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The Killing of Bobbi Lomax by Cal Moriarty

Three bombs exploded within 24 hours, even before this book started, and a fourth on page 158. Who on earth wanted at least four apparently unconnected people killed in Canyon County in 1983?

165 Killing of BLThis is the first of Cal Moriarty’s ‘wonderland’ series. She is due for exposure in the Faber Crime series. She is a graduate of Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course. As were SJ Watson, Before I go to Sleep and Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Some of the plot without spoilers

I found the plot somewhat Byzantine and hard to get into, but after a few chapters I got the hang of the main issues and the structure. We are in 1983, in the US, in a remote city dominated by a mysterious cultish organisation called The Faith. Like many cults they have enemies (including a breakaway group called the Real Faith) and a history to give the ruling fathers authority, the very creepy Order of the Twelve Disciples. As with many faith-based movements, their claims to power are founded in the documents that have survived from their past. It is upon this that the plot turns.

And being 1983 there are no mobile phones (only pagers) and no helpful internet. So our detectives have a great deal of legwork to do. We are helped to understand their quest by following their investigations in the 5 days after the third explosion. But also by an interwoven plot thread that follows one of the bomb victims from the summer of the previous year.

Some of the characters are easily recognizable as inhabitants of planet US police fiction.

  • The hard-bitten detective, Marty Sinclair (described as a veteran detective), who has lost people close to him,
  • His Latino side kick, Al Alvarez. There is a deep bond between them as a result of being long-term cop partners,
  • The attractive red-haired divorcee, Marion Rose, who quickly takes a shine to Marty,
  • Ziggy, who lives in a house built of books (brilliant detail),
  • The Captain in thrall to The Faith,
  • Rod and Ron Rook who deal in coins and antiquarian books,
  • The crook who married the much younger woman, scorning his wife of two decades …

But there are some interesting and original plot details.

  • Ziggy’s house,
  • The use of the theme of Alice in Wonderland …
  • … and of Edgar Allen Poe,
  • The details of the forger’s trade,
  • The mysterious Order of the Twelve Disciples who run The Faith,
  • And Mesmerism.

Actually this last element stretched my credulity too far. The story did not require Mesmerism, it could have stood up without it.

Loose ends

Having managed to keep the story, including the plot against the Faith, clear in my mind I was sorry that I did not find out what happened to the good guys: the two detectives and the redhead. In the postscript Abraham City, several years later there is no mention of them. They are no doubt being saved for the sequel, after all, as a result of the events in the novel The Faith is …

Come on Faber! The author’s name should figure prominently on the cover. On my uncorrected proof copy it can only be found among the blurb.

Good luck to Cal Moriarty. The Killing of Bobbi Lomax demonstrates that she has a good line in inventive crimes to be solved by an educated and troubled detective. The internet reveals that she has worked as a private eye and that a second ‘wonderland’ novel will appear.

 

Cal Moriarty, The Killing of Bobbi Lomax. To be published in May 2015 by Faber & Faber 335pp. My pre-publication copy was provided by the publisher.

 

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On-line writing course #3 Finished?

I signed up for a six-week on-line writing course to learn how to edit the first draft of my novel. Longstanding readers of this blog will be aware that my draft has been in a drawer for a long time. I have been busy in the meantime but I was aware I didn’t know how to proceed following the achievement of the first draft.

145 writing keyboardThe course was called Self-Editing Your Novel run by The Writers’ Workshop. It required a payment, joining a website community and a commitment for six weeks. I tried and largely succeeded in giving an hour a day, six days a week for the six weeks. During that time I composed my own questions on each of the six themes, watched the weekly introductory videos, read the tutor notes, composed and posted my homework, read other people’s homework, commented on them, read comments on mine, and paying particular attention to the tutors’ comments on my homework.

The tutors were Emma Darwin and Debi Alper. They demonstrated sensitivity, encouragement, critical commentary, suggestions, occasional ticking off, generosity, as well as deep knowledge and understanding of the processes of novel writing and editing. I am full of admiration for their skills in teaching these.

My aims have been achieved

These were my aims for the course (as reported on a previous post):

  • √ To acquire the skills I need to move my novel on to the next stage.
  • √ To practise these self-editing skills.
  • √ To begin to identify the tasks and approaches I need to attend to to move my novel on.
  • √ To identify specific tasks I need to undertake related to these aspects: plot, character, voice, point of view and prose.
  • √ To connect with other writers through the Cloud who are involved in the same processes.
  • √ To blog about the experiences at least once more.

153 tick153 tick153 tick

Learning

I have learned a lot, not all of it comfortable, about myself as a writer-learner (see my second post on progress). The on-line context became irrelevant once I found my way around.

I have learned a great deal about the process of editing, in each of the 5 categories:

  1. plot,
  2. character,
  3. voice, point of view,
  4. psychic distance and
  5. prose

I have ways of thinking about each of these now, and some activities that will help me see if large-scale revisions are required. I have a notebook full of things to attend to. We were advised not to try to revise our WIP during the course, so these had to be noted down for later. And here we are at ‘later’.

I learned about the power of the group, how encouragement, comments, reactions, questions from others can nudge, push and force writer-learners to see their WIP in new ways.

And I learned about the stimulating, inventive and creative ideas of my fellow novelists.

And while I’ve been learning…

… I have been getting on with blogging, meeting my fellow authors on our non-fiction book for a three day write-in, reading 9 novels, publishing some short fiction (see previous post on this), getting ready for two events to promote Retiring with Attitude, and attending a workshop where I learned how to make a red felt hat. This one!

153 Red hat

What next?

I have a plan. Better than any of Baldrick’s plans.

It includes completing the revision of my novel by the end of August when I am due to go on a trip abroad. I will revise it to the level where I feel a professional critique would be the best next step. So not finished then.

Many thanks

To Emma Darwin, Debi Alper, The Writers’ Workshop website and my fellow participants.

 

Previous posts about this course.

  1. An On-line Writing Course #1 Purposes
  2. On-line Writing Course #2 in-progress

 

What has been your best learning from writing courses? Can you say what helped make it a good learning experience? Would you recommend the course to others?

 

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