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Faking It

Enough people have asked me this question that I figured I finally need to answer it: other than reviewing movies, what have I been doing? I’ve been writing something new. Except it’s old.

Back in 2007, inspired by a trip to Florence and Milan, I wrote a mystery called Fake. Its protagonist was a thirtyish man on a post-divorce trip to Florence who’s recruited by a shady-but-cute operator to help find out who’s behind a scam involving looted Holocaust art. I finished it, ran it through my critique group, and finally figured out it wasn’t very good. So I shelved it, thinking I’d go back and revise it someday.

Fast-forward seven years. After South, I was at a loss for what to write next. I looked over Fake and decided there was some decent stuff in there, it just needed some tweaking. I tried tweaking—and it continued to not work.

“Revise” became “rewrite,” and now I’m in the midst of writing what’s essentially a whole new novel. The title and a couple character names survived; everything else has changed. The title’s going to have to go, too—I stopped counting how many books on Amazon have some variation of “fake” as a title. So what’s it about? Here’s the very preliminary back-cover copy:

Two years ago, what Matt Friedricks learned at work put him in prison. Yesterday, it earned him a job. Tomorrow, it may kill him.

Matt learned all the angles at his old Los Angeles gallery: how to sell stolen art, how to “enhance” a painting’s history, how to help buyers hide their purchases from their spouses or the IRS. He made a load of money doing it – money he poured into the lawyer who worked a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney. Matt’s out on parole, broke and hopelessly in debt with no way out…until a shadowy woman from his past recruits him to find a cache of stolen art that could be worth millions.

Now Matt’s in Milan impersonating a rich collector looking for deals. He has twenty days to track down something that may not exist for a boss who may know a lot more than she’s said. He’s saddled with a tough-talking partner who may be out to screw him and up against a shady gallerist whom Matt tried to send to prison. His parole officer doesn’t know he’s left the U.S. Worse yet, the man who may have what he’s looking for runs the local branch of the Calabrian Mafia.

Matt’s always been good with fakes – being one, selling them, selling to them. If he’s good enough now, he gets a big payday with the promise of more to come. But one slip in his cover, one wrong word from any of the sketchy characters surrounding him, could hand Matt a return trip to jail…or a long sleep in a shallow grave.

Now come the caveats. First, this thing’s fighting me every step of the way. Second, it’s turned into a mystery/treasure hunt rather than the thriller I wrote the teaser for. Maybe that’s why it’s fighting me so hard. Third, I’m trying something I’ve never been able to pull off before: I’m writing this in first-person from Matt’s viewpoint. Yes, Matt’s telling the story, not me.

I may be about 2/3 of the way through. (I say “may” because I have no idea how long Matt’s going to drag this thing out.) It may still suck once I get to the end, or I may have to do major surgery on it.

Finally, if I do manage to finish it, I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I spent a lot of effort trying to market Doha 12. The resulting burnout hasn’t done South any favors sales-wise. It’s getting harder every day to be found in the flood of indie books out there. Do I want to invest the $700 or so it costs me to launch another book, knowing how much I’ve come to dislike trying to sell the things? I don’t know yet.

In case you’re interested in a flavor of the novel that won’t be called Fake much longer, here are the first five chapters. Leave a comment to let me know what you think.