RARA-AVIS: Invented cities/ Darkness take my hand

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 09 Nov 2001

thanks for the comments on invented cities. I'm specifically more interested in authors who have invented cities or neighborhoods with pretty highly developed social/geographic/historical structure, not so much the
"santa barbara, thinly disguised" stuff that Grafton does, where basically just the names are changed. Like Faulkner's Yonknapatawpha or however the hell you spell it - Lehane's Buckingham in "Mystic River" is like this. The details about the Point and the Flats at the beginning are so well-done - specific but universal at the same time - that I assumed it must be a real place. A nice solution to the problems he ran into with the Dorchester books, where he's admitted that he writes more about the neighborhood of his youth than the way it is today.

DARKNESS TAKE MY HAND - This is the second Patrick Kenzie - Angie >Gennaro book by Dennis Lehane. I have a couple of quibbles. I don't >know why Lehane doesn't refer to the newspapers as The Globe and The >Herald.

I've noticed writers often don't use the names of real papers, I wonder if this is a copyright or liability issue. In some cases the reason is obvious
(Laura Lippman did and perhaps still does write for the Baltimore Sun so it's politic to turn it into the "Beacon Light" - esp. cause she can then call it the "Blight").

>I've noticed
>The other is that the man Patrick is following goes to Bryce College >in
>Brookline. That's where I grew up. The streets and even the theater
> >Patrick follows him into are authentic, but not only is no similar
> >school in the town, there is no room in the town for a college.

re: the above, Lehane definitely plays looser with geography than some writers; Pelecanos and Connelly always take pains to locate their action in real places; even if the address isn't exactly right, I'm sure I could find the intersection where the Spot is, and any tourist can find DuPont Circle. In the case of "Bryce," I assume Lehane didn't want to mention a real college because there are some rather nasty goings on at the campus, I recall. There are enough small colleges in the Boston area that it basically feels right, though.

>I also found a fairly major error. Towards the beginning Patrick and >Angie
>meet with the local Mafia head whom Angie ascertains owes >allegiance to
>the Patriso family. She then states she is the only >granddaughter of the
>Patriso's don. This fact is repeated again in the >book, but later on we
>learn Angie has a sister, Renee. I guess Lehane >can later correct this by
>making Renee a half sister, but it's a flaw

Yeah, this is a pretty glaring inconsistency. He could clear it up but I don't think he ever does. I try to just block that bit of backstory out of my mind, because Patrick having been married to Angie's sis is just ooky AFAIC. Lehane's books often gives me the impression of several drafts being cobbled together and this was particularly strong in "Darkness."
("Gone Baby Gone" is extremely well-plotted and put together, IMO, but that's the exception proving the rule). I actually sort of enjoy the messiness of Lehane's books - gives a feeling of energy and spontaneity that I like. But things like this will slip in from time to time. A more subtle but interesting gaffe in "Mystic" - the opening paragraph of the book is a lovely riff on how Jimmy and Sean's fathers worked in a candy factory and because the smell permeated their homes, neither of them could stand sweets.
  Later in the book, though, Jimmy has some kind of reminiscence about what a condescending kid Sean was, how he made a big gesture out of something like sharing a candy bar - something that, based on the first paragraph of the book would never have happened. This hints that the opening was written later (which is consistent with Lehane's own account of writing the book, which is that he started with the opening of part 2).

Lest somebody be tempted to say "get a life," I'm purely interested in this detail for the insight into the writing process. (OK, you can still tell me to get a life). There's always Faulkner's wonderful introduction to the one volume edition of the Snopes trilogy (3 books written over 30+years) that says something on the lines that the author has discovered more inconsistencies and contradictions than the reader could possibly realize and that he attributes the inconsistencies to knowing more about the mysteries of the human condition than he did when he started. And another great quote in one of Reginald Hill's books, to the effect that you can write a masterpiece and no one notices, but get one thing wrong and readers will email you from 5 continents.

Didn't something nasty befall Angie's father in the past? I'm trying to remember that story, might give some insight into the paternity of Renee. I did remember thinking if he writes another P&A book, he'll probably pick up with Angie's family history.


"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
-James Crumley, "The Last Good Kiss"

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