April Review Round-Up

I don’t think I managed quite so much reading this month, what with Powder Burn coming out and starting work on the new Janac’s Games short story - called The Sniper

I’ve just seen that the new B&N publishing system, called Nook Press, allows interaction with Beta readers, so this book might go out on Nook first, and then Amazon. Meanwhile, I did manage to read a couple of thrillers this month, both top notch books from top notch writers...

I picked this one up because it was a group read on Goodreads, and I’m very glad I did. The Harry Bosch books have been a huge hit and it’s easy to see why from this opening tale - Connelly nails his central character from the very beginning.

Harry Bosch is a Vietnam vet, a tunnel fighter, one of the handful of Americans that struggled to battle the North Vietnamese in the dimension that they totally dominated – underground. Harry’s also a nascent media star for breaking a couple of big cases and, thanks to consultancy work on translating those case histories into movies, he’s the owner of a (small) house overlooking the Hollywood studios. It’s a great backstory and Harry never fails to engage and hold the reader’s attention.

The terrific central characterisation of Harry is backed up by a fine portrayal of FBI Agent Wish as Harry’s sidekick/lover/and sometime antagonist. This is combined with a really solid plot -- I didn’t see the twist coming at all, although the hints were there – the central bank ‘caper’ has just the right amount of twists and complexity for a highly entertaining read.

If I had a reservation about the book it would be some pretty clunky dialogue. It’s a nit-picking point, but Connelly hasn’t (rather than ‘has not’) shortened any of the words in the speech. It makes lots of the characters sound pompous and formal. It might have been the way to do it in 1992 when the book was written, but it’s a definite negative now. I also had trouble with some of the minor characterisations, the IAD chief, Irving was a bit of a cliché for instance.

Overall, these are minor quibbles, and I had no problem giving the book four stars.

I’m a huge fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, and I think I might have mentioned previously on this blog that they were the inspiration for some aspects of Powder Burn and my new ‘Burn’ series. So I needed no encouragement to pick this one up when it was also chosen as a Goodreads group read. And as usual, I wasn’t disappointed.

Jack Reacher appeals to the angry and vengeful core in all of us – there are no judges or juries in Reacher’s world, just violent retribution dispatched swiftly, without compunction or mercy and, in this case, unusually cold-bloodedly.

The book was written right after the 9/11 tragedy and I think its influence can be seen in the way that in Without Fail it is acceptable for Reacher to assassinate the bad guys. In many of the other Jack Reacher books that I’ve read, Reacher’s own life is at stake from quite early in the story, and so the ruthless killing of the bad guys is softened morally by his need to survive. This is not the case in Without Fail where he could and should have left them to the Secret Service or the FBI – both agencies are intrinsic to the story – but instead goes after them with intent to kill.

Child does a good job of making this aspect as believable as possible, and as the issue only comes up at the very end, it doesn’t spoil what is otherwise a fine story. The rest of the book has the usual impeccable mix of tight plotting, tighter writing and great minor characters, and once again I had no problem awarding four stars.

Displacement Activity...

There’s less than a week before the action restarts in Valencia, and I’m thinking this is a good chance to get some work done on the novel. I’ve got this problem, you see…

A few months back I turned the prologue into chapter one, because a couple of people were asking me questions about my last book that didn’t make any sense. When I quizzed them to try and find out why, it emerged that they hadn’t - and never did - read the prologue.

So, the prologue became chapter one. Then I realized that I’ve now started the book with a scene that doesn’t include either of the two main characters, which is one of those Creative Writing 101 no-no’s… But actually, when I think about it some more, former-prologue-now-chapter-one works really well as chapter three – structurally, this is a great solution. Unfortunately, the scene is now two months later in time, and that means that my 1936 pheasant shooting party, is going to have to become a fox hunt. Damn…

I’m sat here, getting my head round this rewrite, when I think… I might just have a quick check around the blogs and see what’s what in the Cup… And it turns out that there are a couple of things I should bring you attention to…

The first is a great piece on the BOB about a Reuters story doing the rounds of the papers – Tom Ehman is an old Cup-hand and his take on Hamish Ross’s interview is well worth reading if the Cup’s future is something that keeps you awake at night. Or even if it doesn’t.

Then there’s a bit of a scuffle going on in the background over the Notice of Race – Stuff.co.nz are all over this one… see Cup Boss Could Force Feuding Teams to Race and Cup Rivals' Dispute Over Rules Deepens

And finally, there are some nice images of the bows of the Cup contenders from those clever chaps at Cupinfo.com.

While the Cup’s future is the hot topic, here's a thought on a fix for all those 5-0, 5-1 matches we keep seeing (anyone remember the last time the Cup match wasn’t something-to-zip? Yup - 1992).

The ETNZ strategist, Ray Davies, made the comment during the Louis Vuitton final that the same sailors come back from desperate positions on the match race tour all the time. But, although Ray thought that there was no reason why Luna Rossa shouldn’t do the same, it turns out that they didn’t, and history prevailed once again…

What’s the difference between being 1-0 down in the final of a Match Race Tour event and the America’s Cup? Chances are you didn’t have to follow the other guy around for ninety minutes, and then go home and sleep on it, dwelling on your apparent inferiority, before you got the chance to do something about it. On the Tour, the gun for the next race is going before you’ve barely had time to process the fact of the defeat.

So why don’t we do the Cup this way - make each day a best of three short races, one lap races – maybe a two mile beat and run. The importance of the start and first cross will be much reduced, as the trailing boat will almost certainly round close enough to attack on the run - and since it’s just down to the finish, they have every chance of turning it round. And even if they don’t, the gun is going for the next one before they’ve even got used to the idea of losing… The first to win two races, wins the day and gets a point – first to five points wins the match.

Apart from giving the guys that lose the first race a much better chance of digging themselves out of the hole, wouldn’t that be more fun to watch? There would be a lot more of the good stuff (pre-starts, first crosses and finishes), and with the importance of both the start and boat speed reduced, given the unpredictable nature of yacht racing it would surely be impossible to win 5-0…

But more importantly, now that I’ve said all that, Sod’s Law should dictate that we get a 5-4 Cup match…

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Mark Chisnell ©