Sunday, March 02, 2008

Slow authors and fast authors

I've recently finished one crime novel by the queen of slow buildups and started another by a writer who can't sit still. The slow writer is Fred Vargas, apt to open a novel with her protagonist stirred by a broken furnace to far-flung contemplation of Arctic winds. The fast one is Giles Blunt, who almost never lets the narrative sit still without introducing a new character or plot wrinkle and who is loath to break up dialogue with reactions.

Two fine crime writers, two distinct ways of telling a story, each of which goes a long way to creating a special texture. How about you, Detectives Beyond Borders readers? Do you have a preference for slow buildups? For relentless action? What does each add to a story? And who are your favorite practitioners of each?
"The little lakeside house with its woodstove and angular rooms was cosy, comfortable. And the location out on Madonna Road ensured that — much of the time, at least — it was blessedly quiet. But tonight the quiet irritated him. He missed the sound of Catherine fussing with her plants, playing Bach on the stereo, chatting to him about photography, about her students, about anything at all, really."

Giles Blunt, Black Fly Season

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't have to have a relentless pace but too many sidebars or side trips can take me out of the story. I need to know where it is going even if it's getting there slowly.

March 02, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's one reason Vargas works. That startling first chapter of Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand quite literally lets the reader know where the story is going. The opening chapter is an eccentric two-character set piece featuring the protagonist and his very different assistant, who is full of grimly humorous foreboding about an upcoming conference in Quebec. Naturally, the reader knows that something other than a conference will happen there.

Jo Nesbø goes as far as any crime writer I can think of into the side trips with The Redbreast, but he pulls it off, managing to make the side trips interesting even if a reader may wonder why he's taking them.

March 02, 2008  

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