J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix.
His debut novel TREASURE HUNT, which The Celebrity Café hails as an intriguing novel that provides interesting insight of architecture and the life of a fictional thief, has also been selected as the Top Ten in Preditors & Editor’s Reader Poll.
His other works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish.
He’s a member of the Short Fiction Writers Guild, Crime Writer’s Association (UK), and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.
He lives in Honduras with his family and one “Lucky” dog.
After the loss of his wife and child in a plane crash, former NYC firefighter Sebastian Martin is nearing alcoholic oblivion when his brother offers him a last-chance job opportunity as an insurance fraud investigator. Despite his reservations, he soon discovers he has an instinct for the job.
A move to Dallas, where he learns it’s okay to be alive, proves to be his salvation. Investigating fraudulent claims for a dead child and another for a missing husband, in Honduras, leads him to murders, international car thieves, and torture at the hands of a former KGB agent.
A writing lesson at the Copacabana
By J. H. Bográn
Oh, the 70’s…that decade everybody would like to pretend it didn’t happen, and that some people would easily destroy the fading Polaroids to erase all evidence of the hairdos and their tight stamped bell-bottomed pants.
And amidst all that Disco partying, Barry Manilow’s tune named after a bar in Cuba, peaked at #8 at the Billboard in 1978. Although considered corny by many, and cheesy by others, I’ve found that there is a great example of suspense writing in Copacabana. Now, please keep in mind that Copacabana is cheesy by Barry Manilow standards, I mean, he’s the same singer who gave us exceptional ballads like Even Now, Mandy, and I Write the Songs.
First you have to take away all the synthesizer sound effects and the silly chorus. In other words, when you trim the fat, you end up with three paragraphs which amount to the epitome of a three act play. Don’t believe me? Please allow me to walk you through it, then.
Some time ago I watched a video conference by Kurt Vonnegut where he summed up all stories into two categories:
- Somebody going on a journey and
- A stranger coming to town.
If you are to consider the Copacabana the equivalent of the proverbial town, then I guess the story falls into the latter category.
Here is the opening paragraph:
Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl
With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there
She would merengue and do the cha-cha
And while she tried to be a star, Tony always tended bar
Across a crowded floor, they worked from 8 till 4
They were young and they had each other
Who could ask for more?
Every writer course or teacher out there will point out that you always must introduce the main characters as early as you can. Heck, even better if you can accomplish it with the opening line. In the above paragraph, we are introduced to the happy couple, Lola and Tony, we also learn where they work and even their schedule. And if you look carefully, Mr. Manilow didn’t start with the dreadful weather! Here’s a fine example of making every word count.
The second paragraph is where the action takes place. In classic middle-act fashion, this is where the plot thickens.
His name was Rico, he wore a diamond
He was escorted to his chair, he saw Lola dancin’ there
And when she finished, he called her over
But Rico went a bit too far, Tony sailed across the bar
And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two
There was blood and a single gun shot
But just who shot who?
Did you notice we’re introduced to the antagonist right from the first sentence? That is conflict, albeit the fashion sense. I mean, what kind of man wears diamonds, right? Could it that the intention was to make the character unique? Hmm, let’s explore this a bit more. If you are one of those who think the beauty lies in the details, here’s an extra layer to chew: “Rico” means “rich” in Spanish. The author reinforces this notion claiming that Rico wears a diamond.
In the last three sentences we are treated to an action scene in the form a bar fight where punches flew and a chair was smashed in two. Then we hear the deafening report of a hand cannon that lead to a cliffhanger in the sentence “But just who shot who?”
How many times have you seen this in movies? The scene where two people reach for a gun, they struggle and then a single shot is heard. Some cuts to close-ups of their faces both looking surprise until one of them slides down and you realize who dies. Quite a lot, I imagine. But keep in mind Copacabana is from the 70’s so this was still a novelty and not yet a cliché.
The closing paragraph shows all the signs of an epilogue:
Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl
But that was 30 years ago, when they used to have a show
Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola
Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair
She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind
She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she’s lost her mind!
We are reintroduced to Lola, but with the twist of being thirty years later. We discover who actually died in the previous fight and we learn this is not a romance with a happy ending. Far from it, it is a dark, sad and depressing.
This is kind of ironic, especially when you think how we used to move to the tune on top of a dance floor illuminated with primary color blocks, in the very Saturday Night Fever style.
*** If the link above does not work, try this LINK ***
About Copacabana (At the Copa)
-Artist: Barry Manilow as sung on “Greatest Hits” -Arista A2L 8601
-Words and Music by Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman, and J. Feldman