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wainscottbl
February 22nd, 2017, 08:12 AM
Have not read a lot of mystery/crime fiction, but wanted to give a hand at it. So, tell me what you think. TIA.

UNTITLED

Lieutenant Glenn Pepper always wore the trench coat, rain or shine, warm or cold. His white shirts were cheap and stained, often misbuttoned and he wore a clip on tie. He spoke quickly and aprosodiclly, with a unique accent neither American nor British. He worked alone.


Pepper knelt down and looked at the body. Name, Alfred Gould. The victim was in his sixties, well dressed. He had been poisoned and he lay in his own vomit. He had been one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state, so there were enough suspects. On second thought…
“It’s not one of his clients,” Pepper said. “Poison. It was someone close enough to be able to use poison. And a woman I think.”


“The wife?” Captain Elson asked.


“Maybe.”

“She’s quite his junior,” the captain said. “Golddigger’s my guess.”

“Yes, that would make sense. Woman most likely is the killer of course because of poison. The victim is a rich old man with a pretty young wife. We’ll need to wait for the tox screen. I think it’s the medicine over there on the counter. What’s the date of the fill?”

“Last week.”

“Let me guess. More than should be is missing.”

“Yep. Though I think she was in more in spiritual than bodily pain. In other words, she was taking more than she was supposed to.”

“Log it. Where’s the wife?”

“In the bedroom.”

“I’ll go talk to her. Get a read of her.”

“Right,” said the captain. He always let Pepper do his thing. Pepper always got it done. Pepper had been offered promotions, but did not want them. He preferred the field, not the office. A place of authority limited him.

“Mrs. Gould?” Pepper said, waking into the bedroom.

“Yes?” The woman, in her early thirties, was sitting on the bed. She had been crying, and her eyes were bloodshot.

“I know you’re upset and everything, but I have to ask you some questions. I’m Lieutenant Pepper. Have you been drinking tonight?”

“What? What does that matter?” Mrs. Gould asked defensively.

“Everything matters,” Pepper said. “I just noticed your eyes are a bit bloodshot. I noticed the pain killers with your name on them, too. You take those?”

“Obviously,” she said. There was a tone of patronizing annoyance in her voice. “They’re prescribed,” she stated emphatically.

“Oh, I saw that,” Pepper said. “But I also saw that they were prescribed last week and that more than should be are gone.”

“So you think I killed him?”

“No, I didn’t say that,” Pepper told her. “But I have to look into that. Have you sold them?”

“Excuse me?”

“Sold them, for money. And I should remind you that you do not have to tell me that, and can have an attorney with you at any time I am asking you questions.”

“Are you reading me my rights, Detective?”

“No, just telling you because I am asking you if you committed a crime. Selling them is a crime, you see. Did you sell the pills for money? And I don’t care if you did. This is a murder investigation. I don’t care if you sold pills for a dime a piece. But you should tell me the truth, because in a murder investigation lies—“

“No, I didn’t. I just took more than the doctor told me. They’re for a tennis injury and—“

“Yes. Of course. But you’re not telling the whole truth. You have a bit of a problem with the pills, I think.”

“Detective, you have no right to—“

“No, I don’t have a right to judge you, though if you do have a problem, I can give you the name of a good place for rehab.” Mrs. Gould was becoming agitated. “But that’s neither here nor there. Are you happy, Mrs. Gould?”

“Happy? My husband was just murdered,” the widow said.

“So you’re sad he was murdered?”

“What kind of question is that, Detective?”

“Well, you’re sad then. You feel guilty, too, maybe. I mean because of your adultery.”

“Adultery! I think I am going to ask you to leave. I think I’ll call my attorney. Please, leave.”

“Yes, of course. You’re not being arrested, just questioned, but we need you to come down to the station. We have to get all the info we can, you see. And yes, that means questioning a woman whose husband was just murdered. Well, I ask you to come. We lost a case just last week because we “told them they needed”, when they have a right not to, since they were not being detained. And you’re not. But I would like you to.”

“He could have committed suicide,” she said.

“I doubt it.”

“Well, I didn’t kill him.”

“Never said you did. Since you asked for an attorney, I can’t ask you any more questions without him present.”

“You know what, ask. I didn’t kill my husband, so ask.”

Pepper noted everything. Mrs. Gould was very lovely. Lovely and young; quite a catch for the murdered old man. She was elegant and dignified, and even when she became angry, she kept that dignity. Did she do it? Maybe. She had a lover though. That Pepper knew. And if she did not kill her husband, then she felt guilty about her infidelity, now that her husband was dead. “I’m sorry about the adultery thing,” he said. “You see, I have Asperger’s and I don’t always say things the right way. I should not have said adultery, you see. Too bold, too forward. But I do know you have a lover. You feel guilty about it now because your husband is dead. Natural. And also, I should tell you that your feelings of guilt would suggest your innocence. And of course, you should tell me the truth about it because, well, lying makes the innocent look guilty.”

Mrs. Gould actually smiled. “You’re clever, Detective. And charming. In your own way. Yes, I have a lover. My husband’s friend, Dr. Abraham Goldberg.”

“Another Jew?”

“Excuse me!” Mrs. Gould cried offendedly, exaggeratedly. Perhaps it was simply for a need to feel offended at the perhaps veiled antisemitism. She was rich and liberal after all. He knew that from a bumper sticker he saw.

“Oh, I didn’t mean that to give offense, ma’am,” Pepper said. “The Asperger’s thing. My mouth gets ahead of me. It’s neuropsychological, you see. I did not mean it in an anti-Semitic way. You see, like many people with Asperger’s, I have my excessive fascinations, and mine is names. Most names with ‘gold’ in them are Jewish. Do you like classical music, Mrs. Gould?”

“Wh-what…what are you talking about?”

“Do you like classical music?”

“Yes, very much actually. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Me, too. I just love The Goldberg Variations, especially the 1981 version played by Glenn Gould. You see, a lot of people thought he might be Jewish. Oh, and have Asperger’s interestingly. Anyway, some people who were not Jewish—or were--changed their name to Gould if it was Gold to remove the connotation. Gould said he had no Jewish ancestry.”

“Yes, Abraham is Jewish. And I think Peter’s got…has got—“ She stopped short, and began to cry.

Real tears? Yes, Pepper decided. Real tears. “Here,” he said, pulling a worn, sullied handkerchief from the right pocket of his trench coat.

SummerPanda
February 23rd, 2017, 03:03 AM
Interesting character, I wouldn't mind reading the next few chapters before I decide if I like him or not.
I thought you did a very good job with the dialogue, you made it clear who was speaking without lots of repetitive he said/she said. That is something I tend to struggle with.

I did notice a few sentences that were simply awkward the way they were written.
"Woman most likely is the killer of course because of poison."
"More than should be is missing."

I would switch a couple words around for ease of readability, as follows.
"A woman is most likely the killer of course, because of the poison."
"More is missing than should be."

Thanks for sharing!

wainscottbl
February 23rd, 2017, 09:19 AM
Interesting character, I wouldn't mind reading the next few chapters before I decide if I like him or not.
I thought you did a very good job with the dialogue, you made it clear who was speaking without lots of repetitive he said/she said. That is something I tend to struggle with.

I did notice a few sentences that were simply awkward the way they were written.
"Woman most likely is the killer of course because of poison."
"More than should be is missing."

I would switch a couple words around for ease of readability, as follows.
"A woman is most likely the killer of course, because of the poison."
"More is missing than should be."

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks! I believe I agree. Oh, and it's a short story of a little under 4,000 words, so no chapters. But, maybe I will post the next thousand words in the next day or two.

BlondeAverageReader
February 23rd, 2017, 11:54 AM
Shows promise, just needs polishing. I would like to read the rest.

Jay Greenstein
February 24th, 2017, 05:11 AM
As I read, I felt like I was reading a description of the film you were watching. It's all visual description and emotion free dialog, presented as, "This happened...then that happened...he asked...the answer was...and then..." Your characters don't hesitate, stop to think, rephrase, frown, smile, use the senses, or behave as you or I might in the situation. Your detective knows the person was poisoned. How? The body has yet to be taken to where the medical examiner can look at it. And CSI doesn't take a sample, drive back to the lab and do an analysis instantly. I would buy it if he smelled something, or saw symptoms. But according to the text he kneels next to the body and does no examination. He simply thinks the victim's name and occupation—for the reader's benefit. But were you in that situation, would you get close to a body stinking of vomit without a purpose?

My point is that you're focused on presenting plot-points. But the reader wants to know what he thinks, not what you observe. Does he feel he has any suspects? What does he notice that matters to him? Think about yourself, and how you respond. Were friend to come in to the room where you are and say, "I just heard you won the million dollar jackpot in the lottery. Is it true?"

Would you immediately say "I don't know."?

No. Your first reaction would be instinctive, something like, "What? Are you..." You'd freeze, wondering if you heard wrong, unable to reply as you think over the possibilities, beginning with it being a joke, and then going on to trying to remember if you bought a ticked, and if so, where it was. Finally, you'd take a deep breath and say, "Where did you hear that?"

That's how we work. We react instinctively, if warranted. Then we decide if what we heard matters, and how much. Then we go over our options and needs and decide what to do/say. That process can take a few milliseconds or far longer before you respond.

And given that, can your characters seem lifelike if they toss dialog back and forth like a softball, without emotion in their voice, and in their expression, gestures, and body-language?

My point is that story lies not in what happens, but the effect of what happens on our protagonist, and how they cope/react/struggle. A recitation of facts can inform, yes. But to entertain you must involve the reader, emotionally. They have to care, not just know.

Take a look at this article (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php). It's one I often recommend, and it's a condensation from a book that I, like the man who wrote the article, think belongs on every writer's bookshelf. Play with it for a while. It details an approach to writing that's very different from what we learn in our school days. It's emotion-based where our schooldays writing is fact-based. And it's character-centric, where we were taught author-centric writing, because that's what most employers want us to be proficient in.

It's not that you're making mistakes, or the writing being good or bad. It's that because no one ever told you that you needed more than the nonfiction skills we were given, you're using writing skills inappropriate to the task. And that's fixable.

SO chew on the article till it makes sense. Try the method out and you'll see that it forces you to look at the situation as the protagonist, not the author. And because it does, your protagonist will say no when you try to make him do something that's not in him. And until your characters have said, "Hell no, I won't do that," they're not real to either you or the reader.

And when you think about it, if we want to write like a pro, don't we have to know what the pro knows?

Hang in there, and keep on writing. It doesn't get easier, but we do become confused on a higher level.

Raevenlord
February 24th, 2017, 11:25 AM
As I read, I felt like I was reading a description of the film you were watching. It's all visual description and emotion free dialog, presented as, "This happened...then that happened...he asked...the answer was...and then..." Your characters don't hesitate, stop to think, rephrase, frown, smile, use the senses, or behave as you or I might in the situation. Your detective knows the person was poisoned. How? The body has yet to be taken to where the medical examiner can look at it. And CSI doesn't take a sample, drive back to the lab and do an analysis instantly. I would buy it if he smelled something, or saw symptoms. But according to the text he kneels next to the body and does no examination. He simply thinks the victim's name and occupation—for the reader's benefit. But were you in that situation, would you get close to a body stinking of vomit without a purpose?

My point is that you're focused on presenting plot-points. But the reader wants to know what he thinks, not what you observe. Does he feel he has any suspects? What does he notice that matters to him? Think about yourself, and how you respond. Were friend to come in to the room where you are and say, "I just heard you won the million dollar jackpot in the lottery. Is it true?"

Would you immediately say "I don't know."?

No. Your first reaction would be instinctive, something like, "What? Are you..." You'd freeze, wondering if you heard wrong, unable to reply as you think over the possibilities, beginning with it being a joke, and then going on to trying to remember if you bought a ticked, and if so, where it was. Finally, you'd take a deep breath and say, "Where did you hear that?"

That's how we work. We react instinctively, if warranted. Then we decide if what we heard matters, and how much. Then we go over our options and needs and decide what to do/say. That process can take a few milliseconds or far longer before you respond.

And given that, can your characters seem lifelike if they toss dialog back and forth like a softball, without emotion in their voice, and in their expression, gestures, and body-language?

My point is that story lies not in what happens, but the effect of what happens on our protagonist, and how they cope/react/struggle. A recitation of facts can inform, yes. But to entertain you must involve the reader, emotionally. They have to care, not just know.

Take a look at this article (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php). It's one I often recommend, and it's a condensation from a book that I, like the man who wrote the article, think belongs on every writer's bookshelf. Play with it for a while. It details an approach to writing that's very different from what we learn in our school days. It's emotion-based where our schooldays writing is fact-based. And it's character-centric, where we were taught author-centric writing, because that's what most employers want us to be proficient in.

It's not that you're making mistakes, or the writing being good or bad. It's that because no one ever told you that you needed more than the nonfiction skills we were given, you're using writing skills inappropriate to the task. And that's fixable.

SO chew on the article till it makes sense. Try the method out and you'll see that it forces you to look at the situation as the protagonist, not the author. And because it does, your protagonist will say no when you try to make him do something that's not in him. And until your characters have said, "Hell no, I won't do that," they're not real to either you or the reader.

And when you think about it, if we want to write like a pro, don't we have to know what the pro knows?

Hang in there, and keep on writing. It doesn't get easier, but we do become confused on a higher level.
Jay, thank you so much for this thought-out, systematic approach. Some people pay for this kind of advice... Yet you give it free.

Wain, thank you for sharing this. I admit, at first I was a bit put off by what seemed like a cardboard-cut, tough-ass, impossibly smart detective (your character reminds me of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock, btw, in a good way). Later, knowing he has Asperger's shed some interesting light on the character. Also, his interest and knowledge of Jews and their names is interesting, and something I'd have liked to see some background and more development on. Jay already mentioned some technical problems (the CSI bits), while I do understand you took on the concept that poison is a woman's weapon of choice (as has been described in literature).

This has the potential, and Pepper has even more so with the exploration of his Asperger's and its effects on his life and work, but for now, it does feel like a dip into this kind of literature more than a full-blown dive. I'd like to see more.

bdcharles
February 27th, 2017, 10:28 AM
Hi

Quite a wonderfully nutty read. I have a soft spot for MC's with Aspergers. Can't really fault this too much. I though Pepper was very well-depicted, though I am not sure whether this piece is complete or the start of something larger. It could make for a very interesting novel.

"aprosodiclly" - ug! that's a bit heavy, this early on but I found it did work, with the voice. It should also have a second "a" after the "c" I think though.