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The Last Book Review

Contributor – Herb Johnson (who turned 80 last week)
This book report will not deal with a specific novel. It will examine a number of bad habits of which some novelists are guilty.
One bad habit (and one thinks immediately of Jonathan Kellerman) is the long and boring passages devoted to describing stuff. The hero walks into a room and one learns (in excruciating detail) everything an interior decorator with bad OCD might want to know about the room, its decor and all the furniture.
With that out of the way, one is treated to a description of all the people in the room, including height, weight and general appearance. The clothing gets special care, right down to how the necktie is tied.
Then the hero has to move on to another location. This is not easy. There are many roads, all with numbers. Many off-ramps and on-ramps. Much traffic. Sometimes a traffic jam; sometimes not. John Sandford’s hero, Lucas Davenport, is the king of the travelling guys. He will simply get in the Porsche and exceed the speed limit for about 400 miles.
When the hero arrives at the new location he will quite often meet with someone who has just had a shower. (Many showers in crime novels.) It will be noted that the person’s hair is still wet from the shower. Nobody seems to know how to dry their hair. No hair dryers? No towels? People just walk around with wet hair?
Next comes the cup of coffee. It doesn’t happen every time, but quite often somebody will burn their mouth, lips, tongue with the coffee they didn’t realize was hot. The coffee is hot? That was unexpected. A variation is the coffee just sitting there until it gets cold. This indicates a meaningful conversation and can be considered a good thing.
Always popular is the witness who tells the police he may have heard gunshots but thought it was just a car backfiring. The myth of the backfiring car will not die. Today’s cars do not backfire. Neither did yesterday’s cars. The last known backfire in the free world was in Spring Coulee in 1948 and involved Elmer Thompson’s 1924 Chev truck with the grain box on the back. Nothing since then.
And the hallways in every tenement building smell like boiled cabbage . . . a dietary staple in the criminal community.

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