Friday, November 26, 2010

Lee Child Novels

I like them.
"Reacher had seen plenty of dead people, and Seth Duncan was more dead than most of them."
Worth Dying For
Last week I read 61 Hours by Lee Child and this week it was Worth Dying For. I think Lee Child is great, he understands economical writing. Joe asked do I mean he writes hard-boiled and I think it's different than that. Or perhaps updated. Or perhaps the thing to understand about hard-boiled writing is that it isn't just in what the detective says, but it's in the setup, like a straight man. Because Jack Reacher is a lone hero in situations where no one is as good as he is, everyone is a straight man.

I feel a touch of guilt reading these books, because they are genre fiction unrelated to my culture, and because they won't ever find their way onto the NY Times Best Books of 2010. But this isn't just a palate-cleansing (poetry is hard); I'm learning a lot.

Because Lee Child is a great writer. In the car I'm listening to a Clive Cussler novel, The Wrecker, and there's no comparison. Compared to Lee Child, Cussler (or his "with" writer, Justin Scott) is clunky and all his moves are transparent. I think The Wrecker is a much more difficult novel to write, filled with big, nation-wide events and dozens of characters. Comparing the two is an education in economical writing. Worth Dying For works, for one reason among many, because Child keeps tight rein on his story and characters. He doesn't crowd things unnecessarily with bit parts, and while there are probably some inconsistencies and unlikelihoods, I go along because the prose and the authorial distance is trustworthy. Child zooms in and out on the action effectively, even if that means sometimes he does away with villains without the satisfaction of an explanation, which is something to think about, and perhaps the most interesting hallmark of Jack Reacher's tactics.

1 comment:

P. H. M. said...

As long as you're reading trashy novels, check out this one novel "Run" by Douglas E. Winter. I think you can get it for less than a dollar on Amazon. It's fantastic, fast-paced, well-plotted, etc, and it really transcends whatever genre they originally sold it under.

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