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We're Ken Hebenstreit and Sharlan Douglas, blogging here about the books we love: Mysteries, suspense, crime fiction. If you want to comment on one of our postings, click on its headline.

Archive for November, 2007

Books and movies

Do novelists have a movie deal in mind when they’re writing? Does the anticipation of a Hollywood bonanza affect what and how they write, to the detriment of the product? Rachel Donadio explored that question in this essay in the New York Times on 11/25/07. The general consensus seemed to be that authors write what they must and share Rick Moody’s view: “if the film community cares to try, that’s fine with me and indicates fortitude on their part,” Donadio quotes Moody as saying.

Several say that writing for the movies made them a better novelist. They become aware of and use devices that would confuse movie audiences. Movie writing “has the paradoxical effect of making me a more literary writer, much more conscious of what I can do in a novel that I can’t do in a script: the ease of a flashback within a flashback, how you can have immediate access to any event in your character’s life,” said Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children.

Only somewhat apropos of all this, we are reminded of the Hollywood-insider joke: Did you hear the one about the ambitious blonde starlet? She slept with the writer.

When the movies come a knockin’, authors – OK, authors’ agents – gladly answer the door. The writer doesn’t have much say over what happens once the option is granted and, as we understand it, CAN’T say much. Diana Gabaldon called it the “Tom Wolfe/Anne Rice” clause in the option contract, forbidding the author to say anything bad about the movie. (Those who saw the movie of Bonfire of the Vanities might understand Wolfe’s vitriol.)

And speaking of movies into books, we suspect Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men fared much better on the screen than All the Pretty Horses (although I have to confess, I haven’t read No Country for Old Men). The Coen brothers’ images – a pool of blood oozing across the floor, vast landscapes shimmering with heat, a shabby motel room – were redolent of the poetic images McCarthy conjures.

More on Jonathon King

Last week I blogged about Jonathon King’s first book, The Blue Edge of Midnight. There’s a great article about him in the fall issue of Mystery Scene magazine. In my earlier entry, I mentioned that Michael Connelly had blurbed for the book. Turns out they were reporters together at the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, and have the same agent.

Ken now has two first editions of Blue Edge of Midnight. He hasn’t even processed them yet — email him or call 248-548-5459 for condition and price.


Mother of mercy, is this the end of Easy Rawlins?

I came up with that headline all on my own, then read Kevin Burton Smith’s article about Walter Mosley in the fall, 2007 issue of Mystery Scene magazine, in which Smith asks that same question of Mosley.

Mosley’s done more than just hint that Blonde Faith, just out, will be the last in the series.

“I’m not planning to write any more Easys…for a while,” Smith quotes Mosley as saying. “It could be a long while, it could be forever.”

Mosley certainly isn’t going to stop writing. He’s got a “noirish thriller” called Diablerie due next month (Dec., 07), he’s working on a collection of his short stories and has completed a screenplay of Little Scarlet.

The November 18 New York Times Book Review had this review of Blonde Faith.

We’ve got 11 Mosley books online, including a signed Red Death.

Two outstanding first books

I recently read The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson and The Blue Edge of Midnight by Jonathon King. They were both terrific.

In The Faithful Spy, an American spook, in deep cover with Al Quaeda in Afghanistan, comes back to the U.S. and runs into a wall of doubt by his handlers at the CIA. He disappears into one of Quaeda’s cells to single-handedly track down author Berenson’s well-thought-out terrorist plot. This won a well-deserved Edgar Award in April, 07 for best first novel. Ken hasn’t posted this one on ABE yet. It’s $25 — email him if you’re interested.

Jonathon King published The Blue Edge of Midnight in 2002. He’s since written four books in this series, and I’m going to track them down. Blue Edge introduces jaded ex-Philadelphia cop Max Freeman, who’s retreated into the Florida Everglades to heal the physical and emotional wounds created when he accidentally shot a boy in a holdup. When it comes to crime, though, he can run, but he can’t hide. In just a few words, King adeptly puts the reader into Max’s physical environment. King’s ability to capture atmosphere — heat, humidity, twilight — reminds me of James Lee Burke.

King also is part of the inside-reference mystery boys’ club. He weaves in a mention of a Hieronymous Bosch painting in a clear homage to Michael Connelly, who blurbs on the dusk jacket. In at least one of his Bosch novels, Connelly refers to a character from New Iberia, LA which is, of course, Burke territory. We don’t even have any of King’s books for sale yet, but we will. Check back later!




Where do authors find names?

Every now and then I glance at a my outlines for a couple of the books I’ll write “when I have time. They always have blanks, or something vague where the character names should be. But I now know where I will find names for characters: In my spam folder. Just today I received offers from Stevie Russo, Julian Horton, Lambert Valerie, Santini Danza and Mindy Wiseman. Those are all great names for characters in my book. Or play. Or treatment. Whatever.