Monday, December 28, 2009


people who read mysteries tend to have favorites. Two of mine are Sue Grafton (the alphabet lady) and Robert Parker. I have recently noticed, however, my increasing irritation with the style of both of these writers and I'm beginning to wonder (meaning, it may be time to read for writing style as well as for content) if other mystery writers do the same things; one, the excessive and annoying use of the personal pronoun--i.e., "I walked to my door, went out, down my front steps, shrugging into my jacket as I went, out to my new car, etc etc" and, at least in Parker's case, there seems to be a dearth of semicolons. Only once in the first fifteen books did I actually find one, and that seemed to be unavoidable, so he used it.

That, and the fact that any time you write a first person mystery there is a necessity for backstory, (or appears to be), partly to explain the references for new references, but it also is a neat way to pad the pages.
Maybe it's unavoidable, I dunno.


  1. I've read about the first third of Grafton's alphabet -- not bad, Kinsey is well-drawn enough, although she's no Travis McGee *ducks*. Actually as far as handling the backstory on a 1st person whodunit, MacDonald does it pretty well, combining passing hints and references with more extensive (and entertaining) reflective anecdotes. Large parts of McGee's background are never fully explained -- but enough bits are filled in over the course of the novels that we know what we need to. Another one in a similar mold, but distinct enough to not be a copy, is Randy Wayne White. His Doc Ford books feature a loner Florida troubleshooter who is sort of a cross between Travis (without the woman troubles) and Doc from Cannery Row, if Doc was in the Special Forces. Sounds silly but he does manage to pull it off.

    I am quite fond of Sanford's Prey series simply because his main, Lucas Davenport, is unlikeable. It's quite the feat, really, making you care about someone who is frankly repellent.

    Donald Westlake's Dortmunder series is top-notch, as are the gritty crime novels he writes as Richard Stark. Of course, all three of those are 3d person, so topic drift...

    Mittens, you ever mess around with technothrillers? I tend to read them when my attention span is impaired. Preston and Child have a neat series that started with Relic, following a fascinating FBI agent who is almost a Holmesian Superman.

    On my list for this week is Cormac McCarthy's _Blood Meridian_ (borrowed from my English teacher over winter break) and a pass through Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch series. Ever read them?

  2. Something you will enjoy -- today in the store I saw a new title from Hard Case Crime, the 1950's pulp homage line (a great concept).

    The Valley of Fear, by A.C. Doyle.

    Presentation was totally cheesy pulp, no mention that this book's 100+ years old. Fantastic.

  3. and I'll bet the people who pick it up think hey, this thing sounds just like an old fashioned mystery,man...

    Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer. he has GOT to be in that grouping. It was the one writer my mother hid from me as I was growing up, and I can see why. When I finally found the books I was enthralled, but they were not re-reads...

    Ive been working my way through Robert Parker, I can usually knock back one to two a day, so at this rate I should get him out of my system in about a week. Then we start on Terry Pratchett. I got the last book (check yours, it's probably a first edition too), but it will have to wait until I wade through all the others. One of the few things Im anal about, is series that are this connected.

    Ever read Lawrence Block? Skonk recommended him to me (possibly as a joke), but since he and I usually ran the same kind of road races (so to speak), mentally, I gave it a try and damn arent they good. his Hit Man series is a short-lived one, no more so far than four in the batch, but really well done...

  4. I love Block. The Hitman books, The Burglar Who Was Named Bernie Rhodenbarr books. Don't care for the Scudder or Tanner novels for some reason, nothing I can pin down. Never been disappointed by any of his short stories.

    In high school I spent hours tracking down and reading his columns on writing in Writer's Digest. His advice has stuck with me ever since.

    I saw him on the Craig Ferguson show a couple months ago, and he said he was retiring. If he's serious, I am saddened.

  5. Well, sometimes a writer realizes he just doesnt want to do this anymore, or that he has run out of steam. In that case, I think it's the greater part of wisdom to do just that.

    we all know writers who have started writing the same book over and over, or the same poem, and you get embarrassed for them. I'd rather be guilty of giving up too soon (you can always come back) than too late, any day.