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The Awful Truth About the Herbert Quarry Affair

The Awful Truth About the Herbert Quarry Affair

A 200 page comedy thriller, loosely a parody of Joel Dicker's 'The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair'. Marco Ocram decides to write a book about the first thing that comes into his head. His mentor- famous author Herbert Quarry- has been found kneeling in the blood of his dismembered underage mistress, Lola Kellog. Herbert will fry in the chair unless Marco can engineer the plot to prove he has been framed. Gruesome metaphors, implausible plot twists, offensive stereotypes, atrocious dialogue, rampant clichés, mindless coaching, and all the other hallmarks of Dicker's book are combined here with sly literary references and a huge dollop of humour. There are fifteen possible suspects, but who did it? Marco outwits his characters to prove they all did, and surfs a tsunami to clear Herbert's name and write the biggest selling book in publishing history.

1

Literary fiction


author-small

Marco Ocram (Australia)


CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Tell me, Herbert, are there similarities between credulity and, say, an elastic band?

Yes, Marco, there is a similarity. Credulity is like an elastic band. You can stretch it only so far, and then it breaks.

Are there any other parallels, Herbert?

What do you have in mind, Marco?

Well, you can ping an elastic band across the room into a waste basket if you practice for long enough. Can you ping credulity into a waste basket?

I honestly cannot say, Marco, but if anyone can do it I am sure it will be you.


I now had proof that millionaire industrialist Elijah Bow possessed a huge bronze of a naked Lola Kellog. Might he have framed Herbert Quarry for her gruesome murder? To save Herbert from frying in the chair, and to furnish the remaining chapters of my book, I had to find the answer. But how?

I decided to write a few flashbacks to pad another thousand words while I thought about the next bizarre and improbable plot-twist. The flashbacks could explain Herbert’s role as my coach, the role that had led me to the pinnacle of so many spheres of sporting greatness.

Flashback One

Marco is hunched on his stool in the blue corner, his silk gown emblazoned with the words ‘Marco the Magnificent’. The ring is ablaze with light and surrounded by chattering commentators from across the world. Herbert kneads Marco’s shoulders and shouts advice into his ear above the roar of the bloodthirsty crowd…
“Don’t forget what I told you, Marco. A boxing match is like writing a book, remember?”
“Yes, round one is like chapter one, round two is like chapter two, round three is like chapter three, round four is like…”
“That’s it. Give me your gown- it’s seconds away.”
Ding ding. The bell calls the two warriors to the fray. Marco leaps to his feet, tapping his gloves to his temples in his famous pre-fight gesture. Suddenly he spins around to his coach: “Herbert, remind me what the rule is for using a semi-colon.”
“Use it to join two sentences; now go and fight.”
“Join two sentences. Right.”
With his coach’s advice to the front of his mind, Marco bounds for the centre of the ring…

Flashback Two

Marco is squeezed in the cockpit of his Mercedes Formula One car, checking the fit of his Kevlar gloves. Around him on the grid, the world’s greatest driving talent is assembled to contest the Monaco Grand Prix, waiting to unleash thousands of horsepower in a screeching torrent of automotive excess along the elegant rues of Monte Carlo. Above the revving of the engines Herbert shouts his last words of advice into his young acolyte’s face.
“Don’t forget what I told you Marco. A Grand Prix race is like writing a book, remember?”
“Yes. Lap one is like chapter one, lap two is like chapter two, lap three is like…”
“That’s it, now start your engine- not too much choke- and close your visor.”
Herbert steps back just as the starting lights blaze green, and tyres and torque torture the Monaco tarmac, accompanied by a gargantuan crescendo of noise. Suddenly he hears the grind of gears, and Marco’s car screeches back in reverse, skidding to a stop right alongside.
“Herbert, remind me- what was your advice about the exclamation mark?”
“Don’t overuse it! Now get out of here! There’s a race to be won!!!”
“Don’t overuse it. Don’t overuse it. Don’t overuse it.” Repeating his mentor’s mantra, Marco mercilessly slams the lever into first, releases the handbrake with reckless determination, checks his rear-view mirror, and tears off in pursuit of his hapless competitors.

Flashback Three

At the iconic Aintree course on the outskirts of Liverpool, Marco circles the paddock with the other jockeys as he prepares himself mentally and spiritually for the ordeal of the world’s greatest steeplechase- the Grand National. All the signs bode well for victory. The going- soft to very-soft- ideally suits his experienced hunter ‘Best-seller’, a tireless veteran of a thousand races. In the morning’s trial jumps over the National’s monumental fences Best-seller had flown like a screaming jet fighter. Trotting alongside the horse, Herbert beckons for his attention. Marco leans down from the powerful roan shoulders of his superb mount…
“Don’t forget what I told you Marco. The Grand National is like a book, remember?”
“Yes. Fence one is like chapter one, fence two is like chapter two, fence three is like…”
“That’s it, now loosen your reins. Don’t forget to hold your reins like you would your pen. Too tightly and you will get writer’s cramp, too loosely and your writing will be illegible.”
Herbert stands at the rail and watches with anxious pride as his prodigy canters to the start with the rest of the majestic field. Behind him the excitement of the hundred thousand spectators builds as the starter raises his gun.
And they’re off.
In the distance the gleam of sunlight on fifty silks, overarched by a cloud of dust, shows where the mighty field is thundering away. Nearby, huge screens show the action in close-up. His distinctive gold and silver colours show that Marco has already established a commanding lead. Herbert clenches his heavily annotated copy of the Racing Post in an excited fist and yells encouragement. Come one Marco! Come on Best-seller! His words and sentiments are echoed ten thousand-fold as the huge Aintree crowd cheers-on Marco and Best-seller, the punter’s favourites.
Anxiously the bookies watch the unfolding race, mentally calculating the huge hit they will take if the favourite continues to dominate the field; but suddenly, as the bullets of horseflesh thunder past the stands for the first time, a gasp of astonishment rises from a hundred thousand throats as Marco Ocram stands back in the stirrups to heave his splendid mount to a skidding halt where Herbert is crushed against the rails.
Leaping from the saddle onto the soft Aintree turf Marco begins a hurried consultation with his mentor.
“Herbert, what was that you were saying about a book never ending?”
“I said a book never really ends Marco. It is like a race. A race never really ends Marco, because even after it has been run in the physical world it is re-run in the minds of the bookies, the tipsters and the punters. Now get back out there and win, Marco!”
Gathering his reins and his wits Marco leaps once more into the lightly weighted saddle of Best-seller and kicks his mount on to overtake the now-straggling field of tired horses. One by one, like chapters in a book, the mighty Aintree fences are jumped. Barring a slight stumble after the precipitous drop of Beecher’s Brook Best-seller runs like the wind. Horse after horse he overtakes, like chapters in a book, the scent of victory in his flaring nostrils. Marco whips him on, until at last all are behind him and the post alone is in front. The massive Aintree crowd roars a single inchoate chord of triumph and adulation as Best-seller tops the National chart, romping home a hundred pages, sorry, paces ahead of the trailing pack.

Phew!


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line and hook
  • Great books, nowadays, start with a powerful opening and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Could this be construed as a tongue-in-cheek protest against the system utilized by The Pen Factor? Most certainly! However, even if that were the case, the fact remains that while you achieve everything on a technical standpoint, the character/writer driven drama written here ultimately reads akin to a minute-long commercial. It's meant to wow, excite, and perhaps stimulate a few chuckles. The rapid-fire jokes utilized are undoubtedly funny, especially due to the fact that those reviewing on the Pen Factor are familiar with them, however its a niche audience. Seeing as this is under the category as a 'chapter,' I must state that you have the potential of having quite the book on your hands. The small segments could become individual chapters, of which you'll be free to add more of your witty style, and in the end you could effectively document a writer's journey through the making of their book! Perhaps have a different supporting character for each section, people's whose own lives and stories which could be used in lieu of aggrandized events, to better connect with the audience? I suggest pressing 'enter' twice between paragraphs, the better split sentences and paragraphs.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
Phew indeed!!! bugger, I over-used it. I came to this story late with thirteen chapters already done. I will say straight off, can't fault the pace and the clearly comic tone and yes, I did snigger once or twice. I like the story within the story device and the somewhat retrospective plotting to achieve outcomes or at least understanding within the primary story via the flashbacks...or at least I think that is what it is going on. I was a tad confused but I haven't been following the story. I think the writing is good and quite clever once you get used to the structure.

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
I loved this. Strange but very exciting. It almost gave the impression of being a very long joke, but a very entertaining one. Your use of prose was good. Your characters were well rounded. I felt quite sorry for Marco, who came across as a rather dim person who always did what he was told to do, how ever dangerous it might be. An exciting romp that carried you along with the story. Well done.