The many shades of mystery
What I'm reading: Money Shot
by Christa Faust.
Jeanne is away at RT 2013 doing something scandalous. Not sure what except that it involves the, you know, wink, wink.
When I'm around other writers and the conversation turns toward our favorite and most influential authors, I get a little embarrassed in that I'm often not familiar with many of the names mentioned. Since I've been published in Urban Fantasy, i.e., speculative fiction, people tend to assume I'm well read in horror, fantasy, and science fiction. But apparently I'm not. Sure I recognize Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Issac Asimov. Starship Troopers
remains one of my favorite books. And I loved Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars
series. I deliberately stayed clear of horror so I never developed an appreciation for Stephen King. When I wanted to read about people doing nasty things to one another, I turned to history, especially the Nazis.
I credit my dad for enlightening me to books beyond what I'd get from the library or the local used bookstore. His hand-me-down pulpy, thrillers included James Clavell, Leon Uris, Frederick Forsyth, Michael Crichton. But there was another author whose books I devoured. John D. MacDonald. My best friend Ron Zapien and I traded copies back and forth from wherever we could lift them. Travis McGee became my hero and I dreamed of an invitation to a gin-and-tonic blowout on his houseboat, the Busted Flush. The titles alone take me back to lazy afternoons sprawled on the sofa. A Tan and Sandy Silence. The Quick Red Fox. One Fearful Yellow Eye.
Besides my fiction homework for the week, it's with added pleasure that I'm going through The Red Hot Type Writer: The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald
by Hugh Merrill. MacDonald's reputation looms huge over the mystery genre with seventy novels and over five hundred short stories published in his career (on a typewriter! He's the Paul Bunyan of scribes!) To more ardent MacDonald aficionados, this biography is a rehash of what they already know. But to me, most of what's on the pages is new. One telling shortcoming is the absence of photographs. I would've appreciated seeing MacDonald with his wife, his days as an insurance salesman pounding out queries and receiving rejection letters, as an Army officer in India during WWII, drinking parties with his fellow hacks, of the novelist MacKinlay Kantor who goaded MacDonald into penning his breakout book The Executioners
(later adapted into the movie Cape Fear
A big lesson and inspiration was MacDonald's discipline to both writing and the development of his craft. He would write almost daily from 8am to noon, a lunch break, and hit the keys again 1-5pm. Then relax, usually with a drink. Years later he reflected, "It wasn't until my habits were firmly embedded that I discovered that writers tended to work a couple of hours and then brooded about it for the rest of the day."
So crack that whip. It's time to work, you slackers.
Labels: Christa Faust, Hugh Merrill, John D. MacDonald, Travis McGee