Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Call me curmudgeon (but don't be nasty)

I suppose it’s my time to act curmudgeonly. I recently read a mystery that has been highly praised by some big-name authors. The main character is quite well drawn and is an interesting mix of tenacious cop heavily flawed by fate and a highly abrasive manner.

He has some serious medical problems that are described at great length. Ditto his personal problems with some ladies. Maybe I’m too jaded, but for me all the personal introspection and excess police department rivalry slow the story and impede the progress of the mystery. Admittedly his illness ties in with the plot, but at times it seems to weigh it down as if tied to a concrete block.

There’s also the tendency to over-describe the settings. I can do without knowing about every knick-knack that fills a room, whether it be in a home, a bar, or an office. I like to throw in occasional scenes in restaurants and other locales that add color to the story, but I get the feeling this book overdid it. It’s not alone, I hasten to add.

As I indicated, I readily concede to being a bit of a curmudgeon here, but I’m a fan of the faster-paced mystery. My style is to keep the extraneous stuff to a minimum and keep the action on target.

Perhaps it would be better to call this book a character study more than a mystery. My problem is that though I felt sympathy for the cop, he was too harsh to enjoy a score much above a 2.5 on the Likability Scale. His determination to get to the bottom of the crime was admirable, and of course he made it by the end of the story, but his penchant for laying waste to the landscape left scant room for endearment.

I like my protagonists to be flawed. That’s what makes them interesting and believable. But this guy carried a chip on his shoulder the size of a two-by-four. And one other thing. The “f” word was thrown around like a ping-pong ball bouncing about the table. That’s one of my pet peeves. Sure, some cops cuss like sailors. Some sailors cuss like cops. But if you’re not going to tell me every other word they use on a regular basis, why dwell on this one? Use it once or twice and I know it’s in their lexicon. More than that it’s gratuitous trash.

Okay, enough ranting. This, of course, is one reader’s opinion. Others, maybe most others, may differ. They will see the book from an entirely different perspective and probably give it five stars. I hope it does well.

One final note, my new Sid Chance mystery, The Surest Poison, due out in April, can now be pre-ordered from Barnes & Noble online.


Ann Parker said...

Hi Chester!
I tagged you to talk about your "love of words" and what you're doing to encourage it in others.

Anonymous said...

An unlikeable lead character often ruins a decent book for me, too. I've read more than a few YA supernatural thrillers, for example, where the vapid or annoying lead "grrrl" character mucked up a pretty decent concept. It's a shame, really.

Chester Campbell said...

I know what you mean, Christina. I give my characters some flaws to keep them humble, but I try to have them react in ways that make you want to support them rather than shy away.

Charlotte Phillips said...

Mr. Curmudgeon - NOT,

Not liking a book does not make you a curmudgeon. No book appeals to everyone. You could have earned curmudgeon status by presenting your views in a very different way and wishing a poor future on the book and author. But you didn't do either of those. You will need to find a new tag for yourself. How about Teddy Bear?

Chester Campbell said...

Hey, Charlotte, considering the Teddy Bear moniker came a really gung ho guy, Teddy Roosevelt, I'll accept that.