Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I'm back from the mother ship. Bruised, but not battered. My sanity is questionable, but normal for me. Any minute now I'll figure out how to use the walker without running over the oxygen tube. Hope abounds.

On my enforced vacation I've been reading and listening to audio books to escape mentally from the dungeon. I've got a few tips for authors and publishers.

PLEASE, by all things which are holy; chocolate, kettle cooked chips and a good single malt scotch, DO NOT add music to increase tension in an audio book. Give the author back the MS and make them write page-turning thrills or lump in the throat despair. If they can't or won't, then you do your job and get yourself another author. I know, I know, harsh.

Authors you've got a difficult job to accomplish in the first fifty pages. You MUST make me like and root for your protagonist to succeed in his/her mission which you've set. Could you do this without boring me to tears on the back story? Yes, I realize it's a ton to ask, yes, I know it's difficult to write, but hey, I'm a picky reader.

I loved flawed/handicapped/misfit characters. But damn, give them a backbone and a job most of us wouldn't tackle even for an ocean view house and a pool boy with abs to die for. Have you guessed by now I ran into numerous disappointments in my reading material over the last month?

Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz. I love new authors. I adored and promoted Lisa's debut book. She'd written a quirky protagonist with heart. Her writing was fast paced, irreverent and hilarious. Her second novel, was still funny but the footnotes and annotations were just down right annoying. The third novel, her protagonist, Izzy shows little character growth, her quirks are no longer cute but irritating, the ubiquitous love triangle leaves me rooting for no one. Damn, what a waste of a potentially great series. I'll borrow her novels from the library, if they get good revenues. Disappointed.

Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley. A debut. Yippee, a new author. A down on your luck reporter, after a failed attempt at the big Detroit Times, crawls back to his home town to be the local editor. He ends up investigating the death of his hockey coach who died 10 years earlier. Not a bad premise. Blurbs by Michael Connelly, Steve Hamilton, CJ Box and George Pelecanos, saying nice things about his writing. His bio suggests he has the writing chops for the deserved blurb praise. However by page 50, I was bored silly with his protagonist. I didn't even hate him. I wanted to ignore him. I wasn't sure at the 50 page point if there was even a murder worthy of investigating. He had potential for great setting descriptions, cold Michigan winters and hockey, unfortunately, neither of these came alive in his writing. Half way to the end I set the book down and I've yet to pick it back up.

Runner by Thomas Perry. Nine long years since he wrote a Jane Whitfield novel. The original series Jane showed people how to disappear from one place and learn to live in another without them getting killed. Very creative series. Jane was/is a complex protagonist. If you haven't read the series rush out and get the first, Vanishing Act. Block out reading time because you won't put it down until you've finished the last page. Perry's written pace and tension were up to his usual standards. I do however have a quibble, the back story. BORING, snoring here. Jane was never that introspective. I realize the new reader needs to catch up, but damn, just not all in one book. Hopefully we'll see Jane again soon.

I picked up Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris. Sookie is a favorite of mine and Charlaine deserves all her recent success with HBO's series True Blood which features Sookie. Charlaine has written several other great series, but not with the success of this one, they are worthy of tracking down to be read. After only a few pages I've got one question for Charlaine. Seriously, what's up with the deep fried pickles?

PS. Hello Devin and Benjamin welcome to the wacky family.
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