perspective and keep me from getting stuck.

Third Draft (most recent)


Private eye Palmer is a soulful Midwesterner in love with an ex-con he’d once busted Nice. They live together with her daughter in Ossining, NY Hmm. Obviously it's important to establish the existence of the daughter, but this sentence is very vanilla. Both bland in set-up and bland in topic. Right before it you've got a sentence about a private eye and his ex-con lover; on the other you've got a guy fresh out of prison. I bet you can find a better way of writing this sentence. Freshly sprung from prison, her Technically, this "her" isn't clear if it's referring to the lover or the daughter. Even though I know it's the lover, you don't want any doubt. ex Frank kills a mailman to get their address. Do we need to know he killed the mailman? I think if you cut that and combined the sentences as "Freshly sprung from prison, her ex Frank plans to take Candice and their daughter back, even if it means killing Palmer." We know from all this other stuff included that Frank is bad news anyway. He’s going to take Candice This is the only name-drop of Candice in your query, and it's particularly awkward because you don't clearly establish that Candice is Palmer's lover. and his daughter back even, [comma not required, but it adds a nice pause] if it means killing Palmer.

While making violent threats against Palmer, Frank secretly sweet-talks his daughter into his clutches. The only way for Palmer to get the cops on him is to find evidence connecting him to the mailman murder Oh, I see why the mailman was included. Hmm..., but it may be too late. Frank and his daughter are on a wild and increasingly desperate gunrunning spree. To save her, Palmer must knowingly walk right into his own potential death trap. I underlined a couple pronouns because they're not as clear as they could be on who the antecedent is. You don't want me wondering, "Wait, is that Frank or Palmer's daughter?" Candice also just kinda... disappears. I don't know if that's a problem and you shouldn't force her in where she doesn't belong, but just pointing that out.

JUMPING THE GUN is a 92,000-word crime thriller. Palmer has similarities to Reed Farrel Coleman’s private eye Moe Prager, and Frank could fit in among Elmore Leonard’s restless two-bit hoods.


Questions: Is this too bare-bones? Needs more details?
Thanks

Holy moly, this is leaps and bounds above your first draft. Nice job! It's not too bare-bones, I think, just short and sweet. Agents will appreciate if you can be catchy while also being concise. Obviously still some things to clean up, but you've come really far really fast. Good work, keep it up, and good luck.



#11 TeaTime

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 10:30 PM

Private eye Palmer is a soulful Midwesterner in love with an ex-con he’d once busted. They live together with her daughter in Ossining, NY (is listing the specific location important? It doesn't seem to come up later on in this query anywhere). Freshly sprung from prison, her ex Frank kills a mailman to get their address. He’s going to take Candice and his daughter back even if it means killing Palmer.

While making violent threats against Palmer (directly to Palmer? Isn't this illegal--or at least enough to get the police involved?), Frank secretly sweet-talks his daughter into his clutches (Could just be me, but "clutches" always sounds a bit cartoony). The only way for Palmer to get can the cops on him is to find evidence connecting him to the mailman murder (How does Palmer know Frank killed the mailman if there isn't any evidence?), but it may be too late. Frank and his daughter are on a wild and increasingly desperate gunrunning spree. To save her, Palmer must knowingly walk right into his own potential death trap.

JUMPING THE GUN is a 92,000-word crime thriller. Palmer has similarities to Reed Farrel Coleman’s private eye Moe Prager, and Frank could fit in among Elmore Leonard’s restless two-bit hoods.

 

Good job, this query is definitely a tighter version from just briefly glancing at the earlier drafts.

 

My one big concern is that Palmer, the main character, really isn't in this version much--the only thing we really know about him personality-wise is that he's "soulful." There is far more of Frank's personality & doing stuff here, but I assume most of the book is about/follows Palmer. So it would be good to get even just a few snippets of who he is & why he's different, instead of who all the people around him are. Otherwise, nice going, you're doing good at reworking this, & it sounds like a solid story.



#12 Terry P

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 09:57 AM

Thanks so much, Infoft and TeaTime. I'm realizing that a query is like a small room: all it takes is one extra piece of furniture to make it feel cluttered.



#13 Terry P

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 02:38 PM

Fifth draft (most recent) 

 

Private eye Palmer is a soulful Midwesterner in love with Candice, an ex-con he once busted. Candice and her daughter are his countryside refuge from his crazy New York City clients and a train-wrecked police career. His crooked police force nemesis continues to haunt him. Freshly sprung from prison, Candice’s ex Frank murders a mailman in order to get her address. He’s going to take Candice and his own daughter back, even if it means killing Palmer.

 

Clean-cut, cheerful, Frank, once the lead singer in a punk rock band, claims he’s reformed. Palmer doesn’t buy it. He suspects Frank killed the mailman. Though Candice tells Frank to go to hell, he sweet-talks their daughter into his clutches. The only way Palmer can get the cops on Frank is to find evidence connecting him to the mailman murder, but it may be too late. Frank and his daughter are on a wild and increasingly desperate gunrunning spree. To save her, Palmer must knowingly walk right into his own potential death trap, and a reunion with his police nemesis.

 

JUMPING THE GUN is a 92,000-word crime thriller. It is one of three completed, unpublished novels in my PI Palmer series. Each is written to stand alone.  JUMPING THE GUN should appeal to fans of Reed Farrel Coleman and Elmore Leonard.







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