Being an alleged author, sometimes I am visited by requests to read the short stories, screenplays or novels of budding writers. Which can be tough. For one thing, if not kill, such a request can certainly can dent a friendship. Novelists real and imagined may say they want feedback, but really, they want approval. It’s been my sorry experience that nearly every piece of work requires that terrible, awful, disgusting “R” word.
I’m a tough critic. In my opinion, “Hamlet” still needs spit and polish.
To be, three be, four be. Whatever it takes...
I have a dear pal who wrote a detective novel. It was her first and last book. She wrote it while pregnant and I’m convinced carrying around that baby had a lot to do with her prose.
I am paid to make things up for a living. But I swear to you — on knees, hands clutched in a fervent prayer that you believe me— that I am not making up the following:
Every — EV-ER-REE — page-and-a-half in that full novel had an eating scene in it.
I checked. About halfway through her book, I noticed the trend, went back and counted.
Hero gets hit on the head and knocked out. No kidding again — when he regains consciousness, “he reached for a sandwich lying on the edge of the Italian cut glass table.”
I know the few times in my life I’ve suffered a concussion, a nearby sandwich will clear out the cobwebs and put the bounce back to my step.
The characters went from breakfast to nibbling carrot sticks to lunch in chic cafes to stopping for a latte to carving ice cream out of a container while postulating who caved in so-and-so’s skull. Gun in one hand, KFC fried chicken leg in the other. She should have called her book: “The Eating Disorder Detective.”
I remember — over lunch — sitting down with her and bringing up the food fixation element in her prose.
Like all of us who dream of writing that bestseller, she was eager to hear the critique and where to pick up the advance check.
“Did you like it?” she asked.
Actually, she wrote well. But there was that problem.
I tried to soften the criticism with smiles, no eye contact and 14 “ums.”
“Sweetie. Um. Have you noticed, um, that in a 500-page detective thriller not involving Julia Childs that you have 333 eating scenes?” I delicately pointed out.
Her shoulders drooped.
“I wrote it when I was pregnant,” she said. “I know I was eating a lot then. Is there a way to fix it?”
I don’t think she wrote again after that, which is foreign to me. Novel writing is like potato chips. You can’t stop at one.
To take out the eating references would leave a novel of 167 pages. I didn’t say, “You can pretend you’re Dave Barry and use 32-point type for the main text.”
One day, while I was poolside, I literally threw the manuscript up in the air and screamed. It wasn’t because of a mushroom pizza swallowed whole by the villain or the handsome homicide detective diving for a donut about to fall over Golden Gate Bridge.
Into her manuscript my writer friend managed to insert the Number One Phrase In All Of Fiction:
These are dire times in publishing and it seems no one can write fiction anymore without the cliché. Personally, as a man, it gives me the willies.
It’s like a feminine hygiene commercial gone terribly wrong.
“Mom,” says the co-edish looking daughter in a sincere TV moment. “I’m so embarrassed. I have moist loins.”
The mother leans forward, laughs, gently touches her daughter’s hand and whispers, “No need to be, pumpkin. Not today when you have that fine line of products from Johnson & Johnson — no pun intended— Loins Be Dry.”
I really don’t ever want to read the phrase, “moist loins” ever again, although, it did hit me that no author, except for Edgar Rice Burroughs, has tackled the issue of “moist lions.” It was in his unpublished and final manuscript, “Tarzan & The Lisping Midgets.”
Katanga, evil king of the Mysoupi tribe, smiled with demonic pleasure as he watched Tarzan writhe in the stone arena.
“Your days of thwarting the Mysoupi are over, Person of Ape,” said Dr. Holly Peño, equally evil medicine woman of the tribe, her lithe, sexually depraved and muscular Latina body glistening with sweat under the hot African sun. “When I am finished, or possibly Swedished, with you, you will beg like a beggar for death!”
Grimly, the Man of the Jungle tested the vine ropes that held him to the ancient African apple tree in the arena. The knots would not budge.
“Release the loins!” yelled Chief Katanga, holding his warclub high in the air.
Tarzan, Dr. Holly Peño and the Mysoupi warriors looked at Katanga in bewilderment.
“I mean, the lions. Release the lions,” Katanga enunciated before his bewildered minions.
Tarzan stood at adroit attention as 16 stone doors opened simultaneously. Sixteen Simbas, Tarzan’s mortal enemy, the full-grown African lion and weighting a quarter ton each, slowly emerged into the sultry light of the Dark Continent. So this is how it will end, Tarzan thought. To be killed by approximately 8,000 pounds of the pets of his nemesis without so much as being able to fight back.
But then, his true and trusted friend, Cheetah, scrambled into the jungle stadium. With a special pair of razor-sharp monkey scissors, the great ape sliced the apple cord vines binding Tarzan’s wrists. Free, Tarzan crouched in the center as the lions (16) circled. Grabbing one — the inattentive one — by the tail and using it as a weapon, Tarzan used his great strength to swing it around and around, knocking the great cats one by one into the shark-infested lake that had now caught on fire and that surrounded the Arena of Death.
“Curse you, Tarzan!” screamed Dr. Holly Peño, shaking her comely but evil fist. “My lions! My lions! My lions are moist! They’re moist and burning with desire,” she coughed into her hand, “to escape!”
I don’t know. What do you think? If not a rewrite, it certainly could use a sandwich or at least a well-placed 50-pound bag of Purina African Lion Chow.
As for Hamlet?
I’d add more banquet scenes.
(SCV author John Boston also writes The Time Ranger & SCV History for your SCV Beacon. He’s has earned more than 100 major awards for writing, including being named, several times, America’s best humor, and, best serious columnist. Don’t forget to check out his national humor, entertainment & swashbuckling commentary website, America’s Humorist — http://www.johnbostonchronicles.com/) — © 2017 by John Boston. All rights reserved.
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Order Boston’s gripping 5-star international thriller, ADAM HENRY
AND THEN, order his 5-star cult classic adventure comedy novel, NAKED CAME THE SASQUATCH
Or buy them at any Purveyor of Fine e-Books!