National November Writing Month challenge and I've already changed course. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Yesterday I shared the outline I thought I would be working from, (Ready, Steady... Write!) but there was something not right about it.
This year's entry is a continuation of a series I had begun with my first entry in 2008 (A Directory of Literature). One of the recurring supporting characters -- Stanley -- I had brought back for this year's novel. But I didn't feel completely happy with his role, so Stanley had to go. Instead of the supporting character being a lieutenant for a racketeer, he's Jack King, ace G-man. King has appeared in this series before, and using him to replace Stanley has changed the direction of the story -- and it's a direction I like.
Here's the new plot outline for you to compare with the old.
When the Commissar Commands
A private detective is following a group of men to a clandestine meeting. He’s discovered, and chased by the group. He’s cornered in a desperate gunfight, and takes a moment to write out something on a piece of paper and hide it. The gang closes in the detective is killed.
There’s a gathering of industrialists, including the Barrs. The government has contracted five different companies, Ambrose, Harris, Michaels, Delany, and the Barrs to work on a special cannon for battleships. A creates the powder mixture by a special process, B supplies the special steel for the cannons, Michaels makes the cannons, Delany provides the special shell casings, and the Barrs provide the secure shipping of all materials to and from the plants.
Because of labor unrest, Delany has been falling behind in production, and the late penalties threaten to ruin him. Michaels offers to shore him up by investing in the company. Michaels spent a significant amount of time in Russia, and is sure that the labor troubles are related to anarchist interference. Harris completely disagrees.
All of the men have labor troubles, including work slowdowns, but D is hardest hit. D had employed a private detective to find out who the agitators were, and had called the group together to hear his report. There’s a knock at the door, but instead of the detective, it’s MacGuffy. The detective has been found dead with D’s business card in his pocket!
The next day Delany gives a tour of the shell casing
plant to his colleagues. He points out the security setup. Michaels
seems particularly interested in them. Delany shows them the special
machine that is used for the new process. They move on.
are in consultation with Rowland and MacGuffey the next day. They
explain the trouble with labor, and MacGuffey agrees to help. He shows
them the clue left by the detective, which points to a tavern on the
lower East Side. The Barrs agree to investigate as Raven.
gather in a darkened open room. There’s a desk in the front, beside a
door. Peppe is the major domo, and the head of the saboteurs. The door
opens, and the Commissar steps out. Behind him the men can see radio
equipment and a figure hunched over it. Morse code signals eminate from
the room. The Commissar closes the door, sit at the dest, and asks for
reports. The men are the labor agitators. The Commissar gives them their
assignments and then dismisses them . A smaller core remains – these are
the saboteurs. Their target is the shell casing plant. The Commissar
issues directions and then leaves.
Raven goes to the tavern. It caters to a large immigrant population, especially eastern Europeans. Raven notes several men come through and be ushered into the back – and they don’t leave. When the barkeep’s not looking, Raven makes his way to the back. There’s a door leading to the kitchen, and an empty hallway. The barkeep appears at the head of the hall and yells. Men pour out of the kitchen, and Raven fights.
The men from the tavern gather in a darkened open room. There’s a desk in the front, beside a door. The door opens, and the Commissar steps out. Behind him the men can see radio equipment and a figure hunched over it. Morse code signals eminate from the room. The Commissar closes the door, sit at the desk, and asks for reports. As they begin, a light shines on the wall. There’s trouble in the tavern. The Commissar dispatches the men to help, and exits back into the radio room.
The fight’s contained in the back of the tavern. Crow’s keeping watch outside and doesn’t see the trouble. Suddenly Jack King weighs into the fray. King and Crow manage to fight their way through the kitchen and out the back door. It empties into a closed alley and they emerge back on the street beside the tavern, where Crow sees them. From the head of the alley, the two pull out guns and prepare to fight off the crowd, but after a brief exchange of shots, the men disappear back inside. King and Raven take off before they’re cut off from men coming out the front of the store (which would surround them).
When they’ve shaken off the pursuers, King tries to grill Raven to explain his involvement. But Raven disappears.
Delany’s at the plant, personally supervising the machine work. The survival of his company depends on this process. He notices something is amiss. As he moves in closer, the machine spins out of control and explodes.
The Barrs discuss the mystery of how the men entered and disappeared from the tavern. They decide to investigate. As they walk out of their apartment, they’re detained by the FBI.
Jack King’s called a meeting of the four surviving owners. Because of the slowdowns, he’s been called in to investigate, and has done so undercover. The killing of Delany means there’s more involved here than just labor unrest. Someone’s trying to disrupt the program. Michaels criticizes Delany’s securities, but expresses regret at his loss.
King askes a pointed question – is it true that Michaels has offered to buy the business? It is, but Michales insists its only to keep the process within the group. He’s sure he can get the plant up and running with the security it needs to prevent further sabotage. Harris expresses some reservations.
The Commissar calls a meeting. They are to strike at the chemical plant next.
Raven and Crow watch the tavern. They can’t figure out how men entered and disappeared. Raven sees a man from the other night exit the tavern. They decide to follow him. The man meets others and they go to the chemical plant, Raven following. They overpower the guard and enter. A chase ensues. The men have their orders, and go to key locations in the plant. Raven and Crow disable some, but not all. There’s an explosion and fire races through the plant.
Raven and Crow escape the blaze, although Crow is badly burned. Most of the conspirators are killed.
X is now ruined. Michaels and the others offer to help rebuild the plant. Michaels purchases a major share of X’s stock as security.
Barrs have to lay low while Crow gets fixed up. King gets suspicious. Raven begins hunt for Peppe.
Peppe has to recruit new members for the saboteurs. He’s followed by Raven. Peppe apartment located, but before Raven can interrogate him, he’s surprised. Without Crow, he’s a disadvantage. He dives through a window and escapes in a blaze of gunfire.
King insists on another meeting of the members. Crow appears, and manages to conceal burns from King.
Peppe has rounded up enough men. The Commissar orders an attack on the docks. Needed ores are coming in.
There’s trouble on the docks. Agents attempt to blow up some cargo just off-loaded. They’re intercepted by Raven. Michaels is found on the scene, claims he was there to inspect security.
Another meeting with the owners. Michaels explaination sounds weak. Harris points out he’s minding his own business, not poking around on other people’s plants. With the attack on the plant thwarted, the process is getting back on track. The Barr’s facility in NJ will handle the process formerly run at the ruined chemical plant until it’s repaired. Michaels insists on a group inspection of the plant, and Raymond reluctantly agrees to make the arrangements.
The Commissar meets with Peppe. Peppe prepares for a trip to NJ.
Raymond gives the tour, Connors shows them the separate building that will be used.
The chemicals are delivered to the facility.
That evening, saboteurs arrive. As does Raven. There’s a fight, and building blows up.
Turns out the building was a decoy. Raven as Raymond, contacts King. The two go to Harris, who’s at home. He makes a phone call. They gather him up and all go to see Michaels. He’s missing.
Michaels’ disappErance is suspicious. King investigates by going back to the only clue they have – the tavern. He goes during the early morning hours when its deserted. King finds secret room. He explores and is captured.
Raven finds secret room. Discovers Michaels – dead, and finds a trace of King.
King is saved by Raven
Climax in meeting room. Harris exposed as Commissar, has final showdown with Raven.
All is explained. Harris was the Commissar, and the radio room was a fake. The Morse Code heard was on a record, and there was a dummy seated at the radio. He had to have Michaels killed because Michaels had heard the Commissar– and knew that the speaker was not Russian. Harris wanted control of all of the industries. Michaels was gaining controlling interest in them, and after all the power was concentrated in Michaels, then Harris would simply get rid of his rival and snatch up the businesses for himself. With complete control of the process, Harris could make enormous profits from the weapon, or even sell its secrets for foreign governments.