Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Cleansing The Palate...

First, I gotta say I'm deeply disappointed that nobody gave me this for Christmas:



Because, not only do I want my shotgun accessible, I want it so accessible that I can get to it before I'm actually awake. And of course, I want it accessible to my 3-year-old. Oh, wait... "Not intended for homes with children." Or homes that children ever visit. Or homes with sleeping people. Or...

You know, there are plenty of bedside gun safes that provide access within seconds ...

Anyway.

I've been in a reading rut lately. It happens every once in a while. I pick up a novel, start reading, and after a few pages or a few chapters, I put it down. I don't care whodunit, don't care who lives, who dies, if justice is served. I'm bored.

I've learned that, whenever I fall into a reading rut, I need more than a good story. I need to read exceptional prose.

And by that, I don't mean flowery, show-off prose. I just want the writer do be doing something with language. That something might simply be making the language as clean as it can be.

David Ellis posted a while back, asking if good storytelling or good writing was more important to us as readers. Of course we always want both, but I find as the years pass, good writing becomes increasingly important to me.

This time, I got out of the rut by reading MARATHON MAN, by William Goldman. It had been years since I'd read it, but I remembered being impressed by Goldman's prose.

And for good reason. Man, that is a beautifully written book. The prose is lean and clean and evocative, pulls your eye down the page. Just a terrific book. And of course, it's awesome storytelling, too. The complete package.

Last time I fell into the reading rut, it was Elmore Leonard who pulled me out, with RUM PUNCH. Again, great writing, and great storytelling.

So, in preparation for the next rut, I turn to you: What crime novels impress you with both storytelling and writing chops?

22 comments:

Dana King said...

Several come to mind, but most recently I read Ken Bren's LONDON BOULEVARD, which has both in ample quantities. Anything from Elmore Leonard in the RUM PUNCH era would do, as would most books by Ed McBain.

Abe Froman said...

I read The Black Dahlia recently and it really knocked me out. James Ellroy's recent stuff is a bit of an acquired taste - the short, choppy sentences take some getting used to - but he's really at the top of his game with this one.

David Heinzmann said...

Sean, I'm sorry too that nobody gave you The Backup. It's awesome. And i'll note that the anchor mechanism keeping it between the mattress and boxspring is the same as the safety rail on my kid's bed. Nice to see that design is so versatile.

And I'd agree with you and Dana about Elmore Leonard, though I wouldn't put a time frame on his work. I read Mr. Paradise, which came out just a couple years ago, and found it just as entertaining as his books from the 70s and 80s.

Mike Dennis said...

Not long ago, I finished THE STREET OF NO RETURN by David Goodis. Very powerful stuff. A simple yet compelling story accompanied by great prose. But hey. That's Goodis for you.

Libby Hellmann said...

That's so weird, Sean... I was in the same place. Then I read Crumley's THE LAST GOOD KISS and reread Cain's THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Oh, and Sara's HARDBALL, which is awesome! Between those three, I'm a happy camper again. And inspired...

Like the Backup. Think I'll try it. Of course, I'd probably shoot my foot off...

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Michael Dymmoch said...

???? (previous comment)


They're not crime fiction exactly but try The Gates by John Connolly and In The Courts of the Sun by Brian D'Amato. Both are well written and definitely different.

Dana King said...

David,
I'm down with MR. PARADISE. I Leonard's books past that point, starting about the time of TISHIMINGO BLUES, aren't quite as good as the standard he had set for himself, with the notable exception of THE HOT KID.

I know a lot of people like TISHIMINGO BLUES, but parts of iy never quite worked for me, mainly the whole Civil War re-enactment subplot.

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