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The City

by ChrisB 

Posted: 04 May 2004
Word Count: 1885
Summary: This is the first chapter of my novel with introdution - Does it hook or does it not hook - that is the question?

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

The Silver Ferrari

A motorcyclist rockets down city road, in and out of the traffic, dodging and weaving,

stopping for nothing and shaking his head continually at any obstacle that crosses him.

He spits at a car that pulls out in front of him, screams and beeps at a pedestrian the runs

across the road, continues to shake his head because he has to slow down. Watch where

you are going, stupid people, get out of my way. He carries on making everything wrong,

passes the number forty-three and ninety-eight red buses that gently roll along the road

like a feather blown by a subtle breeze.

People are everywhere, as trains pull into Liverpool street. Hundreds of them, thousands

of them come out of their doors at the same time ; swarms of people dressed in smart

dark suits, carrying briefcases, handbags, trolleys, pink papers under their arms, fortune

magazine, time magazine, the security monthly. Cafes are filled with people who sit

outside on aluminium chairs and tables, getting their early morning caffeine fixes. The

smell of fresh pastry, bacons and eggs linger in he air, people walk quickly, people look

in a rush ; faces of ambition and faces of greed focus on their day ahead and another

week gone by.

A single silver Ferrari is parked alone just of Lever Street, still and in solitude, but

shining in its own man made glory ; its yellow symbol glows with a stylish pride, and as

people pass, everyone stops, everyone stares, everyone looks ; it’s money, it’s money, it’s

all money. But the mood is also lighter today. People are looking forward to the week-

end. Time off for the rat race, time to relax, forget the enemies, the back stabbing and the

endless competition. Now they can think about picnics in the park, games of cricket on

greens, drinking cold Charddonay with pub lunches, dining at good restaurants,

romantic trips away withloved ones to Paris and Rome and staying in the best five star

luxurious hotels.

The City

‘Now as you know Lloyd, the interview with human resources did not go your way.

Miss Ronan did not feel that you were a EmergIn Asset Management man. Infact her

actual words were that she felt you did not cut the mustard,’ my senior boss tells me

in a highly serious tone, so serious that I feel World War three is about to break out

and all he can do is his tap his fucking EAM logod pencil so impatiently on the desk and

with such force it sends a shuddering tidal wave up my back.

A couple of seconds of silence pass between us, a couple of seconds, which for me feel as

long as my life has been, and I begin to feel a bit uncomfortable like he’s staring at me

because I’m dressed up in some sort of ugly gimp mask or something. I know I’ve got to

say something smart to the old git, but I start to feel myself breaking out in a cold

sweat, and the next thing I know a surge of panic is rising through my body and I feel my

throat tightening and switching off all my voice controls. Huston, we’ve lost sound

control. Huston we’ve lost you! And for a moment I’m completely lost. This may be my

job on the line. What I am going to do then? What will I do if I lose my job? No

money, no nothing. How will I pay my bills? And my biggest fear of all hits like a big

turd stuck in the bottom of a unclean toilet - I’d be forced to go home. Anything but that.

I am not going home. Never!. But luckily for me, with my current inability to think or

speak or even string a simple sentence together, my boss steps in and actually beats me to


‘However, I disagree with her and I feel you are,’ he continues.

‘I’m very glad to hear that,’ I say and somehow splutter the words out, my tongue limp

and dry, but my spirit immediately rises and a lightness returns to me. That’s how

I feel, that’s how I’m supposed to feel.

‘So do you feel you are a confident young man? my boss asks me with a concerned

look on his face, his thick greying eyebrows rise high on his forehead and his tone is

serious again. No, not serious again. Come on. Lighten up please.

‘Yes of course. I’m just as confident as anyone I know,’ I reply not fully sure

whether I am or not, so my reply is a little defensive and an urge to back the

statement up with something smart and intelligent crosses me, ‘Personally I think there’s

a very fine line between opportunity and success.’ Don’t know why I say it, but I

remember the somebody mentioned it once over a glass of wine and I kind of liked it.

And my boss is now nodding approvingly and he seems to be impressed by my answer

which is pleasing me no end and now I’m beginning to feel a little cocky. If he’s sucked

in by that he’s gonna be sucked in by a lot more. He takes off his round glasses and

puts the side of it in the corner of his mouth and his face is now one of complete


‘To be honest with you John, I did a Physics degree like yourself, but I am also

financially motivated and I want to achieve the highest standard I can at this company.

I work hard, I play hard and I want to be a success,’ I continue to say and pause before

continuing,‘If I have been knocked in the past, that’s because my life was way out of

balance. I didn’t get the grades I should have got at College, but I was drinking five times

a week so what can one expect. Anyway academia only goes so far and my heart feels

more at place in the real world.’

‘Well some of us came out with firsts and still drunk five times a week my dear boy,’ my

boss replies and chuckles to himself. My, he’s looking pleased with himself and the

comments he’s just made and all I can think is what a absolute fucking twat. What did he

say that for. What’s he playing at telling me something like that. However, the response

has made it’s intended impact and it’s already making me feel small and a little jaded.

Does he want to prove he’s more intelligent than me. Is that it. He should be encouraging

me if anything the little shit.

A strange tension fills the space of air between us. A strange tension that spoils the

atmosphere, and creates an uptightness which hits me like a lightening bolt and makes me

smoke inisde. I don't know whether to laugh or cry, and all I can do is tag along and we

both let out a staggered stifling laugh.

‘You know Lloyd, the funniest thing for me coming to the city after doing a PhD at

Oxford and studying Astrophysics for five years, was coming to the realisation that

there is a romantic image behind all work. Work is hard graft and you have to work very

hard in life to be successful. Obviously it helps to have intelligence, and qualifications

behind you, but when people moan to me that the work I do is not rocket science, I agree

with them and remind them that I was a rocket scientist for a decade,’ my boss says and

again laughs at his own words. The uncomfortable tension again returning to the room,

and it begins to make me feel kind of restricted, so I again try to laugh, but once again I

fail to be authentic.

‘So taking all of this into account where do you see yourself in the next few years Lloyd?

The world is forever changing, business is changing, technology is changing and

EmergIn has got to embrace this change and the same goes for their staff.’

‘Well I see myself eventually fronting up projects or consultancy, but very much still

working at Emergin. I believe loyalty rewards.’

‘OK good Answer. So look lets cut to the chase. If I am honest with you I’ve been very

happy with your performance and your work under me the last nine months. So I am

going to offer you a permanent position with us. What do you say?’

‘Well. That’s excellent news,’ I say happily but now my mind is thinking what’s the

bottom line. How much money? How much God damn money?

‘The work is going to mean a lot more responsibility and we’re going to be expecting our

resources to be putting in a lot more time and energy. Not like the Goldman Sachs and

other American companies of this world, but we will be expecting a shift in focus which

will be more demanding.’

‘Not a problem Sir, I looking forward to the new challenge. One question I have

though is money. One of the issues I had with the HR interview and the one reason I

was disappointed was the package they were offering me. If we are going to work

harder, longer hours I take it we will be rewarded for it.’

‘Well that’s simple to answer and that all depends on whether we are going to make

more money than previous years. If we do then all staff will be suitably rewarded with

their bonus packages. With regard to your own package I’m sure you will not be

disappointed with what they will offer you.’

‘I hope not, London’s an expensive City.’

‘Well human resources will be in touch Lloyd. And you will have the contracts and

terms of reference through the post and you should be on the payroll by the end of the



‘And one last thing before you go Lloyd, congratulations again and I look forward to a

continuing the healthy relationship we have built together and will continue to build

together in the forthcoming year.’

‘Certainly Sir. You can expect nothing else from me’

‘Oh and you’ll be joining us for the AGM meeting later in the week. It will be followed

by drinks so it will be good to see you’

‘Yes I will be there for sure. Thank you.’

We shake hands and I can’t wait to get out of the room, but I’m feeling pleased with

myself. I’ve been given the opportunity for some security and solid work ahead and a

permanent position which also means paid holiday which will be a added bonus. I reach

my desk and carry on with the documentation I am working on. Some bogus help guide

they’ve got be doing for users. Fucking users! But the work becomes a distant thought as

my mind becomes preoccupied with my boss and all I can think about is the arrogance of

the man. Why did he have to get that in for! What did he have to say that! Why? Some of

us got drunk five times a week and still came out with a first. What a Fucking arseole.

How can be expected to trust someone like that.

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Comments by other Members

Al T at 23:05 on 04 May 2004  Report this post
Hi Chris, my question to you is who is this aimed at. I spent a long time in the City and nothing in your piece seems in any way remarkable or new to me, so I can't imagine that I'm your target market. Do you get more satirical later on?


ChrisB at 13:07 on 05 May 2004  Report this post
Hi Adele,

Yes I can understand your concern about work regarding city lifestyles and the difficulty of creating something fresh and original. That is always going to be very very hard to achieve.

However, my book is not centralised about the city (rather London as a city on the whole), although there are small references to the city at the beginning, as in the first Chapter. Sorry without a synopsis it is impossible to see where the story is going or to get any idea of what the novel is about.

But no, it is nothing like Liars Poker or even American Psycho. Rather it is more interested with telling a story of a young London Lifestyle that goes wrong, and a large part of the book is concerned with the characters past and the reasons why their life has gone wrong. But there are many other themes involved.

Target market - another difficult one to answer because I don't think the author would ever be able to tell. But as the character is mid-twentysomething, I initally was aiming at 20-30somethings. But then again it does dig into family relationships in places so there is another angle for a reader there.


Al T at 13:13 on 05 May 2004  Report this post
Chris, I'm glad to hear you've thought about this so carefully - good luck!

scottwil at 13:37 on 05 May 2004  Report this post
Chris, I think your dialogue works better to define 'The City' . I'm not sure that you need the descriptive passages earlier. I think the characterisation is working in setting a scene but could be more gripping, as Adele implies, do we really care about some guy who just got a job in City? I do, if he's a psycho - Brett Easton Ellis.
Perhaps you could give us some more clues as to who and whatyour protagnist is.

eyeball at 18:44 on 05 May 2004  Report this post
Hi Chris,
I'd have to agree with Sion that the early descriptive stuff didn't add much to the story. At this point, too, it isn't clear to me what that part is about. Is it Lloyd on the motorbike?
In the dialogue, I like the contrast between Lloyd's spoken dialogue and his background thoughts: particularly

'but I remember the somebody mentioned it once over a glass of wine and I kind of liked it.'


Huston, we’ve lost sound control.

Typo at the end: How can ? be expected to trust someone like that.


Account Closed at 19:08 on 05 May 2004  Report this post
Hi Chris,

I found the pace of this to be rather busy, and the general tone didn't resonate with me. I felt slightly as if I was being shouted at to begin with, and agree with the above comments that the story needs a little more hook and bite in order to grab the reader's attention.
I'm sure with another read through and some good old spellchecking, you can make this work.


Dee at 21:17 on 05 May 2004  Report this post
Chris, as someone who doesn't know the city, I like the scene-setting in the opening paragraphs. And I want to know the significance of the silver Ferrari. Silver, eh? That’s cool…

I was dragged into this tale against my will – which is good. You want to hook your readers. But then I read your replies to other comments and, I have to say, they trouble me:

Sorry without a synopsis it is impossible to see where the story is going or to get any idea of what the novel is about.
This is the first chapter. We, as readers, shouldn’t need to be even thinking about the synopsis. This chapter in itself should hook us in enough to want to read the rest of the novel.

Target market - another difficult one to answer because I don't think the author would ever be able to tell.
What??? Are you kidding??? As the author, you MUST know your target audience. This is not negotiable. Ask any agent or publisher to read your novel and they will require YOU to tell THEM what your intended audience is.

I’m telling you this because I think this has potential. There are lots of typos which you need to sort out but … OK, it’s got me this far… what’s in the next chapter to keep me reading?


Account Closed at 21:21 on 05 May 2004  Report this post
I must say I was relieved that he wasn't being sacked and that this was the beginning, rather than the end of this job. That was unexpected. I quite liked the description at the beginning but wondered where it was going. The Ferrari is a symbol of wealth that could no longer be unaccessible to him now he has landed a job in the city - something like that?
I found the interview scene a little long - maybe both scenes still have a place in the book but you could open with something else? If the story focuses on his past, why not something from the past.

Lots of typos, words running into each other and capital letters missing (sorry, I'm too lazy to point them out!).


ChrisB at 23:29 on 05 May 2004  Report this post
Guys and Gals,

Thanks so much for these comments. They've got me thinking and thinking alot. So very very helpful indeed.

Already got a few ideas for improvments and changes so you've done a perfect job. Look forward to reading more stuff and sharing more work in the very near future.


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