Archive for October, 2010

A Tip of Mike McCabe’s hat to Lee Childs, Jack Reacher and 61 Hours.

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Anyone who’s read my second suspense The Chill of Night knows that the brutally low temperatures of a very, very cold Maine winter play a key role in my story. The victim’s corpse is found frozen solid in the back of her brand New BMW convertible.  The key witness gets lost and almost dies in a horrendous blizzard. And McCabe himself suffers from near frostbite and comes close to losing the toes on both his feet

I just finished reading Lee Childs’ 61 Hours, number 14 in his terrific Jack Reacher series. And while I do like the way I treated cold in The Chill, I think Childs did at least as good and maybe an even better job of it in 61 Hours. The setting is not Maine but the fictional town of Bolton, South Dakota where Reacher discovers a methamphetamine lab run by a vicious 4’11” Mexican drug lord named Plato and located in an abandoned military facility. A with every Reacher book the pacing is perfect and the action nearly nonstop.

But what stayed with me is the brutal cold. Ten below.  Twenty below. Thirty below. On nearly every page Childs vivid descriptions of Reacher shivering and nearly freezing to death made me want to turn the temperature up on my electric blanket.

As in The Chill of Night, the cold, as much as the hero, the victims or the villain is a real character in the Lee Childs’ book.  If you’ve read Childs before, you already know he’s one of the top thriller writers in the business.  If you haven’t read him yet, pick up 61 Hours. You’ll be in for a delicious, if frozen, treat.

Great Novels. Great Opening Lines.

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

“Death is my beat. I make my living from it. I forge my professional reputation on it. I treat it with the passion and precision of an undertaker…”

So begins Michael Connelly’s classic thriller The Poet.  For my money those lines are among the best openings of any mystery or thriller I know.

Just about everyone agrees the first sentence or two or maybe even three are often the most important sentences in a novel. They set the tone. They draw the reader into the story. Maybe they introduce the lead character. Or just the setting.   I thought it would be fun to explore some opening lines I think really work. Some of the books are timeless classics. Others just really good books. Here, in no particular order, are a baker’s dozen plus one of my favorites:

“Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.” The Shining by Stephen King.

Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate but fickle…” Peyton Place by Grace Metalious.

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.

Call me Ishmael.” Moby Dick, Herman Melville.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.

“It is cold at 6:40 in the morning of a March day in Paris and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.” Day of the Jackel by Frederick Forsyth.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

“This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford.

“They shoot the white girl first.” Paradise by Toni Morrison.

“I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte.” Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

“Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942, for wounding a man in a movie theatre.” The World According to Garp by John Irving.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was boren (as I have been informed and believe) at twelve o’clock at night.” David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

And finally, one extra that I probably shouldn’t include in such august literary company but since this is my blog, what the hell:

“Fog can be a sudden thing on the Maine coast.” The Cutting by James Hayman.

If anyone has any other particular favorites they’d like to mention, please send them in. I’d love to hear from you.