Blood in the Water

Rick Outzen

Book Cover

GENRE

CRIME SUSPENSE/THRILLER

    Core Theme

    REDEMPTION

    TIME PERIOD

    2000s

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    L.A. CONFIDENTIAL; THE KILLING; CITIZEN KANE; CHINATOWN; ELECTION.

    CHARACTER LIST

    WALKER: MID-40S, UNKEMPT, ALCOHOLIC, DEPRESSIVE, REGRETFUL, FEARLESS, TENACIOUS.

    FROST: 70S, RACIST, AGGRESSIVE, CRUEL, MANIPULATIVE, CLEVER, SLY, GREEDY, THREATENING, DANGEROUS. NEMESIS.

    TYNDALL: MID-40S, BLACK, SHERIFF CANDIDATE, INTELLIGENT, GOOD-NATURED. FRIEND.

    HARDEN: MID-40S, P.I. TOUGH, STRONG, FEARLESS. FRIEND.

    PECK: EARLY-30S, COP, VIOLENT, STRONG, CRUEL, RACIST. ENEMY.

    GRAVY: MID-40S, INTELLIGENT, COMPASSIONATE, KIND, HONEST, BLUNT. FRIEND/ ATTORNEY.

    Logline

    A newspaper publisher must get his act together as his town floods and jail explodes. He must stop his binge drinking, win back his staff and deal with a hostile takeover as he investigates corruption behind the disaster that has ties to the Dixie mafia and KKK.

    Target Audiences

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

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    Pensacola, Florida

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: Waterside Productions

    Year Published: 2020

    Starting Description

    Walker Holmes’ world has fallen apart yet again—his girlfriend has left him, an expose on human trafficking has led to his source being brutally murdered, and his nemesis appears to be unstoppable in his pursuit of a third term. When jail explodes after the town floods, Holmes must find out why.

    Ending Description

    Holmes uncovers the KKK's ties to the explosion and how it had infiltrated the sheriff's office. Sheriff Frost, Holmes nemesis, is shot as he rescues the publisher, and he is forced to resign because of corruption uncovered by Holmes. At the hospital, Frost threatens Holmes he will be back.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    978-1941768501

    Mature Audience Themes

    Language/Profanity

    Plot - Other Elements

    Twist

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain

    Main Character Details

    Name: Walker Holmes

    Age: 41

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Leader,Underdog,Sarcastic,Funny,Outspoken,Complex,Aggressive

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Dare Kelly

    Age: 41

    Gender: Female

    Role: Emotional

    Key Traits: Charming,Confident,Sexy,Empathetic,Engaging,Sophisticated,Faithful

    Additional Character Details

    Name: William "Gravy" Graves

    Age: 39

    Gender: Male

    Role: sidekick

    Key Traits: Masculine,Sexy,Confident,Decisive,Empathetic,Engaging,Faithful,Skillful,Heartthrob

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Sheriff Ron Frost

    Age: 62

    Gender: Male

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Masculine,Badass,Aggressive,Confident,Power Hungry,Secretive,Greedy

    Development Pitch

    Sheriff Ron Frost is the most powerful person in the county. He is seeking an unprecedented third term against Walker Holmes friend Alphonse Tyndall, a Black Democratic attorney. Frost rose to power by kissing the butts of her bosses and for protecting the ventures of organized crime - the Biloxi Boys, my version of the Dixie mafia. Frost is secretly battling cancer and wants to win re-election and turnover the reins over to his chief deputy. Frost wants to put Walker Holmes out of business and blames the publisher for his brother's suicide.

    Genre

    THRILLER, POLITICS, DRAMA, MATURE AUDIENCE

    Brief

    An alcoholic journalist rediscovers meaning in his life and his passion for exposing the truth when an explosion at the county jail leads to a cover-up involving local politicians, the police, the Ku Klux Klan, and the serial killer who murdered a woman the journalist had been trying to help.

    Overall Rating

    FAIR

    Point of View

    FIRST PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: FAIR

    Characterization: FAIR

    Commerciality: FAIR

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: GOOD

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    The logline could be more effective. The designation of the plot's main premise as "Overcoming Monster/Villain" seems inaccurate; this is foremost a classic redemption plot. However, "Overcoming Monster/Villain" does work for the secondary premise of overcoming societal corruption. The developmental pitch on the books' profile is not really a pitch at all, so an effective pitch could be written to replace it.

    Draw of Story

    The author's background is in journalism and this is clear right away as the details about journalism and the protagonist's career as a journalist feel highly authentic. The author credibly portrays the feel of life in small-town Florida, a notable swing state, which is reflected well by the fierce battle between the Democratic and Republican candidates for Sheriff. An impressively woven theme of white supremacy, particularly concerning infiltration of white supremacists into police departments, is highly relevant in 2020 and creates an exciting backdrop to the main plot, as do the details about a serial killer lurking in the background of the story. The protagonist's down-on-his-luck nature is easy to empathize with.

    Possible Drawbacks

    The story is overly complex to a degree that is hard to follow, stuffed to the brim with much too many characters and subplots, many of which are left unfinished. The plot depends too heavily on contrived occurrences, and the motivations of characters is often unclear or hard to believe, while characters show little depth or growth. The dialogue is often stiff and does not allow characters to show their personalities and become unique and distinct from one another. The writing, while clear and concise, lacks a sense of voice and style. The final twist at the end of the book is effective, but the story resolves too quickly and conveniently, and a loose end is left in the character of serial killer Lester Judson, who seems to remain at large at the end without receiving justice nor even a mention.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY DOES NOT RELY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The most interesting and unique element to this story is the theme of white supremacy and its infiltration into police departments and politics--a theme that is extremely relevant in 2020. The gradual peeling off of the masks that many of the city's leaders wear to reveal the racism, corruption, and lust for power beneath is thrilling to witness and speaks volumes about American society today--something that will resonate loudly with viewers. Included in this idea is the Democratic vs. Republican battle for the position of Sheriff, which is relevant to the increasingly polarized political climate in America presently.

    Fanbase Potential

    A film or TV series adaptation could have a reasonably large viewership upon release comparable to that of popular crime/political thrillers, such as many recent releases on streaming platforms. However, an adaptation would likely not receive particularly intensive or enduring attention, instead fading into the background shortly after release, as neither the premise nor the plot are particularly original or worthy of specialized attention.

    Awards Potential

    An adaptation of this film would likely struggle to find the specialized or enduring attention required to win awards. However, the themes of small-town white supremacy and corruption coupled with the authentic portrayal of journalism offer potential for awards wins if a particularly creative and talented director was at the helm of the adaptation.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (FILM); THE KILLING (TV); MILK (FILM); ELECTION (FILM); CITIZEN KANE (FILM); CHINATOWN (FILM)

    What’s New About the Story

    Original about this story are its authentic portrayals of journalism, small-town America and the political polarization therein, as well as white supremacy and its insidious infiltration of American institutions. The plot itself could be more unique, as it follows a tired structure of cliched scenes and developments. The story is largely humorless and would benefit hugely from some black humor injected into the dialogue, particularly from the overly mopey protagonist (who would benefit from being more like the hilariously mopey character played by Ryan Gosling in THE NICE GUYS), and possibly also in the form of a purely comedic minor character.

    Lead Characters

    The only lead character who stands out in any way is the protagonist, mostly by his hard drinking and depressive manner, but also his tenacious determination to expose the truth once he gets going.

    Uniqueness of Story

    No, it's too derivative in almost every way to be a rare gem.

    Possible Formats

    Film - Streaming, Film - Indie, TV Series - Limited Run / Mini-Series, TV Series - Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    WORK IN PROGRESS

    Justification

    Most notably that the story is currently too derivative and messy to be of interest to producers.

    Tips for Improvement

    It could possibly become a more notable story if the white supremacy theme was expanded upon and the story stripped back, removing much of the subplots and characters, while the cliched plot instead becomes one that cleverly plays with genre convention, such as in CHINATOWN.

    Brief

    Alcoholic newspaper editor Walker Holmes rediscovers meaning in life and passion for exposing the truth when an explosion at the county jail leads to a cover-up by local politicians, the police, Ku Klux Klan, and the serial killer who murdered a young woman Walker had tried to help.

    What We Liked

    This is a classic tale of redemption with a strong crime thriller plot and a unique premise set in authentically portrayed small-town Florida. As Walker works to expose the truth about the cover-up of the explosion of the county jail in an incredibly authentic portrayal of journalism informed by the author's background in the profession, Walker thrillingly peels off the masks worn by the town's leaders to reveal the racist, corrupt and power-hungry faces beneath. This theme of white supremacy and its infiltration into the police, politics, and American institutions is highly relevant in 2020, and will resonate loudly with viewers. The story is fast-paced with several twists that will take viewers by surprise, and the ending is satisfying, pulling together several plot threads and weaving them into a bold finale with a final scene that will linger in viewers' minds.

    Film: This is a classic redemption tale with a crime thriller plot and contains a perfect arc for its protagonist as he grows from down-on-his-luck, depressed alcoholic to the journalist who rediscovers his calling in life by exposing the truth about the racist corruption eating away at the town, thus becoming the town's hero. The authentic portrayal of journalism informed by the author's background in the profession pairs well with the authentic sense of a politically polarized small town in Florida to create a realistic setting viewers will believe and enjoy. The story maintains a broody, dark, slightly paranoid atmosphere reminiscent of film noir, as well as neo-noir CHINATOWN, which this film shares other similarities with. Ample subplots and characters enhance this main plot by adding elements of drama and romance, and the many twists and turns of the plot will keep viewers guessing the story's outcome. A satisfying ending to the story completes the protagonist's arc nicely while skillfully weaving together several plot threads to create a bold finale and a final scene that will linger in viewers' minds.

    TV: Viewers would enjoy watching Walker's investigations dig him deeper into a hole he might not be able to climb out of as the stakes are slowly and consistently raised each episode, culminating in a powerful finale in which Walker, against all odds, get the better of his foes. The many subplots and characters offer ample opportunity to fill screen time and weave a portrait of life in politically polarized small-town Florida amid an increasingly dirty election as the Democratic and Republican candidates for sheriff compete against each other, with much opportunity to develop these characters and the obstacles they face in the race. This story is perfectly suited to TV adaptation, and would be similar in tone and content to AMC's THE KILLING.

    Key points: Authentic portrayal of journalism and small-town Florida; Themes of white supremacy, police violence/corruption, and crooked politicians is highly relevant in 2020; The touching redemption arc of the protagonist is well written; The subplot of the election race is interesting and enjoyable, offering a convincing window into life in politically polarized small-town Florida; The many twists of the plot are unpredictable and surprising.

    Synopsis

    Pensacola, Florida, 2012: WALKER HOLMES (middle-aged, a little chubby and unkempt), owner/publisher of Pensacola Insider, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and paint-splattered khaki shorts, is drunk in a bar when his best friend, DARE, urges him to stop drinking and get back to being the journalist Pensacola depends on. Since the murder of a young woman who Walker had helped by reporting on her story, Walker has given up on making a difference to the community. The man Walker suspects of murdering the woman is named LESTER JUDSON. The woman’s murder reminds Walker of his long-ago fiancée who was murdered when he was a college kid. SHERIFF FROST, an enemy of Walker’s, is up for reelection, running against Walker’s Black friend, ALPHONSE TYNDALL. Frost is eagerly supported by CHIEF DEPUTY PETER “PECK” KRUGER, who threatens Walker to back off. A major storm occurs, causing Walker’s staff to take shelter in Walker’s loft above the Insider’s offices. Walker offers his home to the staff for as long as they need to stay there. Walker’s P.I. friend, HARDEN, tells him that the county jail is flooded majorly, and a stench of gas is making inmates sick. Shortly after, an explosion occurs at the jail, killing inmates and one police officer. Walker and his team will report on this. Walker’s ex-wife, JACKIE, asks for Walker’s help uncovering the truth about why the explosion occurred; her brother is the police officer killed in the blast. Walker agrees to help.

    Walker decides to get sober. He and GRAVY, his attorney, visit the county jail to speak with Gravy’s clients about the explosion. The guards refuse entry to Walker, who is not on the list of attorneys. Walker is arrested by Peck for impersonating an attorney and locked in a room where Sheriff Frost swears revenge on Walker for publishing a story that Frost believes led to his brother’s suicide. Gravy soon gets Walker released. Harden tells Walker that he has learned Peck is a high-ranking member in the county’s Ku Klux Klan, and that, even though Lester Judson’s name is not on the arrest reports, Lester was being booked into the jail as the explosion occurred, slipping away in the chaos. Peck must have helped him get away. The KKK has for decades been making sure county contracts are funneled to their companies. Harden will infiltrate the KKK to get proof of this for Walker. Protestors, including Walker, gather outside Sheriff Frost’s administration building demanding Frost's resignation and increased medical help for injured inmates. Walker attends a shareholder meeting, surprised to see Frost sitting with the shareholders. Gravy calls: Harden has been beat up, now unconscious in hospital. A bomb goes off beneath Walker’s car, almost killing him. Dare urges Walker to stop digging, fearing for his life. The owner of a local strip club shows Walker a video of Lester in the club, escorted out by police but never arrested. A waitress heard Lester talk about intending to blow Walker away. Walker researches Lester, discovering that Judson had been convicted of stalking a college co-ed, and that Judson’s middle name is Krager. In Dare’s office, Walker and Dare along with the construction manager of the jail look over construction plans of the jail. Their conclusion: Corners were cut in the renovation and Sheriff Frost should not have made use of the basement until it was rebuilt as redesigned, which never occurred.

    Harden’s family notifies Walter that they’re taking Harden off life support. Walker goes to the hospital to say his goodbyes where Harden’s sister gives him documents that Harden had told her to give to Walker if something happened to him. The documents outline the KKK’s creeds, titles and rituals. By drawing onto the page, Harden linked “Prostitution” with “Lester Judson (cousin),” “Land Deals” with “R. Krager (brother),” and “Investments” with “Reuben Crutcher,” while also naming ANTHONY WILLIS, owner of the construction company that had been in charge of the county jail renovations. In bed, Walker wakes up sweating, dreaming of Mari. He has come to a conclusion: Lester Judson killed Mari. Walker questions Willis about the jail renovation. Willis admits to being the head of the local KKK, threatens Walker’s life if he doesn’t stop digging. At the first debate between Frost and Tyndall, Walker is kidnapped by Peck and Lester and brought to a warehouse where Willis is waiting. Willis has Peck torture Walker in an attempt to force Walker to sign his shares in the Insider to Willis. Lester leaves to secretly watch Dare dining in a restaurant; he will kill her if Walker does not sign the papers. Frost shows up, furious at Willis’s and Lester’s many errors; he is also angry at Willis for cutting corners on the jail renovations, causing the explosion. Peck shoots Frost. Walker rushes at Peck. Frost saves Walker’s life by shooting Peck, killing him. Walker makes Willis call off Lester, who then runs away. Peck’s deputies and Willis are arrested while Frost is sick in hospital after resigning and dropping out of the election.

    About The Author

    Rick Outzen is the publisher and owner of Pensacola Inweekly and creator of Rick’s Blog, one of the most influential blogs in Florida. His investigative reporting on crime, corruption and the BP oil spill for his newspaper and The Daily Beast earned him international attention and awards. His 2018 debut novel, City of Grudges, was honored by the Florida Writers Association and Killer Nashville. He has been profiled in the New York Times and featured on Dateline NBC.