RARA-AVIS: Re: commercial and noir

From: Dave Zeltserman ( davezelt@comcast.net)
Date: 29 Apr 2005

Those damn surgeons!

Vicki, T. Jefferson Parker's California Girl is character-driven
(you can guess the plot, who's going to get killed, and who the killer is within the first 20 pages), and has done well, including winning the Edgar. Lawrence Block's Scudder books seem to me to be more character-driven than plot-driven, and while I favor strong plots, I still look forward to every Block book that comes out. I think our problem isn't whether our books are character or plot driven, but that our characters are too unseemly and our plots too dark for the mainstream.

-Dave Z.

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, vhend1234@a... wrote:
> 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
> 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
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 29 Apr 2005 EDT