Monday, January 6, 2014

Six Makes Magic

My wife and I just finished a perfect vacation in Southern California. Our daughter and son’s families have returned to their homes and everything is now calm and still. What a drag.

Right after Christmas, we flew to San Diego with our daughter’s family, and on New Year’s Eve, we all met up with my son’s family in Laguna Beach. Six grandchildren together. The cousins are between four and ten and they greeted each other with wild enthusiasm … an enthusiasm that never abated over the entire four days. Boy, I want that kind of energy again.

The warm and sunny weather made a perfect respite from the storms lashing our homes in New York and Nebraska. My daughter’s husband went on a Steve Dancy marathon, reading three of the four books in the series. He runs a demanding construction supply business and has difficulty finding time to read with three kids jumping all over him when he gets home. I was flattered he enjoyed the books, and glad he could relax with some of my best friends.

western fiction action adventure suspense
Honest westerns ... filled with dishonest characters.
I had a reading marathon of my own. I rediscovered a favorite author. I read two Stephen Hunter novels and started a third. It had been over a decade since I had read one of his books, and I had forgotten he was an exceptional storyteller and gifted writer. It’s rare nowadays for authors to keep doing top notch work once they have scaled the bestseller lists. When millions of dollars are at stake, deadlines become brutal. Stephen Hunter is an exception. His latest book, The Third Bullet is as well written as his first Bob Lee Swagger novel.

One of my great joys in life used to be reading novels. Since I started writing fiction, I have become so critical it interferes with the pleasure of reading. Instead of being emerged in the story, I keep seeing plot holes, meandering points-of-view, outright errors, sloppy research, and lazy writing. This is not the case with Stephen Hunter books. He writes with a no-nonsense style, moves his stories forward with a sure hand, and polishes the narrative to an impeccable shine. As a Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic, he was required to have a firm understanding of characterization, plot, and pacing. Oh yeah, he also had to know how to write good prose lickety-split.

So, while you wait for the next Steve Dancy Tale, try a Bob Lee Swagger tale. (You can start anywhere since Hunter does a good job of making each book self-contained.) 

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