Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grisham, Charlie Rose, and stuff

Here are a few facts you don’t need and probably can’t use.

The Associated Press reports that a poll conducted by the Sports Marketing Group in Atlanta has identified the top 10 most hated spectator sports:
1 Dog fighting
2 Professional wrestling
3 Bullfighting
4 Professional boxing
5 PGA Tour
6 PGA Seniors
7 LPGA Tour
9 Major League Soccer
10 ATP Men’s Tennis

The Duluth Pack was invented in 1892 and is still manufactured and sold and used today.

John Grisham appeared on Charlie Rose last night. At least that’s the program we saw here in the Twin Cities. He is a charming, well-spoken good-looking man with the manners of a gentleman. In spite of Rose’s irksome habit of sometimes laughing inappropriately and interrupting his guests, Grisham never lost his cool and always stopped when Rose talked. Here are some highlights.

Grisham told a fascinating story about his “A Time to Kill,” in my opinion probably his best book and how it came to be written.

He makes no apologies for the kind of suspense thriller he writes. His aim he said is to write a taut fast-paced page-turner. He admits his books are light on characterization (!) and that his wife often admonishes him to get off the soapbox. For each new book the hardcover print run is more than two million books. He avoids racy language and explicit gore and sex because he wants a book that you, his middle-aged first reader, would feel no discomfort handing to your teen-ager or to your grandmother.

Discipline is a key. He believes that you must be able to write a page or two every day or you’ll never get the job done. He is working on several ideas at a time, goes with the one that grabs him, clips news stories, steals from any source that interests him and listens to folks around him for dialogue.

Plotting and good storytelling are his strengths, he believes, and while his books are often pointed indictments of some aspect of our society, that is never his point or his rationale. He can give you the plot and essence of every book he writes in one or two sentences and strongly suggests that if a writer can’t do that, he or she had better learn to do it. He is paying for a wide variety of worthy causes here and abroad, most apparently dealing with support of literacy and education.

There’s lots more. Crime fiction writers would do well to get a copy of the program and study Grisham’s approach. He was on for the full hour.

Oh yes, he says he never reads critics unless they are positive, then went on to reveal that in fact he does read them and believes he still learns from thoughtful, well done criticism.

Here’s another of my thoughtful, well-done reviews of a mystery.

Blacklight Blue
by Peter May
from Poisoned Pen Press
hard cover, 326 pages

Another in May's series with the crusty scot Enzo MacLeod, former ace forensic scientist. Living now in France, Enzo struggles with relationships with his two daughters, and abruptly with several coordinated attacks on his relatively well-ordered life.

This novel is the third in May's excellent cold case series. A French writer has done a book about a series of old unsolved murders and a reward has been offered for any one who can solve the cases. But unlike earlier efforts, here the target seems to be striking preemptively at Enzo and his family.

A crime novel with more than the usual twists and elements that are not what they appear on the surface. Enzo answers a lot of questions in the course of determining who killed a man named Lambert. But there is a lot more of substance in this emotional tale. It will entertain, mystify and perplex, right up to the very end.

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