Under the Microscope extra: Call Me Cuckoo

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Read James McCreet's suggested rewrite of a reader's novel opening

James McCreet analyses Barbara Murphy's Call Me: Cuckoo intro in the August issue of Writing Magazine. Check out his suggested rewrite of the passage below:

Call Me: Cuckoo, Barbara Murphy

CHAPTER 1

‘Nina, there’s a man in a white car parked outside my house.’
‘So…?’ I try to sound nonchalant in the hope of restoring calm at the other end of the phone.
‘Yesterday it was a green car.’
‘Mum, you live in a cul-de-sac behind Woodford Green station. Lots of people, driving all sorts of cars park in your street. The car is on the road, not your front lawn, right?’
‘Right.’
‘In a legal parking spot?’
‘Yes.’
‘Then why are you flapping? You’re in a nice neighbourhood where people are good people.’
‘The driver. He’s rummaging around inside his car.’
‘Most people rummage around their cars at some point in their lives.’
‘That may be so, but this guy… Well, THEY must have sent him. I knew it was only a matter of time before they’d find me. What should I do?’
‘Knock on his window and ask him who he is. I’m sure he’s just a normal guy who …’
‘No, if he’s the kind of person I suspect he is, he’ll have an axe and is here to kill me!’
‘Why would anyone want to kill you?’
‘Because of the money from Zurich.’
‘Money from Zurich…?’
‘Now he’s found something in the back.’
‘A long wooden handle with a sharp metal head at one end?’
‘No.’
‘Then you have nothing to worry about.’
‘That depends… He’s found a bag. It’s a rucksack, I think … I can’t quite see … Hang on, I’ll get my binoculars.’
I hear a clonk at the other end of the line. A scuttling noise follows. I can only assume that she has put the receiver down onto her sideboard and has rushed upstairs to fetch the latest addition to her Self-defence Tool Kit. I imagine her running up the stairs...

 

McCredited version

‘Nina, there’s a white car parked outside my house. There’s a man inside.’
‘So . . .?’
‘Yesterday it was a green car.’
‘Mum, we’ve talked about this. Remember? Lots of people park there for the station. The car is on the road, not on your front lawn, right?’
‘Yes, but––’
‘In a legal parking spot?’
‘Yes . . . But––’
‘Then why are you flapping? Bad things don’t happen in your area.’
‘The man. He’s rummaging around inside his car.’
‘Hm-mm . . . And?’
‘Well, THEY must have sent him. I’ve seen other signs. What should I do?’
‘Just wait. He’ll go in a minute. I’m sure he’s just a normal guy who––’
‘No. If he’s one of THEM, he’s here to kill me!’
‘Mother. Why—?’
‘The money. From Zurich.’
‘Zurich?’
‘He’s getting something from the back seat.’
‘What money?’
‘I can’t see what it is.’
‘Mother . . .?’
‘He’s got a bag. I can’t quite see … Hang on, I’ll get my binoculars.’
‘Mother?’
I hear a clonk at the end of the line. Her slippers against the tiles. I imagine her running up the stairs . . .

Read James' full critique in the August issue of Writing Magazine