RARA-AVIS: Kaminsky's Details

From: pabergin ( pabergin@gte.net)
Date: 05 Feb 2000

Bill Crider opined:
>I feel that way about the details in Kaminsky's Toby Peters books
>too, as if Kaminsky is sitting in a library somewhere copying stuff out
>of a newspaper.

I don't know about the Toby Peters books. I've never been able to make it through one. However, Stuart released a book titled VENGEANCE a few months back which I did read. It's interesting, because he seems to have applied the technique of piling on pointless detail in this book, too, which is set in the present.

It's also set in Sarasota, which is both Stuart's adopted home town and my own. Sarasota -- this will come as no shocking revelation to anyone who has ever visited -- is a town almost completely void of personality. It's got about as much in common with Miami, say, as Des Moines has. It's an odd setting for a crime story by any standard, and the technique SK uses to try to give the reader a sense of place only makes the problem that much more obvious.

What he does is indulge is an orgy of proper-noun usage. From "the Dairy Queen on 301" to "Sarasota News and Books" to "Caraguilo's on Palm Avenue" to, well, you name it. It's as if -- to paraphrase Bill's analogy -- he sat down with a stack of newspapers and read nothing but the ads. Maybe he thought that the mere mention of a name would be enough to give the reader that AH HA! moment of recognition. Fat chance. You can get away with that if you're writing about New York, Chicago or Miami, whose myth is grown so large that even folks who've never been there can be fooled into a sense of familiarity, but try it with a city as innocuous as Sara and you end up with something as compelling as a AAA Tour Guide.

Odd that a old pro like Stuart Kaminsky, who has done some creditable, if not very HB, work -- the Leiberman & Rostnikov series, for example -- should make such a mistake. Hometown pride, maybe. PB

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