Stuart Neville isn't as good a writer as you think he is; he's better: A look at his next book
A chiasmus, as I wrote at the time, is a literary figure in which a phrase includes a list of concepts, and the following phrase repeats those concepts in reverse order — the old A-B-B'-A' form (or A-B-C-D-D'-C'-B'-A' and so on). The Bible uses chiasmus all the time, and so did Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson. And Alexander Pope ("His time a moment, and a point his space," Essay on Man, Epistle I. ). Neville's extended chiasmus in Collusion ran thus:
"`I've been called lots of things. Smith, Murphy, Tomalty, Meehan, Gorman, Maher, I could go on.' He leaned forward and whispered, `There's some people say I'm not even really a Pavee.'Collusion was Neville's second book; So Say the Fallen, to be published in September, is his seventh, and I have yet to discover a chiasmus in it. But I did find, in the novel's very first paragraph, further evidence that Neville pays more attention to writing well than most writers do, that the themes commenters note most often in his writing—guilt, sin, suspense, racking internal conflict—make themselves clear not just at story level, but in the very structure of his sentences.
"A dead mask covered O'Kane's face. `Don't get smart with me, son. I'm a serious man. Don't forget that. I'll only warn you the once.'
"The Traveler leaned back and nodded. `Fair enough. But I'm a serious man too, and I don't like answering questions. You'll know as much about me as I want you to know.'
"O'Kane studied him for a moment. `Fair enough. I don't care if you're a gypsy, a traveler, a knacker, a tinker, or whatever the fuck you lot call yourselves these days. All I care about is the job I need doing. Are you the boy for it?'"
I haven't seen a finished copy of the book yet, so I can't quote the paragraph here. What I can tell you is that it achieves exactly what I said the Collusion chiasmus does. It lends the passage in which it occurs
"weight and rhythm and a fair bit of grim humor, too. Most of all, it makes the reader sit up and pay attention, alert for what comes next."Reviewers, readers, and blurbsters quite rightly praise Neville for the ends he achieves: the suspense, the emotion, the characters for whom sins of the past are anything but dead. Why do so few people notice the means by which he achieves those ends?
© Peter Rozovsky 2016