Reviews for The Case of the Vanishing Storm
Chris Boyce chapter 2 . 7/11/2014
My Fantastic Four knowledge is limited to a few comics in the seventies, and I haven’t got on with any recent movie comic book/superhero reboot. I liked the idea of a different approach to the source material. After all, not everyone is going to be aware of these guys, are they?

For me at least, one of the key parts of the hard-boiled style is short, pithy sentences with a large dose of vernacular vocabulary. It really has to come across as if the “boilee” is taking me with them as they go about their shady, grimy business. Its one long fourth wall break; a long commentary delivered to reader. In this piece the first sentences were pretty much as I expected for the style, but often the following sentences were long and sounded less “had-boiled”. Taking the first paragraph as an example, we get: “It had been a slow couple of weeks.” Great, but then its: “I wasn't worried about making the rent on my office because four months earlier, after I collared a guy who turned out to be a bail jumper, I'd collected the bounty on him and used it to pay up my lease for the rest of the year in advance.” That sounded rather softer-boiled and rather writerly to me. Maybe something like this instead: “For once, I wasn't worried about making the rent on my office. Four months earlier, I collared a bail jumper. The bounty on him paid my lease for the rest of the year. Nice.”

“Then she walked in.” Yes, they always do, don’t they? By the way, she’d have “blonde” hair, being female. The word “shucking” had me scurrying round the web. The trouble is that it didn’t seem to mean anything that’s relevant to the sentence in which it’s used. As far as I can see it has implications of furtiveness and deception. Also you called her a lady, doll, dame in the paragraph; almost everything except “broad”. I don’t know for sure, but I feel in the hard-boiled style he’d not use quite so wide a variety of words for her.

I loved “This dame had all the right things in all the right places.” It’s typical of the style, and also reminded me or Morecambe and Wise (Brits of a certain age will know what I’m on about!). However, I wasn’t so keen on the repetition of “potato sack” a little further on.

Two consecutive paragraphs ended with parenthetical comments. I don’t think that worked all that well, they seem too disconnected to the narrative. Anyway, in the style all the narrative is an aside, so you can’t really have an aside in an aside.

Overall, my impression of the style was that it was more two-minute boiled than full-on hard-boiled, as if you hadn’t quite nailed the narrative voice.

I liked the name Mallet for the gumshoe, but I felt his dialogue really didn’t fit with his narrative. Also, once the dialogue got going, the style changed from soft-boiled to a more conventional first person, and became somewhat I-bombed. Things like: "Reckon I remember that case," I said. "Wasn't really much to it, for an experienced gumshoe. Routine legwork." I didn't mention any details, of course—that's no way for a PI to stay in business, and she could've been bluffing about being all buddy-buddy with that playboy Stark.

I’m not sure who she is, but the femme-fatale’s dialogue seemed a bit long winded and sometimes unnaturally detailed. It was all a bit too formal and complete, and sounded rehearsed, and maybe that’s the point. In some cases it seemed like and obvious set up for narrative, as in ‘“That retainer should cover the first twenty hours' worth," she said, showing she had a good head for figures as well as that dynamite figure of her own.’ I also felt the “she said” was superfluous, as are many of the other dialogue tags, especially in the hard-boiled style. As a gumshoe, if a client did that to me, the first person I’d investigate was her, to see what she was up to. It just didn’t seem likely to me, that’s all I’m saying.

I felt the pace sagged a bit in the middle of the chapter. Again, with hard-boiling, I expected tighter narrative and snappier responses and rejoinders in the dialogue. As an example, I’d consider deleting this entirely: “She gave me the funniest look. Almost as if she were waiting for a punch line. I didn't have one handy, though, so I just left the ball in her court. If she wanted to listen to witty banter all day, she should've tried the old "Road To" movies with Hope and Crosby.” Or at least try cutting it right back.

In chapter two, one phrase struck me as very out of place for the style: “Once upon a time”. It just didn’t work for me. I did like, “Time marches on”, which was, of course, the tagline for Time’s The March of Time documentary shorts. That played well into the hard-boiled style for me.

Had the dialogue been tighter, I would have preferred at least some of the extended conversation reported in chapter two to have been in full rather than summarized. It came across to me almost as if you’d got bored of writing it long-hand and were just getting it over with as soon as possible.

There was a bit of “shopping list” narrative there too, such as, “While I was out, I used some of Susan Storm's money to pay off my late fees at the video store and the public library. I also stopped at the bank to deposit a lot of it and trade the last couple of hundreds for tens and twenties.” I think you could have lost that without ill effects, indeed arguably improving the piece.

It was at this point that I wondered why this piece had never gone beyond two chapters, despite being five years old. Was it an experiment that hadn’t worked?

There was a fair bit of redundant repetition of stuff in the narrative in the latter part of this chapter. This is an example: “The phone in my pocket rang. I pulled it out and thumbed the proper button. It was my new client, asking if there were any leads. It had only been a few hours since she left the office—I guessed she was more impatient than she'd seemed at first.” It could have all been dealt with much more economically, for example something like: “My cell rang. I pulled it out and answered it. It was her. Had I any leads? It had only been a few hours since she left—I guess she was more impatient than she'd seemed at first.”

OK, so overall my impression of this was yes, it was entertaining but it didn’t quite come off in a few aspects. Essentially it came across to me as too soft-boiled. There was mystery and intrigue; that was good, but there wasn’t much tension, and the style didn’t encourage it. I didn’t buy Susan’s character completely. I was happier with Mallet’s. It feels to me like an early draft that needs careful editing and reworking to really bring it up a notch or two. One last note on something that struck me as I looked the piece over one last time: Apart from an early mention of the bad weather, and that slightly odd slice of life paragraph there isn’t much sense of place. It didn’t come across to me as being anywhere. The hard-boiled style often gives a very strong sense of setting, and the locations work hard as an essential part of the narrative. Maybe in later chapters they would have – the club especially, but unfortunately not in these opening chapters.

Thanks for writing and for putting these up for review on the long review game on Writer’s Anonymous.
tally82 chapter 2 . 5/15/2009
It is great to see an update from you. My face actually lit up with delight in seeing this post!

The viewpoint continues to be absorbing and i laughed out to

"Then she solemnly assured me that it was very rare for Johnny to set a building on fire"

and

"Had the client's brother once worked as an underwear model or something like that?"

The investigators naivety is an brilliant twist!

Hope to see chapter 3 soon please!
Eleve Osirian chapter 1 . 4/22/2009
I don't know anything about this fandom, so what I say here is merely based on what I've read in this chapter.

It's quite enjoyable; I usually stick to reading fantasy stories not set in modern times, so it means something that I liked this. What it means is that your execution of the chapter, of your characters is nearly flawless. Agreeing with the last person who gave you a review, there isn't much to really critique you on here - I actually wonder why you need or want crit if you write like this, but that questioning can be saved for later.

I could be a bit nitpicky and say the second sentence could be broken down a bit, considering it reads like a big run on. Read it aloud and you'll see what I mean.

You do have a few words that you include that you don't need scattered about, like so and what not that just weigh the sentences down, but that could fall under style, so it's your choice whether you fix that or not.

"One look in her eyes and you could see that this was a woman who knew where it was at."- where what is at? Clarify.

I got a good idea what Susan looks like, but your other character is still a bit vague- I couldn't really picture him. I don't know if this was intentional or not.

A few of your sentences don't make sense. For example: "…showing she had a good head for figures as well as that dynamite figure of her own." What exactly are you trying to get at here? I know you’re trying to say, but I think you could make it a bit more clear- you don’t need the ‘own’.

Hope this is helpful.
japaneserockergirl chapter 1 . 4/16/2009
I don't know much about the Fantastic Four, but I get the feeling that you are trying to make this into some sort of old Noir film. The jargon you're using sounds like it, at least. There's not much criticism I can provide, but sometimes I felt lost when it came to some of the expressions you used:

"One look in her eyes and you could see that this was a woman who knew where it was at."

Yeah... I didn't get what you meant by that.

But I did enjoy your sense of humor though:

"It was almost enough to make me wish I handled divorce cases, but I’ve never been that hungry."

At the end though, I think you could've used a different ending phrase, instead of 'Fire away!', something cooler, like 'Shoot.' That usually happens in Noir films, if a noir-ish theme is what you're looking for.

I apologize if this isn't sufficient enough for a critique.

~japaneserockergirl~
bethellie chapter 1 . 4/14/2009
A very nice approach to the narration of the story - different, which is good, because change is as good as a holiday, or so they say. I've worked my way through all the Johnny centric stories so far on this site, and it's fun to have a new, and well written one, show up. So many on here are unfinished...
tally82 chapter 1 . 4/14/2009
I really like your approach to this story.

It is not something that is done often and even when it is I find that it sometimes does not work well. However you are a contradiction to this, I love it.

Additionally I like the extra twist of the detective not knowing the Storm’s identities.

My mind is now racing ahead in an attempt to figure out what has actually happened to Johnny (my favourite character!).

My only question however is which city this story is set in, as you did not mention it?

Looking forward to an update soon.