Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reading Report

Howdy folks. Sorry I've been absent a lot this month, but I've been working on the novel and when I'm writing I tend to be very focused, so I haven't dropped by to blog much. However I've still gotten a little reading done.
I read one of the later Doc Savage novels, No Light to Die By, which is something of an anomaly in that it was written in first person singular. There were 181 Doc Savage books originally published in the pulps and the first 168 of them were written, mostly by Lester Dent, in snappy hardboiled third person prose. One of Dent's admirers was Dashiell Hammet, author of The Maltese Falcon and the Thin Man, and one of the pioneers of the hardboiled private eye genre, so Dent must have been doing something right. (Reportedly Hammett was one of Dent's favorite authors too. As far as I know, these two pulp titans never met.)
But for some reason, Dent's editor decided that she wanted the Nay-June 1947 issue of Doc Savage Magazine to be written in the first person. Rather than have Doc or one of his team narrate the tale, Dent invented a character named Sammy Wales, a kind of everyman who finds himself mixed up in dangerous events and more or less kidnapped by Doc Savage and Monk Mayfair. We should all be so lucky. It makes for an interesting change as we get to see Doc and the gang through the eyes of a bystander rather than an impartial narrator. You get more of a feeling of what it might have been like to go along on one of Doc's adventures.
No Light to Die By was apparently successful enough that the first person bit was repeated four more times, including one story, I Died Yesterday, narrated by Doc's gorgeous cousin Patricia Savage. I've read that one too, but I still have the other three first person Docs to read. You can get No Light to Die By and I Died Yesterday in nifty recent reprints from Sanctum Books, or if you just can't wait, track down a copy of Bantam's Doc Savage Omnibus Volume Five from 1988, which contains all five of the first person stories.
Motivated by a well written review by Ryan Harvey at Black Gate of L.Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter's 1968 Conan pastiche Conan of the Isles, I decided to give that one a try. Unfortunately I couldn't make it past twenty pages. Most of that, I think, is a writing style that has gone out of fashion. Pretty much all of those twenty pages are telling and not showing, as the writing teachers used to say. It's all background and I'm sure it's leading up to something but it lost my attention before the story really got started. I also found what little dialog there was to be stilted and unconvincing. I've enjoyed some of the de Camp/Carter short pastiches in the past, so maybe I'll try it again later. Or maybe not.
Cliff loaned me a book called All You Need is Ears, which is a memoir by George Martin, the man who recorded and produced the Beatles pretty much from the beginning. As Cliff notes, if anyone should be called the fifth Beatle, it's Martin. I love a good memoir and I'm fascinated by 'behind the scenes' details, and I really like the Beatles, so I'm enjoying this one a lot.
As always there was some short story reading. H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Ernest Hemingway, and others.
On my to be read pile I have The 8th Confession by James Patterson, Blood of Ambrose by James Enge, and a couple more Beatles related books supplied by Cliff. Coming up later this month is the next installment in Terry Brooks' Genesis of Shannara series, Bearers of the Black Staff. As always, the reading goes on.


Rachel said...

I really like perspective changes in series. (If it was up to me all series would probably have them.:) I would think it'd be fun for the writer, as well, but I've always wondered. Since you're busy writing, what would you think if you had to change the perspective of your story?

Charles R. Rutledge said...

It is fun to switch it up, Rachel. At least for me. I have one character who I've used in several short stories and I've written him in third person and first, depending on the needs of the story. I think that's what it usually comes down to, which voice would tell the story better. I found it interesting in Dent's case, that when asked to switch to first person, he didn't use one of the regular characters in the series, but instead made up a new character to act as the narrator.
If I had to switch in the current work, I'd have to approach things differently for sure.

Rachel said...

I think you make a great point about which voice tells the story better. I was working on a short story a while back and I really liked the storyline but I was butchering it and couldn't figure out where I was going wrong. I put it aside for other things and it wasn't until about 3 weeks ago that it occurred to me that the problem was perspective. I've never told the same story, or used the same character, in a new perspective (or, come to think of it, in a new story - everything is stand alone) so I'm looking forward to trying it out.