Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Books: On James Patterson

I was around 18 and at University. I had taken a summer job to subsidize my drinking during the term time at my uncle’s air conditioning firm. It was also a time when I didn’t really read. A girl I was fooling around with recommended a book called, “Along came a spider.” As a young lad and eager to impress I duly obliged.

I was delighted I gave it a go. In Alex Cross I had found a cool detective that I didn’t know existed in literature (I have subsequently realised there are far better ones out there). In Gary Soneji there was the type of villain I loved. In short the book was fast paced with a good story. I was hooked. The short chapters gave way to the very definition of the term page turners.

As the months progressed, I devoured the next couple of books. I will never forget that summer doing air conditioning. It was a time where internet was not common place and so when I was strolling through Covent Garden on the way to a job in the Lyceum theatre and saw a board in a bookshop that read, “Roses are Red by James Patterson” coming soon, I punched the air in delight. God I miss those days when you didn’t know when a book was coming out – you only get that with George R R Martin these days!

A weekend job in WHSmiths had me looking forward to the book catalogue to see when the next book was coming out. Patterson led me to other authors: Mo Hayder, Mark Billingham, Harlan Coben, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen etc. All of which I now regularly read. (John Connolly I discovered in a unique way, which I will talk about some time).

Thrillers were my thing way before Fantasy. Usually it is the other way round but I’ve always been a geek at heart. As the amount of books I read increased so did my knowledge of the authors. Suddenly James Patterson had two books out a year, and then three and then four. His name was always on the cover but other names joined him. I still bought every book but the stories were hit and miss. The woman’s murder club started off fantastic and then by the time I read the “5th Horseman,” I half enjoyed it and I was half disgusted with how lazy the writing was.

I was actually half way through the “Lifeguard” before I realised I had already read it. I was appalled at how frequently the books were coming out and how hit and miss they were. At least he was still writing the Alex Cross series by himself I reconciled. However, even these were starting to take a dip. “London Bridges” was woeful in comparison to the others.

I was torn between ditching him all together and remaining loyal. After all he was the author that kick-started my reading interests again. In the end I decided to just read his Alex Cross books which were written solely by him and released once a year. This worked well, when I read them it was like meeting an old friend. The weak writing didn’t matter so much and instead I remembered why I liked him in the first place.

Which brings me in a rather long winded fashion on to his latest book – Cross Fire. THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.
I was really enjoying this book. I did enjoy the book in fact. After a number of recent books in the series where his arch enemy Kyle Craig would randomly pop up and threaten Alex, we at last get the showdown. Kyle “the Mastermind” Craig completely alters his appearance of Max Siegel, so he can work alongside Alex. Sounds silly I know, but it actually made for an interesting dynamic between the two. The plot unfolds and Kyle as usual is always one step ahead of Alex.

The scenes where they interact are well done and we get a very interesting conversation between the two over whether or not Alex would shoot Kyle give the chance. Alex replies “no,” but you know the time when he will have to make the decision for real is going to happen.

This is where the book falls down and I lost a little more respect for James Patterson. From book one, the Cross family have remained intact, even adding to their ranks. On no occasion have any of them been killed by any of the villains that have had a personal grudge on Alex. The series is crying out for such a death. Nana Mama is 92, surely her time has come? I loved her at the start of the series but her interaction with Alex is so repetitive. Every book she scolds him and tells him to lay off his work and think about his family. Every book, Alex says he will and then doesn’t.

Kyle Craig has been built up for a number of books now and it was an ideal time to kill of a major character. Does this happen? Of course not and this really irked me. Instead the so called “Mastermind” falls for one of the oldest tricks in the book and is easily dispatched. To add insult to injury, the last pages of the book mentions the return of Mr. Smith another villain we have already seen and thought dead. Who cares? He is not going to kill anyone significant. It will also be the third time a villain has re-emerged in the series.

Having said that, I enjoyed the book apart from the conclusion. The dynamic between Kyle Craig and Alex was good. The random appearance of Christine was intriguing although did not go anywhere.

Will I read the next one? You bet ya, and I will probably moan about that one as well. Hypocrite that I am.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book 2:

I'm still waiting for a friend to conclude their in depth editing on the first book. They only have ten chapters left and each chapter they have gone through has been invaluable. Unfortunately, I seem to be treading water. I'm still without the internet at home, but now am itching to get on with the writing again.

With that in mind, this week I carried out a chapter outline for the first quarter of the second book. I have been agonizing over this for quite a while. I have known the general story of the second book almost from the moment I concluded the first. I have also been desperate to begin writing it. However, what has surprised me is how difficult it is to link books one and two.

In terms of timelines, the second book continues straight after the events of the first and therein lies the difficulty. Every character I write about needs to do a bit of reflection over what has gone on at the end of first book. I need to find away to do this with out it being boring for me to write and painstakingly tedious for the reader. I guess in terms of the reader, in many cases if the book does get published, then the reflection will be good as it might well be a full year before they read the second book and will serve as a useful summary of the events.

Still it does not alter the fact that it is boring to write. Of course not every character needs to reflect on screen as it were. Some could have already done it and mention it in passing. It is choosing who reflects and who doesn't and how I make it interesting that is the problem. The chapter outline has helped focus a bit more, but I guess the only way to see how well I can do this, is to just dive in and see what happens.

So with snorkelling gear at the ready, I'm going in.

Friday, November 5, 2010

TV: The Walking Dead

Tonight sees the UK Premier of the Walking Dead. I am really looking forward to this for a number of reasons. Firstly, up until I gave up reading comics for financial reasons: Robert Kirkman and in particular the Walking Dead was my favourite series. (I also loved all of the Crossgen stuff, why did they have to go bust?) I read up to issue 48 and loved every issue, so you can imagine my delight when I found out it was being adapted for TV.

The second reason is that it is being directed by Frank Darabont. I loved the Shawshank Redemption and am one of the few people that loved the Green Mile even more. I also think the Mist is an excellent film. This man seems to choose his projects very carefully and does them justice it appears.

We will see what tonight brings with the first episode, I just hope the little one goes to sleep in time!

Books: The Pillars of the Earth

After sitting on my book shelf for a number of years, I've finally taken the plunge and picked up the Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I've heard many call this book the greatest piece of fiction they have read. Normally, I don't pay too much attention to these type of comments because they are often made by those who don't read very much and have little to compare it too. However, I am 400 pages into the story and have to say, I am really enjoying it so far. It's not up there with Martin or Cornwell but the saga has the sense of the epic. Who knew a story about a cathedral could be so engrossing?

November and a change of outlook

It seems every time I write a blog about doing more frequent updates, the gap between entries actually increases. This is not intentional but is just the way things work out. What have I been doing that has delayed me from posting any updates I hear you ask? I mean surely I must have some amazing explanation as to why I have abandoned my few loyal readers (of which I am so grateful for). Maybe, I had my fingers amputated and I am typing this with my nose? Well I’m afraid I don’t have one (cue the boo’s and the hurling of rotten vegetables).

You are well within your rights to be annoyed at this. I haven’t posted because I have nothing to say in regards to any updates. I haven’t lost my passion for the novel, but I have been forced to take a bit of a hiatus. This is mainly for two very good reasons. Firstly, I have just moved house. The move has been stressful as I’m sure that many of you who have been through a similar process can identify with. Secondly, I am also in the unfortunate position that many find themselves in, in that I am facing redundancy from my job. It is not clear when it is going to happen but it will be within the next 6 months probably. I don’t know how I feel about it really. It certainly is not a good time to lose a job, but then when is? Who knows, maybe this is a sign that I should concentrate on my writing and that is the career I should go for.

So, I decided to take a brief break from the book and just get the move out the way. That is now done, I am in my new house and unpacking and loving every bit of it. Soon, I will return to the book and begin writing the second one.

This morning however, I made a decision. Whilst I was not writing on the book, I am also not updating this blog, which is a shame because I do enjoy it. I just felt that as the blog is about the Ritual of the Stones I could not stray too far from that topic – just look at the vitriolic abuse GRRM gets on his blog posts on the JETs and Giants. However, I am no where near as famous as “the fishermen guy” as my wife calls him from his profile picture and no one is anxiously waiting for the release of my next book.

Therefore from now on, I will talk about all the things that make me tick. Whether it be books I’m reading, programmes I watch or even my beloved football team (who are languishing at the bottom of the Championship at the moment). As long as I flag up in the title what the subject of the post is about, my dedicated readers can choose to read it’s content or not.

So hopefully, I will now post more regularly but rest assured, I will be working on my book very soon.