QUERY - crime/police fiction

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Quill
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Quill » June 17th, 2010, 5:36 pm

Probably a sentence or three long, but I'm not sure which ones.

I like it.

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bigheadx
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » June 17th, 2010, 5:48 pm

Thanks, Quill! After reading a few dozen blurbs (online and hardcopy) for crime/detective novels I realized my query was pretty close to those already.
bigheadx wrote: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.  Figured mentioning real-life Elvis connection would emphasize why this killing is a big deal. Keeps me from having to go into detail about "Mob etiquette" in Las Vegas at the time.

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.   I could shorten this by pulling the "anonymous" clause entirely. Without wading into backstory/context, want to get across his outsider status and hint at why that is so.

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.  I remain happy with this paragraph.

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.  Worried that some might not know those three names but, frankly, a savvy reader should know at least the first two. I could include first names and drop Berman (Dave Berman, Flamingo hotel-casino, one of Busy Siegel's partners; a rarity in that he died a natural death but his daughter - an author - died mysteriously not so long ago)

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.   This is the "new" bit and my goal was to establish how Heber's choices led to this dangerous consequence.
 
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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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by rainbowsheeps » June 17th, 2010, 6:17 pm

bigheadx wrote:Thanks, Quill! After reading a few dozen blurbs (online and hardcopy) for crime/detective novels I realized my query was pretty close to those already.
bigheadx wrote: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.  Figured mentioning real-life Elvis connection would emphasize why this killing is a big deal. Keeps me from having to go into detail about "Mob etiquette" in Las Vegas at the time.

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.   I could shorten this by pulling the "anonymous" clause entirely. Without wading into backstory/context, want to get across his outsider status and hint at why that is so.

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.  I remain happy with this paragraph.

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.  Worried that some might not know those three names but, frankly, a savvy reader should know at least the first two. I could include first names and drop Berman (Dave Berman, Flamingo hotel-casino, one of Busy Siegel's partners; a rarity in that he died a natural death but his daughter - an author - died mysteriously not so long ago)

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.   This is the "new" bit and my goal was to establish how Heber's choices led to this dangerous consequence.
 
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,
.....
I think the "most anonymous town of them all" part makes the sentence a bit longer than you need it to be. It's clever, but it's not necessary. It's up to you, though.

I think the biggest problem with this query right now is the amount of names. Specifically, most of the names you're using have to do with the backdrop of the story - Elvis, Lansky, Siegel, Bergman, Howard Hughes... but unless these names really deal with the story you're telling, you don't need them. Elvis is good, but many of the othrs distract the plot a little more than they should. It becomes name overload. The focus on Heber's investigation gets diffused a little. It's good to show that your story will have twists and turns, but I think it might be telling a little too much about them. If you could tighten the second half of the query, with a bigger emphasis on Heber and this gambler both fighting for their lives and trying to solve the mystery, I think this can improve.

As always, the voice is great for crime fiction. This needs a bit more focus, though.

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by fivecats » June 17th, 2010, 7:00 pm

I love the tone and the first paragraph that gives a real sense that Las Vegas as a place features as strongly as a character in your story as any of the people will.

However, my only concern here is that you're tossing around a lot of names and your main charactrer all but gets lost amongst them. You're swimming deep in hard boiled waters, my friend, and Herber Parkins is all but drowned out. (yeah, okay, so it's a bit of a mixed metaphor, but, you know...) I'm not sure what sets Parkins apart from the stereotypical hard boiled, loner cop.

Your query is a great example of a strong voice that's self-assured and engaging. Well done, you.

...
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by khanes » June 17th, 2010, 7:09 pm

Hi bigheadx,

I'm not query expert so I'm not going to do any edits, just give you my reaction when I read the query. First of all, I love your voice. It has punch and drama, and makes me want to read the book. It gives me a sense that your writing will be fast, exciting and easy to follow. Of course, I love thrillers.

I loved the opening where you start with September 1970, but I didn't like it when you added the details about Elvis. To me, before it worked just fine. I also loved the paragraph about why the detective works alone. I think that's important to the plot. After that, I got bogged down with names, agencies, and the intricacies of the plot. Let me get to all that stuff when I read the book. Really, to hook me I only needed a couple more lines about the danger this detective might face while trying to solve the crime.

And I think you should take out Jack Mormom. I had no idea what that meant. Maybe another term that is more widespread? Good luck! Can't wait to see how you whittle this down!

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » June 17th, 2010, 8:50 pm

Uniformly excellent and supportive comments. I will be referring to each in the a.m. Hope I can someday return the favor. ;)
John

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » June 21st, 2010, 5:37 pm

(for those still interested, hopefully tightening it a bit more without strangling my meaning...)   ~310-25 words

Dear XXXZZZ, 

September, 1970.  A prominent Las Vegas club owner turns up dead in a casino parking lot and outcast Sheriff’s Detective Heber Parkins is mysteriously handed the case, drawing him into a deadly struggle that will determine the town's future.   

A soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon, Heber usually collects the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all.  The kind of “leper colony” assignment you’re given when your partners keep getting themselves killed.   
Alternative paragraph
A soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon, Heber usually collects the town’s unknown victims – the waitresses and keno runners who met the wrong man or the schemers, grifters, and mechanics who weren’t important enough for a deep hole in the desert and fifty pounds of quicklime.  The kind of job you get when your partners keep getting killed.

The victim was an L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross.  Their club, Joey’s Place, is the toast of the Strip.  Heber learns that someone wants to buy it.  The dead bishop wanted the deal.  But not Joey Ross. 

The pressure is on to arrest the gambler.  Going along would be the smart choice.  But Heber smells a frame-up and doggedly unearths the low-lifes who arranged the hit.  Each has ties to an ambitious young casino owner and each is brutally killed before they can reveal who pulled the trigger.  And who paid for it.  Now, whoever eliminated them is hunting Heber and Joey Ross. 

Set against the backdrop of the real-life battle for Howard Hughes’ Nevada empire, JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about a very different Las Vegas.  When there was still open desert along 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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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Quill » June 21st, 2010, 7:27 pm

bigheadx wrote:(for those still interested, hopefully tightening it a bit more without strangling my meaning...)   ~310-25 words
It's a good query, but if you're interested in micro-tweakage, I'll have a go.
Dear XXXZZZ, 

September, 1970.  A prominent Las Vegas club owner turns up dead in a casino parking lot
First sentence a bit abrupt. Maybe comma after 1970.
and outcast Sheriff’s Detective Heber Parkins is mysteriously handed the case,
Not sure "mysteriously" adds enough to warrant inclusion. Is it really important for us to know that he is handed it "mysteriously"? You don't want anything that will slow down the agents racing eyes, nothing that sticks out.

Also, consider comma before "and" since we are shifting from club owner to Parkins.
drawing him into a deadly struggle that will determine the town's future. 
Town is a bit odd here, and since you use it in the following sentence (to good effect) why not go bold here and say "city".  
A soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon, Heber usually collects the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all.  The kind of “leper colony” assignment you’re given when your partners keep getting themselves killed.   
Alternative paragraph
A soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon, Heber usually collects the town’s unknown victims – the waitresses and keno runners who met the wrong man or the schemers, grifters, and mechanics who weren’t important enough for a deep hole in the desert and fifty pounds of quicklime.  The kind of job you get when your partners keep getting killed.
Can you combine these?

1. I like "anonymous victims..." better than "unknown victims" (I also like nameless and faceless, btw)

2. I'm not keen on "leper colony" (might read better w/ 'single quotes') (or a dash: leper-colony), and like "job" better than "assignment".

3.I like all the keno runners and grifters stuff, especially the quicklime part. Way full of flavor. Can you condense?
The victim was an L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross.
I know what "L.D.S." means and I still stop to think. Any way to head off an agent stumble by spelling it out, or just saying Morman?

 
Their club, Joey’s Place, is the toast of the Strip. Heber learns that someone wants to buy it. The dead bishop wanted the deal. But not Joey Ross.
Not sure why you wouldn't put a comma after deal, to join the partners and continue the reader's flow.
The pressure is on to arrest the gambler.
This is a bit passive. Active would be "Heber's boss tells him to arrest the gambler."

 
Going along would be the smart choice.  But Heber smells a frame-up and doggedly unearths the low-lifes who arranged the hit.
Maybe you could just say "Going along with department (or public) pressure to arrest...would be the smart choice..."

 
Each has ties to an ambitious young casino owner and
This might be more of a reveal than you need to give in this query, and if you don't have to introduce one more character, why do it?
each is brutally killed before they can reveal who pulled the trigger.  And who paid for it.  Now, whoever eliminated them is hunting Heber and Joey Ross. 
This reads fine as is (without the young casino owner).
Set against the backdrop of the real-life battle for Howard Hughes’ Nevada empire,
Could this be shortened to "Set amidst the real-life battle for..." or something like that?
JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about a very different Las Vegas.
Different from what, an agent may wonder. Perhaps say "different Las Vegas than today's" or something like that.

 
When there was still open desert along 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 stellar.
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. 
This is boffo.
 
Best regards,
"Sincerely" might be safer. Whatever.

Just some thoughts. As I've said before, this is good.

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Heather B » June 22nd, 2010, 8:40 am

It really shows how well you write your genre that you've gone through all these revisions and managed to keep your voice. I am going to add a few little things that occurred to me to go along with Quill's extensive (and impressive) critiquing.

The first paragraph is awkward to read. There's too much going on in this first sentence; maybe try to break it up? I also really liked the 'what happens in Vegas' line...

Second paragraph, I prefer the second option but I agree it needs condensing. I also prefer the first option's description of Heber's partners although instead of 'murdered' perhaps you could use 'wacked' or something similar. Same point with the use of 'victim' in paragraph three. It doesn't fit with the voice. You could use something else less sympathetic and more jaded like 'unlucky corpse' or 'stiff'. After all, your protagonist doesn't have an emotional attachment to this person, they'd see them more an another body.

But despite these small observations this query definitely interested me - and this isn't a genre I generally like.
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » June 22nd, 2010, 11:40 am

You folks are all great and so patient! I hope/plan to return that courtesy here at NB on a regular basis.

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Serzen » June 22nd, 2010, 12:13 pm

bigheadx,

Significant improvement. I'm not going to embark on any line-by-line editing, but I'll comment inline about a couple of things.
bigheadx wrote: September, 1970.  A prominent Las Vegas club owner turns up dead in a casino parking lot and outcast Sheriff’s Detective Heber Parkins is mysteriously handed the case, drawing him into a deadly struggle that will determine the town's future. 
This second sentence is long, and feels like it gets lost on itself a little. For one, I don't think that we need 'mysteriously.' For another, I would be likely to take the opportunity to use "When a prominent Las Vegas..." It reinforces the 'when' of Sept, 1970, and leads into the what (dead body) and who (Parkins). In so doing, I'd be likely to turn the final clause into it's own sentence, or if you don't want to beef it up that much, something worthy of a semi-colon to separate. 
A soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon, Heber usually collects the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all.  The kind of “leper colony” assignment you’re given when your partners keep getting themselves killed.   
Alternative paragraph
A soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon, Heber usually collects the town’s unknown victims – the waitresses and keno runners who met the wrong man or the schemers, grifters, and mechanics who weren’t important enough for a deep hole in the desert and fifty pounds of quicklime.  The kind of job you get when your partners keep getting killed.
If you want votes, I vote for the first paragraph.
The victim was an L.D.S. bishop and the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross.  Their club, Joey’s Place, is the toast of the Strip.  Heber learns that someone wants to buy it.  The dead bishop wanted the deal.  But not Joey Ross. 
Forgive me for harping on this point, but the line "But not Joey Ross." still leads to confusion. The last subject that we've had was the Dead Bishop, and the last verb that we had was Wanted. This reader still reads the two together as "The dead bishop wanted the deal, but did not want Joey Ross." I see, from later in the query, that Joey doesn't turn out to be a suspect, but that hardly matters. Crime novels are about uncovering the truth, so you could throw a little misdirection in here and then show that it was intended as such with your next paragraph. To wit: "The dead bishop wanted the deal. Joey Ross was dead against it."

The rest of my critique would just be stylistic, and is, thus, best kept to myself. I don't want to tell you how to write it, but I'd like to help you write it as well as it can be. All-in-all, you've got a good thing going, I think. I don't read many crime novels, but if someone made a tv-miniseries, I'd be all over it.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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bigheadx
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » June 22nd, 2010, 1:54 pm

Heather B wrote:It really shows how well you write your genre that you've gone through all these revisions and managed to keep your voice. I am going to add a few little things that occurred to me to go along with Quill's extensive (and impressive) critiquing.

The first paragraph is awkward to read. There's too much going on in this first sentence; maybe try to break it up? I also really liked the 'what happens in Vegas' line...
Me, too, Heather! But I'm afraid a busy agent's eye might hit that phrase, smell contemporary cliche, and skip over my "nobody gives a damn" reversal.

Second paragraph, I prefer the second option but I agree it needs condensing. I also prefer the first option's description of Heber's partners although instead of 'murdered' perhaps you could use 'wacked' or something similar. Same point with the use of 'victim' in paragraph three. It doesn't fit with the voice. You could use something else less sympathetic and more jaded like 'unlucky corpse' or 'stiff'. After all, your protagonist doesn't have an emotional attachment to this person, they'd see them more an another body.
Excellent advice, because Heber does not empathize with the dead man initially, particularly because he knows of the man and knows that he -- a lapsed or "Jack" Mormon -- is the antithesis of the dead man. Later, when he is the one who informs the family of the killing and learns more, Heber reflects on his own fall from grace and becomes more and more determined to find the killer(s). It gets a bit personal, other words.
But despite these small observations this query definitely interested me - and this isn't a genre I generally like.

Yes, I'm probably swimming upstream in this "not hot" genre but it keeps sucking me in. Plus, I like writing about my old hometown the way it used to be and I hope to do prequels going further back in its history, which is ripe for historical fiction imho. ;)
Thanks!!

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » June 25th, 2010, 1:00 pm

Yes, a grown man shouldn't cry, nor should he get giddy about a simple request for bio, synopsis, and first 50 pages, but, after a depressing string of "sorry, but..." responses, I am going to wrap my arms around my positive response and hug it all weekend.   ;)

Below is the query draft that received the positive response....

I hope you will consider my historical fiction crime novel, JOEY'S PLACE.

September, 1970.  When a prominent Las Vegas club owner is murdered in
a casino parking lot, outcast Sheriff’s Detective Heber Parkins is
handed the case, drawing him into a deadly struggle that will
determine the city’s future.

A soft-spoken, hard-headed Mormon, Heber usually collects the town’s
anonymous victims; the waitresses and keno runners who met the wrong
man or the schemers and grifters who weren’t important enough for a
deep hole in the desert and fifty pounds of quicklime.  The kind of
job you get when your partners keep getting themselves killed.

The stiff in the car was the partner of legendary gambler, Joey Ross.
Their club, Joey’s Place, is the toast of the Strip.  Heber learns
that someone wants to buy it.  The dead man wanted the deal.  Joey
Ross was dead set against it.

Heber’s superiors pressure him to arrest the gambler.  Going along
would be the smart choice.  But Heber smells a frame-up and doggedly
unearths the low-lifes who arranged the hit.  Each is brutally killed
before they can reveal who pulled the trigger.  And who paid for it.
Now, whoever eliminated them is hunting Heber and Joey Ross.

With the real-life battle for Howard Hughes’ Nevada empire as a story
element, JOEY’S PLACE is an 86,000 word crime novel about an unknown
Las Vegas.  Not today’s fantasy factory, but the town where I grew up.
When there was still open desert along the Strip, Frank and Dino
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 classy crime fiction with a unique
voice.  JOEY'S PLACE is the first in a planned series that will
portray this famously infamous town from 1970 back to its  days as a
watering stop on the Old Spanish Trail.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Quill
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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by Quill » June 25th, 2010, 2:27 pm

You're the man.

That is a super query.

(Even so, I don't think you should put fiction and novel in the same sentence. It could be a killer for some agents.)(Such as Janet Reid, who I hope you are querying. She loves crime novels)

Good luck!

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Re: QUERY - crime/police fiction

Post by bigheadx » June 25th, 2010, 2:45 pm

Thanks, Quill! (Janet already left me behind as roadkill. Must have been the "fiction novel" gaffe. ;) )

Quill wrote:You're the man.

That is a super query.

(Even so, I don't think you should put fiction and novel in the same sentence. It could be a killer for some agents.)(Such as Janet Reid, who I hope you are querying. She loves crime novels)

Good luck!

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