Finished reading Broken Harbor sometime around 2 dark thirty this morning. It was a compelling read to me. French inserts you into a character's mind and you follow their line of reasoning. In her previous books, it seemed like we followed frayed reasoning that held us with the threat they were about to unravel. Reading those, I was obsessed with understanding what would happen when they did unravel. In that sense, her detectives and police officers are painfully human. Justice is a haphazard construction of fact, emotion, observation and state of mind.
With Broken Harbor, the character is more disciplined, stronger and more clearly focused than her previous detectives. Each of them were deeply flawed. This one perhaps can be considered flawed in his arrogance, judgemental approach and certitude but the flaws that undermine him don't seem to be his flaws. Others can interpret it as they will. Thinking about the novel and French's pattern, I wonder which character will emerge as the next novel's protagonist. It's an interesting guessing game.
What struck me - and here I'll note that this paragraph contains a spoiler alert so if you don't want to have the novel's outcome compromised, don't read any more of this paragraph - the killer is again who you expect it to be. What keeps you reading again is why that person killed and the struggles and relationship shifts the detectives endure - mostly with themselves - trying to understand why the killings took place and how lives, thinking, emotions and actions come together. I'm never surprised by who the murderer is in French's books but I am always driven to know why. It's about the people and not the crime. In that way, I feel like a detective while I'm reading her books.
Reflecting on her books and my novel in progress and my just finished short story took me along routes regarding tastes. I have author friends who write mid list novels and do quite well. I enjoy their writing but they tell me that they never read science fiction, fantasy, horror or young adult. I like reading everything and I plan to write everything. Nothing is off limits to my writing muses.
My short story delights me. My novel delights me. Both are science fiction. The novel has a complicated plot and setting. It is not simple nor easy to follow, while the short story is surreal.
Those are my preferences as a writer and a reader. It's not predicated on a genre and it's not to say that if a book is simple that I won't enjoy it. About the only genre I haven't read within the past two years are romance novels, especially the Twilight series. I want to read those, not because they're successful or popular, but because they are books, flights of imagination. I want to expand my preferences and diminish my prejudices. I want to taste the things that I don't usually taste.
I'm thinking about that because my stories and novels won't appeal to many people. That's a matter of tastes to which I answer, oh, well. It doesn't make them better or worse - not in my mind, although others may disagree. I'll tell them again, oh, well.
Tastes are personal. I read recently an opinion about wines. There is a deeply entrenched methodology of establishing points for wines. The more points a wine has, the better it will be. That's the beliefe. Yet, the author pointed out that the points are often subjectively assigned. Further, many people couldn't tell the difference between a bottle of wine scoring 89 and another scoring 91. Many people couldn't differentiate between a $30 bottle and a $300 bottle. In one test, people were given two samples of wine. They were the same white wine but one had red dye in it. That was the only difference but people professed to preferring one over the other and could describe why.
Tastes are personal. Some people like milk chocolate. I prefer dark chocolate. Even within the realm of dark chocolate, we can debate which is better, 60%, 72%, or more? Or less?
Tastes are personal. I prefer dark beers and have come to enjoy oatmeal stouts. I enjoy IPAs and lagers, and pilsners, and Belgian whites. Others will have a Schlitz, thank you, and you can keep those micro brew, craft brews and foreign brews to yourself.
Tastes are personal. Some love the winter's cold grasp and pristone whiteness that a snowstorm can deliver. Others like some nice hot air by a beach - and do you prefer a dry heat, or a wet heat.
Tastes are personal, no matter whether it's a novel, short story, genre, humor, food, drink, location, religion, philosophy, clothing, sex or politics.
It's something to keep in mind, a lesson I learned years ago in writer critique group, a lesson to be reacquired and reaffirmed every few years. Tastes are personal and some won't like what I write.
That won't slow me down in my efforts to write like crazy.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com