Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Treasure in Trash




Is there a well-regarded classic mystery that you’ve read and didn’t see what all the fuss was about? Why not?

I'm conflicted about how truthfully to answer this, other than to say 'yes.'

One of the big crime thrillers of last year was, in my opinion, wretched. The plot was contrived, like warmed-over Hitchcock, the characters lacked depth and credible motivation, and the book's sole non-white character was described in demeaning and problematic ways.

And of course it sold a kabillion copies, and earned worldwide acclaim, and will be or already is a movie...

But here's the thing: I learned something from reading this book.

The layout, especially its opening pages, was astounding. Not just the writing itself, though credit where it's due, but the arrangement of the first few paragraphs, the use of white space--it was a poetic touch applied to accomplish a thriller's purpose. At the first opportunity I'll lift it and put it to use.

Story is everything--but when story fails, the reading can still be worthwhile. For writer/readers, there's usually something to be gleaned from a book, even if only what not to do.

4 comments:

Catriona McPherson said...

How tantalising. I applaud and agree with your decision not to name a living writer, but I'm gagging to know.

Sam said...

Sorry to be coy, but I don't want to disparage someone's honest creative labor--and I might reread it some day and love it. Who's to say?

Susan C Shea said...

I know what you mean, Sam. Just because one subjective reader isn't impressed doesn't mean the book's not good. It's fair to say why we don't like a book as long as we don't say, in effect, "the book's no good." Because that is a judgement each reader gets to make. And we know the writer struggled to get it right, went though our own agony and self-doubt.

Sam said...

Exactly.