Thursday, February 11, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

by Dave White

Scott Parker often talks about his experience reading Shutter Island. He says when he sat down with it, he expected Mystic River Part 2. He wanted Lehane to give him another version of the same book. (And now, he says, he can't wait to read SI again. I think he's gonna love it, knowing what he's been reading recently.)

I've been thinking a lot about his statement though. Being disappointed in a book because you expected the same type of book as the one that came before it. I used to be the same way. I could read several Ross MacDonald or Robert B. Parker books in a row and not get tired of them.

Now, I look for something different.

I love that Lehane went out and stretched his writing muscles to give us a private eye series, then a small town Greek Tragedy, then a gothic horror novel, then a huge historical melodrama. I could sit here and argue that all his novel fall into crime fiction somehow, they are all tied to the genre, but they're like balloons tethered to the same banister--each string leads to the same place, but at the end of each you'll find a different color.

Anytime I email Duane Swierczynski that I'm about to start one of his books, he writes back something along the lines of "Just so you know, it's NOTHING like the last one." (By the way, his forthcoming novel EXPIRATION DATE is fantastic. I just received and ARC.)

That's one of my favorite things about Duane's books, much like Lehane. I never know what I'm gonna get. I could get a spy novel that makes Pepperidge farm cookies frightening. Or a book about a sexy blonde who poisons a drink. But each goes off in a different direction.

You want something new from an author. You don't want to read the same book over and over again. If you like that, then you also want to be able to recognize who the killer is by page 50.

But I like most of my writers to stretch their writing muscles. I want to do that too. Even in a series, I often don't want to see the characters going through the same thing over and over again (certain characters aside).

The book I'm working on now is different. There are things in it that I've never done before. It's surprised me at times as well. It has been hell on my writing muscles. What I have planned after this book is even more different.

(Also, if you want to see something really different, you can read about Band Bashes at my own blog. See? I can stretch my muscles.)

Just like the authors I love.

And each time I start, I'm excited to see something new happen.


Dana King said...

Lehane is a special case, as is Swierczynski. I think most readers, and writers, would be happy with books that are similar in some ways, yet different. Few writers have the chops to change too dramatically, or the readers who would necessarily follow them. Too many people really do want the same old same old every time. That's why it's so cool when a writer truly can write what he wants, and get away with it.

Scott D. Parker said...

My wife is showing increased interest in the movie. Trying to determine if I should see the movie then re-read the book or the other way round.

I recently returned to Nero Wolfe after having December be The Month of Sherlock Holmes. Thought I'd have better luck with NW than I did the first time when I was devouring a buncha hard-boiled books. No dice. Tune in tomorrow for my take.

Dave, your post is ironic since my Saturday post has similar themes only with movies...