According to literary agent, Suzie Townsend, your title should reflect the tone of your book. If you’re writing a thriller, you don’t want something long and poetic.
In the mist of trying to convince my neighbor, Leon, how hard it is to come up with a good title for a romantic legal thriller, he wrote one down on the back of a Burger King napkin and passed it across the table to me.
“See what you can do with that one,” he said.
I read the three words he had written, Murder and Mayham.
Leon didn’t finish school, because he had to stay home to take care of his ailing mother. Whatever they taught him in prison, apparently, had nothing to do with learning how to spell the word mayhem. I couldn’t hurt the man’s feelings so I said, “Leon, that’s a great title.”
“I thought so too.” He smiled. “So now that I’ve done the hard part, you can finish writing the story.”
That’s the problem with trying not to hurt your friend’s feelings, you say and commit to things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.
Later that day, after changing the last name of my main character so Leon’s title would work, I gave the document displayed on my computer screen one final review before printing a copy for my two beta readers.
After an IRS audit results in the Law Firm of Lark, Whim, and Fault having to pay $800,000 in penalties and back taxes, Jack Mayham is told to pack his personal items and vacant his office. Twice divorced and fired from three law firms in four years, he knew it was just a matter of time before another IRS audit costs him his latest job.
Jack takes one last look out his office window at the cloudless sky hovering over the Manhattan skyline. When he turns to pick up the cardboard box containing his personal items, in walks twenty-six-year-old Lisa LeRouse Bedford wearing a Marc Jacobs low-cut designer dress with a Fendi handbag strapped over her shoulder. Her diamond necklace and matching diamond studded four-inch spikes reflect sunlight shining through the window behind him.
In search of another good criminal defense attorney—her previous one is missing and his office was ransacked—Lisa weaves a sad story of lost love. Her wealthy husband, Earl, thirty-six years her senior, was found floating face down in their swimming pool, and the prosecuting attorney suspects she had something to do with her husband’s recent demise. She tells Jack she hopes he’s as fearless in the courtroom as he claims to be on his Facebook page. She offers him a $250,000 retainer to defend her against the Prosecutor’s baseless charge. It’s the break Jack needs and enough money to open a private office.
Police discover Earl’s fingerprints are none other than those of Tony Delonzo. Known as The Cleaner, Delonzo washed dirty money for the mob by investing it in large CAP international securities. When Delonzo decided to withdrawn sixty million, place it in secret accounts scattered throughout the world and vanish without leaving a trace, he became the subject of the mob’s largest manhunt in history. When confronted with news of her late husband’s real identity, Carla admits the name Earl did not appear to fit his personality.
Jack is euphoric. His defense strategy is simple. Tony Delonzo changed his name to Earl Bedford and married an innocent young strikingly attractive woman who was unaware her wealthy husband was connected to the organized crime. Two years after they were married, the mob finally tracked Tony down and killed him. Lisa had nothing to do with her husband’s murder. Case closed.
While the prosecuting attorney eats meatballs and spaghetti, in a highly acclaimed Italian restaurant, he agrees to consider dropping all charges against Lisa. She and Jack leave the upscale establishment in Manhattan with plans to celebrate.
Outside the restaurant, Jack and Lisa are waiting for a limo when two men place knives to their throats and force them into a yellow and brown Dodge Minivan which smells like an Italian kitchen with a motor oil leak in the oven.
The mob wants their money back, all of it. One of the men, the fat one with a flat nose, presses a knife below Lisa’s diamond-interlaced-black-pearl-white gold-linked necklace and draws a trickle of blood. She claims to have no idea where Earl stashed the mafia’s funds. In an effort to save their lives, Jack claims to be a computer guru, and if anyone can find where Lisa’s husband stashed the funds, he can.
The mob believes The Cleaner’s computer holds the key to the location of the accounts. Jack is told he has twenty four hours to get his hands on the late Tony Delonzo’s computer, which is in police custody, and break the password. He is to then locate the whereabouts of Earl’s financial accounts and transfer the funds back into the mob’s Swish bank account without the police knowing anything about it, or Lisa’s body will be plastered all over his new office, along with his. The mob guys dump Jack at the curb and drive off with Lisa held hostage until the money is back where it belongs.
Realizing it’s going to be a long night, Jack stumbles into a Starbucks and orders a large coffee, black. Before it’s had time to cool, Jack comes up with two plans.
Plan A: Learn how to use a computer, break into police headquarters, steal The Cleaner’s laptop, figure out how to unravel a forty-eight character password, find the secret accounts, and transfer the funds all within 24 hours.
Plan B: Try to convince his first ex-wife, who is good with computers and works for IRS, to help him.
It’s a toss-up as which plan will be easier. His first ex-wife hates him for leaving her for a younger woman, her sister, who later divorced him for dumping her older sister. Getting his first ex-wife to help him won’t be easy, but Jack is in love with Lisa, and he’ll do whatever it takes to save her from a horrible and painful death at the hands of two overweight mob guys, who smell like pepperoni pizza.
If the title of my romantic legal thriller didn’t grab the attention of Suzie Townsend, I might have to consider making a career change. The printer stopped humming when the third page slid out into the tray. I grabbed the sheets of paper and rushed next door to see if Darla or Eddy where home.
Darla was sitting in a swing on their front porch reading a book, their dog at her feet. I hid the copy of my synopsis in my back pocket so I could ease into asking her to read it. She and Eddy still hadn’t finished reading the last three manuscripts I asked her to review. It would be best if she thought I came by to check on the dog.
“Hi, Darla,” I said petting the stray animal Eddy decided to adopt. The dog had gained a few pounds since Eddy found him roaming around in a cemetery. At that time the animal’s ribs were showing.
She looked up from the book, but didn’t smile. I wondered if Darla was upset about Eddy bringing a dog home without talking to her about it first.
“Leon said he’d take him, if you and Eddy don’t want him.”
“Don’t want him!” She leaned down and patted the large animal on the back. The 150 pound Newfoundland size beast rolled over and stuck a giant paw up in the air and waved it at her.
“What makes you think I don’t love this sweet loveable creature?”
That sounded like a trick question, so I avoided a direct answer. “Leon lives all alone and I just through maybe you could let him walk the loveable creature every now and then. I didn’t actually mean—”
“I know what you meant. This book explains a lot of stuff about men and how they communicate.”
At a loss for words, I scratched my head.
“For example, you thought I was upset about Eddy bringing a dog home without telling me beforehand. Then you thought you could make me feel better by telling me Leon would love to have him.”
Holy smokes, that kind of book would be invaluable to women, and a direct threat to any man trying to stay married. Eddy could be in big trouble.
“What’s the title of it?”
She held the tattered paperback up so I could see the cover.
HOW TO LOVE A BONEHEAD by Lillie Lovegarth. It appeared to be old. With any luck it was out of print and would be near impossible for my wife to find in a used bookstore. I decided to try and confirm my suspicions without asking her if Zelda had given her the book.
“That sounds like a book Zelda might read?”
“I don’t know why she’d need to read it. She’s not married.” She closed the book.
As soon as Eddy arrived home from work, I planned to warn him to be careful when trying to communicate with Darla. It’s hard enough to stay out of trouble when your wife doesn’t know what you mean, much less when they do.
She leaned toward me and held the book out. “Here you go.”
I grabbed it from her hands with plans to recycle the pages, in my shredder, before Linda got her hands on it. “Thanks, Darla.”
“Tell Linda I said thanks for letting me borrow it.”
Another mystery solved. That explained how my wife had me figured out from the beginning.