The ninth red pen podcast was released on 28th December 2011 and was part of a series of episodes dedicated to reading a short story or self-contained novel extract (with synopsis) and then talking about it afterwards. I am now running these on this blog. For writers / readers willing to give free feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.
I run a fortnightly critique group as well as critiquing other authors writing which I really enjoy so I thought I’d create podcast episodes doing this, and will now be running future ones on the blog, initially with the already-recorded episodes at 5pm daily (this is the last one) then every Sunday evening (UK times) from Sunday 16th December.
Please remember that it’s only one person’s (my) opinion and you, and the author concerned, are welcome to disagree with my interpretation – I will never be mean for the sake of it, but hope you find that I’m firm but fair. I type my comments for the recording as I read through the story as a reader would think as they read the story, although they would most likely be reading, not analysing, unless they’re writers too!
Regardless of what genre you write I hope that this helps you think about the way fiction is constructed and that you have enjoyed reading another author’s work, the copyright of which remains with them, then my suggestions for any improvement.
Today’s is a novel extract which was kindly emailed to me by Danny Kemp of London, England. The novel is called ‘The Desolate Garden’.
If you have any feedback on this or aspects of my website or blog, I’m always delighted to hear from you – my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you’re feeling brave enough to send me a short story or novel extract (with a brief synopsis please) – 3,000-words maximum – for these red pen blog sessions then feel free.
So without further ado, the synopsis and extract, then my feedback…
Only months before the murder of Lord Elliot Paterson, and his youngest son Edward, an address in Leningrad, is discovered hidden in the ledgers of the families private bank in Westminster, dating back to the1930’s. There is a spy in the family, but on whose side?
His eldest son, Harry, is recruited into the British Secret Service to uncover the traitor. The desolate garden is a twisting tale of deciet and intrigue with Harry, and an attractive girl from the Foreign Office, desperately trying to unravel the mystery, before anyone else mets the same fate.
I love the name Elliot (and often use it) so there’s brownie points before we’ve even got to the story. This synopsis tells us that it’s of the murder mystery genre with, I’m guessing, given the ‘attractive girl from the Foreign Office’, some romance. OK, now the novel extract.
I’ve never been one to reminisce, to rediscover memories locked away in parts of the mind only psychologists know about; but in those last few days that I had with my mother, I found myself swept away in her nostalgia. I had not thought of my father as being a handsome man – but there, in the photographs of their wedding, stood a person I could not recognise as him. As to her beauty, the wedding memorabilia only testified more strongly in confirmation of what I already knew. As to the man beside her…it was a stranger that I stared at. He looked taller than I remembered, with jet-black hair combed back from his forehead, sharp clean features in a strong commanding face, more mature than the 26 years of age that he was then. There was a dashing, debonair look about him, a nonchalant character whom I could believe had swept my mother off her feet, as she had told me. He was not the person I had always remembered him as.
“He was impetuous then, Harry, romantic and audacious – a lot like you are today, I suspect. He was dangerous around women. Are you the same?” I didn’t answer that question of hers, but understood entirely what she meant.
To me, he had always been an eccentric old man with no hidden charms or fascination. I searched those photographs and more, to find some of us together, but could find none. No snaps of us two kicking a ball or hitting one, riding ponies and whirling mallets in unfinished chukkas, leaning over the side of the boat and landing fish. In fact, none of us being father and son. Perhaps there were no secret memories, none there to find, even had I have looked closer. No shared happiness, no fun, no laughter, no hugs, no affection. Perhaps he had entered my life as he had left it; a disillusioned, self-obsessed man.