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  You are @ HomeAdults First Chapters

First Chapters

Source: Adults

Author: John Michaelson


Hi folks. Some of you may already be familiar with the Greg Aries character. Recently, I put out a short to test the water (Greg Aries – Public Dick). Having received some really kind reviews – my thanks to all – I decided last week to start a novel based on his exploits. When I got an email from Writebuzz this morning, introducing the First Chapters idea, I couldn’t resist chancing my arm. Lord knows what a synopsis should really involve, so I will go by feel and keep this fairly brief. I hope you like what you see.


The first part of the novel is set in Plymouth, modern day. It rains a great deal, and true to the character’s English roots, there will be a certain preoccupation with the weather. I hope that his observations will provide an insight into the city, and cast a positive light on those at its margins. The book does not aim to be an overt social commentary, but the character needs to inhabit a tangible setting. He needs to have opinions on what he sees, and who he meets.

As the plot develops, the character will be forced out of his comfort zone in a bid to solve the case. He will travel to the Philippines in pursuit of the story’s antagonist. Sticking to what I know from my time there, I would like to put him in some situations he finds both frightening and enlightening. The country in question is vibrant, seedy, and strange, in equal measure. The people he encounters, likewise.


Greg Aries is thirty years old, and unemployed. He lives alone in a first floor flat on the edge of the city centre. The DSS pays for his accommodation, and also grants him Jobseeker’s Allowance. He struggles to keep his electricity and gas meters running, and the same goes for the credit on his mobile phone. He doesn’t know how to cook and doesn’t have a washing machine. In short, he leads a fairly difficult life.

The crux of the novel is Greg’s self-delusion. He truly sees himself as a private detective, which is mirrored in his speech and the way he dresses himself. Yes – trench coat, trilby, and all the well-worn trimmings. Throughout the book, he uses the most ridiculous similes and metaphors, continually overlooks quite obvious leads, and bumbles through conversations with the varied cast. His progress through the case is hard won, and he often succeeds in spite of himself, rather than because of himself.

Greg is a coffee addict, smoker, and borderline alcoholic. He is blissfully unaware of the latter. He takes great pride in the smoking process. Most nights he puts away a bottle of Scotch to help him sleep. To help him recover from the heartache of the elusive ‘Lily’. His preoccupation with heartbreak is plain to see. He seldom misses an opportunity to comment on his broken heart. Greg has no money, and he has no car. As such, even the simplest errands require walking and public transport. In this way, he can explore the city from a very physical, tactile perspective. No car chases here, no cocktail parties, no private jets.

The first thing that sets his character apart is his firm belief that he really is a private detective. Time and again, this prevents him from going under. Where others might sink into a numbing depression, Greg practically thrives. His marginal existence and his ‘broken heart’ just serve to fuel this self-image. If he feels hard-done-by, it’s only in the generic sense that most other private detectives do.

The second thing that sets him apart [and perhaps redeems him] is the fact that deep down he is actually a very nice guy. He undertakes the case without any real thought of being paid. He feels sorry for his client, and truly wants to help her. This extends to others too. He sympathises with the victim. If he feels he has spoken badly to somebody, he really suffers for it. This positive regard for other human beings prevents him from being just another private eye. I hope.

As the novel is written in the first person, Greg will of course get the onus. Ms Jewel will be his main source of contact in Plymouth. He will meet a variety of walk-ons during his investigation. Whether or not Ms Jewel shows up in the Philippines is yet to be decided. Either way, Greg will need a contact abroad as a sort of sounding board.

The antagonist will be suitably awful, yet not so much as to appear repulsive. As the novel has a comical element, I just don’t think a monster would be suitable. He will have been corrupted by money, or the idea of money, and I want to convey this to the reader.


Although the novel is character driven, it does of course have a plot. One of the book’s main premises is how difficult it is to get things done when you have no money. Stages of investigation that many books take for granted will be addressed in depth. As I am only on the fifth chapter, later elements are vague to say the least. However, I think I can provide an overview.

Greg’s services are availed upon by a Ms Ruby Jewel. She sees his notice in a newsagent window, and hopes for the best. Her brother, down on his luck, has been found dead in a house he was renovating. The authorities, taking into account the fact he was stone blind drunk, have concluded he had an accident. Ms Jewel is unconvinced.

As Greg stumbles through the case, he decides that the brother was indeed murdered. He has two main suspects. The first is a powerful property buyer. The brother’s house is in a run down neighbourhood, which is in line for redevelopment. Most of the properties are council owned, and the brother was one of the few private owners. Perhaps he refused to sell up and get out?

The second suspect is the brother’s elusive houseguest. The brother had become so reclusive, he had a ‘gopher’ to do his shopping. A gopher who shopped for booze and fast food, and took advantage at every turn. As Greg probes deeper, he discovers that the gopher has disappeared. Can he find out what has happened before the trail goes cold?

Cue his trip abroad. This is dealt with in the book’s latter stages. Greg bumbles in and out of trouble, eventually finding himself drawn into a murder plot. It seems his main suspect has offended the locals in some way. However, the suspect’s prominence and financial acumen make him a difficult target. The country is rife with corruption, and while the police are doing well in bribes, the suspect leads a charmed existence.

Greg’s naivety is taken advantage of, and he is manipulated into a position where he could take the fall for the murder of the suspect. Can he do the right thing by his client and his conscience? Can he solve the case without getting blood on his hands? Can he stay alive?


As things stand, this is only speculative. I would like to address some of the complications in Greg’s life. His inability to get his advert into the local free ads. The loss of ‘Lily’. The bureaucracy of drawing benefits, and so on.


The main themes of the novel are money and redemption. The comic element is as much a means as it is an end. Greg’s observations are often ridiculous, but they are never insincere. His naïve, yet well-meaning approach, wins through eventually.

I hope to convey that financial acumen is not necessarily a ticket to happiness. This should come across in several ways. Greg’s existence, though poor, is not without its pleasures. His sensibilities are as much product of his financial position as they are his innate character. We also get to see the lengths people will go to for financial gain, and the ways in which they use their money.

Regarding redemption, as things progress, we get an insight into Greg’s plight. This is revealed by his own thoughts, and by how he sympathises with Ms Jewel’s brother. By avenging the murder, he is in some way coming to terms with his own position. After all, Greg wasn’t always down on his luck.


I am trying to work to a consistent length of chapter to give the book balance. As things stand at time of writing, the chapters are coming out at approximately 2,000 words apiece. This ought to give me scope for 30 chapters, bringing the novel out around the 60,000 mark. My first attempt at a novel came out this size, and I am confident I can tie things up within that sort of limit.

Published on writebuzz®: Adults > First Chapters

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