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Shotgun Honey is small, targeted press that puts out some of the most original, innovative works in crime fiction.  What’s more – they’re one of the few publishers that accepts unagented submissions.   


One of their thrillers that I’m super excited to read is A Bad and Dangerous Man by Brett Lovell (originally titled The Honor in These Hills).  Set in a rural Appalachian town in 1912, the book is based on a true story in which a simple kiss at a corn shucking led to an epic feud and a massacre inside the county courthouse.  


The December 2023 debut, which delves into honor killings, moonshiners, and political corruption among other topics, has gained some great reviews. Scott Blackburn said the novel “is packed with all the elements of a great, Southern burner: greed, murder, and an unforgettable cast of moonshiners and outlaws.”  Bobby Mathews called Lovell “a powerful new voice in Appalachian fiction.”


Lovell kindly shared the query that he submitted to Shotgun Honey.  In the letter, he makes clear why he’s a good person to write this book: the massacre took place in his hometown and he’s a student of history.


(Indulge me in a slightly off-topic tangent. According to their submissions page, Shotgun Honey asks for a sample of 3 chapters or 30 pages.  The brilliant editor Sara J. Henry recently posted that she’s acquired many great manuscripts that were previously overlooked because they didn’t begin as strongly as they could have. Make sure your early pages start off with a bang, so your otherwise wonderful novel doesn’t get passed over).


Dear [NAME]


Thank you for opening a special pop-up submission window. I have been waiting for Shotgun Honey to open for novel submissions. I am very interested in publishing my novel, “THE HONOR IN THESE HILLS” with Shotgun Honey.


THE HONOR IN THESE HILLS (74,000 words) is historical crime fiction based on a true story that occurred in my hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It examines the tragedy of honor culture and false stereotypes about the people of Appalachia. It will appeal to readers of Brian Panowich’s Bull Mountain and Chris Offutt’s The Killing Hills


In 1911, survival in the remote Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia required independence, self-sufficiency, and loyalty. Wesley Edwards is born into the Allen Clan, a family of fiercely independent outlaws and moonshiners. Wesley’s father is dead, and he is influenced by his uncles, Floyd Allen and Sidna Allen, two very different men. Floyd is a violent man with a vile temper and Sidna is a successful businessman with a magnificent new home. 


Wesley reignites a bitter political feud between Floyd and the men who run the county courthouse when he kisses Maude Iroler at a corn shucking and gets into a churchyard brawl with her boyfriend the next day. Wesley is charged with assault and, on the advice of his Uncle Floyd, flees across the state line into North Carolina. Wesley is captured and dragged back into Virginia by two local deputies. Floyd pistol whips one of the deputies and releases Wesley. Tensions flare when the corrupt officials who run the county courthouse see an opportunity to finally hold the Allen Clan accountable for years of perceived injustice. 


The feud culminates in a massacre inside of the county courthouse when Floyd refuses to surrender after he is found guilty. Five people are killed, and the Governor of Virginia calls the shootout “the greatest crime in the history of Virginia, perhaps of the United States.” The Sheriff is murdered in the shootout and the Governor brings in the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to lead the manhunt. Wesley and Sidna escape and hide in the rugged mountains of their homeland. Betrayal and vengeance lurk in every narrow valley and dark hollow as Wesley and Sidna are forced to rely on the help of family and friends while being pursued by the ruthless Baldwin-Felts detectives.


I was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I have a bachelor's degree in History and a master's degree in Public Administration and Policy from Virginia Tech. I live in Blacksburg, Virginia with my wife and two young children. 


THE HONOR IN THESE HILLS is complete and immediately available upon request. I have included the first twenty pages. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.




Brett Lovell


Even before publishing his debut thriller, Jon Lindstrom was a bit of a renaissance man – the three-time Emmy nominated actor has directed, written screenplays, and narrated audiobooks. In, Hollywood Hustle, he puts his decades of experience in TV and film to use and tells the story of Winston Greene, a broke and washed-up film star whose daughter is kidnapped by criminals seeking a ransom he can no longer afford.

Booklist called the novel “a love letter to the city of Angels.” It has already garnered great reviews and made the USA Today best-seller list – an amazing achievement for any debut writer.  

Lindstrom was kind enough to share his query for Hollywood Hustle (originally titled Hollywood Ending). Lindstrom described the query as a reminder that if you have a connection – use it. Yes, most of us can’t say we were nominated for a prestigious award, or know Michael Connelly from acting in Bosch (side note: if you haven’t watched, it’s massively entertaining). But you probably have a connection to your source material that explains why you’re a good person to write your book. Maybe your book is a police procedural and you were a dispatcher in another life. Maybe you wrote a cosy set in a small-town theater, and you were an acting major in college. Whatever it is, if you got it, flaunt it.

Dear ,

I hope this finds you well as the world slowly returns to normal. I decided to reach out to the Spitzer Agency because I met your client, Michael Connelly, when I was an actor on Season 5 of the Amazon series, BOSCH. Meeting and working with Mr. Connelly was a professional highlight for me as I’ve been a big fan of the “Harry Bosch” books for years. Should anyone ask, you can tell them you received a query from the guy who played that scumbag lawyer, "Lance Cronyn.” :) I am looking to secure representation for my debut novel, HOLLYWOOD ENDING, a contemporary Crime Thriller of 86,400 words. The mini-synopsis:

Winston Greene, a once-popular film actor, learns his estranged daughter has been kidnapped by a murderous band of criminals who want all of his “movie money.” What they don’t realize is … his movie money is long gone. Over the next 36 hours, best laid plans will collapse, desperate choices will be made, the body count will rise, and Winston will be forced into a bloody and devastating confrontation.

It's a violent, fast-paced tale of greed, duplicity and revenge. My intention is for the reader to experience a propulsive ride through the dark side of sunny LA (and a somewhat acerbic take on the outsider’s view of showbiz success). Readers would be fans of Thrillers, Crime, Noir, Kidnap, Pulp and Hollywood stories. I envision HOLLYWOOD ENDING as the first in a series of crime novels set in and around Los Angeles (perhaps all with “Hollywood” incorporated into the title). I am working on the second in the series now.

As for me, I am a 3-time Emmy nominated actor still enjoying a durable onscreen career. I’ve appeared in all manner of high profile content, i.e., the aforementioned BOSCH, TRUE DETECTIVE, and indie films such as the soon-to-be-released A DARK FOE and MARZIPAN. (Who knows? You may even know me as those wacky twin brothers, “Dr’s. Kevin Collins/Ryan Chamberlain” on ABC’s GENERAL HOSPITAL). And I’m an award-winning filmmaker, having written two produced feature screenplays, one of which I directed. I also have a sideline narrating audiobooks, which helped give me the confidence to pursue this lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist. If interested, there’s plenty more information at; bio, social media links, all that.

Rather than Chapters, my book is told in Parts (the first not ending until page 64) separated by unnumbered sections, so to be as in line as possible with your stated current submission requirement of including only the first chapter, I have pasted the first twenty-four pages below my signature, which I estimate to be about equal to similar novels. I trust that is acceptable. I hope you enjoy the sample and I look forward to your response.

Thank you for your consideration.



Jon Lindstrom

Jahmal Mayfield blazed onto the crime writing scene with his debut, Smoke Kings.  Living legend Don Winslow now calls himself “a big fan,” and Eli Cranor dubs the book “straight fire.”  The thriller was an Amazon editors pick and earned starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.  


Smoke Kings follows Nate Evers a young black activist reeling from grief after the murder of his cousin.  In the aftermath of the tragedy, Nate and three heart-broken friends try to exact retribution and reparations by kidnapping the descendants of hate crime perpetrators, demanding that they pay into a community fund.  But when something goes horribly wrong, they find themselves facing the wrath of a white supremacist leader and a racist peace officer.


Mayfield was kind enough to share the query that won him representation.  I thought this letter was very effective because he instantly (1) delivers on-point comps, (2) shows the agent that this is a targeted query and not a form letter, and (3) demonstrates in a few sentences that he can tell a compelling story.


Dear Jackson Keeler,

I’m writing to seek representation for my novel, SMOKE KINGS, a gritty crime story of 81,000 words. It will appeal to fans of S.A. Cosby’s RAZORBLADE TEARS and David Joy’s WHEN THESE MOUNTAINS BURN. I decided to contact you after reading about the Alberto Mansur sale on Publishers Marketplace and then discovering that you had previously worked with The Story Factory (Don Winslow is one of my faves.)  

SMOKE KINGS opens in the swamps of Louisiana where Nate Evers, a young black political activist, and three of his friends have kidnapped the white descendant of someone who forced a black man to jump to his death from a bridge in 1957. They call the ransom “reparations.”

It’s not the first kidnapping the crew has conducted nor will it be their last. Sparked by a personal tragedy, they’ve been carrying out their own vengeance for past sins of hate. But when they snatch and kill their next target by accident, they’re plunged headfirst into a battle for their lives. Suddenly two dogged men are on their trail: Mason Farmer, a jaded old lawman with disturbing views on race; and the dead man’s brother, Samuel Wayne Pringle, the violent leader of a group known as the Righteous Boys. While fighting to thwart these pursuers, Nate and his friends are forced to accept a painful truth: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

The first chapter of my manuscript follows in the body of this email. I hope you enjoy the read and look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.



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