Friday, October 22, 2010
Thriller Guy is back in harness after his week at the beach with the Squatting Toad, his writer's group. He found, once again, that he's not very good at introspection: sitting on the beach, gazing out at the endless waves, pondering his future. Boring. So TG would like to thank all the commenters who wrote to tell him to just shut his cake hole, quit whining and get back to work. Point well taken. TG promises no more of this sort of self indulgence.
So, the first order of business is to warn thriller writers that if they continue to use the cliché, “Time to get out of Dodge” he will be forced to eviscerate their puny novels with such lashing invective that the howls of pain and rending of garments will be heard throughout the length and breadth of the land. The last two thrillers TG read contained that hoary old line, as have many, many others of the the last several years. Ditto: “His/her head erupted in a burst of pink mist.” Can we not come up with another way to say this? TG doesn't believe it anyway; any readers out there ever witness such a phenomena when someone is hit in the head by a bullet? And while TG's at it, he is heartily sick of any variation of the old, “If I tell you I'll have to kill you” joke, even when uttered sarcastically. Enough.
Which brings TG to the subject of wisecracking heroes in general, and those who are not funny in particular. Some authors, you can tell when reading their books, find their own attempts at this sort of banter absolutely hilarious. The rugged hero jests back and forth with his underling buddy, accusing each other of various sorts of masculine deficiencies, commenting on a woman's obvious attributes, cracking wise under fire. The results are often painfully unfunny. TG is, and he knows this is difficult to believe, unable to come up with a fix for this problem. Obviously, the writer's friends, family and editors are all either moronic enough to think that the snappy repartee is actually funny, or afraid to offend his/her writerly feelings by suggesting they either come up with better material or just cut out the humor altogether. Which is what TG suggests; if you don't really have solid evidence that you are in fact actually funny, just resist the urge to josh and stick to coming up with thrills.
The same can be said with authors intent on clever dialogue between a hero and his love interest. Before accusing TG of rampant sexism for use of the word “his,” be advised that thrillers featuring a female hero with a male in the buddy/love interest role are virtually non-existent. TG invites any suggestions where this is the scenario. An exception to this rule is last September's Spartan Gold by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood. This new series features Sam and Remi Fargo who are treasure hunters who stumble upon a WWII Nazi mini-sub which leads them, eventually, to two solid gold Persian columns previously discovered by Napoleon and hidden in the Alps in 1800. The plot is the usual Cussler mind-bending stretch, but Blackwood (TG is guessing here, but after reading a zillion Cussler books he doesn't think Mr. C. is supplying much more than an outline or even just a story idea these days) is the pen behind the witty dialogue between this married couple. Both Sam and Remi are pretty much equal and both are cool under fire and dash into various frays side by side. TG is looking forward to the next adventure featuring this likable duo.
So there you have it. TG hopes one and all will forget his last dip into the well of self pity as an aberration brought on by the loss of a giant book contract that would have changed his life forever. And someday TG is going to tell that story; it's a real doozy.
Monday, October 4, 2010
TG just finished a military thriller/mystery that he liked quite a bit. He can't share much about it until the review runs, but it was by an old pro who also writes a lot of non-fiction. The man has a nice style. Here's how one of the chapters begins. (A group of Army men and women are on the beach at night in Mexico. Is there any scenario more fraught with the possibility of danger?)
“Our fire had gone out. A crescent moon barely shown, but starlight paled the beach. The sea rasped. You could feel the hot weather coming by the lingering warmth in the sand. Jerry passed the bottle of tequila.”
The coming hot weather, that bottle of Tequila...you just know that something bad is going to happen. And it does.
Next week TG is headed out to his annual Beach Week with his fellow members of the Squatting Toad Writers Group, who have been mentioned in these pages before. It will surely be the usual bacchanal: writing, arguing, drinking, staggering along the beach at night (cue the bottle of Tequila) watching an entire season of Dexter over six days. But it is also a time of reflection, a time when the aging TG sits on the porch, smokes a few cigars and thinks over his years in the publishing business and ponders that eternal question: “When the hell is it ever going to pay off?” It hasn't so far.
Sure, TG's life sounds glamorous: reading free books day after day; penning quick, biting reviews that can break or make a fellow writer's career; interviewing famous thriller masters -- oh how we laugh and joke -- drinking heavily to ensure a steady flow of ideas (see earlier blog entry on the place of alcohol in the profession); astounding Mrs. Thriller Guy with his clever observations and profundities. And being paid, albeit poorly, for all of the above fun. Yes, it's a heady existence. But, and TG hates to say this, it's beginning to pall.
Truth be told, the publishing business has been in, as TG has mentioned before, a terrible slump. Two of TG's novels, a long one and a short one, remain unsold even though his tireless agent continues to send them out. (Don't forget, Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before some publisher had the glimmer of intelligence it took to take it on.) And recently TG lost a celebrity ghost writing deal that fell apart at the end because of perfidy on the part of the celebrity, unseemly behavior by a pair of agents, words shouted in anger where TG was pronounced, “Not only a terrible writer, but The Worst Writer in the World!” Surely that can't be correct, can it? And the amount of money that eventually went to some other writer (good luck to you, pal, whoever you are) was simply staggering. Yes, TG has had many such deals such as this collapse under him before. But this one was different, somehow; it had the ring of finality. The sound. as one of my writer friends once put it, of the slap of a shovel on the earth of a newly dug grave. See, now TG is so upset he's gone and mixed his metaphors.
SO TG is going to think about it. Maybe he's spent enough time in this scribbling life. Maybe it's time to wash the stench of ink stained words from his arthritic hands. (God, this man can Really Write.) Let's try out the words to see how they might sound.
TG will let you know what he decides.