Friday, April 18, 2008

When I grow up....

As you may or may not have guessed, among other things I'm an aspiring writer. Well, technically everyone you know is an aspiring writer (including you) because everyone has a story to tell. One they think is exciting, other people want to know and think Tom Cruise would be a great lead in the movie version. Or in my case Denzel Washington, in a pinch Sam Jackson.

But as a active writer, you tend to read a lot. Well, most of us do, Stephen King I understand writes a book every forty five minutes or so, so maybe he can only squeeze in a read during bathroom breaks, but most writers I know are avid readers. A good book and a snack and you might not hear from me for hours. I have read a some novels in a single sitting.

When you think about it, writing is the hardest possible medium to work in. True you have blank page, no actors to corral or studio to placate, but for your intended audience to get it...they will have to do everything. They have to envision the it all with only your guidance, filling in the voices, the looks and vibe all from imagination. To build an following of readers takes skill and a good story. So it makes me wonder why despite the success of sticking to the story as written (see Harry Potter), Hollywood persists in rewriting established works to fit the screen and not the other way around. (Writing that makes me realize that's going to be a whole other post.)

I'm going to take a moment, for the readers out there, to introduce a few of my favorite authors. Guys I read, how I feel about them and why I think picking up a book by them might not be your worst option. So here goes...

Carl Hiaasen
I just like him. He's a Florida writer, which means he writes about things that can only happen in Florida. As a one time resident of the state, I realize that there is something inherently wrong with the whole place, it just seems to breed a mindset that is three degrees off kilter. But then that's what makes for interesting reading, and Hiaasen has way of showcasing those odd characters.

Clive Cussler
I once described Cussler as the greatest hack ever to put word to printed page. His characters are cut whole cloth either hero or villain, cardboard in construction and design, melodramatic and easily predictable. That said I must own ten or twelve novels by him. You don't read a Cussler novel to see if the hero wins, you read it to see how he wins. A few of the books read like he works from a template...but it sure is fun reading.

Dan Jenkins
The vast majority of the works of Dan Jenkins in novel form swirl around the goings on of the people of Fort Worth, Texas. That would be because he's from there, so it's understandable, and that's what gives the work it's charm. His books read like either soap operas for men or little stories of stupidity that happen involve people he knows. He's an old white man writer, so occasionally the work is ...insensitive...but it's still a good read.

Donald Westlake
There is something about a Westlake book. I mostly only read the Dortmunder series from Westlake, in my opinion his best character, a criminal planner whose exploits more often than not leave them only the greater experience rather than the loot. I've heard some say Elmore Leonard is a great criminal fiction writer, but then I don't think those folks have ever read Donald Westlake.

Phil Foligo
I started reading Phil through comic books, but that isn't the right medium for him. His latest offering, the online graphic novel Girl Genius, is a magnum opus of a work, well into what must be it's 25th chapter and I swear nothing has happened yet. Yet still worth a read. Amazing. When he does put pen to paper it's almost like he's created a whole other world, and is rushing to get it all out before the next bit of thought strikes him.

Ross Thomas
A good Ross Thomas novel is two things, well written and eerily hewn to the truth of how things happen. There are few explosions, nothing world shattering, and usually not a whole lot of money at stake. But the stories are the kind you can believe actually happened somewhere, and that you weren't supposed to know. Mr. Thomas died quite a few years back, but I ever find a book of his that I don't have, I'd put down food in order to get it.

Terry Pratchett
Think Harry Potter, only good. And funny. Pratchett's best series, Discworld, is at 30 books and counting. His characters memorable, his stories satiric and full of bits of language you'll read more than once they're so oddly funny. I wait for a new Pratchett book like a kid waiting for Christmas.

So pick one up...

Barkeep....a nice tall glass of koolaid. You gotta lunch meat sandwich back there?

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