Saturday, December 19, 2015

'Retribution' to be finished soon. Promise.

Okay . . . I know;  I've been writing the first Smitty novel, (the full length 'No shit, Maynard!') novel now for about a year.  Off and on.  Stops and Starts.  A page here. . . a paragraph there.
But I'm gonna finish it sometime before the end of Summer.  No . . . really, dammit!  No kidding!  Sometime before Summer!

The biggest problem is how to write an action novel that's over 200 pages in length.  Yeah, we ALL know and love Jason Bourne and others of his ilk . . . and they're in stories 700 pages and longer.  But Good Golly, Gabby.  Writing a character like Smitty for 700 pages or more?!  You gotta be kidding me.

Still . . . I'm pushing for 300 pages.  Lots of action; a genuine plot . . . believable characters.  The works.  And Smitty at his nastiest.  So I thought I'd give you chapter one (again.  I think I've done this some time back), just to give you a taste of what's coming.  Actually, blowing my own horn here, I think it's one of the best openings for a novel . . . EVER!  But that's just me puffing out hot wind.  Take it for what its worth.  So here goes.  Enjoy.

            Twisted to the breaking point.  Wound so tight he could barely keep his hands under control.  As he sat in the booth of the small diner and directly across his partner he tried to act calm.  Tried to look normal.  Impossible.  Even when he lit his cigarette it was obvious.  The hand holding the cigarette lighter danced the flame around at the tip of the cigarette like he was beating a drum.  But flipping the old Zippo closed with a loud snap he slid the shaking hand into a pocket and sat back in the booth.  Eyes filled with worry he turned and stared into the gloom of a foggy night.
            Knowing he was doing something wrong.  Knowing that, if caught, it would be the end of his career.  The end of everything.  Ten years.  Ten years as a cop.  Flushed down the tubes and forgotten.  If he was caught.  If. . .
            “Artie, you all right?  You feeling sick?”
He blinked a couple of times, his partner’s voice bringing him out of his dull reverie of the night’s fog and forcing him to turn and look at the red nosed cop sitting in the booth opposite him.
            His partner for the last five years. . . an Irishman by the name of Joe Gallagher, sitting across from him lowered his cup of coffee and looked at him with eyes of concern.  All night long on their shift he had barely spoken three words.  And then the call came in to go out and check on the report of a body lying in the street down in front of Pier 86.  And sure enough it was another victim.  Another butchered woman.  Number five for the maniac the papers had dubbed ‘The New Jack Ripper.’
            “I’m . . . fine, Joe.  Fine.  It’s just that, well . . . it’s the fifth prostitute killed.  The third one on our beat.  Cut to pieces like she was a piece of fine beef fresh from the slaughter house.  Jesus, what a mess.  And what a crowd we had to hold back.  I mean, people everywhere.  Reports and cameramen.  Everywhere!  Down to get a glimpse of the body.  Sick.  Just sick if you ask me.”
            His partner frowned, set the coffee cup on the table, and nodded.  Yeah.  It had been a bloody mess.  Always is when someone is eviscerated.   Just thinking about the gory mess the two of them had stumbled on made him shiver involuntarily. 
            “Listen, the shift’s over.  We can write our reports tomorrow.  Let me drop you off at your house.  Get some rest.  Drink a beer or two.  Try to forget about it.”
            “You go on home, Joe.  I’m supposed to go over to a friend’s house and drink a couple of beers with him.  I’ll just call a cab and wait for it here.”
            Gallagher’s brown eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he sat in the booth and looked at his partner.  Artie Jones was a good cop.  A very good cop.  Slightly bald, getting a little paunchy around the middle, always a smile on the man’s face.  Yeah, a good cop.  But one who thought too much.  Cared too much.  Maybe . . . maybe tried too hard in trying to make the world a better place.  Not that there was anything wrong in that.  The trying. The caring.  But sometimes it got to you.  Sometimes the meanness of mankind becomes overwhelming. 
            Sometimes, to be brutally honest, it was best to not care so much and just do the job needed to be done.  Better that than driving yourself into an early grave trying to save the souls of those who didn’t want to be saved.
            “All right.  But get some rest, Artie.  Jesus, but you look terrible.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”
            Artie nodded, waved a hand, and smiled as his partner slid out of the booth and walked to the diner’s entrance.  He turned and watched Joe unlock the door to the black and white patrol car and slide in.  It was almost one in the morning.  Dark.  The street lights glowing a dull orange yellow, filling the wind swept street with an eerie feeling almost palpable.
            What if the sergeant found out?  The Louie?  What if someone sees him talking to him?    Hell!  Was he even going to meet him tonight?  I mean . . . come on!  He was a cop.  He was supposed to arrest this guy if he ever crossed paths.  And hell, his off hand inquiries–hesitant and awkward–he tried on to a few street bums he knew asking about his guy called Smitty might have fallen on deaf ears.  No one knew who the hell this Smitty was.  He was supposed to be the mob’s top hit man.  He was supposed to be invisible.  He wasn’t even really known by those who employed him, fer chrissakes!  No two mobsters brought in for questioning ever describe Smitty in the same fashion.  He was tall.  He was short.  He had shaggy brown hair.  He was a blond with a flat top crew cut.  He was heavy built.  He was a slim as a toothpick. 
            Crazy.  Just crazy.
            No one knew what this guy looked like.  All anyone could say for sure was the guy was an absolute merciless killing machine.  He somehow could slip in, silence his victim, and slip out and no one would know until hours later.  And he had connections.  Knew everyone who was anyone to be known on the streets.  That was the deciding factor.  That was the single point for him to get this wild idea.  Ask Smitty for help.  The police department, the entire city, was baffled.  Scared.  Frozen in indecision.  This madman left no traces.  He left no evidence behind.  He left no DNA material behind. It was like . . . like he was a ghost who prayed upon those who practiced the oldest profession in the world.  No one knew why.
            So maybe it would take a ghost to find a ghost.  A killer to stop a killer.
            A shaking hand ran across his lips as he looked down at his coffee cup.  With the cigarette between his fingers he reached for the cup just as he heard the noise of an approaching car through the plate glass window beside him.  Lifting the cup Artie turned to look outside.
            And froze in mid motion.  Eyes almost popping out of his head with a mixture of surprise and horror.
            A cab–an old Ford Crown Victory–battered and abused, sitting parallel to the curb in front of the diner, it’s right rear door open.  Waiting.  Waiting for someone to get in.  The clatter of his cup slipping out of his fingers and bouncing on the table top made everyone in the diner turn and look at him.  Blinking a couple of times, color draining from his face, he stared at the taxi for a heartbeat or two and then turned to look at the eight or ten people sitting in the dinner.
            They were staring at him.  Faces puzzled. Or bemused.
            “Hey, buddy!” the guy behind the diner’s long counter said, holding a phone up to one ear and staring at him irritably.  “It’s the cabby outside.  He’s says the meter’s running.  So how about it?  You want him to take you someplace or not?”
            Artie Jones stared at the diner’s chief cook for a moment in shock and turned his head back to look out the window and at the waiting taxi.  He hadn’t called for a taxi.  The story he told his partner about going over to see a friend tonight in a taxi was just that.  A story.  So how . . . how . . . . how . . . ?
            “Hey, Mac!  Some time tonight, okay?  I got orders to complete.”
            Artie felt himself nodding.  And then moving his hands and his body to slide out of the booth.  He felt himself walking down the length of the diner and out through the entrance into to the hot night.  Like an out of body experience he saw himself walking down the sidewalk toward the open door of the cab and folding himself up and sliding into the back seat.  He saw himself close the cab’s rear door–saw the cab accelerated away from the curb rapidly.
            Saw it all–experienced it all.  Yet couldn’t believe it.  Didn’t want to believe it.  It was so . . . so surreal.  So bizarre.
            The car accelerated hard down the street and then made a sudden right hand turn.  A block later it turned again sharply–and turned again straight into an alley.  The headlights went off as the car bounced and rolled down through the alley rapidly and came out on the opposite street.  The lights came back on and the car slowed down.
            In front of him all he saw as the back of the head and the upper shoulders of a man wearing a cabbie uniform.  Glancing down at the back rest directly in front of him he looked for the small plastic pocket which was supposed to show the cabbie’s license and photo.  There was no license.  No photo.  But there were eyes.  Cold black orbs staring at him–reflecting off the rear view mirror whenever a sliver of street light flashed past.
            Cold eyes.  Hard eyes.  The eyes of a killer.
            “I hear you’ve been looking for me.”
            A surreal, almost rasping harsh whisper. Coming out of the darkness of the front seat.  Unnerving.  Making Artie involuntarily wince.
            “That’s what some people call me, Artie.  But I answer to a number of different names.”

            He felt a cold chill run down his spine.  He tried to swallow.  Tried a couple of times.  But he was so scared there was nothing to swallow.  He lifted a hand up to his face.  Almost.  But he stopped suddenly when the whisper exploded in the darkness.  Like a scalpel flashing out of the darkness. 
            “Make sure you keep you hands away from your gun, friend.  Away from any pockets.  Understand?”
            Artie hesitated, looked at his hands, and then back up at the rear view mirror and nodded.
            “Good.  Now tell me. What does an honest cop like you want to talk to a man like me?”
            How was he going to do this?  How was he going to ask for help?  He was a cop, fer chrissakes!  Cops go after the bad guys.  Cops solves the murder cases.  Cops are the ones who are supposed to protect the public from madmen like . . . like this new Jack the Ripper.  Or from the likes like Smitty.
            “Well, you see . . . we’ve . . . we’ve got a problem.  There’s man we’re after.  Crazy, insane.  A madman, actually.  He’s going around killing women.  Prostitutes.  And we’ve got nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  He’s been killing for the last four months.  And we know about as much now about this guy as we did when we found the first body.”
            The cab flew down empty streets.  Never staying on one street for more than two blocks.  Swift, hard turns right and left.  Mostly right hand turns.  A few left.  But in general Artie got the feeling they were traveling in one twisted, jagged, clockwise circle.  Somehow he knew that when this conversation was over he would be back at the diner.
            “So what is it you want me to do.”
            It wasn’t a question.  It wasn’t a statement.  It was decision time.  For Artie.  Say what had to be said, Artie.  Say it firmly and without hesitation.  And let the Angel of Death–as some people whispered this man actually was–decide if he would help or not.
            “We’ve got to take this guy off the streets.  We’ve got to stop him.  Stop him before he kills again.  So . . . so I’m asking you to help us.”
            Slivers of light exploding in the interior of the cab momentarily as they slid underneath a street light.  Explosions of light.  Followed enveloping, inky darkness.  Surreal.  Down the empty streets the cab flew.  The street walled in on both sides by long rows of old apartment buildings and brand new apartment complexes.  Sitting in the back seat of the cab Artie waited.  Waited for some kind of response to come out of the front seat.  Waited.  And waited.  Each passing second working like a carpenter’s file sliding across  raw nerves.
            When the dark figure in front answered the man’s harsh whisper almost sent Artie screaming out of his seat.  But somehow–somehow–he controlled his urges and tried to react calmly.
            “Why would I want to help you, Artie.  You or the police.”
            He blinked a couple of times.  He opened his mouth to answer.  But nothing came out.  He realized he had no idea why this man would help him.  Why would a killer hunt a killer?  The only thing he could do was shrug his shoulders and shake his head in despair.
            “I can’t answer that,” he admitted and smiling weakly. “I don’t even know why I came down here.  Desperation I guess.  If my desk sergeant or the task force lieutenant found out I was in this cab with you I’d been suspended indefinitely.  Maybe even arrested.  Certainly fired.   But something tells me we’re not going to find this guy.  Not by our normal methods.  It’s like this guy isn’t human.  He makes no mistakes.  He disappears into the night.  Leaves nothing behind.  So I thought . . . I thought . . . you might be our best hope.  Our only hope to nab this guy.”
            Silence.  Again.
            The car rocking and swaying as it moved.  The flashing explosions of light.  The shadows of parked cars and SUVs whipping past them.  The rows upon rows of town homes and apartment buildings.  All of that painted in layers upon Artie’s hyper active conscience as the figure in front remained silent and drove.
            “How do you know I am not this madman?  You know what I do for a living.  That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?  So tell me, why not consider me as a prime suspect?”
            He shook his head no.  Silently. Vigorously.  The one thing Artie was sure of was this; the guy known as Smitty wasn’t a homicidal maniac.  He didn’t kill for some sickly thrill–some perverted pleasure.  Smitty was a professional.  A master at blending in and out of a crowd.  Of taking out his assignment with a cold  efficiency a lot of his fellow police officers grudgingly admired.  And so far . . . so far as he knew . . . this dark eyed man had never killed an innocent victim.  Each of his kills had been someone from out of the crime world.  Someone who deservedly needed to die.
            “I know it’s not you.  I know this.  These murders don’t fit your MO.  They don’t make sense.  Your hits always make sense.  You hit someone for money–but your targets are slime balls who need to be put down.  Uh . . no offense, by the way.  About the slime ball thing.”
            A flicker of a smile flashed across the dark eyed man’s thin lips.  But the eyes never blinked.  They kept moving. Watching.  Calculating.
            “What do I do with this man if I find him.  Do I kill him?  Do I hand him over to you?”
            “I dunno, Smitty.  I dunno,” he answered.
            Truthfully he didn’t know.
            If suddenly a street cop came walking into the precinct house with this guy cuffed what would he say?  How could he explain to everyone this miraculous nab when the entire detective division was completely stumped.   How could he explain this to his partner?  Joe would have a thousand questions to ask.  Questions he couldn’t possible answer.  Not in a hundred years.  Not in a thousand years.
            “So you’re asking me to find this guy and take care of him.  You don’t necessarily want me to kill him.  But you can’t bring him in.  And I can’t reveal myself to your bosses.  Interesting.  What we have here, Artie, is a conundrum.  A social intersection of impossibilities.  A most curious dilemma.”
            It was as if he was a giant balloon filled with helium and a kid came along with a big needle and stuck it in him.  All the energy, all the worry, the fears, the emotions, dissipated out of him and into the night like escaping helium out of the balloon.  Dropping his head in defeat he stared at his hands silently.  Blinking back tears of frustration.
            “This is what you’re going to do.”
            The voice.  Not so harsh.  Still a whisper.  But softer.  Almost gentle.
            Looking up Artie’s eyes flashed to the rear view mirror and saw the black eyes of the killer staring at him.  A flicker of hope burst into his gut.   And he waited.  Waited to hear what Smitty had in mind.
            “Tomorrow night at exactly a quarter to midnight you’ll leave everything the police have in a folder in the back seat of this cab.  The cab will be parked on the corner of Fourth and Elmore.  In front of a liquor store called Bud’s Light.  You know where it’s at.”
            Artie nodded.  He knew the place well.  Been there several times to buy a bottle or two of good wine on the way home from work.
            “Everything, Artie.  Forensics reports.  Photos.  Everything.  Even the doodles the detectives scribble on the note pads.  Can you do this for me?”
            Yes.  Absolutely.
            “Do it by yourself, Artie.  Don’t involve your partner in this.  Don’t tell anyone else about our little meeting.  Don’t make me start thinking this might be some kind of trap.  Just a friendly warning.  If I think you’re trying to screw me, Artie, I’ll come for you.  And I’ll find you.  Understand?”
            Gulp.  Yes, he understood.  There would be no one else he’d talk to.  There would be no traps.  Smitty had nothing to worry about in that department.
            Silence.  A long stretch of terror filled silence.
            And then the screeching of brakes and the car rapidly decelerating to a stop so suddenly he was almost thrown into the front seat.  When his momentum threw him back into his seat he looked up and out of his door side window.  And blinked a couple of times in amazement.  His house.  The small ranch house sat back deep from the street, a carpet of thick green grass between him and the house.  The lights to the house were off.  Except for the front porch light.  The front porch light was always left on.  His wife always left that on for him to see his way to the front door.     
            He threw the back door open and started to get out.  But the whisper froze him in his seat.
            “Remember what I said, Artie.  About not making me worried.  I know where you live.  I know where your wife works.  I know where you hide the spare key to the house.  I know about the gun you keep under the mattress on your side of the bed.  I know, Artie.  I know everything about you.”
            He barely had time to slam the back door closed before the cab took off down the street.  Bright red tail lights lit up the night momentarily before disappearing around a street corner, leaving him standing almost in the middle of the street.  He was shivering like a kid straight out of a cold shower.  Shivering uncontrollable.
            How the hell did he know about the gun underneath the mattress?  About the spare key?  How . . . . . ?
            He was scared.  More scared than he had ever been in his life.  Eyes staring into the void of the empty street in front of him he kept asking himself the same thing.  Over and over.  The same thing.
            What the hell have I done?  What the hell have I done?  What the hell have I done?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Smitty Movie

Okay, I'll confess.  Several people have told me that 'Smitty,' my would be--ever lovable, dark eyed assassin who has a streak of Puritan honesty to him--would make wonderful fodder for an action adventure movie.

I agree.  But the problem is . . . how do you write a fracken movie?

Sure, I bought some books, looked at some 'how-to' videos.  I've got a germ of an idea on how it should be done.  Apparently the basic component is to remember that you are writing for a VISUAL medium . . . so you're basically giving directions at the cameraman on what they should be seeing in the camera lenses.  Yet. . . not writing n so much detail the movie director isn't allowed to use HIS imagination to fill out each scene with his own imagination.

And then there's the problem of the flow of the movie; meaning the flow from one scene to another has to make sense, and shouldn't have inexplicable 'breaks' between scenes which don't make sense.  

And then there's this thing about writing a 'spec' script versus a 'shooting' script.

So . . . how the hell do you write a movie script?

Apparently the only way to learn is to begin.  Write the damn thing, the proverbial first draft, and see where it takes you.  Okay . . . okay . . . okay.  I'm doing that.  Writing the damn thing.  I thought I might share with you the introductory sequence. . . the one where the main character (Smitty) and the main conundrum are introduced.

Tell me what you think.

FADE IN: Late afternoon with light rain.

EXT. SHOT--A busy city street filled with traffic shrouded in a fog-like downpour.
CUT TO: Black CTS Cadillac moving over rain filled streets. The car is weaving expertly in and out of slow moving traffic.

CUT TO: A second view, the Caddy's tail lights, lighting up the early evening light as it shows a right turn signal.

INT. SHOT: Car. Wind shield wipers sweeping back forth a windshield being pelted by a study rain.  Heavy city   traffic.  The sound of the wipers sweeping back and forth across the windshield is noticeable.

CUT TO: Hands, wearing black leather gloves, gripping the     steering the leather steering wheel. One hand moves     from the wheel and punches the ON button on the car's radio. Softly over the radio we hear the music of Depeche Mode's A Pain That I'm Used To.

Cut To: Interior of the car.  Just a slice of the driver's    dark eyes moving back and forth from side to side as he drives.  But his eyes keeps returning to the boxy   from of a yellow cab three or four car lengths in      front of his Caddy.

EXT. SHOT: Same rain filled heavy traffic. Black Caddy
     keeps following the yellow taxi four car lengths
     behind it through heavy traffic. In the back seat of
     the taxi we see the little girl (a 10 or 11 year
     old girl) turning her head back and forth to stare
     at the city's tall buildings.  She looks excited.
     Occasionally she points to something and leans toward
     her father to say something.

     Eventually the cabby's tail lights flash brightly
     in the rain as it stops in front of a line of
     parked cars sitting in front of a tall apartment

     CUT TO: The dark eyes of the driver turns to his left     and sees a man holding an umbrella in one hand and the     hand of a small girl in the other.  The man is trying     to hold the umbrella over the small girl as they hurry through the rain down the deserted sidewalk to the      entrance apartment building.

     INT. SHOT: The dark eyed man sitting behind the
     steering wheel of the Caddy.  As he watches the cabby
     come to a halt and the father and daughter get out
     of the cab, dark eyes wrinkle up in a frown.


FADE IN: Mid Day. Filled with sunshine. Somewhere    downtown.

INT. SHOT--An upscale bar:

CUT TO: A booth sitting in front of a large plate glass   window.  Outside the pub the city sidewalk is filled   with rapidly moving pedestrians.  City traffic on the     streets is moving stop and go action.  Sitting at the table is a dressed in all black.  He looks nervous.       Agitated.  In front sitting on the booth's table are three empty glasses.  A fourth is sitting by his hands.  Hands that are fidgeting nervously.

CUT TO: Same bar. Different angel. A man is sitting       alone
        in a booth. In front of him is a large piece of
      pie and cup of coffee. He's dressed casual sport
      coat, solid color shirt with no tie.  We see his
      hands, arms, upper torso, and the lower portion of       his jaw but nothing more.  His booth is beside a       large plate glass window that looks out onto the same       busy street. He casually eats his pie slowly,
      occasionally turning his head to glance out at
      the passing pedestrians.

      As the fork with the last piece of pie rises up
      to his face, the arm's motion stops at the mid-
      way point when the form of a man in dark
      clothing slips past the window.  We SEE the
      lower portion of the man's head half turn to
      glance at the passing stranger.

      When the dark from of the passer-by disappears
      the unseen man finishes his last piece of pie.
      reaches in his sport coat and pulls out a wallet.
      He throws a twenty dollar bill onto the table
      beside his coffee cup and slips out of his booth.

CUT TO:  The bar's entrance door opening and a compact,
     trim man dressed in a tailored suit enters the premises.  There is a suggestion of a predator, of      coiled and ready menace ready to explode, in the man's physical form.  He sees the agitated man sitting in a      booth and makes his way to him.

     Just as he turns to head toward the booth a figure,
     face UNSEEN, tries to step past the man standing
     in front of the entrance. The two accidentally
     collide. There's an awkward dance as each man tries
     not to the touch the other. We HEAR an "Excuse me,"
     coming from the man trying to depart just before
     the man slips out of the entrance and disappears
     into the pedestrian traffic.

     The man who just entered, still standing in front
     of the entrance, pauses for a moment and turns
     his head back to look at the figure disappearing
     behind him before looking back at the agitated
     figure sitting in the booth.

(noticing dark man approaching
grinning sheepishly. Still very agitated.)
     Smitty.  You got my note.    Good . . .good.
     I'm glad you came.  Really.
     I mean . . . really glad you came.

(Sliding into the booth, eyes on Danny.)

     It sounded urgent.  What's on your mind,

The pub's noise is not loud but is noticeable.  People are moving about.  Voices, some angry. . . some laughing, punctuate above the usual drone occasionally. Danny visibly
jumps nervously whenever anyone near his booth stands up and walks away.  Or when someone suddenly shouts unexpectedly.

(hands rolling over and over nervously and
constantly jerking his head to look at
complete strangers suspiciously.)

     Smitty, I got no other way to do this.  No one
     I know who'll help me.  All I got is you . . .
     and I don't know if you'll help or not.  But I
     gotta do something.  If I don't they're gonna
     kill'em. Both of'em. As sure as I sitting
     here talking to you, if I don't do something to
     stop it, both of'em are going to be dead by
     tonight.  So please...please . . .help me.

(Calm, quiet; centered.  But observing
Danny closely.)

     Who is going to die?

(leaning over the table to hiss
out the reply)

     My brother, Smitty.  My brother and
     my niece!  God knows I've been a
     terrible brother. I'm the one that's
     the criminal in the family.  But Robert's
     not!  He and my niece are just ordinary
     people.  They've done nothing wrong. 
     But . . . but the word is out.  There's
     a contract out on their lives.  It's
     supposed to happen sometime tonight. 
     Smitty . . . Smitty!  I gotta do something.
     I can't sit back and let the only two
     people who care about me get snuffed
     out'cause of something I must'uv done to                  someone. Please . . . please help me
     Smitty.  Please!

Smitty's face is unreadable.  He turns his head to glance out the plate glass window.  Turns his head again and watches someone get up off a bar stool and head for the pub's exit.  He then looks at Danny sitting across from him and nods his head slightly.


     Okay, Danny.  I'll see what I can do.
     But before I do anything, you've got
     to tell me everything.  How did you hear
     about this?  What does your brother do
     for a living?  Where does he live? 
     Everything, Danny.  Starting right now.

Danny nods eagerly, flashing a relieved grin across his lips. He glances at the crowd standing at the bar for a second and then turns back to Smitty.  He leans across the
booth's table and begins whispering eagerly.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Imagery and Intimacy

Turner Hahn
Let me see if I can explain clearly these two concepts.  Imagery and Intimacy.  Been thinking about these two words for about a week now.  The train of thoughts drift down this semi-lit pathway concerning the writing process.  How . . . and when . . . does the writer grab the reader's attention and takes command of it?

Almost every writer, and almost every expert you hear speaking at a writer's convention, makes the declarative statement that the writer must capture the reader's interest in the first few pages in the opening chapter.  Many of these same writers will admit it's not the first few pages . . . but the first four or five paragraphs of the first page which determines whether a reader decides to read on, or walk away and go find a McDonald's for a coffee and some fries.

Okay.  I agree with that.  But how do you spring the trap and capture a reader whose just casually flipping through the pages of a novel he's absent mindedly  looking at?

Imagery and intimacy.

The imagery idea is obvious.  Verbal portraits.  Building, through words, a mental image so clear and visual . . . yet  vague enough to allow each reader to fill out the details with their own images.  For me, writing any novel, I open with a vivid image.  Especially the Turner Hahn/Frank Morales police-procedurals.  The opening scene is a crime scene.  A murder has taken place.  Turner and Frank have been called in to begin the investigation.  Vivid imagery from the get-go.  I'm banking on the idea any potential reader is caught up immediately in the beginning of the investigation.

But here is where imagery needs intimacy. Not just any old word suffices in making that image of yours to come alive.  Instead of trying to explain it, let me over an example.

The blood pooled into the inexpensive carpet and dried into a dark stain.

The crimson smear of dried blood now looked like a hardened veneer

  pressed deeply into the cheap carpet.

Of the two sentences, which do you prefer in creating that verbal image?  Image-making is not only describing the scene;  it is using the right words to describe the scene.  

I leave you with this further example.  The opening sequence from the Turner Hahn/Frank Morales novel. A Taste of Old Revenge.  (Go sailing down the right column. You'll find it there).  Read it and see if it grips you viscerally with a number of different emotions.

            A stale breeze played through the dead man’s hair.
            An unwanted breeze. 

            A breeze filled with malaise. 
            The old man was slumped across the open cavity of an accounts ledger, his face squashed
Frank Morales
between the pages of a thick accounting book.  The body looked remarkably like a piece of trash carelessly tossed onto an old kitchen table.  Or maybe like a discarded, broken doll long forgotten by the one who had once loved it. As I bent down for a closer inspection I could see a clearly defined hole in the back of the old man's hairless cranium.  There was remarkably little blood.  What little blood had seeped out had created a tiny rivulet down the man’s neck and formed a dark puddle about the size of a man’s palm on the brown pages of the accounting book.  The blood was not fresh.
            Inspecting the wound I got the impression of precision.  A surgeon’s frugality of effort.  Or a craftsman’s sure touch in a grisly occupation.  Standing up and frowning, another impression occurred to me.
            Premeditation.  Coldly calculated and flawlessly executed.

            And who said a murder had to be messy?