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Adam Jenkins's picture

North of the River

By Adam Jenkins in Arrest Us

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.

Description

North of the river belongs to the family, but with the police keeping close tabs on them it is getting harder to exert their influence. When a young man is brutally murdered on their streets, an example must be made. Hab keeps himself strictly on the legal side of the line, and he doesn’t believe that anything can convince him to cross over.

Final draft added 30/6/14

Comments

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 3, 2014 - 9:37pm

That's a shame. That may be true of some of the bigger clubs in London, but not the rest. Any dealers we caught, we turfed. The odd one reacted badly.

Erik Carl Son's picture
Erik Carl Son from New England is reading Sunset and Sawdust by Joe Lansdale July 3, 2014 - 8:31am

I had a friend almost serve time for kidnapping and beating the crap out of the guy who molested his niece. The jury decided that since my friend never wore a mask, he intended to just 'frighten and intimidate' the guy. He was given time-served, probation, and a ton of community service.

That said, your 'based on real life' story was a great read.

As others have said in great detail, the start was a bit rocky, but progressed into an enjoyable read.

 

Cheers!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 3, 2014 - 1:34pm

Wow... I think his actions were pretty understandable, but he was mighty lucky. 'Hab' was lucky with the sentence he got. The gun had never been fired and that counted in his favour, but I think his links (albeit fairly tenuous ones) with the A-Team counted against him. When I knew him he was learning Spanish and planning to get out of the country. No idea if he ever managed it though.

Thanks for the read and the comments - both are greatly appreciated.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 4, 2014 - 7:06am

Hey Adam,

I think this story has a lot of potential, I really liked Sean and Hab, and th scenes at the club, but it also kind of feels too scattershot.  It doesn't feel like all of it entirely connects, and the ending left me dissapointed.

Unlike some, I didn't have any problem with the opening scene. I really enjoyed the club setting, and it was a good opportunity to show how Hab handles conflict. I really liked this bit:

Hab tossed what remained of his cigarette, and moved back inside the club. He did not rush, experienced enough to know that the quicker you moved, the longer it took to get anywhere, and the more attention you drew to yourself. Hit the right pace and you could pass through the crowd like a bullet through flesh.

Good stuff. I doo agree with Motor about the replied thing. Not that you can't used replied, but it did strike me as odd that you used three straight in row. Then again, I subscribe to Leonard Elmore's way of thinking, in that 99% of the time you're just better of using 'said'.

I thought that some of your diaogue was a bit clunk. Things like ::

“You broke my damn nose. You’ll pay for that.” - I think taking out the 'You'll pay for that' makes this sentence stronger.

It especially shows up during the police dialogue:

“I’m going to need you both to come with us back to the station to ask some questions about your links with the Clerkenwell crime syndicate known as the A-Team. I am now going to caution you both, though this does not mean you are under arrest. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?”

This feels like too much exposition. Would the police really tell them all that right off the bat?

“Damn it, Sean. I should beat some sense into your thick skull. Listen, you know I love you and I’ve got your back. But this is pure crazy. Reconsider. Just tell them you can’t go through with it. They aren’t going to bat an eyelid. Some guys have that moral ambiguity that they can do this crap. You’re a good bloke. I honestly don’t think you have it in you.”

Same here. This doesn't feel natural, and here more than ever you NEED to make it as natural as possibe, so that the reader can understand Hab's POV.

I'm not trying to harp on this, but there are some good dialogue that makes the weaker one stand out. For example, I loved this line:

“No. The police are so far up my arse I’m tasting bacon every time I swallow.

I don't quite get the ending. Yes, it shows Hab's willingness to sacrifice himself over Sean, but at the same time, after spending most of the story building up the Sean wanting to do a hit, it did feel dissapointing that this doesn't get resolved in what I felt was a satisfying manner. Maybe have Sean kill the guy, and then they get pulled over and Hab still ends up taking the blame for them.

Finally, there was an ambiguity to Sean and Hab's relationship that I'm not sure I liked. Hab is gay, you make that clear, and he loves Sean, but does Sean love him back? Are they just friends? Lovers (the separate bedrooms would indicate no). I personally felt this needed to be defined a bit better.

I hope some of this helps. As always, it's just one reader's opinion.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 4, 2014 - 2:06pm

Cheers Hector. Always happy to get some good feedback, and this is all good stuff. Truly appreciate you taking time out to read and give me your thoughts.

Just to let you know though, the police dialogue is the genuine caution given. They tell you exactly why you are being cautioned, and then have to read out the caution verbatim. I appreciate it doesn't necessarily read well, but it is at least genuine. I've heard it a few times over the years (never to me, way too angelic for that), but I'll admit I did have to look it up to get the exact wording.

If I ever get around to reworking this post contest, I'll certainly be keeping your comments in mind.

Thanks again!

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes July 7, 2014 - 6:21am

Hi Adam, great story! I really felt sorry for Hab. He was only trying to look out for Sean. I loved:  

--He did not rush, experienced enough to know that the quicker you moved, the longer it took to get anywhere and the more attention you drew to yourself.

That was a brilliant line. Excellent job! ~Sam

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 7, 2014 - 6:32am

Thanks Sam, glad you liked it!

Shame you didn't submit anything this year (unless I've missed it). Yes, Admin was one of my favourites from the last contest. Hope the writing is all going great.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 8, 2014 - 2:42am

Brilliant story. really captured the politics of british nightlife, felt verymuch likeyou knew what u were on aboutwhich is essential to a smooth running story. and i liked how it whittled down in the second half to a tense and ambiugious chase. Really clear and engaging. Especiallyloved the line " The police are so far up my arse I’m tasting bacon every time I swallow."

Genuinely cant think of much in terms of critique, except that maybe in the penultimate scene hab and seans exchange wnet on a little too long for my liking, and at times because of the length felt a bit like open exposition. Aside from that cracking story and nicely unexpected ending. Good characterisation of the police and security staff as professions too. Thumbs up!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 8, 2014 - 10:17am

Thank you so much. I really appreciate your comments. Very glad you liked it.

Dan J. Fiore's picture
Dan J. Fiore from Pittsburgh is reading too many things at once July 8, 2014 - 6:28pm

Adam, 

I really liked this story. It's something I feel from a macro sense maybe isn't all that novel, but by giving us realistic characters, dialogue, and setting, you pull us into the story and make it feel new. And the ending. I love that ending. Because, like I said, with the macro "bones" of the story you have here, you feel like you know this story. The whole time I'm reading it, especially those last few pages, I'm thinking these cops are either going to blow these guys away or vice versa. And the understated, realistic choice you made instead makes the whole story feel so... fresh. I love it. 

That said, I think you could make us feel the story even more, at a deeper level. What I mean is basically putting us more in the headspace of Hab as this is all happening to him. If you want to keep him at arms length narration-wise, that's fine. But I think there are still a lot of ways that you can build that character-reader agency that would give those final moments more power. You said somewhere above that you had a feeling the Hab you knew maybe loved the real Sean. I could kind of see that being teased at in the current narration. Personally, I'd say don't be afraid to show that more. You don't have to be overt about it, but let the reader at least see those feelings earlier bubbling under the surface. Also, I'd challenge you to take the tension building in those final pages a few notches higher. Make sure you're showing us the stakes before we get to that scene with the cops. Not just for Hab, but for Sean. Give us a reason to not only root for Hab, but to applaud him when he finally takes the fall. Know what I mean? 

These are all obviously just suggestions. I don't want you to think I'm saying these are flaws of your current story in any way. I just wanted to give you some things to think about. I love the story you have now and think it'll definitely be in contention for the big win. So, kudos. 

Thanks again for a great read, and good luck!

Cheers,

-Dan

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 9, 2014 - 11:18pm

Thanks for the read and comments, Dan. I'm very pleased you liked it, and those comments seem pretty much on the money. This is one I'll likely re-visit after the contest, and if I do, I'll certainly be using your suggestions.

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures July 10, 2014 - 9:26am

I really liked this, it was such a calm, slow build of a story. I dug Hab a lot, he was a guy who knew how rough life can be and who was trying to make an honest stand out of it but got screwed anyway. 

Loved the line "I moved to London" and the "Everytime I swallow I taste bacon." - great job with those especially but the entire story was a solid, believable piece.

Great job!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 11, 2014 - 2:32am

Cheers Juice, glad it worked for you!

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 12, 2014 - 10:26am

Tarantino said once that after he did Pulp Fiction, he couldn't think of a way to top it, so in his next film (Jackie Brown), instead of trying to go over what he did before he went under it. Jackie Brown's a subtle, meditative piece and stands in stark contrast to Pulp Fiction's flash.

This feels similar - subtle and meditative. You don't need to rely on big action set pieces, shocking moments of horrific violence, or twists and turns. It's simply about a guy who wants to make the smart choices and tries to help someone he cares about do the same. 

I quite enjoy the fact that the protagonist is a tough, masculine guy working in a tough, masculine line of work and also happens to be gay. It feels like just another aspect of his character. In lesser hands, this might've been the focus of the piece. Thankfully it's not. 

No real suggestions except to find some way to amp up the tension at the end (longer sections without dialogue, perhaps, or make the cops' actions more ambiguous and drawn out). As far as form goes, I'd stick a little bit of action - a glance, a movement of the hand, or something similar - between the female cop saying  "...then I'm sure you can be on your way" and "You're Habanero, aren't you?" As it is, it feels like it happens too fast. 

Otherwise, thumbs up. 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 16, 2014 - 1:56am

Thank you for the read and the kind comments. I can honestly say this is the first time I've been compared in any way to Quentin Tarantino.

KathrynE's picture
KathrynE from Australia is reading The Surgeon by Tess Gerritson July 15, 2014 - 10:14pm

G'day Adam

Loved your story. It reminded me of one of those character-driven British police shows that I love so much and that I wish we could get more of in Australia. I really don't think you can beat a story with believable action...but driven by the decisions and personalities of the characters.

Like the other commenters, I loved the dialogue - believable, unembellished and just what you would expect from the type of men inhabiting this world.

Maybe because I'm a girl - and a nosy one at that - I would have loved to learn more about Sean's and Hab's pre-existing relationship even though you alluded to it and I can read between the lines. Just a bit more maybe? Also, on page 13 I noticed a brief POV jump from Hab's to Sean's but maybe this was done purposely? Colleen McCulloch and Stephen King do it sometimes and it certainly didn't detract from your story.

I thought tension built up nicely. Just when you thought the cops were going to let the boys go, they'd call them back again. Good job with that.

Overall, great characters, great dialogue, great protagonist and I look foward to hearing what happens when Hab gets out of jail and finds out what Sean has been up to in his absence!

Cheers, Kathryn

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 16, 2014 - 1:57am

Thank you for the read and for the kind comments - much appreciated!

CMBeckett's picture
CMBeckett from the heart of Maine is reading The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson July 17, 2014 - 9:20am

Adam,

Thank you for reading and commenting on my story.  Sorry it's taken me so long to return the favor - life and all that.

I really enjoyed this.  The distinct setting, the obvious connection between the main characters, and the spare writing (which I mean in a good way, offering us just enough of what we need and not too much in both description and dialogue) allowed me to quickly become engaged and remain involved right up to the end.

And the end.  I wasn't sure what was coming.  The way you ratchet the tension with the gun under Hab's arm and the relatable issues that can come up in a random traffic stop all worked wonderfully.  You stuck that ending.  Great work.

I only had a few quibbles (and let me throw out the caveat that I always cringe when doing critiques like this, worried I'm just trying to tell the author how *I* would have written it, so please disregard anything you deem as less than worthwhile)

- During the part where Hab tells Sean he doesn’t think he has it in him to kill a man, I was surprised Sean didn’t become offended and go off the handle.  It felt a little too easy for Hab to say something that could be seen as disrespectful, especially when Sean wants to prove himself so badly because of Marius Marais.

-  some bits of dialogue felt too familiar.  As an example:  again with the Marius Marais story, when Hab says, “You never said…” it sounds like too common a response (which can certainly make it feel true), but if you punched that line up, and a few similar lines, I think it could really elevate the story.  
Maybe, in that specific example, Hab gets a bit put out and asks Sean why he never told him or "Why'd you keep that from me?"  I expect you can come up with something better, if you choose to edit that part.

-  and on Page 13, pagraph 3, it should start:  The[y] followed him down the road... 

Other than those minor points, I thought this was a strong entry.  Nicely done, and thanks for sharing.

chris

 

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 20, 2014 - 11:20pm

Thanks for the read and the comments, Chris. I know exactly what you mean about telling people how you would have written it, I find I do much the same thing. It's a good thing I think.

Dylan Mackey's picture
Dylan Mackey from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith July 17, 2014 - 12:40pm

I liked the story a lot - found it a very subtle crime story, but in a good way. If that description makes sense.

Also, this was a great section end:

“Ever shoot anyone?” asked Sean.

Hab met his friend’s gaze. He was sorely tempted to lie. He could still feel the kick of the gun in his hand; feel the shock as the blood started to flow. It all happened in another life, under a different name.

“Once,” admitted Hab. “He lived.”

“What did you do?”

“I moved to London.”

I will say that the opening paragraph really didn't grab me, but the characters were the ones with their dialogue/commentary that moved that told the story anyway, so when Hab starts talking, the piece starting moving.

Good luck.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 20, 2014 - 11:21pm

Thanks for the read and the comments, Dylan. I really appreciate it.

Zack McCormack's picture
Zack McCormack from Indianapolis, IN is reading Empire of the Sun July 20, 2014 - 6:25pm

Adam, Great read man. Typically, I find most gangster type of stories a little cliche but I did like this quite a bit. To be honest, I didn't read the above comments so if this has already been brought up then you can ignore my comment but I would assume with such a dialouge heavy story people would have varying opinions on whether or not they liked the format. To me, I thought it really worked. You did an excellent job of keeping the story flowing well and maintaining an effective pace. There really was nothing major that I would change. Thanks for the good read!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 20, 2014 - 11:22pm

That's great to read, Zack. Thanks for the read and the comments. They are very much appreciated.

Zack McCormack's picture
Zack McCormack from Indianapolis, IN is reading Empire of the Sun July 20, 2014 - 6:25pm

Adam, Great read man. Typically, I find most gangster type of stories a little cliche but I did like this quite a bit. To be honest, I didn't read the above comments so if this has already been brought up then you can ignore my comment but I would assume with such a dialouge heavy story people would have varying opinions on whether or not they liked the format. To me, I thought it really worked. You did an excellent job of keeping the story flowing well and maintaining an effective pace. There really was nothing major that I would change. Thanks for the good read!

Zack McCormack's picture
Zack McCormack from Indianapolis, IN is reading Empire of the Sun July 20, 2014 - 6:26pm

Apparently I liked it so much my computer decided to comment on it twice. 

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 21, 2014 - 6:07am

Adam, 

You have the frame work of a really great story. I like the relationship with Hab and Sean but we need to get a better picture of who they are and what they want. They work together, they seem to room together and there's a sense of brotherly affection. Having their relationship drawn out more clearly will give us a better sense of what they each have to lose if Sean carries out the hit.

After all, Hab ends up getting arrested, presumably so Sean can do that. For that sacrifice to have impact we need to understand why Hab would do that. Why protecting Sean is worth doing the time. 

Why does Sean jump at the chance to carry out that hit? You state early he's ambitious, but does he have other reasons? 

Also, you have lots of great dialogue but there's lots of room to trim it. Be careful of info dumps with in conversations, find ways to convey that more subtly. As dominate as the dialogue strenghtening the narrative would also give you an opporunity to get across that information across without it having to be expressed in the dialogue. 

All in all, you've got a good start. I have some line-by-line comments attached. 

Best, 

Tim 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 22, 2014 - 8:04am

Thanks for the read and the comments, Tim. Always nice to get an LBL as well. Much appreciated.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 22, 2014 - 6:58pm

Well done, Adam. This story had a layed-back Layer Cake vibe to it that I really liked. The dialogue was stellar and well paced. There seems to be one little shift of POV, which is mainly Hab's, to Sean's POV when you wrote: Sean pulled the car over into a parking bay signposted for residents only. He struggled to control his breathing... Of course, I could be reading that wrong, but it does seems to shift to Sean's POV. Nothing wrong with that, but since we've been hanging out with Hab all this time, might as well stick with him, right?

Other than that, great job, thumbs up from me. 

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 23, 2014 - 12:36am

Thanks Bob, really appreciate the read and the comments. The POV shift has come up a couple of times, and while I'd like to say it was done for effect, it's a complete slip. In my head it was still Hab's POV, but clearly that just isn't the case.

Saw your comments in the main thread. I have to say I hope you keep your story in the contest, because I think it is one of the stronger stories on show, and I'm genuinely surprised it hasn't had more love.

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck July 31, 2014 - 7:20pm

Adam,

I really enjoyed reading this.  Everything felt very genuine and smooth.  I could easily see it and hear it in my mind, more clearly than most stories I've read.  The situation around the family, the events at the club, and the tension between Hab and Sean was very well done.

However, in the end, I was left wanting, because it didn't really seem like an ending at all.  Throughout the story, I was getting more and more into the characters, but then it got cut off when the police pulled them over.  It felt as if the story ended during the rising action, and because of that, there was no pay off to my investment in the characters.  I realize there is a word limit, and that to continue the story would be to exceed 5,000 words, but I do hope you have plans to continue the story of Sean, Hab, and the family, because I would love to find out more about them and what happens next.  I think this has potential to be huge (in both story and success).  Thumbs up, though for pulling me in from the start and a story well-written.

Also, just did a quick scan of comments above mine.  I wanted to say that I strongly disagree with a comment I read above regarding trimming the dialogue.  The back-and-forth was awesome.

Josh