Okay, after I got some feedback from Lynne Scanlon at The Publishing Contrarian on my original covering letter I had another go at my sales pitch for A Half Life of One. I haven’t had Lynne’s feedback on this effort yet but let me know if you think this an improvement or not. I suppose the key question you might want to ask is, does this make me want to read the book or not?
The Covering Letter:
5th October 2006
The Top of the Slush Pile
Book Proposal: A Half Life of One
Like the “hero” of my novel, A Half Life Of One, I am a middle-aged entrepreneur who has started and run companies both here and in the Middle-East, all related to the Oil Industry. Fortunately I have been considerably more successful than Nick Sterling in my endeavours.
The theme of my book describes what happens to an ordinary – and very decent - man in the oil industry when his business begins to fail and he is subjected to ever-increasing financial pressures with which he struggles to cope. The shocking solution this good man devises to save himself and his family from ruin is the tipping point that changes everything. Throughout the book there are historical echoes of ordinary people placed in similarly fraught situations, for example in Nazi Germany. Everyone who has read the book professes themselves horrified at the way the situation develops. It really is a very scary book indeed.
I have used my blog View from the Pundy House to gain feedback for my book. The well-known blogger, The Publishing Contrarian, read A Half Life of One online and described it as “Good. Very good. It reminds me of ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’”. A number of other readers have also been very complimentary, albeit stunned by the developments in the book. Over 90% of readers who start the book online go on to finish it – even though most people find that reading a novel on a computer screen is a peculiarly uncomfortable experience.
This story is set in contemporary Scotland, around Deeside, in an isolated landscape where a terrible event unfolds in a vacuum, and may or may not be discovered in time.
I should warn you that anyone who reads the book is likely to have their faith in human nature utterly undermined. It is an easy read but a dangerous one.
A Half Life of One
A middle-aged man with a wife and teenage son is threatened with ruin after his business collapses due to circumstances mostly beyond his control.
The man has given personal guarantees to the bank for large amounts of money. The bank is threatening to re-possess the house and sequestrate him and his wife. He faces a lifetime of penury – a harsh punishment for a minor business miscalculation. Creditors are circling. Every telephone call and every post brings threatening demands for money.
As a result of the intense pressure his marriage is under strain. His son is about to go to University but suddenly there is no money to support him and pay the fees. He feels he has failed his wife and son as a husband and father.
He tries desperately to get a job but several offers end in failure. He is at his wits end. A debt collector arrives at the house and makes an inventory of the furniture. Finally pushed into a corner he hatches a desperate plan.
He devises a scheme to kidnap a wealthy female entrepreneur who owns a country estate near to where he lives. With the ransom money he intends to save his wife and son from penury and the resulting humiliation and misery.
Although he is determined to use the minimum of force the plan goes badly wrong. A companion of the lady is killed - murdered. Together they watch in horror as the body floats downstream, waving forlornly as it rolls with the current. The lady herself is kidnapped and imprisoned in a remote, ruined cottage. The once-familiar Scottish landscape now assumes a nightmarish quality for both of them. In a moment of madness he subjects the woman to an horrific assault, an act which traumatises both of them. Events are now running wildly out of control.
A short time later the man is offered a way out of his predicament. He takes it. It is unclear at this stage what is the fate of the hostage but the reader is bound to suspect the worst. The man goes on to establish a new and successful career working for a quasi-government business development agency. He suffers no retribution for his crimes, nor is he apparently repentant. He believes, or at least hopes, that perhaps the circumstances justified his actions. He is now living in a deluded, amoral world of his own devising. He appears normal to those around him. Only the reader now knows the truth.
I enclose three chapters from the completed manuscript which is 75,000 words long.
The complete book can be viewed at leisure here: