A Heart on the River

Book Cover



John Bauer

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No jingle bells nor singing reindeer in this Christmas story! Take a 3-day journey with Fred Woody, Jr. to an Atlantic City casino. He relives his personal misdeeds and pushes through many road bumps with folks he encounters, both human and other-worldly. Discover a heart or two on the river.



Short Summary

Winter. 2011. A soft-hearted curmudgeon deplanes in Washington, DC after a 14 hour flight from the Middle East. His only objective is to play in and win a multi-million dollar Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament to be held on Christmas Day. He experiences a pulmonary embolism and is felled...

Early morning. After Christmas. Protagonist/anti-hero finds himself "heads-up" at the final table against a soldier/friend/life saver, deciding whether his lifelong poker obsession should be achieved or not?


Washington, D.C., Iraq, Afghanistan, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Based on a True Story


Plot - Premise

Internal Journey/Rebirth

Plot - Other Elements

Philosophical Questions,Meaningful Message

Mature Audience Themes


Main Character Details

Name: Fred Woody, Jr.

Age: 55

Gender: Male

Role: Protagonist

Key Traits: Aspiring,Masculine,Complex,Patriotic,Religious,Sarcastic,Engaging,Funny,Decisive,Unapologetic

Additional Character Details

Name: SGT Luis Silva

Age: 30's

Gender: Male

Role: Antagonist

Key Traits: Modest,Masculine,Patriotic,Engaging,Selfless,Empathetic,Gracious,Heroic

Additional Character Details

Name: Mr. Gold 'n' Purple

Age: 60's

Gender: Male

Role: tempter

Key Traits: Villainous,Manipulative,Seductive

Additional Character Details

Name: Sneezy

Age: 17

Gender: Male

Role: sidekick

Key Traits: Obedient,Blunt,Outspoken,Faithful,Empathetic,Skillful,Confident,Uneducated,Decisive

Development Pitch

You will not find another other story which combines a Christmas-time pilgrimage, a middle-aged white man's re-birth, and high stakes poker, juxtaposed against Iraq and Afghanistan war flashbacks. The internal and very real struggles of the anti-hero-Fred Woody, Jr.--are what each of us faces in our daily lives. The originality of the novel will move the reader. When the movie is made from the book, comparisons will be made as to which medium best presents Fred's journey. The metaphysical/religious element will both draw folks to the book/theatre as well as create controversy. God talks to each of us in His own ways. Fred discovered God's messages during his sacrilegious mission. The double entendre of "A Heart on the River" will be embedded in every reader's psyche after reading the novel or leaving the theatre.

About The Author

Well before he ever wrestled with words, John Bauer read, worked, loved and won more than he lost. In 2007, he was fired as county manager for no good reason from a place he’d previously managed for six productive years. He proceeded to mistitle, and under-achieve with a textbook/cathartic memoir—boats, knots, other things. Undaunted, John sold health insurance and stocks and bonds, and then served five (5) twelve (12)-month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Senior Governance Advisor for the US Department of State. Since 2013, he has published several short stories. In August 2020, his second novel--All the Bay's Clams and All the Bay's Men debuted to positive reviews and has garnered a "Consider" from TaleFlick. His genres are adult contemporary, dark comedy, farcical, horror, erotic, and non-fiction. A believer in pre-destination and Divine Providence, John opines his stories' endings are not entirely his own. Born in Brooklyn, and raised on Long Island, New York, where he dug clams for eight summer seasons, John was schooled at Notre Dame and Syracuse, with detours to Mexico City, Mexico, Raleigh, NC, and Little Rock, Arkansas. Since 1979, he has worked as a public servant in southeastern North Carolina. There, he and his wife raised three children and currently have six grandchildren. Oldmanwrite—website and brand—reflects by any quantitative measure, John is old.

Target Audiences

Age: 35-54,18-34,55+

Target Gender: Universal,Male Leaning

Group Specific

poker players, satirists, humanists, religious philosophers, military, fabulists

Publishing Details

Status: Yes: with a Publisher

Publisher: Lysestrah Press

Year Published: 2020

Hard Copy Available



ISBN-13: 9798555075208




Fred was on his way to a poker championship. He gets waylaid by health and family issues. He struggles through the games even though he is winning big.

Overall Rating


Point of View


Narrative Elements

Authors Writing Style: FAIR

Characterization: FAIR

Commerciality: FAIR

Franchise Potential: FAIR

Pace: FAIR

Premise: FAIR

Structure: FAIR

Theme: FAIR

Accuracy of Book Profile

Yes, the book profile accurately reflects the book.

Draw of Story

The story did not draw me. Fred is not the most likeable character and the story takes a while to make sense.

Possible Drawbacks

The books meanders a lot, not defining the plot from the beginning. It reads like a day in the life of the character as opposed to him making his way to an event. There needs to be more direction.

Use of Special Effects


Primary Hook of Story

There is no hook. Fred is on his way to a poker championship. This story follows him during his days leading up to it but it's less of a journey. The audience is simply following the events of his days.

Fanbase Potential

This story reads like a indie film and would not have a large fanbase unless it gained a cult following.

Awards Potential

This could have awards potential. Fred's life is a mess and that could be great material for an actor. The plot is lacking.

Envisioned Budget


Similar Films/TV Series


What’s New About the Story

This story is not original . It could be if the main character was from a more diverse background and was not going to a poker tournament. The messy male troupe has been done before.

Lead Characters

The lead character does not stand out. He is a very below average type of character. His life is all over the place as is the story.

Uniqueness of Story

This is not a gem. It is an average story that needs work. There needs more direction. Watching this man's messy, destructive life was not interesting and does not draw the audience in.

Possible Formats

Film - Indie, Film - Streaming

Analyst Recommendation



While the story has many positive points, it has room for improvement (see possible paths below). If you can't change the story at this point, my suggestion is using your notes as a guide to highlight the best aspects of it when taking the next steps, either putting a pitch page together, a treatment, or a presentation.

Tips for Improvement

This would need a complete overhaul of the first two thirds of the story. The sense that the character is trying to get somewhere is missing. It feels like he just happens to end up at the poker tournament.