Thursday, September 18, 2014

More like the dull snap of a raw carrot

Sometimes I get to read pre-publication copies of books. These things are given to booksellers to read, and they pass them on to customers they think have a clue about the particular genre, to get feedback for the retailer and the publisher/distributor.

Yesterday I finished one by a mega-selling household name US crime writer I gave up on many years ago. I was reluctant to take it but was assured by the bookseller that it was a return to form.

These pre-publication copies are edited but not proofread so one isn’t allowed to quote from them. Fair enough. But I’m going to without identifying the novel or novelist. Mr Discretion!

Best thing for me: the scene of the crime is a lovely, tiny town in Massachusetts that I have spent time in. Worst thing: the writing. 

Here is the opening paragraph:
Copper flashes like shards of aventurine glass on top of the old brick wall behind our house. I envision ancient pastel stucco workshops with red tile roofs along the Rio dei Vetrai canal, and fiery furnaces and blowpipes as maestros shape molten glass on marvers. Careful not to spill, I carry two espressos sweetened with agave nectar.

Here are some more quotes, in no particular order:
Not much to worry about. The nearest neighbour’s about ten acres away. 
“Not to mention once manner has been established and then I overrule it, that doesn’t always set well either,” I replied. 
Their collective mood is electrically charged, glimmers of upset flashing, and their aggression rumbles from a deep place, threatening to explode like a bomb going off. 
Hand-painted signs advertise homegrown produce The Garden State is famous for, and I swallow hard. I feel choked up with emotions I didn’t expect. If only life were different. I’d like to pick out sweet corn, tomatoes, herbs and apples. I long to smell their freshness and feel their potential. Instead what’s around me is like a noxious fog. 
I end the call and say to [X] “I feel as if we’re in the middle of some nightmarish nexus.” 
It’s not up to [X] to disavow him of his assumption that [Y] is still working the [Z] case or maybe any case. 
I snap on a lamp and imagine distant gunfire. Not an explosive noise or a sharp crack but more like the dull snap of a raw carrot, a celery stalk, a green pepper I break in my bare hands. 

Earlier the narrator had ripped up basil leaves “with my bare hands”.

So here is Delta Goodrem live in Sydney with “Bare Hands”:


helenalex said...

"Explode like a bomb going off."

I love a good evocative simile...

Stephen Stratford said...

Honestly, there was stuff like that on every other page. I would really love to know what the editor did. Probably a lot, and then the author undid it. As happens with an egomaniac author - the good ones appreciate editing but will debate, which is enjoyable; the egomaniacs won't. There was this one memoir I edited...