Posts Tagged ‘Seduction of the Innocent book’

Bittersweet Edgar Noms

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The Edgar nominations were announced last week, and I was pleased to see two books I contributed essays to were chosen in the Best Critical/Biographical section: BOOKS TO DIE FOR and IN PURSUIT OF SPENSER (Matt Clemens co-authored the essay in the latter, dealing with the Spenser TV series). I admit to my disappointment that Jim Traylor and my MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN didn’t get a nod. I am never surprised to be absent in Edgar fiction categories – that’s the biggest crap shoot on the planet – but I felt we had a decent shot in this smaller, more specific category. There’s always the Anthonys….

Today I doing a final pass on a Mike Hammer story, “So Long, Chief,” developed from a particularly strong ten-page Spillane fragment. It will likely appear in The Strand, and I am gradually completing enough Hammer stories to see the possibility of a collection glimmering on the horizon.

Matt Clemens and I met this week and put the finishing touches on WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU. The book definitely reflects my interest in the wave of Nordic mystery fiction, which I’m mostly familiar with via foreign TV adaptations. Barb and I watched a new Varg Veum film last night, for example, and have gone through all of the available Wallanders (as well as the Brit version). The longer TV cut of GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is superior to the films (apparently it’s not uncommon for TV movies and series to have limited theatrical releases in that part of the world, before expanded television versions are aired). While it’s dangerous to look at a country’s output of crime fiction as a genre unto itself, I am fascinated by the Nordic mix of political intrigue and social ills. WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU doesn’t reflect the political side in a major way, but does (I think) represent a move away from the CSI-oriented forensics thrillers that Matt and I have previously explored.

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A nice review of the 2007 Ms. Tree prose novel, DEADLY BELOVED, has turned up on the web.

My friend, the fine writer Ed Gorman, wrote a very generous piece on SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

Here’s a so so review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, a patronizing piece from my point of view. It also quotes a PW review from a reviewer who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “parody” (hint: not interchangeable with pastiche).

More SEDUCTION reviews are available at Goodreads.

And here’s a nice, insightful review of “A Little Faith,” the story Matt Clemens and I did for the anthology DARK FAITH INVOCATIONS.


Road to Heller

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

This is a brief update, as Barb and I are on the road with the TARGET LANCER book tour. We have already done Iowa City (Prairie Lights), Scottsdale AZ (Poisoned Pen), and Houston (Murder by the Book), and will have done Left Bank Books in St. Louis by the time you read this. Check the above listing of a few other appearances.

M.A.C. discusses TARGET LANCER at Left Bank Books, Central West End, St. Louis

Great reviews for TARGET LANCER continue to appear, like this very smart one of Scene of the Crime.

Mystery People continues to give us great TARGET LANCER coverage at their web site and now with a You Tube video.

And the very first SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review has popped up by terrific writer Ron Fortier. The book comes out next February, which suddenly isn’t so far away.

Quick recommendation: HITCHCOCK with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, playing art houses mostly (at the moment anyway).

More next week.


Breaking Elmore Leonard’s Rules

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Every now and then somebody puts Elmore Leonard’s ten rules of writing in a magazine column or up on a blog, and a lot of people rave about what good advice it is. The best advice I can offer writers is not to listen to advice from other writers.

Just the same, here are Leonard’s rules followed by my take on each.

1. Never open a book with weather.

An opening describing weather can create mood and atmosphere. See the first chapter of ONE LONELY NIGHT.

2. Avoid prologues.

Prologues can be effective, as for example when the first chapter takes place some years later and the prologue sets up back story. A prologue can (a) suggest a certain sweep to the narrative, and often (b) sets up something that will be paid off later.

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

“Said” is the preferred verb for carrying dialogue, but an occasional specific verb – like “insisted” or “demanded,” when the dialogue itself isn’t suggestive – can break things up a little. Also, “asked” is perfectly acceptable and even preferable for dialogue that poses a question.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”

Said can be effectively aided by an adverb when the dialogue itself doesn’t convey the tone. The suggestion that the tone should be inherent in the words spoken by the character doesn’t acknowledge the variation between characters and/or the mood of a character. (“I love you,” he said hatefully. “I love you,” she said sarcastically.)

Leonard’s general dislike of adverbs takes to the extreme the common sense notion that adverbs should be used sparingly. Better to choose verbs strong enough not to require an adverb (which is why “said” sometimes is not enough). Sometimes an adverb provides just the right seasoning.

5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

Exclamation points should be used sparingly, but the notion of limiting yourself in the way Leonard suggests makes little sense, unless he’s just being cute. Any story, and its needs, will determine how many exclamation points you might use. You might use none. You might use twenty.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

“All hell broke loose” should be avoided as a cliche, but not necessarily in dialogue, because characters are allowed to use cliches in their speech, particularly as a point of characterization. While “suddenly” should be used sparingly, instances where it’s useful do turn up (“Suddenly he knew he was a fool.”).

By the way, if I dropped the adverb “sparingly” from the previous sentence, the sentence would advise the use of the word “suddenly.”

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

This would depend on the story and the characters therein. I think we can agree Mark Twain did all right with Huckleberry Finn.

By the way, Leonard just used an adverb again (“sparingly”).

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

A typical Leonard “rule” that is fine for him, because it’s part of his style and a preference he developed over years of writing (and reading). It derives chiefly from Hemingway, a writer he admires, and screenwriting, a reductive form Leonard has practiced through most of his career. You omit detailed character description in a screenplay not as an artistic choice, but because producers don’t want to limit casting possibilities.

Leonard’s notion that readers should essentially decide what a character looks like based upon dialogue and other action strikes me as absurd or even lazy – often physical characteristics are at odds with behavior. Like the description of a room, clothing reveals character. Reporting grooming, age, weight, height, and other physical aspects of characters is a vital part of the writer’s tool kit.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Again, this borders on laziness and puts onto the reader responsibilities that are rightly the author’s. Of course, “great detail” is a subjective term, and I would agree that one shouldn’t overdo. But that is according to the taste and technique of the individual writer.

10. Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.

Write well and they won’t skip anything. If they have ADD, let them go to You Tube for their entertainment.

Elmore Leonard is a terrific and distinctive writer. He developed these rules for himself and no doubt means well sharing them. But you should follow his rules only if you want to write like Elmore Leonard. And there seems to be an Elmore Leonard out there already writing perfectly good Elmore Leonard novels.

I like Elmore Leonard’s writing very much. But wouldn’t the world of books be boring if everybody wrote like him?

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The Top Suspense group (of which I’m a part) has a new e-book anthology out, FAVORITE KILLS. The theme is stories that were either award winners or otherwise were successful for authors. My contribution is the Quarry story, “A Matter of Principal,” which launched both the new cycle of Hard Case Crime Quarry novels and the Quarry movie “The Last Lullaby.” Read about the new anthology here.

I finished SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT last Friday (Barb and I took Saturday and Sunday off with a Chicago getaway). I say “finished,” but I will be re-reading today and tomorrow, looking typos and tweaking. Should be in Charles Ardai’s hands by Wednesday.


[Quick note from Nate: ANGEL IN BLACK is on sale for the Kindle through the end of the month. Don’t miss it!]

Raymond Burr Isn’t In It

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Nathan has a new book that’s just out from Viz, MM9 – his translation of Hiroshi Yamamoto’s fun novel about Godzilla-style monsters, which I really enjoyed.

Here’s the official description:

“Japan is beset by natural disasters all the time: typhoons, earthquakes, and…giant monster attacks. A special anti-monster unit called the Meteorological Agency Monsterological Measures Department (MMD) has been formed to deal with natural disasters of high “monster magnitude.” The work is challenging, the public is hostile, and the monsters are hungry, but the MMD crew has science, teamwork…and a legendary secret weapon on their side. Together, they can save Japan, and the universe!”

If you like Japanese monster movies, you do not want to miss this.

Here’s a really nice QUARRY’S EX review from Bookhound.

And check out this short but sweet KISS HER GOODBYE review.

Jon L. Breen is a reviewer who has always been kind to me, but really doesn’t care for Mickey Spillane much. But he’s very good to KISS HER GOODBYE in this multiple review article (looking at continuations of famous series) in the Weekly Standard.

Another piece that compares the graphic novel and film versions of ROAD TO PERDITION has popped up, favoring the former. I like the movie myself, but this writer does sort out the relative strengths and weaknesses of both. Worth taking a look.

Vince Keenan has done a nice piece on the posthumously published Don Westlake novel, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED. It talks about my role in bringing this excellent lost book to print, finally.

I am at the half-way mark of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. For those wondering, I’m deep in the bunker and often blow off phone calls and e-mails – Barb does all the driving when I’m in this much of a daze, much more in the world of the novel than the (so-called) real one.

But I will be emerging like a ground hog seeking his shadow this coming Saturday night (January 28) at Ducky’s Lagoon in Andalusia, Illinois (near the Quad Cities). It will mark the first public appearance of the band with new bass player Brian Van Winkle, guitarist Jim’s brother (we have played one private party with Brian). The performance will be dedicated to the memory of founding member, bassist Chuck Bunn.