James Curtis & McKenzie Morton on River Run
CHAPTER 5: RIVER RUN
My Dear Katheryn,
So here we are at “River Run,” the journey nearly over, Travis’s “point zero.” After a couple of nicely drawn scenes (kudos again for making minor characters memorable), we get to the house on the mountain with the final version of the transfigurative (if there is such a word) female character, in this case one who is also evocatively resonant/familiar in certain important ways. Like Moses, Travis goes up to the mountaintop and comes back a changed man, not so much restored as transformed, and as we’ve seen several times before, therein lies the rub.
I think I get what you’re doing here with narrative bookends, and all those meta effects spooling inward—the universe inexorably closed, a simulacrum of infinity. Kaleidoscopic once you start thinking about it. Astounding and horrible all at once. Scott Luddin would understand and sympathize.
Or maybe not. A reader’s understanding is not always congruent with the writer’s, is it Katheryn? (Why do I always feel like you know what I’m going to write before I write it?)
Let’s discuss at the Kup tomorrow, usual time. I’m in a funk. The kind of funk that comes with the coming, inevitable end of a beautiful journey. I need cheering up. I’ve quite enjoyed our time together and will greatly miss it. Miss you as well.
Re: River Run
So the deal here is the final payoff: does the P get his memories/identity back? We wend our way through a series of minor characters, arriving at the house on the mountain and a somewhat mysterious lady and her young son. Something familiar about her, of course. The same woman and boy the P had been seeing wherever he went? Funny they should turn up here. There’s a lot of funny stuff going on here, including one final romantic opportunity, which—why am I not surprised?—goes nowhere. Well, the man does have a lot on his mind.
I was worried that you might opt for an ambiguous ending, but you didn’t. The P is fully restored ante the Reno men’s room but in a way that suggests trouble ahead. Did you have in mind a sequel? Once again we have that shift in POV and tense. Yes, bookends.
And yet more bookends. I don’t really see the point of reprising an altered version of the opening chapter. I should probably think about this and try to figure it out for myself but, honestly, I’m ready to move on.
Final Words/Overview. My advice would be to rethink things from the ground up. Get rid of those bookend chapters. In the San Francisco section, introduce some tension. For example have the cartel sending someone to track the P down, and scenes where the P manages to escape being killed. Ramp up the romance with some hot sex. You don't see much transgender sex these days. That would be a big plus. When the P gets to Houston, introduce Cripps early: the turncoat friend. More scenes of the P being menaced. Introduce the authorities as a wildcard in the form of a wily FBI agent. Have Justine fly in to add to the P's problems. Get rid of those first-person chapters and keep up the tension as the P learns more about his past when he was a hired assassin for the cartel. In the Boston section, both the FBI and the cartel are after the P, who rekindles his relationship with Sylvia. Things get messier and more dangerous, and then Sylvia is hit when a bullet meant for the P ends up killing her. In the Vermont section, you'd have the final confrontation with Cripps, ending with a fight on that mountain and Cripps falling to his death. Justine arrives along with the FBI agent. The P never recovers his memories. End with a trial in which the P is acquitted because, as an entirely different person, he is not responsible for his earlier crimes.
As I said at the outset, you could count on me to give an honest, unvarnished opinion. And that’s what I’ve done to the best of my ability. Someone else is going to have a different opinion. That’s the way the world works. For my part, I think I was expecting a certain kind of book, and that’s not what I got. Not your fault. I think we all come at these things with gut reactions, and then let our heads supply the reasons why. I do admire the writing. You’ve done some interesting things. But in today's book market, that's not enough.