Monday, January 10, 2011

Novel Pitch #4: GHOST CRAB

Author Name: R. King Kollman
Genre: Thriller
Word Count: 100,000

Latina lawyer Gianne Noble's specialty is high-profile murder, not missing persons. But she can't say no when the wife of the marine biologist who berths his boat in the slip next to hers begs for help. Gianne learns he disappeared the day the Deep Blue Rig blew, killed ten men, and spewed the second largest environmental catastrophe ever across the Gulf of Mexico. Yet he isn't listed among the dead. His wife and children get no insurance, no benefits, no answers.      

Through the biologist's computer records, Gianne discovers that his life's work was studying the effects of the largest oil spill in the Gulf, twenty years before. That first disaster was an accident, but the scientist believed it cascaded into the extinction of a species of crab critical to the Gulf ecosystem. When he tried to convince anyone who would listen that the way drilling platforms are run needed to change to prevent another inevitable spill, no one paid any attention, and he only made himself an unwelcome crank everywhere he went. So to prove the biologist died on the rig and get needed benefits to his family, Gianne first must untangle an identity creation, not an identity theft, a complex alter ego the biologist fabricated to gain access to the rig to complete his data. Then she has to figure out which role he was playing when he died--scientist, ecoterrorist, or murder victim--before she disappears into the middle of the deep blue Gulf herself. And it will be no accident.    

The Good: The plot is compelling and reminds me of Grisham--which is a good thing. The environmental disaster aspect also will get interest, given recent events.

Suggestions: I'm not sure that the "boat neighbor" link is compelling enough to make the pitch, and I don't think Gianne's ethnicity is relevant (I'd be turned off by "female lawyer" as a descriptor, too).   "No insurance" and "no benefits" seem redundant--perhaps change one of them to "no closure?" 

As for the second paragraph, there's a lot of extra information in there.  It's GREAT in a plot, but TMI for a pitch.  Boil down the first half to the meat: the biologist studied eco-disasters; he predicted something like the blow-up on the Deep Blue, and his advocacy for changes made him some powerful enemies. I wouldn't make an issue of the distinction between identity theft and identity creation in the pitch, but play up the fact that the biologist infiltrated the rig under an assumed identity. I like the "no accident" hook for the end, but I'd suggest slightly different wording to make give a sense of uncertainty, such as, "...and it might not be an accident." 

This isn't my genre so I'm not any kind of expert, but my impression of this was simply of a compelling plot.  I didn't get much of a sense of the characters or the narrative voice from this pitch.

BOTTOM LINE: Play the danger/cover-up/corruption/false identity/ecoterrorism aspects up. If you have strong character development and/or narrative voice that didn't come through here, try to bring a sense of them out in revisions.


Brenda said...

I think Kate's comments are on target. Regarding first paragraph...I wonder if you could simplify things by giving said marine biologist a name? He's a pretty major character, even if he is dead and I think it could allow you to play with the hook a bit more. I also would like to get more of a sense of voice and what kind of character Gianne is. For some reason I thought of...Gianne Noble is a high-priced lawyer with the heels to match. Missing persons is for the DA to deal with. Until the Deep Blue Rig blows, killing 10 men and spewing the second largest environmental catastrophe across the Gulf of Mexico.

Or something. The second paragraph seemed to be trying to say too much to me. I got lost in trying to follow the story. I also wonder (on a practical level) why the family is in such desperate need of benefits if they have a boat? Not that you want to get bogged down in those details, but perhaps a note of caution to be careful about how you paint the family b/c I'm sitting here saying, "Sell the damn boat". :)

Disgruntled Bear (Kate Kaynak) said...

Good feedback, Brenda, and I think naming the character in the pitch is a great idea.

Deniz Bevan said...

I feel for you, cos you seem to be having the same problem as I do with my pitch - too many characters to introduce and no pithy way to do it. I've already revised mine since offering it up here, unfortunately - I realised I wasn't focused enough on the romance in the pitch, for what's supposed to be a romance novel!
That said, I agree with Kate's suggestions for paragraph two - if the pitch is for a thriller, it seems it ought to have more of a *thriller* aspect than a recitation of the lawyer's steps toward solving the case.
Also, is there more you could add about Gianne herself, to give us a sense of her motivations, her personal life?

rkollman said...

Thanks, Bear, and Brenda and Deniz! Great feedback, as always.

Claire Merle said...

Is this the second in the series? In the first few excellent chapters I read of your fiction with Gianne setting out to defend Benny, she came across as a very complex and interesting character. It would be great to have a sense of that in this pitch. What draws her to it? Why does it become important to her?

Claire Merle said...

sorry, multi-tasking isn't working out too well for me, that wasn't clear at all! I meant what draws her to the rig story? Is there some personal motivation that makes this important to her?

rkollman said...

I'm late reporting in that my ABNA pitch made it through to the second round! I ended up submitting another work, feeling Ghost Crab isn't yet polished enough, but I incorporated into my pitch your suggestions because the same protagonist features in the book I did submit. Brenda, who knew describing Gianne in silk Armanis and stilettos would evoke a whole 'nother level of interest in her? It sure seems to have. Kate, thanks again for your help, and everyone else!

Disgruntled Bear (Kate Kaynak) said...

CONGRATULATIONS! I'm thrilled for you. I wish you fantastic success! Please keep us posted on further developments.

Narayan said...

This one is for R. King Kollman. I am Narayan Radhakrishnan, author of the work A FICTION OF LAW: A STUDY ON LAW AND LITERATURE. about 5- 7 years back while i was working on the first edition of this work i cam across your name with a "product description"- 'R. King Kollman, a Dallas attorney, publishes in the oxymoronic field of legal ethics, and has also written two novels featuring an eccentric criminal defense lawyer who investigates serial murders within the colorful Tejano culture of the Texas Gulf Coast and Hill Country"
However, the said product description subsequently disappeared. Are you the same King Kollman. Please do reply to advnarayan at yahoo dot com.
would like to include the details of your books in the subsequent edition of A FICTION OF LAW

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