Monday, 30 August 2021

Where to find a good thriller - am I too hard to please?

 I am currently reading a thriller which has been cried up as being "twisty, scary" and was recommended in the Sunday Times and on its cover by another crime author whose books don't appeal to me. Perhaps I should have been warned. This was a random purchase because I recognised the title. The plot is, indeed, scary but regrettably that's all I can say for the book. I could not bond with any of the characters, two of whom were depressingly similar, it was hard to tell one from the other. And it all went on and on, the hand-wringing, soul-searching, conversations which didn't do anything for the plot. I daresay I am out of kilter with what is popular in this kind of fiction. I loved Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and I sometimes get the feeling I am reading bits of this novel when I try other work out there at the moment. 

Being a writer myself, I appreciate all the hard work that goes into writing a novel and I also fully understand that reading tastes vary widely, and thank goodness they do, otherwise we'd only have one kind of book available to us. However, I have to feel empathy with the main character and if I do not feel that in the first ten pages of the story, my attention will start to falter. "They can all kill themselves for all I care" I have thought on a few occasions. 

I am currently flicking through this novel but I just cannot read through another chapter. I'll keep turning over the pages and checking to see who did it and why before I drop the book off at a charity shop. 

Monday, 28 June 2021

Nearly there with the new novel

 Well, I have finished my sixth or seventh draft of the new Sergeant Alan Murray novel and just need to read it one more time to check for errors and omissions and all that kind of stuff. I have to psych myself up to do this because I have been reading, re-reading and editing for weeks now, or so it seems. I feel I know every word by heart - and that is not good. Familiarity breeds typos, incorrect names and backgrounds of the main players, to mention but a few problems. So I need to knuckle down one more time.

As usual, I have enjoyed writing the story, getting the characters to develop before my eyes and sorting out the whys and wherefores of the plot. Nearly there. I have the cover sorted (I hope). Next comes the blurb, the outline of the story which hooks the reader and persuades them to open the book or download to Kindle. I always find this the most difficult. What to leave out, what to put in? Basically, someone commits a crime (murder usually) and Sergeant Alan Murray has to find out who the perpetrator is and bring them to justice. Inbetween the crime and the solving of the crime, comes what the French so elegantly call the denouement, the unravelling of all those bits and pieces of information which I have scattered into the pages of the story. 

I have some loyal readers who are waiting impatiently for the novel to be completed and available. Readers are what makes it all worthwhile. So here goes.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

 Time to relax at least for a bit.

I finished another psychological thriller on my TBR pile about a week ago and decided that I needed a break from all the tension. I have to say that, thanks mainly to Twitter, I have been able to pick up some excellent thrillers and I am grateful for that. But I felt it was time to turn to the gentle world of Jane Austen and so I took Emma down from my bookshelves. I have read it so often that I nearly know it by heart but this does not lessen the enjoyment. You know that line in the song The Second Time Around? Well, reading Emma is "like a friendly home the second time you call". It is like visiting old friends where you can talk as if you had seen each other only yesterday. Randalls, Hartfield and the village of Highbury, they represent a sheltered world which is gone for ever. The no-nonsense Mr. Knightley and Emma, who we have to like even though she thinks "a little too well of herself", because with all her faults, she is basically like us all: good at heart but liable to make blunders.

I should, of course, be editing my Sergeant Alan Murray novel. I have finished the first draft and now comes the hard work. But I do it for fun, I keep reminding myself. I hope to have this fourth novel in the series ready for publication by September at the latest. A plot for a Christmas novel is also starting to tick over in my head but I haven't got beyond thinking about the main character. 

Writing is a wonderful pastime. It beats knitting bed socks, let me tell you, at least for me. I never could learn any kind of handicraft. At least if you are a writer you can repair, unravel and start anew without having to pick up wool and needles or scissors or whatever. 

Maybe I'll just read one more chapter of Emma to keep the feel good effect going. Might start on editing tomorrow.

Monday, 1 March 2021

 I am currently reading a crime novel. It is perfect for what I want at this moment in time. I don't really have any idea who the killer is and to be honest, I don't care either. I like the detective - at least a bit. She'd be one of those people you see at parties where you stop and chat for five minutes before moving on to someone else.  The story is well told, all the suspects could have dunnit. But it lacks something, a pinch more salt in the cooking, maybe.

In the previous novel which I read, there was so much action that my head buzzed when I finally put out the light and tried to settle down to sleep. This too was well written if a bit over-long. It kept me puzzling to the end which was a mild surprise. 

On reflection, I think I almost prefer the book I am currently reading because it is not going to intrigue me too much, just holds my interest.

Since writing this I have finished that crime novel and I must say the unfolding of the plot was a bit hairy. I didn't even try to fathom it, just thought "oh, it was him". And yet, I enjoyed the story and will look for other books by the same author - this one was written ten or twelve years ago so maybe the plot lines have become more believable. There are so many books out there and they all have their merits, their strong points and their weaknesses, just like the people who write them. It's a comforting thought.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

 Sleepy News

I read the other day that a university in some part of the United States has been researching the effects of insomnia on fruit flies. Me neither and I couldn't agree more. 

I read this because the words sleep and insomnia caught my attention. I don't own up to being an insomniac. I'm what you'd call an irregular sleeper. In my wild youth, I could I could sleep for oh around 10 hours or more. Then marriage and children changed that a bit. And now, when I live on my own and could sleep for 20 hours without someone saying as much as "fruit fly", I can't. 

I try to do all those things that are recommended.  I don't have my mobile in my bedroom (unless I need to set the alarm for any reason - no reason since lockdown), I do not have a television set in the room. I read for around half an hour, usually a crime novel. Then I switch off the light, turn on BBC's Radio 4 or RTE's Radio 1 and try to drift off to sleep. I wake around an hour and a half later and toss and turn for at least an hour. When there's a full moon, I usually can't drift off for longer than that, so I trot into the living room and scroll Twitter or read poetry for an hour or more. I go back to bed and finally doze off, waking at around 8.30 a.m.  I have learned to live with it, more or less. Tried taking a sleeping tablet but that didn't seem to do the trick. I guess I need less sleep, unlike the fruit flies.

In case you are dying of curiosity, the university doing the research discovered that when deprived of sleep, fruit flies crashed into walls, totally disoriented. Maybe I should look at those sleeping tablets again....

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Time to read the old favourites and find new ones

I have so much more time to read at the moment that I am trying to stretch out what I haven't read yet and pick a few favourites from way back. It's nice to have a TBR pile next to my bed but I have nearly got to the end of it now and while searching for new stuff, I like to relax with someone that I have enjoyed before and know I will enjoy again. It's like visiting old friends. If I'm feeling particularly vulnerable, I choose Jane Austen. My favourite of hers is Emma followed by Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. But with the exception of Northanger Abbey, I love all her writing. She was witty and perceptive and her characters are very true to life.

If I'm in the mood for something a bit different, I read Eric Ambler's novels. He is probably forgotten nowadays and yet, in my opinion, he was a great thriller writer. I have just finished A Kind of Anger and I still admire his story-telling and the plot. The next Ambler on my list is The Nightcomers - I have the American version and the title the U.S. publisher used was State of Siege. Either way, it is another Ambler classic - the ordinary not very virtuous guy gets caught up in a situation which he has to find a way to deal with. An interesting thing for writers who like to learn from others is Ambler's use of smell to make a character even more sinister. In one of his thrillers, the bad guy's cologne smells of "attar of roses", those being the days when aftershave was not so much used, although I suppose if it were a modern story, any brand of cologne would be as effective. Somehow, this scent conveys a sense of menace which it is hard to define.

Currently, I have started re-reading The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsythe. Again, this is a masterpiece in suspense. I believe he had some difficulties in getting it published because everyone knows that Charles de Gaulle was not assassinated. However, the sheer skill of his writing and his background knowledge of international police workings interwoven with historical figures, has made this a classic.

If all that has not made me give up and put the quill back in the goose, I shall do some work on my current crime novel in the Sergeant Alan Murray series. I have been struggling with parts and problems of the plot but yesterday when I was out walking, something clicked into place and now I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get going again.

To writers everywhere, I wish you inspiration and to readers, lots of fun reading those stories.

Monday, 18 January 2021

 What do you mean?

Some famous writer -I'm too lazy to look it up, but I think it was Ernest Hemingway - once said something like "never use a ten-dollar word when a one-cent one would do". He probably said it more elegantly but the meaning is the same. Most of my favourite authors write good, plain English. There are others - not my favourites - who search for what they reckon are admiration-inspiring long words that I have to look up to get the meaning of.

This aside, I am currently amused by the new expressions which have crept into our language. One of my favourites is "imposter syndrome". Now there's an idea. When the going gets tough at work and you're wondering if it was your best idea to take the job, you can put it all down to imposter syndrome. Does that make you feel better or worse? If it were me, I would feel worse. A syndrome?  Really? Just because the going is rough? Who thought that one up and spread it around like soft butter?

Another word I smile over is eclectic. Great if you play Scrabble. What happened to good old-fashioned "varied" or even easier to spell, "diverse"? They have the added attraction that they are easier to pronounce after a glass or two of savignon blanc. 

Then again, you won't be going to one of those parties where you trot out these terms, that is unless you are talking to the family pet.