THE TICKET

Kenneth Hess

Book Cover

GENRE

ACTION ADVENTURE DRAMA

    Core Theme

    PERSEVERANCE

    TIME PERIOD

    19th Century

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    N/A

    CHARACTER LIST

    WHITNEY WASHINGTON (M/10) — LEAD. ESCAPED SLAVE ON THE RUN. EMPATHETIC, EARNEST, LOYAL, INTELLIGENT.

    SAMUEL WASHINGTON (M/60S) — SUPPORTING. WHITNEY’S GRANDFATHER, ALSO AN ESCAPED SLAVE. WISE, STALWART, SUPPORTIVE.

    PHILIPPE “LE NEZ” BOYER (M/50S) — SUPPORTING. SLAVE CATCHER HUNTING WHITNEY. MERCILESS,
    SADISTIC, RACIST, AND TOUGH-AS-NAILS.

    Logline

    LOGLINE — After witnessing the murder of a Southern aristocrat on a plantation in antebellum Alabama, a ten-year old house slave must flee for his life. Unbeknownst to the boy, he carries a secret and timely message that could greatly affect the outcome of the impending civil war.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 13-17,18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    Alabama plantation then up the Mississippi and on to Ontario Canada

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: No

    Starting Description

    When his father and the plantation master’s wife are murdered, Whitney runs. The murderer, a powerful Confederate conspirator, sends slave hunters after him to retrieve an incriminating letter penned by Jefferson Davis. Heading north, Whitney hopes to find his mother who was sold away when he was 5.

    Ending Description

    Clutching a swatch of tattered fabric, Whitney stumbles into his mother's arms, a Railroad conductor now living in Ontario. He tells her of his journey, the foiled rebel plot, the demise of the slavers chasing him, and how his hope, wits, and buoyant spirit helped him change the world along the way.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    No

    ISBN

    Information not completed

    Mature Audience Themes

    Language/Profanity,Extreme Violence

    Plot - Other Elements

    Coming of Age,Happy Ending,Meaningful Message,Twist

    Plot - Premise

    Quest,Overcoming Monster/Villain,Rags to Riches,Voyage and Return

    Main Character Details

    Name: Whitney Washington

    Age: 10

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Charming,Confident,Decisive,Empathetic,Engaging,Faithful,Heroic,Educated,Honorable,Skillful

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Philippe Gaston Boyer aka: Le Nez "the Nose"

    Age: 55

    Gender: Male

    Role: Antagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Badass,Aggressive,Complex,Confident,Crazy,Criminal,Decisive,Desperate,Greedy,Leader,Masculine,Villainous,Power Hungry,Manipulative

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Johnson Beauregard Duke

    Age: 55

    Gender: Male

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Badass,Aggressive,Complex,Confident,Crazy,Criminal,Decisive,Desperate,Greedy,Educated,Leader,Villainous,Narcisstic,Patriotic,Power Hungry,Outspoken,Secretive,Sophisticated,Manipulative

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Plantation Master's wife Delilah Duke

    Age: 40

    Gender: Female

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Badass,Aggressive,Charming,Complex,Confident,Crazy,Criminal,Decisive,Desperate,Greedy,Villainous,Narcisstic,Power Hungry,Secretive,Seductive,Sophisticated,Manipulative,Unapologetic,Sexy

    Development Pitch

    Written in a cinematic style, The Ticket combines gripping history, great escape action, romantic intrigue, coming-of-age tension and family saga into a rich, complex and atmospheric historical thriller. Audiences will cheer out loud as Whitney Washington, a precocious ten year old slave boy, and his courageous grandfather outwit and thwart evil plantation masters, psychotic slave hunters, big city underworld gangsters, river pirates, train robbers, and all manner of ruthless villains as the two refugees make their way up the Mississippi on a luxury liner riverboat piloted by young Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) while being chased by the bounty hunter, Le Nez. A fast paced, moment-to-moment race across America the story is not one of suffering and despair, but one of hope, inspiration and triumph. While the duo runs north in search of Whitney’s mother and freedom, Abraham Lincoln vies for the presidency, and the war between the states looms in the shadows. Powerful men are plotting to compromise the United States’ economy by committing a diabolical act of treason—and a virtual powder keg is waiting to explode. Taking place inside of nine days and nights audiences will have the opportunity to run in step with the runaways as they make their way to the Canadian border. Finally, ticket in hand, Whitney stumbles into the arms of his long lost mother, now a Railroad stationmaster living in Ontario. Le Nez surprises their reunion and Whitney's mother saves their lives.

    Genre

    ADVENTURE, ACTION, SUSPENSE, THRILLER, DRAMA

    Brief

    THE TICKET follows scrappy, 10-year old slavery escapee Whitney Washington and his grandfather Samuel as they flee from their plantation after a violent eruption leaves Whitney’s father dead at the hands of their master. With the help of friendly steamboat pilot Samuel Clemens, who would go on to become iconic author Mark Twain, Whitney and his grandpa head up the Mississippi River toward the Canadian border, where his mother is said to dwell. However, they find themselves chased after by a ruthless, sadistic slave catcher called “Le Nez.” After tense chases, narrow escapes, and shootouts—and with the help of varied good samaritans along the way—Whitney makes it to Canada, but not without losing his beloved grandpa Samuel to the vicious Le Nez. Reunited, Whitney and his mother square off with Le Nez in a final showdown, leaving the hunter dead once and for all.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: FAIR

    Characterization: FAIR

    Commerciality: EXCELLENT

    Franchise Potential: EXCELLENT

    Pace: FAIR

    Premise: EXCELLENT

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    It is accurate.

    Draw of Story

    What drew me into the story immediately was the highly sympathetic character of Whitney. What is impressive is how the author earns sympathy for Whitney in excess several times over. Not only is Whitney lovable in that he is a child, but he shows a special kind of empathy and earnestness that earns him substantial additional sympathy. An example of this is when he spends time and gives affection to plantation dog Beau. All in all, Whitney is an admirable and effective access point into the world of the story. This work is strongest when we are looking at the world through his eyes.

    Possible Drawbacks

    What made me want to put the book down at times was how sporadically it seems to jump around. While it starts off strong, and while the end of each act is usually well-focused, this work seems to falter a bit when it sidelines Whitney in favor of less memorable and less developed bunches. There are times where it feels like the author is even trying to lose the audience with the sheer amount of characters being tracked and introduced. Often times, this reader found himself eager to get back to the main, forward-moving story thread— That of Whitney and his granpa fleeing to freedom and away from vicious villains. Again, this work is exceedingly at its most resonant, compelling, and exciting when we see the world through Whitney’s eyes— He is the character with the single most amount of depth and sympathy, and the more time we spend in his shoes the better. Perhaps another pass to excise and simplify some of the extraneous characters and to double down on our investment into Whitney would only help this work.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The hook of this story is that it offer a poignant portrait of the suffering of Black people all while bundled into an exciting, eventful, and memorable adventure story. This is not just popcorn entertainment— It has leagues of value and subtext in service of greater, even educational themes. However, let it not take away from the spectacle and set-pieces— There are many a chase, confrontation, and consequence in this work, and it will prove to be plenty enough to satiate a commercial audience.

    Fanbase Potential

    It’s certainly possible— This work is checking a lot of boxes. Not only would it appear to appeal to a wide variety of ages, but it seems to have ample historical, educational, and thematic value to back up its set-pieces and popcorn thrills as well. As noted, one of the qualities that stands out about this work is its well-rendered action— From the steamboat chase to the Terminator-like pursuit of Le Nez at the end, this work has more than its fair share of thrills.

    Awards Potential

    Probably not— Although its thematic value is abundantly clear, this work also makes its action a priority. The simple fact of the matter is that action and adventure tales don’t usually fare well in the awards circuit. Nor do youth-focused tales— Despite is severe language and violence, this work still feels like a kids’ story at its heart.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    N/A

    What’s New About the Story

    There are a few things that stand out as original in this story— First, there is the unique POV in the form of a runaway 10-year old slave in Whitney. Usually slavery stories are adult prestige dramas, and it felt fresh that this work was much more in the spirit of action and adventure films. Moreover, it was interesting how the author included a number of historical figures in this work— It functions to ground this work and imbue it with valuable added context. Lastly, the villain in Le Nez stood out as memorable and terrifying.

    Lead Characters

    As noted, Whitney stands out as a rather uncommonly sympathetic lead— The author triples down on this investment, and it ends up paying dividends. Whitney is so sympathetic, in fact, that it begs a question of why we don’t spend more time with him— Constituting what feels like a bit of a miscalculation. Secondly, Le Nez is a candidly terrifying antagonist for his sadism and evident psychopathy, which pair well with his memorable appearance. It’s a character begging to be captured on screen.

    Uniqueness of Story

    While the freshness and fertility of its high concept would push it toward rare gem territory, there is a lingering sense that this work has not yet reached its full potential. A doubling down to most completely invest in Whitney’s story and the squeezes and releases it provides would help immensely. Right now, there is a bit of clutter that chips away at this works efficiency, potency, and palatability.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio, Streaming TV Series: Network, Cable, Limited Run / Mini-Series, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    WORK IN PROGRESS

    Justification

    This is a work in progress for the simple reasoning that it does not feel like it has reached its final form/the best version of itself. In essence, it feels like the author sidelines and forsakes his most interesting storyline and his most important and sympathetic character for tangential or extraneous characters and story elements. It is to the point that it sometimes leaves the reader feeling spun and tired out, desperate to get back to the A story, which seems to operate on a much higher level in terms of propulsion, efficiency, and more. Right now, the sheer amount of characters and contexts in the periphery threatens to leave the audience disoriented and disengaged, while it also seems to impede on the sense of flow and forward movement to keep skipping around.

    Tips for Improvement

    As touched on above, the simple solution would be to give another pass on this work with an eye toward cutting, condensing, and simplifying everything outside of the Whitney/Samuel journey. There is so much in this work that feel inessential, and cutting/condensing it would only aid this book in knocking down its in some ways burdensome page count. In the end, it would function only to maximize the potency of this work and to take fuller advantage of its obvious strengths.

    Brief

    After his master’s violent outburst leaves several dead, a scrappy 10-year old slave and his grandfather daringly escape, headed for Canada. However, they find themselves chased after by vicious bounty hunters for hire. Luckily, several kind souls along the way, including a young Mark Twain, help conceal and transport the two escapees. After countless close calls, shootouts, chases, and his grandfather’s demise, Whitney ultimately makes it safe to Canada, where he prepares to start a new life with his long lost mother.

    What We Liked

    There are countless strengths in this work— Not enough credit can be bestowed for the high concept which contains a welcome dose of thematic and educational value while working hand in hand with the action, genre, and spectacle elements in this work. All in all, it seems like a winning combination. Anchored by a highly sympathetic and easy-to-root-for lead and underpinned by a vicious and frightening villain, this work promises to be a real crowd pleaser— It’s a work that families might be able to witness together, while still maintaining a strong sense of gripping suspense, explosive thrills, and surprising violence and groundedness.

    Film: This would be an ideal candidate for adaptation to film for a few key reasons— For one, this work has its fair share of high stakes and memorable spectacle. While most stories in this time period and exploring this subject matter tend to be adult R-rated prestige dramas, this work is much more in the spirit of action and adventure stories. Audience will line up to partake in the transportive, eye-opening, and often gut-wrenching journey of Whitney and Samuel. Moreover, this big screen would be arguably the best canvas for the intimidating, visually memorable characters such as Le Nez, who among others has an iconic and harrowing aesthetic.

    TV: This work would make a great adaptation for television for a few reasons— For one thing, its central journey from the deep south to Canada should offer more than enough story to fill up a season’s worth of TV. Each episode could end with a massive, memorable, and consequential set-piece picked right out of the text, and the tease of sequels bodes well for additional seasons, too. Moreover, this work features countless side characters and stories as well as historical figure cameos. While more could certainly be done to layer them into the main driving force of the story without impeding on the rhythm and flow, it certainly offers a robust, desirable platform for expansion. In essence, a writers’ room would have a field day with the countless seedlings of story and character planted in this text.

    Key points:
    1. The hero— Whitney is as memorable as he is relatable.
    2. The villain— Le Nez is a terrifying foil to the well-meaning, root-able Whitney.
    3. The spectacle— From chases to shootouts and more, this work has more than enough to dazzle a wide audience with its exciting action.
    4. The high stakes— Underpinning the spectacle is a concurrent sense of dire stakes— Out beloved heroes are constantly on the edge of death.
    5. The historical and educational value— From its much-needed themes to its many historical figure cameos and appearances, this work has much to offer its audience beyond its popcorn thrills.

    Synopsis

    After witnessing his owner’s violent outburst leave his father dead in cold blood, a good-natured 10-year old slave named Whitney flees alongside his granpa Samuel, also a slave. Narrowly escaping their owner’s hounds and cronies, they board a cargo train, which carries them North. This spurs their one-time owner to hire ruthless slave catcher “Le Nez,” or “The Nose,” to sniff them out and capture them.

    Whitney and Samuel find an ally in Samuel Clemens, who would go on to become the iconic author Mark Twain. Donning the disguises of an old woman and a little girl, the escapees lay low while Clemens’ steamboat carries them North. Clemens shares his passion for literature with Whitney, even helping him learn how to read. Eventually, Le Nez catches up to the boat. While Whitney and Samuel deboard, Le Nez follows suit in what amounts to a bravura chase and conflict. Luckily, Clemens is an expert captain and gets the upper hand.

    Whitney and Samuel hide in a hearse which discreetly carries them further north, while we occasionally cut to Harriet Tubman as she actively conducts the underground railroad. After several near misses, Le Nez catches up to Whitney and Samuel as another boat ferries them north. A fateful showdown leaves Le Nez and Samuel shot and thrown overboard, and Whitney sees his lifeless grandfather floating away. Finally, Whitney arrives at his final destination, where he reunites with his long lost mother. However, Le Nez rears his ugly head once again, only to be put down for good by Whitney’s mother. Finally free, Whitney prepares for his new life.

    About The Author

    Best kept concise and to-the-point— An advertising and marketing professional for many years, Hess spent decades creating and telling stories on behalf of his clients. After a brief stint as a book-packager, he authored two coffee table books published by Simon & Schuster and has completed hundreds of hours in writing coursework. Tendered in a similar voice and time period, his short story “Billy Goat”, won a national First Place prize from the Southwest Writers’ Guild. The Ticket is his [first?] novel.