Chapter 1

Written by: Ken Burns

John Stuart always knows that being a spy is dirty business.  His reason to be on earth is to get rid of the filth in the world and be a good dad.

One of his father’s philosophies’ for life is “Never trust anyone with two front names!” The Germans didn’t so that is one of the reasons he is tied to a stool with broken teeth, bleeding forehead and a bag over his head.  He got himself into this predicament and has difficulty believing in himself for what he does as a patriot. 

 

Bar Greenwich in Gipsstrabe is full even at 1330 on a summer Sunday. The culture of Eastern Berlin never changed even as a Communist Regime. There is laughter, sausages, beer and bread flowing freely.  This is mixed with an atmosphere of smoke and lowlife slouchers sitting in front of poker machines feeding in part of their social welfare payments just hoping for that big win.

 At the back, in the grey concrete courtyard, sits a man with one leg under a parasol. On the table are wooden state hospital crutches, a ‘roll your own’ packet of tobacco with wrapping papers, two single shot glasses and a bottle of Talisker scotch.  The bottle is slowly emptying as the day goes on. 

The German in blue Levis, cowboy boots and trench coat moves through the jovial bar crowd and positions himself behind the drinker’s left shoulder. He leans forward and whispers in his ear,”One kilo of Chinese uranium always goes to the highest bidder!”

The one legged drinker doesn’t move. He sweats and starts to smell the liquor as it seeps out of his sallow skin.

Neither does he look up, but in a low raspy voice, replies

“It will be an international closed circuit TV auction coming from Geneva.  You need three million Euros to enter.”

 

John Stuart spits blood out of his swollen mouth.  It hits the inside of the bag and comes back onto his face. Through force of habit his tongue gets poked into the holes in his gums where his teeth used to be. He knows he has to stop that revolting practice.  Getting punched is one thing but losing teeth another.   Instinctively he knows that this is every reason to wait for that moment of revenge.

As the afternoon progresses the concrete on the floor gets warmer with the summer sun.  John can put his bare feet on the floor for longer periods now.  He knows he can move around because there is no one here but him and the sound of a river. That keeps him alert.  Getting the bag off his head is the next problem.       

To get the stress out of each day John Stuart does a certain amount of yoga which means he’s flexible and gives him a blood rush to the head.   He leans forward, gets his head between his knees, and holds tight then pulls the bag off on his first attempt. 

Ken Burns (NZ)

Comments

This is the best chapter Ken has written so far. Full of description and atmosphere, we can see the seedy side of Berlin life. This certainly conjures up mystery as we discover there is uranium up for grabs and that's probably the reason Stuart is there, his cover blown. Ken certainly has a writers vivid imagination. Nice chapter Ken.
This is a really good chapter Ken. Sets the scene for the writers who are following and great characterisation. Introducing an outside sound like the river widens the story out beyond the walls of where Stuart is held captive. Great light and shade. There are many dimensions to the chapter like the fact that this tough guy does yoga to cope. That's an insight that adds a layer of complexity to the character. Good job
I edited the hell out of it and read Joss Weddon's10 guidelines for being a successful writer. He is one of my inspirational writers-directors for tv/cinema egBuffy, Angel, The Avengers The Cabin in the Woods. The one point which stuck out was get rid of the aspect of the story you most want to keep. This is brutal but it means you have to think of something else. Sometimes you just get it right!
There you go Ken. The word brutal says it all but once we realize that together with knowing we need an editor for the fine tuning, look what happens. BTW - your chapter had very little editing. It stands out.
Great advice on the process of writing Ken. And yes, being brutal is often the best way to let the 'real' story find its way out of the shadows. I'm reading Stephen King's 'On Writing' at the moment. I want to read, 'The first Five Pages' (recommended by Raymond) next. so your book is after that. Again congratulations!