QUERY - crime/police fiction

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bigheadx
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QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » May 17th, 2010, 5:23 pm

Hopefully, I've been a good enough forum "citizen" to impose upon its members for some feedback. This query is targeted to those agents who do not wish to see the first 10-20 pages of the novel, so it is a bit longer than the query that accompanies sample chapters and/or a synopsis.

Get out your knives, please, and carve me up....

Dear ,

I hope you will consider representing JOEY’S PLACE, a crime novel about Las Vegas. Not today’s fantasy factory, but the town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. If they could find them. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold.

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two bullets in his head is found in his car in a casino parking lot. Bad for business.

The murder investigation should go to the Sheriff’s elite Boulevard unit. Instead, veteran Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken but hard-headed “Jack” Mormon, is pulled away from a body in a Dumpster and mysteriously assigned to the case. Reviled as the department’s “trash man,” Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed.

The dead man in the car was a well-respected L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their swank gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” is the classiest operation on the Strip. Heber soon discovers that flashy young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy it. Joey Ross’s dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross.

The FBI’s ambitious local agent fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads him to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead. When Lyman’s beautiful and lonely wife reveals that her husband needs Joey Ross’s property and its water rights in order to build his “new” Las Vegas, the case seems solved.

Then Heber is “invited” to a meeting with aged mobster Meyer Lansky, who educates him about the real Las Vegas and upends Heber’s carefully constructed theories. And that stiff in the Dumpster? He’s the opening salvo in a battle for Howard Hughes's Nevada holdings that dwarfs Lyman’s schemes. With all his assumptions dashed, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law in a desperate search for the truth, only to find it in a deadly climax that no one could have foreseen.

I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history. I submit this 87,000 word novel (the first in a series about the unknown Las Vegas) because of your interest in historical and crime/detective fiction with mass appeal and your agency's representation of [pertinent authors].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,
[my name and contact info]

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bronwyn1 » May 17th, 2010, 6:50 pm

Hope I gave good enough critiques! :)

Dear ,

I hope you will consider representing JOEY’S PLACE, a crime novel about Las Vegas. Not today’s fantasy factory, but the town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. If they could find them. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold.
Scratch all of that. Start with your second paragraph.

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. I really, really like this! Then a man with two bullets in his head is found in his car in a casino parking lot. Bad for business.

The murder investigation should go to the Sheriff’s elite Boulevard unit. Instead, veteran Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken but hard-headed “Jack” Mormon What does this mean? I'm confused, is pulled away from a body in a Dumpster and mysteriously assigned to the case. Reviled as the department’s “trash man,” Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed. This is all really confusing to me. Maybe you could start with "When veteran Detective Heber Parkins is pulled away from a body..."

The dead man in the car was a well-respected L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their swank gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” is the classiest operation on the Strip. Heber soon discovers that flashy young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy it. Joey Ross’s dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross. Again, this section is really confusing, though the idea of an LDS bishop and a legendary gambler together is really intriguing.

The FBI’s ambitious local agent fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads him to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead. When Lyman’s beautiful and lonely wife reveals that her husband needs Joey Ross’s property and its water rights in order to build his “new” Las Vegas, the case seems solved. I'm still confused. Try to be more straight to the point.

Then Heber is “invited” to a meeting with aged mobster Meyer Lansky, who educates him about the real Las Vegas and upends Heber’s carefully constructed theories. And that stiff in the Dumpster? He’s the opening salvo in a battle for Howard Hughes's Nevada holdings that dwarfs Lyman’s schemes. With all his assumptions dashed, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law in a desperate search for the truth, only to find it in a deadly climax that no one could have foreseen. Mildly cliche way to end the query. Also I think you should give away your novel ending in a query, personally, since it's just the agent seeing it, not the general public.

Put the info about your book here, i.e. title and word count and whatnot.


I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history. I submit this 87,000 word novel (the first in a series about the unknown Las Vegas) because of your interest in historical and crime/detective fiction with mass appeal and your agency's representation of [pertinent authors]. I like the agent personalization on the end. That works. But I don't know if you should mention screenplays. Because screenplay writing and novel writing are two whole different ballgames. Also, I'm not sure if you should mention the possibility for sequels. I hear some agents dont really like that.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,
[my name and contact info]
My main comments would be to really really condense this and make your wording less confusing. Make it short, snappy and directly to the point, yet not boring (one thing I noticed and liked about your query was that it had a very clear, distinct voice that was fitting for the genre :) ).

Best of luck! Hope I helped (some)

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wilderness
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by wilderness » May 18th, 2010, 3:05 pm

bigheadx wrote:Hopefully, I've been a good enough forum "citizen" to impose upon its members for some feedback. This query is targeted to those agents who do not wish to see the first 10-20 pages of the novel, so it is a bit longer than the query that accompanies sample chapters and/or a synopsis.
First off, I love the voice in your query. But it's not a query - it's a synopsis. Most agents do not want to see 10-20 pages right away, but you should still stick with the standard query length, and include at most 5 pages. I think you should shorten this dramatically. The query should only explain the inciting incident and the main conflict. Basically, similar to a back of the book blurb. Agents want to see a pitch, not read the plot details at this stage.
bigheadx wrote:
I hope you will consider representing JOEY’S PLACE, a crime novel about Las Vegas. Not today’s fantasy factory, but the town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. If they could find them. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold. This is not part of the standard query formula but I like it anyway. It gives you, the author, a voice of your own that hopefully shines through in the pages.

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two bullets in his head is found in his car in a casino parking lot. Bad for business.

The murder investigation should go to the Sheriff’s elite Boulevard unit. Instead, veteran Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken but hard-headed “Jack” Mormon, is pulled away from a body in a Dumpster and mysteriously assigned to the case. Reviled as the department’s “trash man,” Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed. If Parkins collects anonymous victims, then why is the fact that he was assigned the case "mysterious"?

The dead man in the car was a well-respected L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their swank gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” is the classiest operation on the Strip. Heber soon discovers that flashy young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy it. Joey Ross’s dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross. Does this mean that the man with two bullets in his head is Joey Ross's dead partner? It is a bit confusing.

The FBI’s ambitious local agent fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads him to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead. When Lyman’s beautiful and lonely wife reveals that her husband needs Joey Ross’s property and its water rights in order to build his “new” Las Vegas, the case seems solved. This is too much plot detail for a query.

Then Heber is “invited” to a meeting with aged mobster Meyer Lansky, who educates him about the real Las Vegas and upends Heber’s carefully constructed theories. And that stiff in the Dumpster? He’s the opening salvo in a battle for Howard Hughes's Nevada holdings that dwarfs Lyman’s schemes. With all his assumptions dashed, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law in a desperate search for the truth, only to find it in a deadly climax that no one could have foreseen.

I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history. That's awesome, I can tell you'd be great at film noir. But literary queries are done differently. I submit this 87,000 word novel (the first in a series about the unknown Las Vegas) because of your interest in historical and crime/detective fiction with mass appeal and your agency's representation of [pertinent authors].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,
[my name and contact info]
Last edited by wilderness on May 18th, 2010, 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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bigheadx
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » May 18th, 2010, 3:39 pm

THANKS "wilderness" and "bronwyn1!" Your comments are very helpful and I've printed them out for review.
all the best,
John

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » May 18th, 2010, 4:22 pm

And now I am really going to impose on the forum (and, hopefully, "wilderness" and "bronwyn1") by posting the shorter query (approx. 360 words) intended to accompany sample pages (or not). Note: To answer one question up-front, a "Jack" Mormon is a non-practicing member of the LDS Church (i.e., a "backsliding" member of the faith). To those who know the meaning, it speaks volumes about the character, but I am concerned that it may not be a widely known reference. Anyway, here goes..... (and thanks!)

Dear ,

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in his car outside a casino. Bad for business.

The Sheriff's elite Boulevard unit should handle the case, but it’s mysteriously assigned to the “trash man,” outcast Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed “Jack” Mormon. Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed.

The victim was a L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years. Heber discovers that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club. The dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross.

The FBI fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead.

Frustrated by the FBI's interference, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law to find the assassin, learning the truth in a deadly climax set against the backdrop of the true-life battle for Howard Hughes’s Nevada empire.

JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about an unknown Las Vegas. The town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold.

I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history. I submit this work to you because of your interest in historical and crime/detective fiction and your agency’s representation of authors like [xxxxx]. I have taken the liberty of pasting the first three chapters below (approximately 13 pages).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by wilderness » May 18th, 2010, 5:23 pm

bigheadx wrote:And now I am really going to impose on the forum (and, hopefully, "wilderness" and "bronwyn1") by posting the shorter query (approx. 360 words) intended to accompany sample pages (or not). Note: To answer one question up-front, a "Jack" Mormon is a non-practicing member of the LDS Church (i.e., a "backsliding" member of the faith). To those who know the meaning, it speaks volumes about the character, but I am concerned that it may not be a widely known reference. Anyway, here goes..... (and thanks!)
I think you should either explain what a "Jack" Mormon is in the query or remove the description.

Dear ,

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in his car outside a casino. Bad for business.

The Sheriff's elite Boulevard unit should handle the case, but it’s mysteriously assigned to the “trash man,” outcast Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed “Jack” Mormon. Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed. Still not sure why it is mysterious that he got assigned this crime. It seems like it's his job.

The victim was a L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years. Heber discovers that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club. The dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross. I think it would be easier to understand if you named the victim.

The FBI fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead.

Frustrated by the FBI's interference, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law to find the assassin, learning the truth in a deadly climax set against the backdrop of the true-life battle for Howard Hughes’s Nevada empire. Instead of using the generic phrase "deadly climax", how about you give a sentence about why this case in particular is important to Heber. Is it personal in some way? What is his internal goal? We already know the external goal is to find the murderer.

JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about an unknown Las Vegas. The town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold. I liked this info better at the beginning, like you had it before. I think it was nice to start with a strong voice.

I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history. I submit this work to you because of your interest in historical and crime/detective fiction and your agency’s representation of authors like [xxxxx]. I have taken the liberty of pasting the first three chapters below (approximately 13 pages).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,
The shorter version is better. The weakest part is the end. Instead of talking about a generic climax, I want to know why this case is personal/important to your main character. Still love the voice. I think with a little tweaking you're ready to go. Hope that helps!

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by HillaryJ » May 19th, 2010, 12:24 am

bigheadx wrote:
Dear ,

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in his car outside a casino.*Any reason not to specifically name the casino?* Bad for business. *Excellent hook. I think this is a much better start that the first paragraph in the first query you posted.*

The Sheriff's elite Boulevard unit should handle the case, but it’s mysteriously assigned to the “trash man,” outcast Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed “Jack” Mormon. *Yeah, you might have to explain Jack Mormon, somehow. Once I saw your explanation, I remembered, but I doubt it's well-known* Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. *A lot of commas in this sentence. I actually got lost by the bolded part and had to reread* But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed.

The victim was a L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years. Heber discovers that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club. The dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross.

The FBI fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead. *This reads awkwardly*

Frustrated by the FBI's interference, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law to find the assassin, learning the truth in a deadly climax *any reason not to specify the climax? Show, no tell. Is it a gun-battle, a race against document destruction, a brother-burning...anything other than a "climax"?* set against the backdrop of the true-life battle for Howard Hughes’s Nevada empire.

JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about an unknown Las Vegas. The town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold. *This is a great sentence, still keeping the flavor of the query going*

I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and UCLA, *why not UNLV and UCLA?* graduating with a degree in history. I submit this work to you because of your interest in historical and crime/detective fiction and your agency’s representation of authors like [xxxxx]. I have taken the liberty of pasting the first three chapters below (approximately 13 pages).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,
This is a really nice query. It's got voice and flavor. Quite a few of the sentences are awful long, though, with multiple comma splices. Maybe take out a few of those or, with the description of the Vegas of old, turn it into a proper list.

Good luck.
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Quill » May 19th, 2010, 12:52 am

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn.
Two cliches back to back, but it works.
Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in his car outside a casino.
Too bad this is a passive voice; good setup "a man with two slugs..." and then a let down, "is discovered..."
Bad for business.

The Sheriff's elite Boulevard unit should handle the case, but it’s mysteriously assigned to the “trash man,” outcast Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed “Jack” Mormon.
I like the tough-talkin' noir voice.
Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed.
This backstory doesn't seem important. Kind of a letdown after the spare but evocative intro the sentence before.
The victim was a L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years. Heber discovers that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club. The dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross.

The FBI fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead.

Frustrated by the FBI's interference, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law to find the assassin, learning the truth in a deadly climax set against the backdrop of the true-life battle for Howard Hughes’s Nevada empire.
I like the beginning and end of this section, but in between might contain a bit more plot detail than needed. Do we need the FBI in this query?
JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about an unknown Las Vegas. The town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold.
I like this.
I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history. I submit this work to you because of your interest in historical and crime/detective fiction and your agency’s representation of authors like [xxxxx]. I have taken the liberty of pasting the first three chapters below (approximately 13 pages).
This is okay.

Overall, the project sounds viable, though the query could stick with the essential elements of the story rather than drifting into less important detail. Excellent voice but be careful to avoid mimicking 40s detective noir and 50s Dragnet/ police melodrama too much, lest you self-parody what promises to be a taut thriller in its own right.

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Serzen » May 19th, 2010, 2:10 pm

bigheadx wrote: September, 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in his car outside a casino.1 Bad for business.

The Sheriff's elite Boulevard unit should handle the case, but it’s mysteriously assigned to the “trash man,” outcast Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed “Jack” Mormon. Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed.

The victim was a L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years. Heber discovers that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club. The dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross.

The FBI fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead.

Frustrated by the FBI's interference, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law to find the assassin, learning the truth in a deadly climax set against the backdrop of the true-life battle for Howard Hughes’s Nevada empire.
You want that comma separating month and year. Not only is it correct, but it provides pacing.
1 Quill is correct that this is the passive voice. Quill is incorrect that this is a bad thing. The passive voice is acceptable when it's not necessary for the reader to know who is performing the action. For example: "The baby was delivered at 3am." It's not necessary for the lay reader to know that "Dr. Smith delivered the baby at 3am."

In your second paragraph, might you consider that "The Sheriff Department's elite Boulevard Unit" is supposed to be handed the case? As it reads, it sounds a little too much like the Unit belongs to the Sheriff himself. The last two sentences here could be joined with a semicolon.

Third paragraph: "The victim was an L.D.S. Bishop." The acronym is pronounced "ell-dee-ess" and must be prefaced with 'an.' There is a disconnect between the second and third sentence here. Herber discovering this fact cold is probably what does it for me. Something as simple as "While investigating the death, Herber discovers..." would make the transition smoother. Final two sentences need to be looked at. Currently, what they say is "The dead partner wanted to do the deal, but he did not want to do Joey Ross." You want something more like "The dead partner wanted to do the deal; Joey Ross was dead against it." or somesuch.

Fourth paragraph. Again, we're suffering from some clarity issues. What your words say is "Herber disagrees, despite the fact that playing along will get him out of the desert." What I think you mean is "Herber disagrees, but goes along with their theory just so he can get out of the desert." Your final sentence can probably be trimmed up a hair at the end to something like "...Lyman, and each winds up very dead."

Fifth paragraph. My biggest complaint here would be the use of 'assassin.' I don't feel that the title is warranted, based on what you've written.

Now, I guess that looks like a lot of cruft to sort through. Maybe it is. But, be encouraged that it's all simple errors, easily fixed. Your story sounds solid, the pacing of the letter is even, building details methodically, as one would expect them to be done in the book. It's just, as ever, the niggling things.

~Serzen
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Kirril » May 19th, 2010, 3:41 pm

September, 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in his car outside a casino. Bad for business.

Great hook. The passive voice is ok, but you could also use "Then a man with two slugs in his head turns up in his car outside a casino" That might make it sound like he pulled up in his car despite having two bullets in his brain, but it's just an idea.

The Sheriff's elite Boulevard unit should handle the case, but it’s mysteriously assigned to the “trash man,” outcast Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed “Jack” Mormon. Heber works alone, mostly in the desert, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. But he doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed.

My best friend is a Mormon but I've never heard of a "Jack" Mormon. Maybe say "backsliding Mormon" instead since it's technically the same thing. The rest of this works.

The victim was a L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years. Heber discovers that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club. The dead partner wanted to do the deal. But not Joey Ross.

"an L.D.S. bishop" Something about "The dead partner" makes the words fumble in my head. Maybe "The bishop wanted to do the deal."

The FBI fingers Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the desert. His search for the triggerman leads to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each violently becomes very dead.

Frustrated by the FBI's interference, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law to find the assassin, learning the truth in a deadly climax set against the backdrop of the true-life battle for Howard Hughes’s Nevada empire.

The first time I read this part it seemed a bit wordy, but I think it sets up the plot and the stakes pretty well now that I've read it a few times.
As for your credits, they look good. You've got great voice in this query and that alone might get you some partial requests. Hope this helps.

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Quill » May 19th, 2010, 3:58 pm

Serzen wrote:Quill is correct that this is the passive voice. Quill is incorrect that this is a bad thing. The passive voice is acceptable when it's not necessary for the reader to know who is performing the action. For example: "The baby was delivered at 3am." It's not necessary for the lay reader to know that "Dr. Smith delivered the baby at 3am."
But wouldn't you agree it would be stronger to say "At 3am the baby arrived !"

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » May 20th, 2010, 2:53 pm

The trite expression "can't thank you all enough" comes nowhere near expressing my appreciation for all the thoughtful comments and suggestions. Printing out these comments and diving back into the short query.
best regards
John

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » May 24th, 2010, 4:21 pm

One step forward? or back? Latest query version at 361 words.... THANKS for the feedback!

Dear ,

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in his car outside a casino. Bad for business.

The Sheriff Department's elite Boulevard unit should handle the case, but it’s assigned to the department pariah, Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon. Reviled as the "trash man," Heber works alone collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. He doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed.

The victim was an L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years. Heber’s investigation reveals that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club. The dead bishop wanted to sell. But not Joey Ross.

The Organized Crime Unit and FBI finger Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the department’s leper colony. His dogged search for the triggerman leads to the low-lifes who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each dies gangland-style. Mysteriously bounced from the case when he gets too close to Lyman, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law to find the killer.

Set against the backdrop of the true-life role of the Mormon Church in Las Vegas and the battle for Howard Hughes’s empire, JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about an unknown Las Vegas. The town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold.

I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the UNLV and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history. I submit this work to you because of your interest in unique historical and commercial fiction and your agency’s representation of authors like [xxx].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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rainbowsheeps
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by rainbowsheeps » May 24th, 2010, 4:45 pm

bigheadx wrote:One step forward? or back? Latest query version at 361 words.... THANKS for the feedback!
Dear ,

September 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in his car outside a casino. Bad for business. (Awesome.)

The Sheriff Department's elite Boulevard unit should handle the case, but it’s assigned to the department pariah, Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon. Reviled as the "trash man," Heber works alone collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all. He doesn’t mind. His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed. (The only issue I have is with the word "collecting." Do you mean he's collecting the homicide cases of nobodies? Is he in homicide, or is it some other division? Otherwise... awesome.)

The victim was an L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross. Their gambling club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years. Heber’s investigation reveals that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club. The dead bishop wanted to sell. But not Joey Ross. (Good.)

The Organized Crime Unit and FBI finger Joey Ross as Suspect #1. Heber disagrees, even though going along will get him out of the department’s leper colony. His dogged search for the triggerman leads to the low-lifes low-lives (I think) who set up the killing. Each has ties to Spencer Lyman and each dies gangland-style (That part could use a bit more style or nuance, or something. It isn't necessarily bad or awkward, but it seems only slightly out of place). Mysteriously bounced from the case when he gets too close to Lyman, Heber joins with Joey Ross and goes outside the law to find the killer. (This part here, where he's teaming up with the criminal... it's a good hook, and it sounds like a good story. I think that the tone loses a little bit of its luster in this third paragraph in general, though. The first few paragraphs are blunt and awesome. It's very obvious your story is going to have an emphasis on twists and turns and intricate plotting, a-la James Ellroy maybe (he's my go-to example for this kind of story), but I think what I'm getting at is that you're telling us what's happening, that he's teaming up with a criminal, but the stakes and danger aren't feeling appropriate. To put it simply: it doesn't sound like Heber's in much danger in the end. If some of these gunmen who are killing his suspects might be following Heber, or gunning for Ross (who's he with and protecting, presumably, to try to solve the case with him), that would make this sparkle. I get that there's conflict implied. He's been kicked off this case, and he has to go through illegal channels to find the real killer. But I'm betting this story has a danger to Heber's life somewhere, and I think you should find a way to end with that.)

Set against the backdrop of the true-life role of the Mormon Church in Las Vegas and the battle for Howard Hughes’s empire, JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about an unknown Las Vegas. The town where I grew up. When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces. I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold. (Good good stuff.)

I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended the UNLV and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history. I submit this work to you because of your interest in unique historical and commercial fiction and your agency’s representation of authors like [xxx].

Thank you for your time and consideration.[/size]
You're very close. Most of this is perfect. I think if you add a line, or so about the danger Heber faces after he teams up with Ross, this will be fantastic.

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bigheadx
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » June 17th, 2010, 4:52 pm

I've re-edited my query for this novel as if I was writing the dust-jacket "pitch."  Please feel free to tear apart my ~371 words.  ;o)

Dear XXX, 

September, 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a tourist finds a man with two slugs in his head in a car parked outside the hotel-casino where Elvis is filling the showroom every night.  Bad for business. 

Surprisingly, the case is assigned to Sheriff’s department outcast, Detective Heber Parkins, a soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon known as Homicide’s “trash man.”  Heber works alone, collecting the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all.  But he doesn’t mind.  His partners had a bad habit of getting themselves killed.   

The victim was a prominent L.D.S. bishop and the associate of legendary gambler, Joey Ross.  Their exclusive club, “Joey’s Place,” has been the toast of the Strip for twenty years.  Heber discovers that ambitious young casino owner Spencer Lyman wants to buy the club and level it so he can build a “new” Las Vegas.  The dead bishop wanted to sell.  But not Joey Ross. 

The pressure is on to arrest the gambler, who got his start in town in the days of Lansky, Siegel, and Berman.  But Heber smells a frame-up and doggedly unearths the low-lifes who set up the “hit.”  Each has ties to Lyman, and each is brutally killed before they can reveal their paymaster. 

Now, whoever eliminated them is hunting Heber and Joey Ross.  Outsider cop and veteran gambler must uneasily unite in a desperate search for the truth against the backdrop of the deadly, real-life struggle for Howard Hughes’ Nevada empire.   
 
JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about an unknown Las Vegas.  When motor courts, motels, and open desert still lined the Strip, Frank and Dino still ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces.  I know that Las Vegas and I know it cold. 
 
I have sold screenplays to Showtime and independents and attended UNLV and UCLA, graduating with a degree in history.  I submit this work to you because of your interest in crime and historical fiction with a unique voice and your agency's representation of authors like XXX and YYYY.   

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Best regards,
.....

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