New Historical Novel

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longknife

New Historical Novel

Post by longknife » August 3rd, 2010, 8:20 pm

First of all, an apology for not participating more in the forum but 've been very busy working on the three novels.
Second, would appreciate all feedback and comments and will try to do my share in the future.

Dear . . .

Giant bald-headed birds bury their beaks into corpses strewn about the Cahita Indian village in the foothills of Mexico’s western mountains. Two men in gray habits, wearing flat-brimmed hats, see the sign of death in circling raptors. Ordering their soldier escort to follow, they discover a small, crude assembly of stick and pole huts devastated by smallpox. There are only three survivors, a boy, a girl and her baby brother.

THE CARPENTER AND THE SAILOR, El Carpintero y el Marinero
(A tale of the 18th Century New World) is a historical novel of 97,700 words.

Rebellion rumbles on the Atlantic Coast of the New World. The King of Spain has ignored his empire there as its riches disappear. Rumors of Russians seeking wealth in furs in the Pacific Northwest cause him to order the viceroy of New Spain to do something about it. The Jesuits who, for more than a century, have run the missions that dot the western regions, have fallen from favor and are forced to leave. Franciscans replace them, led by a humble friar named Junipero Serra. Long suffering from lesions in his leg, the man born in Majorca accepts the appointment as President of the Missions of the Californias and accompanies Don Gaspar de Portolà, captain of dragoons in the España Regiment and Governor of The Californias, in an expedition to build missions in Upper California.

Jaime the Cahita, one of the survivors, is taken to Culiacán where he becomes a carpenter. Timothy Beadle, in far away Devon, England is bonded as a cabin boy on HM Brig Willoughby. Cyclones take Jaime from Culiacán to La Paz, then Todos Santos. After trading for a hold full of furs in the Pacific Northwest, the brig encounters a cyclone and Tim is washed overboard, coming ashore at Todos Santos where Jaime finds him. The two become lifelong friends. Father Serra gives Tim sanctuary as many think he is a pirate from ships that lurk in the harbor at Mazatlan. When Father Serra sets out on the next leg of his journey, the two youths, along with female companions, join him.

This is the first of a trilogy about the colonization of California. The second novel follows Father Serra as he founds the first nine missions in Upper California and his problems with civil authorities. It ends with his death in 1784 in Carmel. The third follows Father Lasuen, Father Serra’s successor, as the remainder of the twenty-one missions are founded. The story is told through the eyes of the Cahita Indian and the Englishman.

As per your guidelines, the following is provided.

Sincerely,

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by Quill » August 3rd, 2010, 9:02 pm

Your project seems interesting but your query reads more like a synopsis. At 439 words it looks and feels too long. Rule of thumb: 250-350 words total.

lvcabbie wrote:
Giant bald-headed birds bury their beaks into corpses strewn about the Cahita Indian village in the foothills of Mexico’s western mountains. Two men in gray habits, wearing flat-brimmed hats, see the sign of death in circling raptors. Ordering their soldier escort to follow, they discover a small, crude assembly of stick and pole huts devastated by smallpox. There are only three survivors, a boy, a girl and her baby brother.
There is a disconnect in viewpoint between the first sentence (we are in the village with bodies) and the second sentence (we are some distance from the village with two men).

"small, crude assembly of stick and pole huts" is needlessly wordy description. And it isn't the assembly of huts that is devastated by the disease, it is the people.
THE CARPENTER AND THE SAILOR, El Carpintero y el Marinero
(A tale of the 18th Century New World) is a historical novel of 97,700 words.
The best place for this is at the end of the query.
Rebellion rumbles on the Atlantic Coast of the New World. The King of Spain has ignored his empire there as its riches disappear. Rumors of Russians seeking wealth in furs in the Pacific Northwest cause him to order the viceroy of New Spain to do something about it. The Jesuits who, for more than a century, have run the missions that dot the western regions, have fallen from favor and are forced to leave. Franciscans replace them, led by a humble friar named Junipero Serra. Long suffering from lesions in his leg, the man born in Majorca accepts the appointment as President of the Missions of the Californias and accompanies Don Gaspar de Portolà, captain of dragoons in the España Regiment and Governor of The Californias, in an expedition to build missions in Upper California.
It is hard to tell if this is backstory or your actual plot. Is your opening scene a flash forward? A flash back? How does it tie in? Of what significance is it (the vultures, the village)? Are Junipero and Don Gasper the two in grey habits in paragraph one? Are they your book's main characters? This isn't clear.

This paragraph is too full. The presentation needs to be simplified so we get the gist quicker, what this book is about. Is it an adventure? A political intrigue? A religious story?
Jaime the Cahita, one of the survivors, is taken to Culiacán where he becomes a carpenter. Timothy Beadle, in far away Devon, England is bonded as a cabin boy on HM Brig Willoughby. Cyclones take Jaime from Culiacán to La Paz, then Todos Santos. After trading for a hold full of furs in the Pacific Northwest, the brig encounters a cyclone and Tim is washed overboard, coming ashore at Todos Santos where Jaime finds him. The two become lifelong friends. Father Serra gives Tim sanctuary as many think he is a pirate from ships that lurk in the harbor at Mazatlan. When Father Serra sets out on the next leg of his journey, the two youths, along with female companions, join him.
This again is too much info. And it lacks both tension and a mission, a quest, and especially a problem, a choice to be made. Point us to the climax of the book (but don't tell us how it comes out).
This is the first of a trilogy about the colonization of California. The second novel follows Father Serra as he founds the first nine missions in Upper California and his problems with civil authorities. It ends with his death in 1784 in Carmel. The third follows Father Lasuen, Father Serra’s successor, as the remainder of the twenty-one missions are founded. The story is told through the eyes of the Cahita Indian and the Englishman.
Not wise to introduce other projects, even related by trilogy.

Per Nathan, one query, one project. You can say this could be a trilogy, but not good to go into any detail here.

Overall, we need hook: main characters, setting, and main conflict. What is your main conflict?

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by otherside89girl » August 3rd, 2010, 11:30 pm

lvcabbie wrote: Dear . . .

Giant bald-headed birds bury their beaks into corpses strewn about the Cahita Indian village in the foothills of Mexico’s western mountains. Two men in gray habits, wearing flat-brimmed hats [The hats might be too much info for the query], see the sign of death in circling raptors. Ordering their soldier escort to follow, they discover a small, crude assembly of stick and pole huts devastated by smallpox. Maybe shorten/clarify this... a village devasted by smallpox? There are only three survivors, a boy, a girl and her baby brother. Take out the boy, girl, and baby because they aren't mentioned again in the query so they're probably not super important. Maybe you could say there are only three survivors left out of.. how many people? Make it sound dramatic? Scratch what I said about the survivors since Jaime is one of the, right? Oops. Anyway, I liked this opening, I was hooked.

THE CARPENTER AND THE SAILOR, El Carpintero y el Marinero
(A tale of the 18th Century New World) is a historical novel of 97,700 words.

Rebellion rumbles on the Atlantic Coast of the New World. The King of Spain has ignored his empire there as its riches disappear. Rumors of Russians seeking wealth in furs in the Pacific Northwest cause him to order the viceroy of New Spain to do something about it. The Jesuits who, for more than a century, have run the missions that dot the western regions, have fallen from favor and are forced to leave. Franciscans replace them, led by a humble friar named Junipero Serra. Long suffering from lesions in his leg, the man born in Majorca accepts the appointment as President of the Missions of the Californias and accompanies Don Gaspar de Portolà, captain of dragoons in the España Regiment and Governor of The Californias, in an expedition to build missions in Upper California. Take out unnecessary info in this paragraph like the lesions in his leg, born in Majorca, etc. Condense as much as possible. I liked the first 4 or 5 sentences to set up the background story.

Jaime the Cahita, one of the survivors, is taken to Culiacán where he becomes a carpenter. Timothy Beadle, in far away Devon, England is bonded as a cabin boy on HM Brig Willoughby. Cyclones take Jaime from Culiacán to La Paz, then Todos Santos. After trading for a hold full of furs in the Pacific Northwest, the brig encounters a cyclone and Tim is washed overboard, coming ashore at Todos Santos where Jaime finds him. The two become lifelong friends. Father Serra gives Tim sanctuary as many think he is a pirate from ships that lurk in the harbor at Mazatlan. When Father Serra sets out on the next leg of his journey, the two youths, along with female companions, join him. I think you should take out a lot of the background info on Jaime and Tim here. Try to state in one sentence how or why they become best friends. Also take out the female companions -- actually remove any character that's not essential to the plot.

This is the first of a trilogy about the colonization of California. The second novel follows Father Serra as he founds the first nine missions in Upper California and his problems with civil authorities. It ends with his death in 1784 in Carmel. The third follows Father Lasuen, Father Serra’s successor, as the remainder of the twenty-one missions are founded. The story is told through the eyes of the Cahita Indian and the Englishman.

As per your guidelines, the following is provided.

Sincerely,

I'll second Quill's comments. You need to chop out excess info, give the agent only the necessary and compelling points of the plot. Good luck, I like the sounds of this story! It grabbed my interest, that's for sure.

longknife

Re: New Historical Novel

Post by longknife » August 4th, 2010, 2:13 pm

Thank you both very much for the comments!
Back toi the drawing board.

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by J. T. SHEA » August 5th, 2010, 12:16 pm

Interesting. I like the unusual structure, particularly the 'in media res' opening. I also like more synopsis in a query than other commenters. But this one is long and too much of a good thing, synopsis-wise, even for me.

Ship names are normally italicized. HM Brig Willoughby.

The agent will need to be sure you can tell a complete story well, so I would not mention the trilogy, unless you have written all three books. The more complete a story this first novel tells, the better.

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by elfspirit » August 5th, 2010, 12:39 pm

I think all the commenters have nailed the specific problems with your query. I have one additional suggestion. If you can recall what attracted you to this particular time period and to the main characters you created, you can re-ignite the spark that inspired you to write this and capture it in your query. Then you'll know by method of inspiration what to include in it and what to leave out.

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by J. T. SHEA » August 5th, 2010, 12:57 pm

Elfspirit wrote:- 'Re-ignite the spark that inspired you to write this and capture it in your query.'
Exactly! I've never seen the essence of a good query put better.

longknife

Re: New Historical Novel

Post by longknife » August 5th, 2010, 4:31 pm

[Is either one of these any better?]

Dear . . .

Timothy Beadle’s father takes him to a dockside tavern in Plymouth, England and signs him over to the captain of a merchant ship. Tim has little time to grieve as he learns the bewildering variety of tasks set before him. The brig sails into the South Atlantic, rounding Cape Horn into the vast Pacific. After capturing two Spanish ships, they reach a harbor with towering trees and strange fisher folk with ruddy skins. Several months later hey sail with holds full of rich furs.

The ship encounters a fierce storm and Tim is carried overboard, washed ashore two days later. A young Indian boy finds Tim and takes him to a medicine woman for treatment. Jaime, a young carpenter in the service of Franciscan friars befriends Tim and, when a Spanish official arrests Tim for being a pirate, runs to the friars to seek aid and sanctuary for his new friend.

In the ensuing months and years, Tim and Jaime travel with a humble but devout man, Father Junipero Serra, as the friar carries out his mission to spread The Word of God to the peoples of Upper and Lower California in partnership with Governor Gaspar de Portolà. The two disparate youths will walk hundreds of miles through awesome and dangerous lands to help the founding of one mission before continuing to the site of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.

THE CARPENTER AND THE SAILOR, El Carpintero y el Marinero
(A tale of the 18th Century New World) is a historical novel of 97,700 words.

Much has been written about the mission years of California history but little in fiction form. Many different versions of the story exist and this novel puts them into one, entertaining and educational form. I grew up in Southern California and have extensively studied this period of history. I have covered the ground described in this novel and visited all the missions in the State of California. Many Roman Catholics will wish to read this and sequels are called for.

Thank you for your time and consideration. As per your guidelines, the following is attached, . . .

Sincerely,

=================
A humble, devout friar of the Franciscan Order Minor is called upon to spread The Word of God in the Californias as the King of Spain desires to expand his authority in the New World. Father Junipero Serra is tasked to join the newly-appointed governor to form and lead an expedition to the dangerous and unknown frontier.

Tim Beadle, a young English sailor washed ashore in Baja California by a cyclone is found and cared for by a Cahita Indian boy, Jaime, a carpenter in the service of the Franciscans. Civil authorities wish to imprison Tim as a pirate but Father Serra grants him asylum. As a result, Tim and Jaime will join the diminutive, ill friar as he sets out on a six hundred mile overland trek through cacti covered land to establish one mission in Baja California before moving on to establish San Diego de Alcalá.

[The rest remains the same.]

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by wilderness » August 5th, 2010, 4:45 pm

The setup is good, the setting is good, but there is no conflict. And without conflict, it will be a tough sell.
The two disparate youths will walk hundreds of miles through awesome and dangerous lands to help the founding of one mission before continuing to the site of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.
Great, but what obstacles do they meet? Think of a movie trailer. Try to explain the conflict in one sentence. Also, what is their internal conflict, their motivation? Try to make it a bit more personal. Hope that helps!

longknife

Re: New Historical Novel

Post by longknife » August 6th, 2010, 3:09 pm

wilderness wrote:The setup is good, the setting is good, but there is no conflict. And without conflict, it will be a tough sell.
The two disparate youths will walk hundreds of miles through awesome and dangerous lands to help the founding of one mission before continuing to the site of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.
Great, but what obstacles do they meet? Think of a movie trailer. Try to explain the conflict in one sentence. Also, what is their internal conflict, their motivation? Try to make it a bit more personal. Hope that helps!
This is a fictionalized version of a TRUE STORY!
What conflicts can I include that Father Serra did not encounter on this journey?
I thought I outlined some of the conflicts - Tim is torn from his home, sold into service to a ship's captain, sails thousands of miles away, is washed overboard in a storm, finds himself in a new world where civil authorities think him to be a pirate, then travels through unknown, hostile land in following Father Serra.
Jaime survived a smallpox epidemic, is taken by friars into a new world, must learn everything new, and also follows Father Serra through hostile land.
And that doesn't even count what Father Serra does to carry out his mission!

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by wilderness » August 6th, 2010, 4:14 pm

lvcabbie wrote: This is a fictionalized version of a TRUE STORY!
Yes, but I presume it still follows a narrative arc. The query should be presented as such, where the last line represents the climactic conflict.
lvcabbie wrote: What conflicts can I include that Father Serra did not encounter on this journey?
You haven't been specific about what those are. Also, we want to know the conflicts in terms of what Tim and Jaime face (since they seem to be the main characters).
lvcabbie wrote: I thought I outlined some of the conflicts - Tim is torn from his home, sold into service to a ship's captain, sails thousands of miles away, is washed overboard in a storm, finds himself in a new world where civil authorities think him to be a pirate, then travels through unknown, hostile land in following Father Serra.
Jaime survived a smallpox epidemic, is taken by friars into a new world, must learn everything new, and also follows Father Serra through hostile land.
And that doesn't even count what Father Serra does to carry out his mission!
True, but you want to boil it down to a single conflict that ties it all together. The way it is currently presented, Tim getting torn from his home, etc seems to be setup. Then you have:
lvcabbie wrote:In the ensuing months and years
This paragraph seems to be where most of the book is...Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe most of the book is about when Tim is first washed overboard. In which case, I suggest removing the last pitch paragraph altogether. However, if most of the book is about founding the mission, the main obstacle in founding the mission should be presented.

The last line is vague:
lvcabbie wrote: The two disparate youths will walk hundreds of miles through awesome and dangerous lands to help the founding of one mission before continuing to the site of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.
What happens in the dangerous lands? And what are their individual goals? Perhaps something like "Tim and Jaime are determined to a build a home for themselves in this wild land. But X,Y, and Z stand in their way." It is best to present an all-encompassing goal and conflict, the core of your novel, and end with that sentence.

I would think about what your one-sentence pitch is. It's hard to boil it down sometimes. Nathan has a post on one-sentence pitches. I suggest taking a look. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05 ... pitch.html

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by elfspirit » August 6th, 2010, 5:59 pm

I got much more interested when I read your revision, and of the two you posted, I preferred the second. I did agree with Wilderness that some specifics of that journey, especially conflicts, both internal and external, would be more likely to attract an agent.

The only thing more frustrating than writing a query is dealing with feedback and rewriting it. I think you're making great progress.

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by Thermocline » August 9th, 2010, 11:05 am

I like the first version of your revision because you focus immediately on Tim, who seems to be the main character of your novel.
lvcabbie wrote:Timothy Beadle’s father takes him to a dockside tavern in Plymouth, England and signs him over to the captain of a merchant ship. Tim has little time to grieve as he learns the bewildering variety of tasks set before him. The brig sails into the South Atlantic, rounding Cape Horn into the vast Pacific. After capturing two Spanish ships, they reach a harbor with towering trees and strange fisher folk with ruddy skins. Several months later hey sail with holds full of rich furs. The last four sentences catalog what the ship is doing. We don't know Tim's part in all this or how he reacts to what is happening. We need to see this world though his eyes. I'd suggest going from the first sentence of this paragraph right into the first sentence of the second paragraph.

The ship encounters a fierce storm and Tim is carried overboard,Shift the focus to Tim rather than the ship. Something like, "A fierce storm carries Tim overboard..." washed ashore two days later. A young Indian boy finds Tim and takes him to a medicine woman for treatment. Jaime, a young carpenter in the service of Franciscan friars befriends Tim and, when a Spanish official arrests Tim for being a pirate, runs to the friars to seek aid and sanctuary for his new friend. You introduce an Indian boy, medicine woman, Jamie, Franciscan friars, and a Spanish official. That is a lot of characters in quick succession. The Indian boy and medicine woman don't seem to be essential to our understanding of the story. Consider cutting that line. The number of linked clauses makes that last sentence quite long. You might try breaking it up.

In the ensuing months and years, Tim and Jaime travel with a humble but devout man, Father Junipero Serra, as the friar carries out his mission to spread The Word of God to the peoples of Upper and Lower California in partnership with Governor Gaspar de Portolà. Another really long sentence. The two disparate youths will Keep us in the present. walk hundreds of miles through awesome and dangerous lands to help the founding of one mission before continuing to the site of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá. Why are they trying to get there? What is the at stake for Tim? What happens if he doesn't complete his task? Your query should leave me with a question that can only be answered if I read your book. What is the central conflict of your novel?

THE CARPENTER AND THE SAILOR, El Carpintero y el Marinero Is this a Spanish subtitle? I'm not sure why you included it.
(A tale of the 18th Century New World) is a historical novel of 97,700 Round to 98,000 words set in the 18th century New World.

Much has been written about the mission years of California history but little in fiction form. Many different versions of the story exist and this novel puts them into one, entertaining and educational form. I grew up in Southern California and have extensively studied this period of history. I have covered the ground described in this novel and visited all the missions in the State of California. Many Roman Catholics will wish to read this and sequels are called for. I don't think an agent is going to care about other writings about this subject. He or she will only want to know about this book. Also, the notes about yourself don't contain a publishing credit so they could be cut.

Thank you for your time and consideration. As per your guidelines, the following is attached, . . .
Your query doesn't give me a good sense of the voice of the main character. It reads more like an impartial description of the topic. Try to find ways to bring the flavor of your story into the query.

longknife

Re: New Historical Novel

Post by longknife » August 9th, 2010, 12:15 pm

Thermocline - and everyone else, thanks for the comments!

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Re: New Historical Novel

Post by Hyaline » August 17th, 2010, 9:58 am

This sounds like a fascinating project--I love historical fiction, but I feel like this would appeal to a lot of people, with so much action happening! I've made comments inline--I hope it helps a little. Please disregard anything that isn't useful :)

[quote="lvcabbie"][Is either one of these any better?]

Dear . . .

Timothy Beadle’s father takes him to a dockside tavern in Plymouth, England and signs him over to the captain of a merchant ship. I like that this gives us the main character and his circumstance right off the bat (I assume Tim is our main character, yes? If not...well, you know what my impression is from this version of the query lol)Tim has little time to grieve as he learns the bewildering variety of tasks set before him. The brig sails into the South Atlantic, rounding Cape Horn into the vast Pacific. After capturing two Spanish ships, they reach a harbor with towering trees and strange fisher folk with ruddy skins. Several months later hey sail with holds full of rich fursThe last three sentences of the paragraph--do these need to be here? I feel you could condense the second sentence with all of these, as their exploits don't seem to have much to do with the central conflict--which appears later. The query doesn't have to get the whole summary. Maybe... Tim has little time to grieve (grieve? felt a touch odd here...maybe bemoan his fate? dunno) as he begins to learn his trade aboard ship and soon is part of an expedition to the New World. I know you'd write it better...just an example of how we could pare this down. And I think paring down is operative here..

The ship encounters a fierce storm and Tim is carried overboard, washed ashore two days later Man, this kid has bad luck :) . A young Indian boy finds Tim and takes him to a medicine woman for treatment.Reading the rest of the paragraph, I'm not sure this is important--we don't need to know how he first encounters people. Jaime, a young carpenter in the service of Franciscan friars befriends Tim Maybe you can combine the previous sentence with this phrase to show the link--Brought to a Franciscan outpost by a young Indian boy, Tim recovers and befriends Jaime, a carpenter in the service of the friars. New sentence at When. and, when a Spanish official arrests Tim for being a pirate, runs to the friars to seek aid and sanctuary for his new friend.

In the ensuing months and years, Tim and Jaime travel Here's where I can see the comment before about lacking conflict coming into play a bit. Travels with is very passive--thus far we've really seen Tim getting pushed into situations. He's pressed onto a ship. He's washed ashore. He's accused of piracy and forced to run away. When does he claim a stake for himself? with a humble but devout man, Father Junipero Serra, as the friar carries out his mission to spread The Word of God to the peoples of Upper and Lower California in partnership with Governor Gaspar de Portolà. The two disparate youths will walk hundreds of miles through awesome and dangerous lands to help the founding of one mission before continuing to the site of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.And here--what is Tim's stake in this? I'm only assuming he wants to help the Friar with his mission, because I don't even really know that. This isn't the Friar's story, from what I can see--it's Tim's. Let him own it.

THE CARPENTER AND THE SAILOR, El Carpintero y el Marinero
(A tale of the 18th Century New World) is a historical novel of 97,700 words. I would make this a sentence--The Carpenter and the Sailor is a 97,700 word historical fiction set during the era of exploration in California (or whatever you can craft that's far better than that example!)

I'll be honest--I think there's too much in this paragraph. I've noted what sentences I think are serving a good purpose for you and which could maybe be cut. Much has been written about the mission years of California history but little in fiction form. This might be a nice way to add color to the title, word count paragraph--perhaps keep it and bump it up. Many different versions of the story exist and this novel puts them into one, entertaining and educational form. I grew up in Southern California and have extensively studied this period of history.This you could keep or leave--it might be a nice way to end the query and leave the agent knowing a little bit about you. Is there a more captivating way you oculd say you've studied the period extensively? I have covered the ground described in this novel and visited all the missions in the State of California. Many Roman Catholics will wish to read this and sequels are called for. I don't see anything here worth keeping, to be honest, as from what I've seen on agent blogs, "selling" tactics like who would read the book and that the readership would want sequels doesn't carry well.

Thank you for your time and consideration. As per your guidelines, the following is attached, . . .

Sincerely,

=================

Good luck with this! You really do have a fascinating story--and the fact that it's based on a true story makes it even more interesting!

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