Tuesday, 13 June 2017


I have been reading a lot of thrillers and crime stories recently, and several of them made me think of Elmore Leonard's sage advice about writing.

Elmore's rule number 10
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

I read Matt Hilton's "Rules of Honour" (Hodder, 2013) intrigued by the blurb on the front that said "If you like Jack Reacher, you will love Joe Hunter".  Now, I know from experience that an author does not control what the publisher puts on his or her book - my first Falconer book got compared favourably to Ellis Peters and I was embarrassed.  Hilton's character was good but didn't outshine Jack Reacher.  And often the narrative flow was impeded by hooptedoodle.  Towards the end of the story, there was a fist fight described in over ten pages.  I think Hilton is a martial arts expert, but it is fatal to overuse one's specialist knowledge.  The excitement of the ending died in those ten pages, and I skipped them.
I have also recently read Chris Pavone's "The Travelers".  That was a good read where I didn't know who was working for whom until the end.  Ah, the internecine world of the CIA and its adversaries.  Give it a go.
But the best find I have made recently is "Darktown" by Thomas Mullen (Little, Brown 2016).  It is a story, based on fact, of the first eight black police officers appointed to work in Atlanta.  The dire situation of black people in the South is harshly depicted with sharp directness.  Even the black police are shunned by their fellow white officers, and are not allowed to arrest a white man.  When the case of a murdered black girl is shelved by the police department, a couple of black officers and one rogue white officer are determined to follow through the matter.  In the case of this book, one of the blurbs is justified, it says "This page-turner reads like the best of James Ellroy"  It does.