RARA-AVIS: commercial and noir

From: vhend1234@aol.com
Date: 29 Apr 2005

My month is winding down so I won't take up so much time after this, but I happened to get a phone call yesterday from a surgeon who writes medical thrillers. I'm wondering if anybody has read his books. Birken is his name, last novel Plague. He called me asking tips for giving an 8 hour class on fiction writing that he's been asked to do for other surgeons at a conference, because he hasn't done that before, but the interesting thing was that he couldn't use anything on literary fiction because he says that his audience would never read anything that isn't plot driven; they want page turners. I countered with the idea that a character-driven novel could also be a page turner and that's what I strive for, but I could tell it wasn't even a point worth continuing because he was so sure that it would not work. He was not the least bit egotistic or condescending--saying how literary was a higher level, etc--but evidently it's clear cut to him that people don't want to waste time on character development. Now, I'm just wondering if everybody knows this but me, and how clearly it comes across that a book is driven by one means or another. I'm too bullheaded to go for the money and change my style, but do people consciously shop for plot-driven novels? Birken gets printed in paperback at 100,000 copies, and I can only assume there are many others like him. Why don't I ever see anybody reading this type of book, except for the occasional Robin Cook maybe? Also, how does Dennis Lehane sell so many books if character-driven is such a turn off? These are the questions I'm going to ask when I die and go to heaven, of course, but if anybody has any idea now, it would be interesting. This line between commercial and literary is becoming increasingly murky and interesting. I think I've been separated from normal people too long. Not that I want to be normal, but do the surgeons really need all that extra money? Probably, to pay the insurance. Vicki

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