Thursday, February 01, 2007

Quick Trigger

No, I'm not talking about the Gordon D. Shirreffs novel published as half of an Ace Double Western in the Sixties; that's QUICKTRIGGER, all one word. (Although if you're a Western fan and haven't tried Shirreffs' work yet, you really should.) I'm talking about the fact that I've gotten a lot quicker about setting a book aside and not finishing it if I don't like it. At one time I was a member of the "if I start a book, I finish it" crowd, but the older I get the less I feel that way. I guess it goes back to the old "So many books, so little time" cliche.

Anyway, this morning I started a legal thriller by a guy who's a medium-big name in that field. Not Grisham, but not too far under that level. The first line of dialogue was on page 17. The first 16 pages of the book were devoted to a very dry history lesson about the protagonist and her back-story and the setting, but mostly the setting. Whatever happened to "show, don't tell"? I read that far only because I wanted to see how long the author could maintain it without writing something, oh, I don't know, interesting, maybe? It was back on the shelf with that sucker, while I muttered a prayer of thanks that it was a library book and not something I actually spent money on.

I followed that up by starting another legal thriller by another author, and in the first 16 pages of that book, we get a nicely done interrogation scene that gives us some good characters and dialogue, somebody confessing to a murder that he -- and we -- know he didn't commit, and numerous hints that all is not as it seems. This one I'll keep reading, at least for a while, to see if it lives up to the potential of its opening.


Anonymous said...

I find that the older I get the quicker I am to quit on a book I am not enjoying. I have too many unread books on my shelves to spend my time reading something I don't like. It is harder though when it is a hardback that I have bought.


Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder if "Show, don't tell" is a virtue of fiction past.

Amyone can see that fiction with its roots in early twentieth century writing and the pulps, especially the hardboiled school, prizes this style as an elemental virtue.

Modern fiction, not so much.

I might blame TV, where storytellers see no problem with stopping the narrative flow dead to explain back-story, puff characters up and insert reams of material designed to make the story appear socially relevant and meaningful.

Irritates the hell outta me, if you couldn't tell.
Think I'll go read some Frederick Nebel now.

Charles Gramlich said...

I still have a hard time putting down a book if I get more than a few pages into it, but I thinking I'm coming around to your way of thinking more and more.