Saturday, September 4, 2010
Thriller Guy has returned from vacation. It was cold there, not winter, but when you get high enough it's pretty much always cold. The hunting was not great, more of a matter of winnowing down the places where something isn't, rather than where it is. Hiking all day, MREs for chow, sleeping on the ground; TG is getting too old for this type of fun. Maybe it's time to hang up the boots – desert, jungle, mountain – all of them.
A bright spot. TG always packs a book. When you're humping eighty pounds already what difference does a paperback make? You're strapped into the webbing of a C130 and you're too old to have an iPod so you need something to break the monotony. In this case it was an advanced reading copy of the new John Le Carre, Our Kind of Traitor. Due out in October.
Of course TG loved the early Le Carre's. What thriller aficionado didn't? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; Smiley's People. You know the ones. But the last three or four, TG just couldn't get into them. Very sad. Had the man simply gone off the rails? Or was it TG himself, grown old and too stupid to catch the brilliance? Very troubling.
TG is happy to report that the new book is terrific. Because of the usual contractual rules, the blog review will have to wait until the publication date, but the cast of characters include a Russian mobster, an Oxford history professor who becomes entangles in a spy operation and the usual back stabbing, ass covering, double crossing perfidy in the upper levels of the secret world that Le Carre does so well.
How Not to Write
And now, back to those less brilliant than Le Carre. TG recently read an author who must remain nameless (one of these days TG is going to start naming names and then the shit is really going to hit the fan), a man who has been around for years and retains the affections and dollars of millions of readers. A man who long ago stopped writing his own books, a description that fits at least ten bestselling authors. TG feels that in most cases the fact that these old bull writers quit writing their own books is a good thing because, in general, the co-authors or ghosts who do the actual heavy lifting are actually better writers than the originators of many series. But this is not always the case.
The book in question was not particularly good overall, but one small pice of crappy writing kept grating on TG's nerves. The descriptions of a character's eyes. This is often a sore spot with TG, but in most books he usually lets it slide because from personal writing experience he is aware that, for some reason, it's a tough thing to do. TG solves this problem by seldom writing anything much to do with eyes, and when it seems necessary, keeping it damn simple. But the particular book under discussion had so many references to eyes, and most of them were so bad it began to threaten TG's veritable sanity. Here are a few, garnered from a quick riffle through the pages:
“The drummers eyes lit up.” OK, that one and variations thereof is so common we can let it go.
“Her violet eyes beamed with relief.” Ditto on letting it slide. Not sure how eyes can beam, with relief or any other emotion, but...
“his eyes red with anger.” Not possible, but you get the point.
“His eyes nearly shot flames of anger.” Ugh. The word “nearly” makes it particularly odious.
“...he hissed, a rabid glare to his eyes.” Wha? Terrible. Villains who hiss are another thorn in TG's side.
“She eyed him with daggers...” Laughable. Terrible, terrible. Really, you could cry if so much money wasn't involved.
“He calmly stared back at her with probing eyes that danced above a deep scar on the right side of his jaw.” TG hates eyes that dance. And twinkle.
“Gutzman's eyes inflated like balloons.” This seems to mean the Gutzman was surprised. TG was certainly surprised. The image was almost too horrible to contemplate.
And finally, this beauty. A writer this bad should be taken out, buried to the neck and stoned by an outraged community of writers, made up of those who write by night, toiling honestly away to get something, anything published by an industry that is so crass, so greedy they will publish, seemingly unedited, the work of a hack who is an embarrassment, really, a travesty of what we should consider decent writing, not even good, much less superior, writing, not even workmanlike (a word often applied to TG's writing, and one that he is happy to bear) but writing so bad as to be laughable if it did not stray so close to criminal. A book that will, rest assured, land squarely on the best seller list. Shame, shame, publishers. You that have no shame.
“Only his eyes hinted at a personality quirk, dancing constantly in a pirouette of emotional intensity. They twitched with anger as they focused on the woman.”
Dear God, spare me. Oh, what a picture that paints. It's enough to make TG quit the whole business.
That's two careers TG has lost in the course of one blog entry.
Posted by Allen Appel at 4:00 PM