Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"The Last Guest": an excerpt

Here is a bit of rough draftiness from this afternoon's writing. You will learn almost nothing about the story from this, but I like some of these words in some of this order.

The morning brought fog and more rain, a dull miserable drizzle that filled the air with cold and damp and cheerlessness. Lee Ness built a blaze in the big stone fireplace on the east wall of the dining room but the flames seemed devoid of any heat and the room seemed too large, unfriendly. The guests who came down to breakfast took tables by the south windows and blew cigarette smoke at the glass, remembering the previous morning when it had been warm and bright out on the veranda.

Mrs Pullman remained in her room. Michael Little remained locked in the cellar, sad and shivering and alone. Bernard Hayes and Daniel Proudfoot sat together, drinking coffee and talking politics. Proudfoot had definite ideas about Europe. The Taylors sat by themselves, each reading a different book from the hotel library. Julia Purell and James Carol sat farthest from the fireplace. Julia picked unhappily at a grapefruit half. Her left hand remained free of diamonds.

Patience Quince came down to breakfast, wearing a long black shift and a short black wool jacket over it, with her tight black hat like a swimmer’s cap, all of it quite out of fashion except the jacket. Nonetheless, she looked like some young wife out shopping, with her bag clutched in her hand. By now everyone knew she had a gun in the bag, but not all the guests were reassured by the fact.

Patience walked toward James and Julia. She had a few questions for them. Her course was interrupted by Robertson Cornelius, who glided up and took Patience’s elbow. He smiled broadly in case his other guests were watching. They were watching, of course.

"Good morning, Miss Quince." Cornelius was nearly whispering. Patience whispered in reply.

"Good morning, Monsieur Cornelius. It is raining and you have a dead man in the icebox. How are you today?"

"Oh. Yes. Well, about that."


  1. Scott, I read this late last night and again this morning. You took out a word that I very much enjoyed! Anyway, thanks for putting this up. I have been very curious about the book. I still think this is a wholly different voice for you, and that is fascinating. The second paragraph is cool too.

  2. Erm, that word just didn't work with the rhythm I wanted. I posted an excerpt to celebrate having reached the 1/3rd mark in the first draft! Yay, me! I'm also fascinated by the voice of the piece, and how it evolves as the narrative progresses. I'll be interested to read the first chapters again once I've finished, to see how much continental drift there has been. This book, I still think, will be the best thing I've written yet. Which is ironic, as the whole thing started off as a bit of a lark, something with which to amuse myself and Mighty Reader. It's turned into a Serious Writing Project now. With, one might even hope, commercial potential.

  3. I am 100% confident that the erm will be the difference between this book being a New York Times Bestseller, versus just another undiscovered masterpiece. Make that 110% confident!