April 24, 2004

Why I Heart Dennis Lehane

I like to read crimne fiction -- when I am drafting, I can't read lit-fic, especially not anything SOUTHERN -- I save that stuff for times when I am revising or lying fallow. But I can't NOT read, so I read stuff about cops and detectives and lawyers. And I heart Dennis Lehane. I was reading his Patrick Kenzie books for years before Mystic River made him a household name. And recently, a friend asked me to splain why I like him. SO here is why:

1) He's competent. He's flawlessly beautifully competent. You have that
PEACEFULNESS you get from knowing you are in good hands that allows you
to read with WORRYING whether or not a sentence or a character is going
to suddenly be woefully mishandled in a book-ruining way.

2) He's direct. He doesn't fuss around with LANDSCAPE and and grind at
you until you can not escape understanding that the fading lovliness of
the dying bush is lo, like unto her own fading beauty, WEEP. Like, okay,
I loved Snow Falling on Cedars -- LOVED it -- it was gorgeous and had me screaming YES YES YES at the end -- you have to love a book with such a strong center. BUT.... one thing bugged me...IT WENT SO FREAKIN ON

3) You THINK he's plot driven, but really, he is tricking you. He's
absolutely character driven. He does something HUGELY in Mystic River
and QUITE A BIT in his genre fiction that I really admire and that I
tried to do in gods in Alabama. It's where you take this ENGINE of a
plot, a big splashy suspenseful violent can't-look-away train wreck of a
plot that is slippery and slick and clever, it twists away from the
expected like a live thing, and you set it gently on top of a host of
much subtler layers, so that the reader can read on any number of levels
and have a good time. You could read Mystic River for a book discussion
group or on the beach while drinking fruity rum drinks.

4) He writes with a moral center -- his books come out of a place where
there is right and wrong ABOVE the subjective, which means his conflicts
are meaningful, and yet he is totally uninterested in preaching -- just
writing from a place that understands actions and consequences, even if
his characters do not.

There are more reasons having to do with an EXCESS of style and he has a
nice black sense of humor that appeals to me. But I rented KILL BILL. So.

PS Also, although I had been a fan for years before I ever saw a
picture, he is, scuse me, not at all painful to look at it in a
pug-Irish way that's speaks to my potato-covered genomes. And COME ON
that never hurts.

SO -- Go read a A Drink Before the War.

Posted by joshilyn at April 24, 2004 8:43 PM

I think you should write a POME with the word snow and cedar in it 25 times each. If you're up to it, try working in ahhhnold and hooker.

Posted by: Dark Lord Fancy Pants at April 26, 2004 2:48 PM