#10 – Back of Beyond

Here’s a pinata for you to whack.

That is all.

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Dear Doctor Query,

Back Of Beyond (98K words) is historical suspense that follows the CIA’s involvement in the overthrow of Argentine president Juan Peron.

We want to know title, genre, word length, and whether or not it is complete (it is, yes?) but the second part of your sentence is unnecessary, since you give us that information in the next paragraph.  By the way, historical suspense is not a genre.  Better would be:

Back of Beyond is a thriller, complete at 98,000 words.

(We get that it’s historical as soon as we read the name Peron.)

Agent Kurt-Gustaf von Arnheim goes to Argentina to persuade the CIA’s chosen candidate to oppose Peron. This will be von Arnheim’s last job. He’ll use the bonus money to buy land to replace his family’s vineyards lost behind the iron curtain.

In Buenos Aires he befriends fellow vintner Enrico Freiberg, Argentina’s chief spy catcher and a key player in the army’s plot to remove Peron. Von Arnheim is drawn into the military plot as well as the competing plots of the communists and the Catholic Church. He becomes everyone’s target: the church group dupes him into an attempt to assassinate Peron, the military wants him as their conduit to the CIA, a bomb-throwing courtesan is enamoured with him, and a fanatical Peronista simply wants him dead.

When the military coup fails, the CIA fires von Arnheim. He threatens to write a tell-all book. The CIA assigns his termination to Angela Abruzzi, their top contract assassin, not knowing von Arnheim is the man she loves.

As in the novels of Ken Follett, Len Deighton and Alan Furst, Back of Beyond follows documented events with multiple threads converging at the end.

My time in military intelligence, clandestine activities, and special operations gives me insight into the details of spy craft. I am an active member of the -XYZ- Writers Association and a winner in their 2009 fiction contest.

Thank you.

This is a good, basic query.  If an agent is interested in this type of story, he might request some pages.  After that, it’s all in the writing.

I don’t love the title — it sounds a bit comedic, and as though it takes place in a backwater, which Buenos Aires is most certainly not. What was that other title you had in mind?

Do not query until you have finished writing, rewriting, and polishing!

That is all.

Doctor Query


#8 – Sky Funeral

Dear Doctor Query:

Peter Grant had the good sense to retire from his stint as a Marine on permanent loan to the CIA while all his parts were still in working order. Fifteen years as the pointy end of Uncle Sam’s big stick earned Grant the right to a quiet life.

Then an old friend calls in a chit, asks a simple favor. Since Grant already has plans to visit Tibet, all he has to do is deliver a letter when he gets there. The recipient? A mole. A high-ranking officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army, commander of a top-secret military facility outside Lhasa.

Based on an intelligence officer’s assessment, Grant expects to find a self-important, avaricious traitor who’s lost his nerve. Instead, he meets Colonel Sun, a determined, principled man caught in the closing jaws of a State Security investigation. Sun requests exfiltration, a move that would threaten the existence of the Tibetan network.

Grant finds himself sucked into the vortex that swirls around clandestine operations gone bad. A State Security officer dogs the colonel’s steps, half a world away Chinese spies relentlessly dig for the truth, and the carefully woven shroud of subterfuge that protects the Tibetan underground begins to unravel. In the scramble to protect networks, operatives, and secrets, the interests of nations threaten to grind the Chinese agent under the wheel of necessity.

But, Grant doesn’t have to let it happen. He doesn’t work for the CIA anymore.

Deep in hostile territory, operating naked on the remote Tibetan plateau, Grant takes a risky gamble. He plots Colonel Sun’s escape, a hell-for-leather race to freedom.

The simple favor just got complicated.

I am seeking representation for SKY FUNERAL, a completed 90,000 word spy thriller, the first in a planned series. I have a master’s degree in aerospace engineering and a fourteen-year career in the defense industry. I’ve been a member of Pikes Peak Writers, Colorado Springs Fiction Writer’s Group, and Valencia Critique Group, and have attended numerous writing seminars, conferences, and classes.

This is very good.

You have given us a sense of urgency, and your voice has authority.  The query and the subject matter fit together, and your life experience makes a convincing argument that you could tell this story.  As a reader, I feel as though I would be in good hands with you.

The only thing I would do is tighten it up.  Take your seven paragraphs and try to turn them into three or four. Brevity is strength.

Then send it out!

That is all.

Doctor Query