Monday, March 17, 2014

New review of THE BITCH from across the pond...

Monday, 17 March 2014



Ex-con Jake Bishop is several years past his second stint in prison and has completely reformed. He’s married, expecting a child, and preparing to open his own hair salon. But then an old cellmate re-enters his life begging for a favour: to help him with a burglary. Forced by his code of ethics to perform the crime, Jake’s once idyllic life quickly plunges into an abyss. Jake soon realizes that there is only one way out of this purgatory . . . and it may rupture his soul beyond repair.
Advance Praise
The Bitch is the kind of raw crime fiction that’s right up my alley, like sandpaper for the brain. Edgerton has got the chops. Mad chops. Gonna make us all ashamed of our puny efforts one day.”
—Anthony Neil Smith, bestselling author of Choke on Your Lies, Psychomatic, Hogdoggin’, Yellow Medicine, The Drummer, To the Devil, My Regards, and others.

It might be a bit of an understatement but author Les Edgerton has lived an interesting life. Born in Texas, his Wikipedia entry states the following:
Later Edgerton entered a period of his life he refers to as a years-long odyssey, during which he:
·         Sold and used drugs
·         Worked for an escort service for older, wealthy women in New Orleans
·         Sold life insurance
·         Worked as a headhunter for a firm specializing in recruiting executives for businesses dealing with electronic warfare
·         Was a sports reporter
·         Won 16 state championships for hairstyling, a skill he learned in prison
·         Co-hosted a cable-television show about fashion in New Orleans
·         Made a television commercial
·         Acted in a movie
·         Was homeless and eating out of a dumpster
·         Went through several marriages
·         Attended A.A. meetings
·         Began writing seriously

Back to The Bitch then.

Not as bleak as many “noir” tagged novels I’ve read and without spoiling anything for potential readers we don’t exit the book with everyone living happily ever after. It is an interesting journey though in the company of Jake Bishop, our main man – a rehabilitated ex-con. He’s happily married, holding down a steady job and he’s got big career plans which will provide for his future family. Life couldn’t be better.

Cue wheels falling off wagon, brown stuff hitting the fan etc etc.

Bishop ill-advisedly takes a call from his old cell mate at Pendleton. Despite his resolve to go straight and stay straight, Jake is then sucked back into the criminal world and at risk of a life sentence back in prison;  a three-time felon or habitual offender - in con-speak “The Bitch.”

Job, hair-dressing, wife, pregnancy, going straight, business plans, brother, cops, burglary, blackmail, diamonds, friendship, history, prison, alcoholism, recidivism, family, secrets, suspicion, snow, murder, kidnap, shovels, bad luck, poor choices, more bad luck, more bad decisions….ergo, death and everyone who survives initially lives unhappily ever after, albeit with a much reduced life expectancy.

Edgerton gives us a likeable protagonist who through a combination of ill-luck and poor decision-making gets locked in a downward spiral from which there is no escape. Enjoyable and satisfying, with well-drawn characters, a decent plot and great pace – overall an entertaining read. Even if at times I was shouting……….NO! Bishop’s fall!

This was my first taste of the author, but with a few other books of his on the pile………The Death of Tarpons, Monday’s Meal, The Rapist, Just Like That……….not my last.

I will count this as my Texas entry for my USA State Reading Challenge. (4 down 47 to go!)

Accessed through the Net Galley website.     

Review, news, and other potpourri...

Hi folks,

Got the following from the newsletter of my friend and fellow writer, Mike Klaassen and thought I’d share with you. At the end, is Mike’s contact info for his (free) newsletter which is always chockfull of good writing advice, reviews, and tidbits. Tell him I sentcha!

Book Review
HOOKED: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go
By Les Edgerton
Writer’s Digest Books, 2007

Hooked is the book about beginnings.

Books about fiction-writing tend to fall into one of three categories: 
  • A-Z books, which address a wide spectrum of fiction-writing issues
  • Quasi-biographical books, which are as much about the author as they are about writing
  • Narrow-focus books, which take an in-depth look at a specific aspect of fiction-writing 

Hooked, by Les Edgerton, focuses on one aspect of fiction-writing: beginnings.  In general, readers should expect a narrow-focus book to:
  • Adequately address its topic of focus, compiling and reorganizing the body of existing information
  • Debunk misinformation and out-of-date practices about the topic
  • Offer new ideas and insight about the topic
Les Edgerton has accomplished all of these in Hooked. 

Why a whole book about beginnings?  As explained by Edgerton, “The simple truth is, if your beginning doesn’t do the job it needs to, the rest of the story most likely won’t be read by the agent or editor or publisher you submit it to.”

Edgerton addresses misinformation and out-of-date practices from a historical perspective and as they relate to literary fiction.  Whenever an author sheds new light on a subject, there is a risk that someone will be offended: no exception here.  Writers, of any genre, in the habit of beginning stories with hefty servings of backstory or description get an earful. 

Those who believe that studying the classics is the key to understanding fiction may be turned off by Edgerton’s take on beginnings: “. . . many of the great books from the past aren’t practical structure models for today’s market, particularly in the way some of those books begin.”  And, “Beginnings have changed more than any other part of story structure.”

Likewise, fans of literary fiction may take exception to some of Edgerton’s observations.  “Bookscan has revealed the decline of what is usually referred to as literary fiction.  This category of fiction may be dying because it has stuck with the story structure model of yesteryear much more so than any other category.”

Hooked is organized into eleven chapters:
  • Story structure and scene
  • Opening scenes
  • Inciting incident, initial surface problem, story-worthy problem
  • Setup and backstory
  • Combining inciting incident, story-worthy problem, initial surface problem, setup, and backstory
  • Introducing characters
  • Foreshadowing, language, and setting
  • Opening lines
  • Red flags
  • Opening scene length and transitions
  • View from the agent’s and editor’s chair

The last chapter is structured as questions and answers from agents and publishers.  For example, from agent Jodie Rhodes: “ . . . the more modest the writer, the better the writing.  That’s because good writers know how much they still have to learn.”

Hooked is a must for the bookshelf of serious students of fiction.

SUMMARIZATION: A fairly maligned fiction-writing mode
By Mike Klaassen

Should you always "show" rather than "tell?" Summarization is the fiction-writing mode whereby story events are recapped. In summary mode events are told rather than shown. Action mode shows an event in detail as it happens, summarization tells about it. The old writing axiom "Show. Don't tell." implies that summarization is inferior writing, to be discouraged. This is unfortunate because telling, in the form of summarization, has a vital role.
Any event may be portrayed either in the action mode or in summarization. Consider the following gunfight in action mode:
As the sun reached its zenith, Cisco strode onto the dust-filled street and faced Black Bart. Without warning, Bart reached for his pistol. Cisco dived to the right as Bart fired. Cisco rolled in the dirt and drew his Peacemaker. He fanned his hand across the Colt’s hammer in rapid succession, sending three slugs into Bart’s chest.

The same event may be summarized as:
At noon, Cisco faced Black Bart and gunned him down in the street.

Summary mode has many applications. It may be used to: (1) report an event that doesn't warrant the detailed, as-it-happens treatment of the action mode, (2) shift from one time or location to another, (3) setup a writing passage by "catching up" the reader on what has happened since the previous scene, sequel, chapter, or section or (4) vary rhythm, pace, tone, or texture.[i]

Summary mode is appropriate for reporting events that don't warrant detailed, real-time presentation. As fiction writers we make many decisions. We choose which events to report and which to leave out. We choose which events to report in detail and which to summarize. For example, depending upon the objectives of the author, the summary of the gunfight described above may be appropriate. Readers may need to know that event occurred but don't need to know the details. Telling lets the reader speed past less important action. If fiction were a video player, action would be accessed with the "Play" button, and summarization would be the "Fast Forward" button, where events are skimmed over.
Summarization may be particularly appropriate when there is repetition of events.[ii] For example, if Black Bart was one of five gunfights Cisco had that day, showing each of these events in action mode could become tedious for the reader.

Summarization provides an opportunity to telescope time and shift locations. Rather than showing all the details in an uninteresting journey, the writer might summarize it. For example:
Over the next three hours as the storm continued, they followed the winding path around and over one dark hill after another.
Like a time machine fitted with a global-positioning device, summarization can transport the character across time and space.

Summarization may be used to set up a new scene, sequel, chapter, or section—even a change in a viewpoint character. This may be accomplished at the beginning of the new passage simply by naming the new viewpoint character and describing what he is doing, thinking, or feeling. For example:
Fortney reached the top of the hill and stopped. Before him, as far as he could see, stretched rolling, grass-covered hills.

Summarization and action, even when used to describe the same event, have a different pace, rhythm, tone, and texture (Just think of the gunfight described above). The decision to use one versus the other becomes a tool for manipulating the story. For example, imagine a medieval battle with knights engaged in a series of sword fights. The writer might decide to describe the first fight in action mode, summarize the next three (Over the next hour Arthur dispatched three more dark knights.), and then show the climatic fight in gory detail.

As with each of the other ten fiction-writing modes, summarization has both advantages and disadvantages. Action involves the reader and is intimate and immediate, but too much action can fatigue the reader. Summarization distances the reader and lacks immediacy. Summarization offers one distinct advantage over the action mode, and that is brevity.[iii]
Summarization deserves respect as a fiction-writing mode. Without summarization, fiction could be tedious and disjointed. For any particular passage of fiction, the challenge is to show when appropriate and to tell when appropriate.

Mike Klaassen is the author of two young-adult novels: The Brute and Cracks. He has also written numerous articles about the craft of writing fiction. His current projects include a novel set during the War of 1812 and a nonfiction book about the craft of writing fiction.  

Mike and his wife, Carol, lived in the Wichita, Kansas area while raising their two sons. After fighting cancer for four years, Carol died in 2012.

Mike and Carol were good friends for twenty-five years with another couple, Michael and Gerri. Throughout those years Michael had multiple sclerosis, which became increasingly debilitating. Michael died one month before Carol. After each being married to a wonderful spouse for thirty-five years, Mike and Gerri are happily engaged.
You can learn more about Mike and his novels at 

Mike Klaassen
P.O.Box 4781
Wichita, KS 67204-0781
(316) 744-4325


If you have enjoyed this newsletter and are not already receiving it automatically each month, you are welcome to a free subscription.  Just click on the "Join Our Mailing List" button at the top of this page (also available at  Or if you prefer, send an email to and ask to be added to Mike's ezine list. 

Thanks, Mike. Well, in a couple of days, my son Mike and I are jumping on a plane to go spend a week at my best friend Tom Rough's place in Cave Creek, AZ, and are going to see our beloved Giants WHIP UP on the Oakland A's in a spring training game in Scottsdale. Can't wait to be someplace where I'm not staring at six-foot-high snow drifts...
And, on a bit of a downer, The Rapist didn't win in the BigAl's recent contest. But, thank everybody for coming out and voting--I appreciate it! I'll try to do better next time...

Blue skies,

Monday, March 10, 2014


Hi folks,

I don’t know if you’ve seen this on the Intergnat, but historians recently unearthed a series of letters between William Shakespeare and Leonard “Swifty” Cojone, a prominent literary agent in Elizabethean times, which I thought you might find somewhat interesting. Here they are, unexpurgated (which means I didn’t mess with ‘em). Well, I didn’t personally purgate them, but the person who put them on the ‘Gnat has taken the liberty of casting them in present-day English for easier interpretation by today’s public school students.

Dear William Shakespeare,

I was recently on holiday, and happened to attend a performance of a play at the new theater over at Stratford (the Globe, which has the best darn popcorn I think I’ve ever tasted! The beer, however... skunky!). A play I understand you’d written, titled Richard III. While I think you’ll agree that you’ll never be a Christopher Marlowe or even a Thomas Nash, I have to confess that I was somewhat impressed by the performance (enough that I could overlook the obvious historical fallacies to which I ascribe the fault to lay at “artistic license.”). I think you have some potential. I do feel it would benefit you to employ a better editor than the one you currently use. For instance, that line, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” is more than a bit ponderous and clumsy. I can doubtless help you with those kinds of things among the other services I can provide.

If you’re not yet aware of whom I am (please indulge me a polite laugh as I’m sure you do unless you’ve been living in Manchester or Newcastle!), I am Leonard Cojone, literary agent extraordinaire. And, it is in this role that I am contacting you, sir. I should like to talk to you about possible representation of your work. I assume you plan to write additional plays?

I take but a paltry ten percent of receipts for my considerable influence in both publishing your work and gaining entree into Europe’s finest theaters.

If you are interested, please reply as soon as possible. I’m not sure how long I might retain interest as there are other playwrights I’m also interested in.

Leonard “Swifty” Cojones, Esq.
P.S. That aforementioned line:” Now is the winter of our discontent” could benefit by being changed to something more accessible to today’s playgoer to something like: “It was a dark and stormy night.” This is the kind of assistance I am able and more than willing to offer should we effect a partnership.

Dear Squire Cojones,

I am so pleased that a gentleman of your considerable influence would see fit to see value in my humble scribbling. I would be delighted to speak with you about possible representation. I am presently penning a new play, a comedy. May I send you a copy for your consideration?

Your Humble Svt,
Wm. Shakespeare

Dear William,
Well! This poses a problem for me! You say you’re writing a comedy? But, the other plays I’ve seen or am aware of from you have all been dramas. Why would you do this to yourself? To your career? Are you not aware of the value of building a brand? You seen to have secured a bit of a foothold with your dramas (even with the historical errors, not to mention some elements that I would have changed, i.e., the situation where there is far too little violence—only Richard himself dies on stage and I think you know as well as I that our gentle English folks much enjoy far more bloodshed upon the boards than you’ve allowed), and as one who has his finger on the pulse of the public, to venture into another form seems to me to court professional suicide.

Besides, when one says he writes “comedy,” I confess I have to take that with the proverbial grain of salt, sir. It is one thing to claim to have a humorous bent of mind, but my experience has been that those who claim that particular skill, almost always are just not funny, except to relatives and other prejudiced parties.

This presents somewhat of an obstacle for me. I think you may have somewhat of a future in drama and tragedies; I am not so sure that switching to comedies wouldn’t be the kiss of death for your career. I should like to dissuade you from putting pen to humor, sir. If not, perhaps I am not the agent for your future success.

Please advise.

L. Cojones, Esq.

Dear Mr. Cojones,
Please don’t misunderstand. I plan not to abandon dramatic works nor tragedies; I simply possess a wider range of interests and although it is possible I cannot write humor—I do have valued friends who have convinced me that I can. My friend, Francis Bacon, has told me more than once when we are in our cups down at the tavern, that he has often “spurted ale through his nose” at some of the witticisms I uttered. Many times, he has smiled and told me he was going to “steal that line” at some pithy saying I threw out. Might I not send you a copy of the play I am currently putting to parchment, with the working title, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”

Yr Humble Svt,
Wm. Shakespeare

Dear William,
May I call you Bill? Bill, I believe you are making a tragic turn in your career. Not only are comedies not selling well these days, this appears from the title to have supernatural elements. Well, sir—I am here to report that supernatural plays are over. OVER! Their day has long passed. No theater in England will present a play with supernatural bits to it. Are you mad, Bill? Are you taking meals at the hatters and perhaps accidentally ingested some mercury in your bitters?

Oh, Bill, I wish I could make you fully aware of the professional suicide I see you are making with these foolish notions of writing comedy! You seem to have a bit of a knack at creating drama, but I see nothing but disaster and a sad ending for you should you pursue this folly of mounting a comedic play! The thing is, Billy, through much scientific research and polling, we have determined the only way to create and sustain a profitable career in the theater is by creating a brand for the author. A brand, Bill! That means your name becomes synonymous with a single element. In your case, that brand is tragedy.

If you cannot see the wisdom of this advice and persist in following your foolish and ill-advised tack of persisting with this comedy idiocy, then I have no recourse but to end our communication and withdraw my offer of representation to you. I see no profit in continuing our discussion.

This is a sad day for me, sir. I honestly thought I saw a bit of talent in you. Alas, I was wrong it seems.


Dear Lenny,
Go fucketh thyself. With all possible sooth and dispatch.


So we see, boys and girls, the more things change the more they stay the same…

Blue skies,