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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Learning

I'm almost through with the third book in my reading spree. The second was by Daniel Silva and this one is by Mariah Stewart.

Silva writes international thrillers with a continuing character, an on again-off again Israeli agent. Set in Europe, the book hops between countries--England, Switzerland, Italy, Spain. The story not only bobs between places but between plot points: chapters consist of many, many short scenes. Most are from the hero or antagonist point-of-view, but some are from the POV of more secondary characters.

The book didn't engulf me, although the hero has a haunted past that makes him interesting. But I didn't feel as though there was much at stake. Since the hero is a continuing character, no matter how badly he's beaten, you know he'll survive. And if he didn't, and his mission failed, the world wouldn't end. Injustice would prevail, but there is always the sequel...

Compounding the low-end stakes was the fact that main threat in the book--to a world-famous musician--never materializes into an actual attempt at killing her. In the end, the assassin decides not to do the deed after all, though he is in place and close enough to carry out his mission. I wonder if Silva found himself liking her too much to kill her off. Maybe she or the assassin will appear in another book?

But I liked the way he moved around the story, cutting scenes off, even sectioning off long scenes into shorter ones without changing POV. I've had several instances in my current wip where I wanted to do that but wasn't sure how. Now I know.

I'm two-thirds into the Mariah Stewart book. The book was hard to get into. Beyond the prologue, the writing appeared thinner than I like. But as I kept on I began to see the advantages of the style. It's mostly dialog with almost no interior monologue. This gives the book a super-fast pace. Again, the story isn't the most innovative or remarkable on the planet, but I suspect her fans don't care. Violence happens off-screen, the main characters are neither dark nor tortured, and the murders happen to strangers we don't really care about. All of which makes for a safe read. And I've met readers who don't want their mysteries to be too intense.

I've also met readers who don't like to read anything but dialog. I spoke at a book club a few weeks ago and one of the members reiterated this opinion. Stewart's book would be perfect for her.

As for me, it made me think about my own dialog to internal monologue ratio. Sometimes I write pages and pages of dialog and it feels wrong somehow. Too expository, and, well, icky. And by icky I mean, boring, cliched, unclever. But reading Stewart I see how it works.

I've got 2 more books to go after the Stewart book. I think the next will be by Laura Lippman. It was so intense my husband stopped reading it. It should be an interesting change from what I'm reading now. Wonder what I'll learn?

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