The Innocents

Book Cover


1940s & '50s

Jeff Lee

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A murder mystery exploring both "who done it" and a dark side of “The Greatest Generation” in the 1950s, the perpetrator, a 12-year-old boy, masks his guilt from a hard-edged police chief until the end and after the boy's mother fails to use the cop to escape her claustrophobic life.


Suspense / Thriller,,Suspense/Thriller,Detective,Drama,Mystery,Historical Fiction

Short Summary

An ex-Marine is shooting at quarts in the woods with a rifle as his 12-year-old son (Greg), a miniature jar-head, watches; the abusive father then surprises the boy with a new .22 and threatens severe punishment if the boy ever touches the gun on the sly.


Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and surrounds in 1955

Based on a True Story


Plot - Premise


Plot - Other Elements

Twist,A lost soul seeking connection

Mature Audience Themes

Language/Profanity, Extreme Violence,Extreme Violence,Nudity, Language/Profanity

Main Character Details

Name: Karl Myers

Age: 42

Gender: Male

Role: Protagonist

Key Traits: Secretive, Strong Moral Code, Perseverance, Leader, Blunt, Complex, Decisive, Modest, Selfless, Masculine, Educated, Heroic, Lone Wolf,Masculine,Modest,Complex,Honorable,Leader,Selfless,Strong Moral Code,Lone Wolf

Additional Character Details

Name: Vivian Peterman

Age: 30

Gender: Female

Role: Tempter

Key Traits: Secretive, Seductive, Aggressive, Beautiful, Complex, Desperate, Insecure, Manipulative,Desperate,Seductive,Empathetic,Insecure

Additional Character Details

Name: Greg Peterman

Age: 12

Gender: Male

Role: antagonist

Key Traits: Desperate, Insecure, Manipulative, Secretive, Villainous,Insecure,Secretive,Manipulative,Unapologetic

Additional Character Details

Name: Jerry Peterman

Age: 34

Gender: Male

Role: antagonist

Key Traits: Villainous, Aggressive, Blunt, Insecure, Masculine, Outspoken, Secretive, Unapologetic,Aggressive,Masculine,Narcisstic,Blunt,Unapologetic,Secretive

About The Author

I've been writing avocationally for decades: Peter Bart and his wife "Blackie" were mentors from 1985 to 1998 until I lost them when I divorced Blackie's BFF. They encouraged me to write screenplays, a few of which were requested and read by studios. As 2000 neared, I completed seven grad-level creative writing courses, but I ultimately chose an educational administrator's steady pay and comfortable pension over writing until 2014. That year I wrote and self-published "The Innocents" as the entry novel in a series, The Myers/Benton Chronicles, and since then, I've written 5 additional novels in the series. I have not yet sought representation, but I am at the point where, damn it, I want somebody who knows the business to read and realize the merits of this Historical Noir novel, which is based upon the essential elements of what my mother swore to me was a true story. More info about me and my writing can be found at

Target Audiences

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

Target Gender: Male Leaning

Group Specific

Information not completed

Publishing Details

Status: Yes: self-published

Publisher: Kindle Direct Publishing

Year Published: 2014

Hard Copy Available







Greg uses the gun his abusive father told him not to. The gun ends up shooting his friend Barry and Greg decides to kill the boy in order to avoid being abused by his father. Greg's coverup of the crime gets stickier and stickier until he is forced to try and silence the one witness. Luckily the girl is saved, but only after the police chief is forced to shoot Greg; which is unfortunate as killing Greg puts an end to the love affair between the chief and Greg's mom.

Overall Rating


Point of View


Narrative Elements

Authors Writing Style: GOOD

Characterization: GOOD

Commerciality: GOOD

Franchise Potential: FAIR

Pace: FAIR

Premise: GOOD

Structure: FAIR

Theme: GOOD

Accuracy of Book Profile

The logline for the typeform synopsis perfectly captures the repression and problems with the hyper gendered roles of the 1950s post WWII American Dream. However the profile keeps Barry's killer vague when it is witnessed very early in the book. There is only a murder mystery to the police and the tension stems from people keeping secrets that the audience knows about. However the profile makes the story seem more like a mystery than a dramatic thriller.

Draw of Story

The tone of repression and fear is set early on and really adds to the lived in feel of the setting. It is like a small town noir that has a fresh setting, but tonally keeps pace with the noir genre. Greg's motivation to avoid punishment both by the police and his father for any means including murder is a testament to the problems with authority in a toxically masculine post WWII society.

Possible Drawbacks

Vivian's seduction of Karl seeming seems one sided and his lack of agency in it makes her dramatic responses feel hysterical or stalkery at times. He owns up his role in their goodbye embrace, but during their actual relationship as to which he is equally responsible, Vivian is portrayed as a femme fatale of sorts despite her normal housewife demeanor.

Use of Special Effects


Primary Hook of Story

The hook is that a twelve year old boy kills his friend in order to avoid getting in trouble. The second layer to the story is that the police chief is having an affair with Greg's mother. These connections converge when Greg is killed trying to hid Greg's guilt by the police chief.

Fanbase Potential

This could have a large fanbase in the world of historical period pieces involving dark family drama. Depending on if the genre is more dramatic or leans more into the mystery aspect, the fanbase would be bigger as a suspense thriller. There is a lot of gripping tension in the characters hiding their guilt and a relatable but complex family plot.

Awards Potential

This could have some awards potential as period pieces tend to get recognition and the source material provides a lot of emotional range covering a complicated grey issue which is a good recipe to procure acting nominations.

Envisioned Budget


Similar Films/TV Series


What’s New About the Story

The originality of the story stems from the use of 1950s repression to accentuate the motivations of many of the characters. Jerry's trauma from WWII manifest itself in abuse of his family. Greg's abuse causes him to kill his friend Barry out of fear of more abuse. It is a cycle of trauma this is interconnected, however Jerry's motivations are less developed than the other characters.

Lead Characters

Greg is at the cusp of learning to stand up for himself, but at the moment is he weak because all he knows how to do is protect himself. Unfortunately, he is backed into a corner and protecting himself means killing others to hide his guilt. This duality of youthful innocence and selfishness is what is compelling about Greg.

Uniqueness of Story

This is a very solid family drama, but Jerry is less developed than the other characters. He is somewhat static and his motivations are less clear. Karl's lack of agency in his romance with Vivian despite his voyeurism is also a weaker subplot lacking clarity.

Possible Formats

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

Analyst Recommendation



While the story has many positive points, it has room for improvement (see possible paths below). If you can't change the story at this point, my suggestion is using your notes as a guide to highlight the best aspects of it when taking the next steps, either putting a pitch page together, a treatment, or a presentation.

Tips for Improvement

Creating more dimensions to Jerry's abuse aside from the allusion that he was a Marine and that he kind of knew his family disliked him for how he acted would help add a layer of realism to his abuse but also some sympathy or humanity to his character. The motivation behind Greg's actions are thematically strong, but his blunt intentional death of Barry seems out of place rather than a second fatal accident just trying to quiet Barry. Vivian and Karl start off on a even playing field when they have distance, but the closer the get the less Karl feels like he has a say in their relationship which makes Vivian seem like the only wrongdoer. By making Karl more involved their relationship then the ill-fated conclusion will seem more tragic.