Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Face-Lift 141


Guess the Plot


Bootlegger's Tea Party

1. Frank "The Snake" Gilooly didn't get to be the biggest gin runner in Detroit for nothing, but he may meet his match when he tries to run his operation from the basement of Miss Minnie's Olde English Tea House.

2. Tillie Connors uses gossip from tea parties to help the FBI bring down Al Capone's Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan branch.

3. Jim thought that nothing could be more boring than spending a summer at his grandmother's. That is, until he discovered what her little "get-togethers" with the church ladies were really all about.

4. Willie Tyler hosts political fundraisers where he spikes the punch with his own special spirits, giving him mind control over the candidates.

5. Running bootleg whiskey all over Prohibition America and avoiding both the mob and the cops is a piece of cake for Danny MacNamara--compared to impressing his cranky aunt Delilah with the perfect cucumber sandwich.

6. When Alice Liddell follows Mark Hare and Matt Hatter into a cave in the Ozarks, she learns what the dormouse meant by "feed your head".


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

There’s no bathtub gin in these teacups, so who invited Al Capone? [One assumes from this question that Al Capone shows up at a tea party in the book. But he doesn't show up at a tea party in the query, so the question leaves the reader wondering if there's bathtub gin in the author's teacup.]

[As in Face-Lift 112, Evil Editor found while reading this query that he couldn't tell the players without a scorecard. This time I'll put the character list up front so that you may refer to it while reading.

1. Tillie Connors...visiting Saskatchewan
2. Tillie's old friend...lives next to #5
3. Tom Matthews...G-man, friend of #1's husband, renting room from #2
4. Al Capone...mobster
5. The Mayor of Moose Jaw...In cahoots with #4
6. Priscilla...motherless daughter of #5
7. Chinese Youth...dead (killed by #6?)
8. Aunt Sophie...hates her niece, #6
9. The Mayor's late wife...heavy drinker
10. The Mayor's late wife's cousin...had affair with Mayor
11. Oriental businessman...dead (father of #7)
12. The Mayor's ex-mistress...met with #11 before he died
13. Mob bodyguards...criminals with guns, employed by #4
14. Crooked police...criminals with badges, employed by #4
15. Ranch-hands...moonlighting as liquor loaders
16. Murderess...Could be #2, 6, 8, 10, or 12. Or someone new.

Got it? Okay, let's go.]

In September 1928, Tillie Connors (1) is visiting an old friend (2) in Saskatchewan when Prohibition-era politics and social snobbery disrupt the holiday mood. Then she bumps into her husband’s best friend, Tom Matthews (3). The Illinois G-man has trailed a load of hot tommy-guns across Canada to the Moose Jaw train station, hoping they’ll lead him to a smuggling route used by Chicago mobster Al Capone (4). While Tom (3) is talking to Tillie (1), the guns vanish into the railroad’s underground passageway and Al Capone (4) is whisked away by the Moose Jaw Mayor (5). Fortunately for Tom (3), the Mayor (5) lives right next door to Tillie’s hostess (2), and that gossipy old lady has a spare room he can rent.

Orphaned herself, Tillie (1) is sympathetically nosy about the Mayor’s (5) motherless daughter, Priscilla (6). But questions old and new hover around the girl. Why was she traveling with Al Capone (4)? Did she really kill a Chinese youth (7) six years ago, when barely an adolescent herself? And why does her refined Aunt Sophie (8) hate her almost to the point of social indiscretion? As Tom (3) infiltrates the Capone (4) mob’s Moose Jaw branch, Tillie (1) sifts the past two decades of tea-party gossip for answers. [Two decades? That's like searching a two-decade-old blog without a search engine.] She soon hears more than enough about the Mayor’s (5) late wife’s (9) drinking binges, her sister Sophie’s (8) jealous rages, and the Mayor’s (5) longstanding affair with his wife’s cousin (10). And any of the adults in that family had both means and opportunity to have shot that Chinese youth (7). [We're more interested in their motives than their means.]

Meanwhile, Tom (3) is hunting an Oriental businessman (11) who may have hijacked the guns from the train station. But his quarry turns up dead, scant hours after a meeting with the Mayor’s (5) ex-mistress (12). Tom (3) assumes he was killed over the missing guns, [The mayor's ex-mistress killed him to get the guns so she can take over the mayor's bootlegging operation.] but Tillie (1) recognizes his name: he is the father of the dead Chinese youth (7). [A guy named Wu Kiang dies in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, and Tillie deduces that it's connected to the earlier death of a kid named Wu Qiang in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The woman should have her own detective series.] While Tom (3) winds his undercover way to the tommy-guns past mob bodyguards (13), crooked city police (14) and ranch-hands moonlighting as liquor loaders (15), Tillie (1) unravels the mystery of why the father (11) and son (7) were killed. Before long, her penchant for snooping lands her in the Mayor’s (5) garden at dusk, facing a murderess (16) armed with something much more deadly than a teacup.

‘Bootlegger’s Tea Party” is complete at 95,000 words and seeking a publisher. I would be pleased to send a full synopsis and sample chapters upon request.

Several of my articles on Prairie Prohibition history have been published in Saskatchewan magazines. My short fiction has won a Saskatchewan Writers Guild award, was three times short-listed in the Canadian Storyteller competition, and is published in a range of magazines and anthologies across Canada.

Thank you for your attention,


Revised Version

In September 1928, Tillie Connors is visiting an old friend in Saskatchewan when she bumps into her husband’s best friend, Tom Matthews. The Illinois G-man has trailed a load of hot tommy-guns across Canada, hoping they’ll lead him to a smuggling route used by Chicago mobster Al Capone. While Tom is talking to Tillie, the guns vanish into the railroad’s underground passageway and Capone is whisked away by the Moose Jaw mayor.

Capone was traveling with the mayor’s daughter, Priscilla, who some suspect killed a Chinese boy six years ago, when barely an adolescent herself. When the boy's father turns up dead as well, Tillie sifts through years of tea-party gossip for answers. She soon hears more than enough to convince her that the mayor and any of his late wife's family members could be behind the murders.

Tom infiltrates the Capone mob’s Moose Jaw branch, and must contend with gangsters and crooked police as he tries to recover the missing tommy-guns. Meanwhile, Tillie unravels the mystery of why the father and son were killed. But she doesn't stop there, and before long her penchant for snooping lands her in the mayor’s garden at dusk, facing a murderess armed with something much more deadly than a teacup.

Bootlegger’s Tea Party is complete at 95,000 words and seeking a publisher. I would be pleased to send a full synopsis and sample chapters upon request.

Several of my articles on Prairie Prohibition history have been published in Saskatchewan magazines. My short fiction has won a Saskatchewan Writers Guild award, was three times short-listed in the Canadian Storyteller competition, and is published in a range of magazines and anthologies across Canada.

Thank you for your attention,


Notes

Even the revised version has a lot of characters, but getting rid of several has added clarity. Also, there was no smooth transition from the first plot paragraph to the second.

If you want the story to sound realistic, set it somewhere that actually exists. Everyone knows Saskatchewan is a fictional province authors use because the name sounds funny. How about Moose Jaw, Alberta?

17 comments:

Novelust said...

If this book includes the RCMP, I am sold.

Something about all that red serge...

Anonymous said...

If only the author could somehow work in Lake Titticaca and Walla Walla then this book would be 100 times better.

Anonymous said...

While we're on the subject of positive additions--a brutal eunuch or vigilante sorcerer always livens up a plot.

Al Capone's sexless sidekick?

December Quinn said...

Oh, I was so hoping it would be #3...


This sounds pretty good, too, though. :-) It sounds like a fun read.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the Okefenokee Swamp.

Anonymous said...

Or move the setting to Webster, MA, where they can cool the gin in Lake Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagogg- chaubunagungamaugg.

Anonymous said...

If you made Al Capone gay, and moved the story to Atlanta, you could try to schlep it to the gay/lesbian press.

Saralee said...

Aww, I was so hoping it would be plot #1.

Although the real plot was my second choice. Sounds like something Charlotte MacLeod would write about. I adored her books, so I might give this one a chance.

My advice: Weed out all the minor characters from the query.

Saralee

Daisy said...

I was hoping for #1 too, but this sounds like it could work-- especially with EE's new query.

Bernita said...

Probably a hoot, but please reduce the cast in the query.

kis said...

Actually, EE, Alberta is fictional as well. Manitoba, too. It's just like you Yanks have always suspected--there's really nothing at all between Toronto and Vancouver but a howling rift in the time-space continuum.

Jessica said...

"Al Capone is whisked away by the Moose Jaw Mayor." Whenever I read that someone was whisked away by another person, I always picture it in a romantic situation. So after that line all I could think was, "hehehe, the mayor and Al Capone are gay lovers. Hehehehe."

Anonymous said...

I thought Al Capone hung out on Lake Wawasee. But, what do I know. I'm not a local.

Eunuch said...

Announcement: The extreame circumstances force the peace loving eunuchs and sorcerers to join in a guild. We call it Eunuchs and Sorcerers Annonymous for Peace in Blogdoms. Or ESAPB, for short(which is, also, my word verification). All peace loving blogers are welcome to join. Even the non-humans. Like peaceful vampires...

Oh, and anon 10:48, quit messing up our image.

gangster-obsessed author said...

"Two decades? That's like searching a two-decade-old blog without a search engine."

[giggle/snort]

Thank you, Your Evilness, for kindly cutting up my query. I will cherish your wisdom forever (or until the manuscript sells - where do I send the commission?).

For novelust: yes, there are Mounties, starting on Page 1. Some are young, single and laconic, others are older, married and chatty, and still others are historical RCMP inspectors who really were out there tracking bootleggers' airplanes in the dusty skies over Saskachewan. All are, naturally, handsome dashing fellows in their red serge.

Sorry, no brutal eunuchs. Al Capone was brutal, but if there's an opposite of eunuch, it's him. Mr. Itchy-Weinie. Although I don't THINK he ever got into orgies with his bodyguards on those long train trips, how much do we really know? The Illinois Justice department managed to lose sight of him for 8 months in the late 1920's; maybe instead of being either in Miami or in a Pennsylvania jail, he was really holed up somewhere making the 2-backed beast with Frank Nitti.

Thanks all for the comments.

JerseyGirl said...

The query's much better with EE's clean up. I'd definitely like to read the ms. - sounds like a fun read.

~Nancy

Chumplet said...

Ichy Weenie. Sounds like a First Nations chief's daughter.
Hey, try to get Kakabeka falls into the story. Just love the name.
And I know how Americans love to pronounce Saskatchewan. Oh, oh, how about Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia? My mom always called it "Shitinagony". Just like Masachusetts is generally pronounced, "Messytwoshits".
Okay, I'll go to sleep now.