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L.A's Gutter: First Chapter (1 Viewer)

MrTickle

Senior Member
Hi, thanks for taking the time to have a look at my novel set 1948 Los Angeles. The story is about a struggling detective who finds is step father dead, along with two little girls. Wanting to find the reason for the deaths he finds himself put in a downward spiral of corrupt Hollywoodland directors and a small group of bank robbers who only rob from the "corrupt".
This is the first chapter:

Chapter 1

August 7[SUP]th[/SUP] 1948: The stabbing sun was climbing the sidewalk of Los Angeles; a deranged, stumbling mid-fifties man stood on 1[SUP]st[/SUP] and Spring Streets- swaying side to side in a drunken haze. His hand shook the bottle of Scotch; his revolver dug into his ribs and the passing tram latched onto his grey eyes forcing them to flicker violently. The man wore a light, fuzzy brown tweed single breasted suit with matured, once black shoes.

Everyday life continued as normal; boys and girls hurried to school- full lives ahead of them, “war heroes” staggered home from late-night jazz clubs- red eyed and wobbling, and enthusiastic shop keepers glued their stalls to the pavement.

All of that was a non-distraction as the man’s eyes were firmly fixed on the glass doors of the L.A Times building, which had a solid tomb structure, and musty windows. He closely observed ambitious reporters and journalists disappearing from the searing heat and into their cushioned jobs. Loud police sirens breached the picture-perfect sky, the man’s heart pounded at a rate of knots, his thoughts switched to the son he would never see again.

Focusing - The man covered his half blood splattered shirt with the rest of his jacket, and spotted a cluster of reporters hurrying to get inside. Realising that was the only chance a group might be as large as that, he headed swiftly towards them; forcing a crusted blue Chevy to crank its horn and the driver to come to a rushed stop. Ignoring the incident and carrying on, the man cut in-between a tall lady and a flat chinned man sporting grey Donegal tweed. He tried to remain inconspicuous by weaving in and out of the crowd. The entourage were moving so fast he felt like they were in more of a hurry than him. Converting to tip toes he edged his neck out so he could see what was in front. He spotted up ahead, two tall security guards eyeballing the crowd; knowing they were trained to look for people like him he tipped the edge of his Fedora to the side and kept his head lowered. Digs and sharp elbows made his ribs ache even more, but he ignored it knowing a bit of pain was worth the closure.

Once inside, the entourage split, women and men headed to different marble staircases and office blocks; leaving the man isolated in the middle of the cold stone floor and forcing him to think quickly; after a nippy scan of the floor he saw the prize he was looking for, a lift with a sign saying above the frame “L.A’s Finest and Brightest” .Sucking in a ton of air and ignoring the cringing statement which made him hate the journalists of L.A even more he attempted to pass the large reception area, where three women chewing clown pink gum discussed last night’s “goings-on”. With the women keeping their noses in their own business, he made the slip through smooth and unnoticed. Keeping his head down and the scotch concealed in the flap of his jacket he arrived at the golden door elevator, quickly tapping the button, hoping and praying no-one would call him out. Loud clunking footsteps approached from behind; making him think his luck had finally run out and the guards had spotted him. He swivelled around to see a blonde haired women eyeballing an issue of The Times. Hurrying the lift he continued to slam the button. The women huffed-puffed and said,

“These bloody lifts. For an important building, you’d think they would get them sorted”

The man grinded out a smile and kept his eyes securely on the lift doors- refusing to gain eye contact with anybody else. A few agonising moments later the doors pinged and opened jaggedly. The women folded the paper under her flowered tea dress and said,

“What floor?”

The man held up his scotch and replied,

“The top one, if that’s not too much trouble”, she looked at him strangely- he ignored it. She walked closer so he could take a whiff of the over bearing scent of Lentheric Confetti,

“Do you actually work here sir?”

The man started to sweat, his mouth turned dry and he imagined blue suits waiting for him at the next floor- Billy clubs at the ready. Attempting to remain casual, he leaned back only resulting with himself falling back onto the glass mirror. The women repeated her question but with more force this time; the man rubbed his saw patch on his head, composed himself, and went for the smooth reply,

“Don’t you worry about me bunny, I’m just visiting a friend, and if you’re worrying about the booze; no need... it’s for him”

The lady frowned, with hands on hips;


“This building is for employees only”

Going for the sarcastic comeback,

“It sounds like you might have to arrest me ma’am”

“Don’t get funny with me; Believe me when I say that security is on the next floor”

“Too bad, I got a fucking gun, what you going to do then, threaten me some more?”

The man cursed at himself inwardly; realising that the booze had taken over. His trembling right hand whisked through his lumpy grey hair,

“Listen, I may have had a couple of swigs of J Jameson, but I’m not doing you any harm, so quit leaning on me”

The clunking lift came to an abrupt stop; the women sped off, muttering and looking back at the man. He knew he did not have much time, he kept reminding himself: This will all be over soon.

The lift continued on its course; the man’s senses beginning to come back to him- no scotch, meant precise thinking. He chucked the bottle in the corner- knowing that a bottle of scotch was only going to attract more attention.
After a pause the lift jolted to a stop one final time; it revealed scattered voices nattering outside; praying it wasn’t security, the man braced himself. The doors opened to a cloud of smoke engulfing the lift. He walked out with his legs creating the tingling of nerves he felt when thinking of what he had been involved in only minutes before deciding to head inside. Outside in the lobby- there were piles of more busy long-necked reporters bullying their way into the lifts. He thanked god there were no security guards in sight. The man took advantage and sped quickly into a long-stretched office block filled with gallons of reporters tapping away in their cubicles like ants inside the cracks of walls. Feeling disoriented he stopped and sucked in the view of the gaping long, tall cream walls and gigantic windows which delivered such overbearing rays of sunlight. Feeling a strong gurgling in his stomach- figuring it for a sense of nerves he tried to gather his thoughts around the chaos of people smoking, talking, typing, and rushing to the lift. His drink intake made him see the reporters as snakes in a cage- vision subsiding, but put back on the task by a jolt from a hasty journalist,

“Move buddy”

The man felt a sensation of his breathing becoming shallower; he scanned the doorways for the “Big Wig” he was looking for. He noticed singular offices with black blinds shutting out any peepers to the side of the room- guessing his target would be in one of them; the man thought: this guy is right at the top, he’s got to have an office to himself.

He eyeballed the names on the glass doors; Sam Ricketts- no, Miller Farnham- fuck no, Tony Gadolfi- no, and ultimately the prize he’d been looking for, Jack Carlson- a young cocky reporter, who knew all the big-wigs of Hollywoodland, and was the face of The Times newspaper. He reached for the door knob, but was haltered by a commotion arising from behind. Looking around, he saw the women from the lift pointing directly at him with two wide shouldered security guards from downstairs in pursuit.

Remaining calm he busted into Jack’s office, grabbed a chair, and rammed it underneath the door knob- creating a barrier for any force. Jack Carlson sat leaning back on his chair, with a light purple silk shirt, golden braces and an unlit Cuban cigar- camped in front of a fountain of papers. Voices mounted up from outside, “open up”, the door knob twisting and pulling. Ignoring the people, Jack leant forward with a look of pure arrogant swagger and said

“How, in god’s name did you get in here?”

Ignoring Jack, the man tried to get his breath back. He hadn’t moved so fast in years, and drink wasn’t helping matters. Walking to the window and sucking in the view, he started the altercation off in his own way,

“You know, for a city run by the media, you’d think the employees of these kinds of places would be role models”

No answer from Jack allowed the man to continue, “It’s bad enough having someone like you, thinking he is mister big shot, and doing whatever he pleases” Jack lit his cigar with a calm assured hand and said,

“I’ve worked damn hard to get where I want to be old boy”

“Why does that matter? You are still a corrupt skirt chaser. I saw you in that alley-way- it’s your fault. You just think you’re being smart, you think you’re a big cheese; well here’s news... you’re not”

“No, no, no don’t blame me. Your typical drinking habit got you in to this mess; I carry no wait on my shoulders old boy, besides if you come back from this, ill support you old boy”

The man drew an angry face on and slammed his hands on the table- forcing Jack’s papers to flutter away. “Don’t patronise me you’re nothing more than a corrupt piece of muck that walks with the stars”

Noticing a sharp silver pen being held captive by a jar with capital blue letters saying “L.A’s Finest” the man flinched with anger and grabbed the pen (Having had enough of Jack’s “Old Boy” antics and wanting to stake his claim on someone who was about to destroy his life) and crunching it through Jack’s right hand- sticking it to the desk like a hand stamp. Carlson cried out in pain which only created more noise outside- forcing the guards to start pounding the door with a wooden bench.
The Cuban cigar, dribbled with blood, Jack squeezed his hand to stop the profuse bleeding,

“You sick bitch, just because you can’t live with what you’ve done”

The man did not answer, Jack’s rough words had clearly knocked him back, and he only heard the words
“Can’t live with what you’ve done” again and again, it took over from the sound of the office door being battered. The man slowly with a shaking hand reached into his jacket and pulled out a snub nose 45. Carlson’s eyes widened with despair, he shouted “someone, help, please” It was too late; the man took one last lick of his licker stained mouth, and pulled the trigger; the bullet hole expanded across Jack’s shirt, his face turned from sour to lifeless.
The cracking of the gun rippled through the walls, making all of the anxious reporters outside the door jump, and scream.

He placed the gun on the table in front of Jack’s body, and opened the musty, large window- stepping out on to the ledge- wind flapping under his arms, thoughts of his son played in his mind like a fast film- thinking: I’m sorry I’ve let you down. The door finally broke open; splinters flying to all four corners of the room. One of the guards shouted,

“Sir, please step back off the ledge; now”- not listening, the man outstretched his arms, and whispered to himself

“Angeles, sweep me up from this lost city”

His body dropped, ladies screamed, the guards kicked the floor. A life lost- another life ruined.


Thank you for reading.
 

distorter

Senior Member
Not bad. Great imagery! Some punctuation errors (too many semi-colons, for example), but otherwise the story moves.
 

Sintalion

Senior Member
"...stabbing sun was climbing the sidewalk of Los Angeles; a deranged, stumbling mid-fifties man stood on 1[SUP]st[/SUP] and Spring Streets- swaying side to side in a drunken haze. His hand shook the bottle of Scotch; his revolver dug into his ribs and the passing tram latched onto his grey eyes forcing them to flicker violently."
First, I'd like to address all the -ING going on in this. It's not all properly used.

stabbing sun was climbing.

I don't think you need to call the sun stabbing. Unless it's important to the story, just calling it the sun is good enough. I'm having trouble picturing stabbing and climbing at the same time.
As for climbing, you'll make a stronger sentence (and shorten the word count by one) if you just let the sun climb. You really don't need to take on a passive voice here.

a deranged, stumbling mid-fifties man stood
So he's stumbling and standing at the same time? Doesn't work. I'd cut the stumbling and wouldn't replace it with another word. If I had to though, I'd consider a word that pairs with stood, or change stood to walking.

swaying side to side in a drunken haze.
With all these verb-ings, I'm really not getting a good sense of action. I also don't know why you need the semicolon here. Why do these sentences deserve to be connected?

passing tram
Nothing inherently wrong with this usage. It's the only one I would keep. HOWEVER:

the passing tram latched onto his grey eyes forcing them to flicker violently.
This sentence implies that the tram is doing the action of literally latching onto his eyes. I'd say he's in quite the spot of trouble (and not just a violent flicker)! I also don't quite know what you're aiming at here. What about his eyes is flickering? Is this a pupil thing, or are we talking like eyes rolling back, eyelids spazzing kinda deal?

...light, fuzzy brown tweed single breasted suit with matured, once black shoes.
There's an awful lot of adjectives here, and I don't think you need them all! Particularly: light and once-black. Possibly even fuzzy, since tweed on its own provides information about texture.

"All of that was a non-distraction"
As a reader, a line like this makes me wonder: Why did you include it then? I'm reading to set things up for what happens, and you're essentially telling the reader: The past couple of sentences you read mean nothing. The character in the scene didn't even notice them. Sometimes it works, but I don't think that this a good example. You can leave it in, but I'd consider cutting this bolded section.

As the other reviewer commented, there are some punctuational errors that need to be addressed. I'll not point them out here, since I'm focusing more on the construction of the story and not the nitpicks.

"a rate of knots"
What rate is that?

Focusing
I thought he was pretty focused, given that everything was a non-distraction.

Realising that was the only chance a group might be as large as that...
Should be reworked. I see it, but I have to try hard. You're missing a word and/or need to be specific.

Converting to tip toes
Interesting word choice. Not sure it's appropriate, however.

... leaving the man isolated in the middle of the cold stone floor and forcing him to think quickly; after a nippy scan of the floor he saw the prize he was looking for, a lift with a sign saying above the frame “L.A’s Finest and Brightest” .Sucking in a ton of air and ignoring the cringing statement which made him hate the journalists of L.A even more he attempted to pass the large reception area, where three women chewing clown pink gum discussed last night’s “goings-on”. With the women keeping their noses in their own business, he made the slip through smooth and unnoticed. Keeping his head down and the scotch concealed in the flap of his jacket he arrived at the golden door elevator, quickly tapping the button, hoping and praying no-one would call him out. Loud clunking footsteps approached from behind; making him think his luck had finally run out and the guards had spotted him. He swivelled around to see a blonde haired women eyeballing an issue of The Times. Hurrying the lift he continued to slam the button....
TONS of -ing in here! Some can stay, but not all of it should. Some of these sentences need to be altered.

The man grinded out a smile and kept his eyes securely on the lift doors- refusing to gain eye contact with anybody else. A few agonising moments later the doors pinged and opened jaggedly. The women folded the paper under her flowered tea dress and said,

“What floor?”
I don't understand why you're giving separate lines? It's ten times more difficult to read this way.

"“These bloody lifts. For an important building, you’d think they would get them sorted”"
Where is the LA Times? To me, this woman sounds a bit British and not LA. Doesn't mean you can't have that, but it made me pause and wonder where we are.

Going for the sarcastic comeback,

“It sounds like you might have to arrest me ma’am”


I don't think this is sarcastic.

The man cursed at himself inwardly; realising that the booze had taken over.
The booze took over BUT he's aware? Sounds to me like it hasn't actually taken over!


I skipped a bunch since you do the same things over and over.

"forcing the guards to start pounding the door with a wooden bench."
We were in his thoughts, so I thought this was third limited. But we have more omniscience here, as the narrator is telling us what happens OUTSIDE the door, where we are not.




Over all, it's okay. You write a better concept than you do structure, which is perfectly normal. Your sentences really need to be cleaned up and given some variety. As well, you don't really balance the scenes between exposition and dialogue. You tend to swing from one to the other with very little transitions. The main character felt flat, in part because of the structural mistakes, and in part because you did not allow us opportunity to peek into his head or get some sense of personality and feelings. It was a shallow read. Could be fabulous, but you need to put in hard work to achieve that. :) Good luck!
 
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