RARA-AVIS: Marcia Muller and long books

From: Doug Bassett ( dj_bassett@yahoo.com)
Date: 10 Feb 2000

I just gave up on Marcia Muller's WOLF IN THE SHADOWS.

Basically I found the book pretty boring. Part of the reason for that lies in Muller's graceless prose, which is competent and workmanlike but also absolutely dead on the page. I also think, though, that part of the reason is that the book is too long. The paperback copy I read ran about 370 pages (don't have it in front of me) -- I think if she'd cut about 100 -120 pages it would've tightened things considerably. As things stand, though, you don't read WOLF so much as you plod through it.

She did get me thinking, though, about length in recent hb books. Next up in my stack are a pile of Edward S. Aarons books (just starting ASSIGNMENT: HELENE), and whatever else you think of Aarons, you have to admit the guy had an admirable no fuss/no muss approach to storytelling. HELENE runs about 160 pages, and I'll bet there's not a word wasted in there.

What do you guys think? I'd hate to make any kind of rules for the genre -- obviously, books should be as long as they need to be, and there are long hb books I'd wouldn't want cut by a word (Ross Thomas's FOOLS IN TOWN ARE ON OUR SIDE, for instance). But have you found recent hb books to be too long? Padded? In very general terms, is there an optimum length for most hb novels? I notice when I go to the bookstore that you don't see a lot of slim novels on the racks. Publishing trends, perhaps?


===== Doug Bassett dj_bassett@yahoo.com
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