Tag: Downfall: A Brady Novel of Suspense

#BookBeginnings Downfall by J.A. Jance

Let’s look at the first paragraph of J. A. Jance’s Downfall  for Book Beginnings on Fridays, hosted at Rose City Reader.

book-beginnings-button-downfall

Downfall* by J.A. Jance

(*Affiliate link)

Summary:

Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady has recently lost her mother and stepfather. Now she must investigate the death of two women at a local landmark, while at the same time running for re-election for her job.

First Paragraph of Prologue:

Sheriff Joanna Brady pulled into the parking place in front of Higgins Funeral Chapel, put her Buick Enclave in park, and then sat staring at the storefront before her, only vaguely aware of her surroundings. Lowering clouds blanketed the Mule Mountains in southeastern Arizona. It was the last day of August. The summer monsoons had arrived early and stayed on, leaving the desert grassland valleys of Cochise County lush and green.

 

Discussion:  As we can see, Jance describes the weather in the first paragraph, along with introducing the main character and setting. In his famous essay for writers, Elmore Leonard says the first rule of writing  is never to open a book with the weather. Is there a bigger cliche than, “It was a dark and stormy night…”?

Of course rules are meant to be broken, and in this case the weather helps define the setting. In Arizona the summer monsoon marks a season of humidity and violent thunderstorms. They are unique to that time and place.

As a reader, what do you think of books that start with a description of the weather?

Do you read on, skip it, or put the book down?

 

saguaros

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Related:
Recent post about J.A. Jance

#Suspense Author J.A. Jance: How A Brush With A Killer Launched Her Career

New York Times Bestselling suspense author J.A. Jance was in town this week signing her most recent book, Downfall: A Brady Novel of Suspense.

Judy Jance is an incredible storyteller. During her presentation she told some remarkable and emotionally-charged stories about events from her own life. She admits one particularly intense event was pivotal because it launched her career as a mystery/suspense writer.

One day in 1970, Jance’s husband was hitchhiking and accepted a ride from a man in a green car. She and her husband lived well outside of town in an isolated area, so her husband wasn’t suspicious when the man asked if his wife was often home alone. Her husband explained that they had dogs.

Within the next few days, Jance learned that there had been a brutal rape and murder nearby. The victim’s friend had spotted a green car at the scene. Putting two-and-two together, she and her husband contacted the police. They learned the man was a serial killer who had killed two other people on the twenty-second day of each month at 2:20 p.m. After realizing the man was dangerous and knew she was often home alone, Judy Jance began carrying a gun. It might have been a wise precaution because when the man was arrested on the 2oth day of the following month, Jance learned that he had intended to make her his next victim on the 22nd!

As one might expect, Judy Jance admitted that the experience changed her. It led her to write her first book, which was a fictionalized account of what happened. Although she found an agent and revised the book, she never sold it. She reported, however, that her second novel sold relatively quickly. It was solidly fiction.

Many things can be taken from this story. First of all, if the detective had taken a few more days to track down the killer, the world might not have J.A. Jance books. On the other hand, if the killer had never existed, she might not have been inspired to write, and if she had chosen to write, she likely would have written something besides police procedurals. Going deeper, you might conclude stories based on true events don’t always make good fiction, no matter how good the writer is.

Beginning writers may find comfort in the fact even bestselling authors may have a “trunk novel” that didn’t sell. Probably Jance’s best advice was that she didn’t fire her agent when her first book didn’t sell, but “fired the book” instead. She still has the same agent, one who has fully supported her career as a bestselling author. What a story!

What do you think?

(By the way, I’m not revealing anything that isn’t already in print. You can read a more about J.A. Jance in an article in the East Valley Tribune from 2004.)

Related posts:

WhoDunIt Challenge with J.A. Jance

Jance interview with Mark David Garrison

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