Weekend Writing Warriors: Pigeons (Descendants)

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Thanks to everyone who read over the premise and snippet from Pigeons last week, especially those of you who were kind enough to leave positive comments!

I have a week and a half to get my query and pitch ready for the Midwest Writing Workshop.  I’ve managed to wrestle several versions of query into one—okay, two, but I’m working on it—and wrangle a pitch that one of my dear friends told me should probably be edited to include a moment or two to breathe.  Good advice.

This week’s Pigeons  snippet features Judith, the female MC (described here, though the eyes of another character).  She’s been tracing the crimes of the known aliases of reformed conman extraordinaire James Blaine, in the hopes that they will eventually lead back to his family.  Here, she’s describing a scam that she believes he pulled back in the day, under the name of Arzell Roman.

English: The signature of Thomas Jefferson, 3r...

“Roman ran a long con on Hodges about twenty years ago—an estate investment scam based on Thomas Jefferson’s alleged descendants through Sally Heming. She was one of his slaves,” she added, before Cassie could ask.

“There’s DNA evidence now,” Saul rumbled. “It proves one of her sons was a Jefferson.”

Judith nodded. “Yeah, they ran the tests in ninety-eight. Before that, it was all just historical rumor and suggestive circumstantial evidence. But Roman talked Hodges and a lot of other people into financing a legal battle to get the last Heming descendant acknowledged as a legal heir of Jefferson, in exchange for a share of her “rightful inheritance” once everything was settled.”

Estate investment scams are real, by the way, and used to be astoundingly lucrative for the enterprising con artist . . . though I’m not sure if anyone ever used Sally Heming in one.


30 thoughts on “Weekend Writing Warriors: Pigeons (Descendants)

  1. This sounds great! I love crime capers. A word, though. I used the word “caper” to describe my book BY HOOK OR BY CROOK in a twitter pitch, and had a bunch of editors and agents jump down my throat about how they hate those. One even said he used the word in an editorial meeting once and everyone groaned. I still sold my book and got it pubbed, but after I stopped describing it as a caper. ;o)

    • Thanks for the heads-up, Linda!

      Officially, I’ve been labeling it “crime,” so I’ll just keep doing that.

      Just out of curiosity, did anyone say why they hated the ‘caper’ designation?

    • It’s one of my favorites. Of course the ‘legal battle’ is delayed for years (or until the money runs out) and then the conman is gone . . .

    • Thanks, Veronica. I’ve read that most current scams are modern twists on older ones. The Internet makes things both easier and harder for cons and for cops.

  2. What makes Pigeons so wonderful–besides the amazing cast, killer plot and great scenes–is the historical connections that bring so much intrigue and realism to it. Love it!

    • Thanks, Teresa.

      I don’t know if these kinds of scams could be done on a large scale these days, Teresa, but they were all the rage thirty or forty years ago. 🙂

  3. Sorry, I’m late 🙂
    I’ve heard of those scams, they’re elaborate, but they were very popular after the economic downturn when people were leaving expensive housing developments.
    Sounds like a good story, these seem like interesting characters.

    • Better late than never! 🙂

      This one is more of an inheritance estate scam than a real estate scam, but I agree about the popularity of the housing scams.

      And thanks!

  4. You had me a long con! At least he’s not sending emails from Nigeria. “My Beloved, I have a desperate request to make of you. My husband, the former Minister of the Exchequer of Nigeria, had $250 Million and whisked it away to a secret account. However, the Nigerian Secret Police are on our trail and we need to hide this money in a safe place. Please send me your banking account numbers, social security number, home address…”

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