A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Friday, February 2, 2018

The First 5 Pages: Series Interruptus: Chapter 2

So I downloaded the free sample of Claude Bouchard's 13th Vigilante thriller, Make It Happen. Now. as this blog made clear last week I was looking forward to reading it. Naturally, you'd assume that I plunged right into it. After all, samples usually run up to 25 pages, no more. But the reading didn't go that way. I held back till the following morning. Why?

1)  The first reason was a scary one, based on my memories of agents and my reading of one scary agent's horrifying book:

In Noah Lukeman's version of hell, agents coldbloodedly skim the first 5 pages of submissions. Now and then, they'll speed-check 5 pages outs of sequence, looking for howlers, typos or yawns. You don't get 50 pages...or 30...or 20...or 10. You get 5--and then the boot if you haven't hit the ground running.

I knew that my own thinking had grown a lot closer to Lukeman's... and I feared I might not be as easily hooked as I had been years ago.

2) Plus, I was six books behind in the series and I wanted a binary mindset: reading as both a truant Vigilante fan and a reader who was new to Bouchard.

Come morning, I felt ready ready to do so.  And now I present my own

--To begin at the end of the 23-page sample, I felt hooked enough to buy the book, on which I'll report next week. Today let's consider the purpose of samples and why this one succeeds.
--Though the sample concludes with a hell of a bang, Claude Bouchard starts on a quietly ominous note: a lone motorbike rider in Pakistan putters along a dirt road toward a dilapidated farmhouse, in truth little more than a shack. The tone is gravely measured: 'He was well aware that he might be heading into a trap and, if he was, he had nobody else to blame but himself. After all, he had set the wheels in motion which had eventually led to this impending meeting...which might...put him in peril and even result in his demise.' Within three more pages, he's led by armed guards to the man he's come to meet: Abdel Omar Al-Tashid, the self-appointed leader of the State of Islam.
--By steady and subtle degrees, we're brought closer and closer to the two men's objectives. Then the narrative cuts deftly to characters preparing for an air show in Canada. Then to a terrorist who's come to implement the plan. I emphasize the smoothness of the writing because a writer less skilled or confident than Bouchard would have felt the need to zip along and hurry to the Good Part. For Bouchard every page is a polished part of the book's procession.
--The Big Bang at the end of the sample is as powerfully 'shot' as a big budget film. The writing technique brings out the big guns of style. And yet I was moved to buy this book before the big bang. I dug the smoothness of the writing. The fine touches of characterization. The assured sense of pacing. Sold.
--And what of Series Interruptus, my arriving here so far behind? There's no sign, by the sample's end, of the former vigilante, Chris Barry, or his cop-friend Dave McCall. Though the story's easy to follow, I'm left with a pleasant sense of mystery. A Vigilant novel without Chris Barry and/or Dave McCall?
--The cover, by the way, does a mighty fine job in portraying the explosive storyline.
--And talk about ending on a cliffhanger: I don't know if Bouchard planned the sample cut-off point, but few readers of the sample are not going to need to read on.

Till next week!

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