A Good Question

Kim’s review of the Time Traveler’s Wife struck a chord with me. Kim wonders if she’s out of touch with contemporary culture because she disliked the novel. To paraphrase, she also wonders why the book was written; why it is popular or well-reviewed.

I haven’t read the novel. Reviews of it were ubiquitous after its release, no doubt the result of what editors call The Big Push; lots of advanced reading copies or maybe a lucky break for the author gave it an aura of importance that resulted in the chain of events described by Kim with her gift certificate.

The result is an obviously intelligent reader feeling ripped off and possibly blaming herself for buying a book that she intensely dislikes. Her articulate and candid thoughts on the subject would never appear in the NYT or SF Chronicle where I think some gushing may have occured.

We all have a stake in this. I write novels in the hopes of seeing them published and finding an audience. I read novels that I expect to both enjoy and feel admiration for. It would be awful to have someone cheated by the experience of reading.

On a lighter note, Kim wondered if Phil, Kevin and I are guys. I assume Phil and Kevin are, but I hadn’t considered the possibility that they could be women writing under male names. Anyway, my name is David Thayer, and I am a guy.

A Good Question

Kim’s review of the Time Traveler’s Wife struck a chord with me. Kim wonders if she’s out of touch with contemporary culture because she disliked the novel. To paraphrase, she also wonders why the book was written; why it is popular or well-reviewed.

I haven’t read the novel. Reviews of it were ubiquitous after its release, no doubt the result of what editors call The Big Push; lots of advanced reading copies or maybe a lucky break for the author gave it an aura of importance that resulted in the chain of events described by Kim with her gift certificate.

The result is an obviously intelligent reader feeling ripped off and possibly blaming herself for buying a book that she intensely dislikes. Her articulate and candid thoughts on the subject would never appear in the NYT or SF Chronicle where I think some gushing may have occured.

We all have a stake in this. I write novels in the hopes of seeing them published and finding an audience. I read novels that I expect to both enjoy and feel admiration for. It would be awful to have someone cheated by the experience of reading.

On a lighter note, Kim wondered if Phil, Kevin and I are guys. I assume Phil and Kevin are, but I hadn’t considered the possibility that they could be women writing under male names. Anyway, my name is David Thayer, and I am a guy.

Coming to a Blog Near You

Thanks to the efforts of Alexis Welby of Simon & Shuster, Kevin Wignall’s For The Dogs is winging this way for review. I’m excited at the prospect of reading his work and hope to have a review up this time next week.

Again, courtesy of Alexis, we’ll have an interview with Kevin Wignall as a follow-up to the review.

If all that goes well, we’ll head to Tartine for lunch.

Note to Phil: Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine are showstopers, bro.

Coming to a Blog Near You

Thanks to the efforts of Alexis Welby of Simon & Shuster, Kevin Wignall’s For The Dogs is winging this way for review. I’m excited at the prospect of reading his work and hope to have a review up this time next week.

Again, courtesy of Alexis, we’ll have an interview with Kevin Wignall as a follow-up to the review.

If all that goes well, we’ll head to Tartine for lunch.

Note to Phil: Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine are showstopers, bro.

A Maltese, if you please

Kevin’s post about Dashiell Hammet’s classic The Maltese Falcon gives rise to the question, how is the hard-boiled detective these days?

In the Forties, this character had several recognizable traits; he was American, he smoked Chesterfields, he was a guy. His dingy office above the Boulevard of Broken Dreams blinked neon; he spoke on the phone with his feet on the desk and called his secretary Doll.

Bogie personified Sam Spade in the film version of the novel. Everyone lied to Bogie; in return, he squinted and did what he had to do. His partner was dead, the cops were on him like a cheap suit and the Wonderly dame had him walking intio walls. She’s lying, Bogie, we cried from the balcony, can’t you see she’s just no good.

The detective genre has exploded beyond the confines described above; gender doesn’t matter anymore, nor does race or nationality. From Boston to Botswanaland, we’ve got noir or least descendants thereof, still doing what they gotta do, falling for the wrong guy or gal, finding partners dead in vacant lots off Bush Street in the fog.

Does it get any respect? It should. It’s literature when it’s well done. Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin comes to mind as a great novel, genre or not. Walter Mosely elevates the game, as do others who bring craft and dedication to their work. But if you measure respect by the lists of the major publishers, the hard-boiled crowd seems underrepresented. Even as the mystery-suspense genre expands, the bulk of the books coming out are soft indeed. Intead of a steely eyed PI, we’re more likely to encounter a mom in a sweater who finds Uncle Max dead beneath her azaleas. Our heroine puts aside her gardening gloves and sets out to find Max’s killer. Diane Mott-Davidson provides funny titles like The Grilling Season and recipes. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll peel onions; not to pick on Mott-Davidson or the flood of similar titles, but it makes me yearn for the good old days when cul-de-sacs were just dead ends.

Maybe the change reflects the demographics of suburban versus urban, affluence instead of breadlines and post-war gloom. I suppose if Bogie or his lookalike appeared on most streets in America today, he’d be arrested or, at the very least, thanked for not smoking.

It doesn’t look good for traditional noir, yet the books that stand out tend to be dark, infused with moral dilemma. Writers like Archer Mayor, Harlan Cobain and Richard Price work the patch pretty well; Barbara Saranella, SJ Rozan, and Laura Lippman do too. Janet Evanovich has a good thing going with Stephanie Plum. Maybe it’s not exactly noir, but she lives in Trenton and that’s worth something.

In Defense of Non-Fiction

Howdy, CM readers. My name is Phil, and by his sheer graciousness, Kevin has let me post on his blog. Truly, a child will be named after him. Maybe not necessarily one of mine, but some child.

In any case, to non-fiction. While David’s post is among the nifty, I have to take exception to the sentence, “Reading fiction is more rewarding than non-fiction because it provides a unique perspective. Non-fiction tends to reinforce or even drive the collective angst-that’s why its topicality leaves me cold.” It perhaps depends on what is meant by “non-fiction.” Admittedly, McNamara’s little mea culpa, and non-fiction of that sort, is often painful and usually exhibits a short shelf-life. But let’s move on to other types of non-fiction.

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Can't You Hear Me Knocking

My name is David Thayer and Kevin has been kind enough to bring me on as
the thriller-noir reviewer for CM.

With all the talk about the NEA report and the decline of reading, you get the idea that book publishing is an anxiety fueled business. Anxiety is color coded for your convenience; we’re currently and collectively at orange or yellow, I forget which. I’ve also forgotten whether orange is worse than yellow or vice-versa thus fueling additional anxiety. Not reassured by Ridge or Ashcroft we are left to our own devices and my favorite one is books.

In philosophy, perspective is the antidote to anxiety. Reading fiction is more rewarding than non-fiction because it provides a unique perspective. Non-fiction tends to reinforce, or even drive the collective angst, that’s why it’s topicality leaves me cold. When Robert McNamara confesses the Vietnam war wasn’t such a hot idea, the reflex is to say we knew that Bob.

One of the best thrillers I’ve ever read was The War With Hannibal by Livy. As a historian, Livy takes his Lumps for making things up and inserting off the cuff political comments; yeah, he wrote a novel and called it a history because he lived in an era where non-fiction reigned supreme.

Two thousand years later the NYT says non-fiction is all that matters. We’ll see about that. Another section of the NEA thing alluded to eleven million people engaged in creative writing; perhaps the audience has grown restless, stormed the stage at Carnegie Hall and grabbed a violin. It’s a big sound, but is it music?