Title Bail Up
Age and Genre Adult, Historical Mystery
Word Count 70,000

Query
I am looking for a home for a historical murder mystery, “Bail Up”, complete 70,000 words.

In the 1860s, New South Wales had a bushranger problem. These bold knights of the road held up banks and bailed up travellers. They robbed gold escorts and raided homesteads. They were immortalised in song, story and painting. Except for Dan. He so badly wants to be notorious and have songs sung about him, but robbing gold escorts is a bit beyond him. He prefers to bail up travellers, on foot, who look like they won’t put up a fight. He has many cold nights and hungry days, but the police aren’t interested in him. No one wants the price that isn’t on his head. The only men chasing him are creditors.

Until a police sergeant is found stabbed to death, and the bloody footprints lead straight to Dan’s door. Now the police do want him: to hang for murder. His only chance of proving his innocence is to find the true killer. Armed with nothing but his wits– So he’s doomed. But maybe with the help of his new allies, Hannah, a young lady in search of adventure until her father’s money runs out, and Red, the world’s laziest stockhorse, he can avoid the police, find the killer and even earn a bit of notoriety along the way.

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First 250 Words
The sun threw long shadows onto the road, striping the dirt with the narrow trunks of the trees. Dan crouched, waiting, listening for the sounds of wheels and hooves pounding that dirt. The land about was quiet, as if the weight of morning dulled sounds. There, the warble of a magpie, and there, a cow calling to its friends, and when he listened carefully, the nearby creek splashing over rocks.

“I need to piss.”

Dan looked at the man crouched beside him. “Right now?”

“Yeah, I’ve been waiting and waiting.”

He knew how this worked. As soon as Harry moved out of position, the coach would appear. If he told him to wait, the coach wouldn’t come. Dan pulled out his watch. Ten past five. Still? Possibly he’d forgotten to wind it.

“Dan?”

“All right, but don’t leave your spot.”

“But–”

“There’s no one to see you.”

“What about you and Joe?”

“If we were in camp, you wouldn’t care.”

“But we’re not, we’re on the road and mail coach is coming.”

If it hadn’t already been. Dan pushed his hat back and scruffed his hair. Down the road a bit, Joe sat staring off towards the hills. He couldn’t even hear this conversation.

“I’ll close my eyes,” Dan said.

Maybe that satisfied Harry, because he didn’t argue and there was a rustling as he moved about.

“Dan!” came Joe’s cry.

His eyes opened. There at the end of the road, where it came out of the hills, was a cloud of dust moving towards them.

7 thoughts on “Bail Up

  1. Query- I understand that you are aiming for humor with this, but it comes across as confusing. The kernels of a great query are there, but I think you’re trying to do too much. Less is more here.

    “Dan is a big, bad bushranger. Nobody has ever been as bad at bushranging as he is. (I would think simply adding ‘, really bad, maybe the worst ever.’ is plenty.) The police aren’t interested in him. Nobody wants the price that isn’t on his head. (This really just comes across as confusing, and doesn’t add anything to the query. Maybe say ‘Fortunately, he has avoided trouble with the law, and the only men hunting him are creditors.”

    As for the first 250 – Your writing is quite good, and the dialogue exchanges even better. I have no issues with style or anything of that. However, I’m wondering if there’s enough there to encourage someone to keep reading. Why are they waiting? I assume they are thieves, but what drove them to this point? Are they pros or desperate? I almost got the impression that you used your considerable writing skills to have some fun with a scene that would work later in the book, I’m just not sure it works that well as a first scene.

    But I could easily be wrong and I hope that I am. Best of luck!

    Bill

    1. And I just noticed I’d posted the wrong query. I’ve been trying for more “context” for overseas (American) submissions.

  2. The query makes this book sound humorous. Is it? If so, I would definitely include that in your query. Instead of the opening sentence, I would cut straight to the meat of the book. Your character wants to make the “Most Wanted” posters, but cant. I love this. It’s unique and catchy. I think it can be tightened and less wordy, and that will only make it stronger. Maybe open with the line, “No one wants the price that isn’t on his head.” I love this line.

    The first 250 is very well written, but something more needs to happen. I’m sure the scene plays out beautifully past the 250 word mark, but given that is all I read, I wanted to see more conflict. I have the same problem with mine.

    This is your story though, so what I say should be read and tossed out possibly.

    Good luck in the next round!

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