Monday, April 02, 2012

Among the liars, and a bit more James McClure

I made no post yesterday because I spent the afternoon with Philadelphia's Liars Club when I could have been reading.

The Liars Club is a group of writers, associated professionals, and people who want to join them. That means that its monthly writers' coffeehouses tend to be at least as much about agents, copyrights, and shifting business models as they are about muses. That means the attendees are serious about writing and know the value of editing. And that means I got to pitch my freelance editing services. I even came pretty damn close to exhausting my supply of business cards.
Back in the reading world, I found that James McClure knows how to keep a running gag going: He uses it sparingly, and he builds it up a bit each time.

On Friday, I wrote about this amusing, non-politically correct bit from Page 17 of The Blood of an Englishman
"`Boss Bradshaw is a tall tree,' Zondi remarked primly, `and there is saying among my people—""`Bullshit,' interrupted Kramer, `you're making this up!'"They laughed together, then peered over the cars in front of them..."
One hundred sixty-three pages later comes this:
"`So now you know the meaning of Black Man's Choice, which is a saying among my—""`Bullshit!' said Kramer, and they both laughed."
I like that McClure waited so many pages before using the joke again, and I like the effect he achieved by having Kramer interrupt Zondi before he could get to the word people the second time.

The man knew a good joke, and he knew how to build it up for comic effect. That's another reason to enjoy this great South African crime writer.

If McClure repeats the gag yet again, he could have Kramer cut Zondi off even earlier, both increasing the humor and reinforcing the good-natured intimacy between the two characters.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Blogger May said...

That is quite endearing.

April 03, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

McClure doesn't write in English?

April 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., you'd make a good copy editor. McClure doesn't write in any language anymore (he died in 2006), but he did write in English. The review I have coming up is of a different book. I apologize for the confusion, and I shall amend my reply to May accordingly.

April 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

May, I presume you mean the joke, and not my business card, is endearing.

I finished reading the novel last night, and McClure does not use the joke a third time, further evidence of his understanding that understatement often works best when telling jokes.

Incidentally, I have a review of a Finnish crime novel coming up in my newspaper this Sunday in which I compliment the translator's work. I will post a link to the review when it appears.

April 03, 2012  

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