The Great Fantasy Break: Part One

Hello! It’s been a while. What with being away and such, I’ve sort of neglected this blog a little bit. But anyway, I make my grand return with a feature I’m calling (for lack of a better name) the Great Fantasy Break.

As many, many people now know, I have recently embarked on writing an epic fantasy novel, The Kraken and the Clock Tower. My big worry during this writing process is accidentally stealing ideas from other authors, so I am taking a break from reading fantasy, at least for the next couple of months. This feature will chronicle what I read instead, and some general thoughts on it all.

the black dahlia

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

Fun fact: searching Google images for “The Black Dahlia” does not give you the book cover as results. I probably should have considered that right after lunch.

This is the second time I’ve read the Black Dahlia. The first was a few years ago while in Florida. I read snippets of it while queueing for rides like Snow White’s Adventure in Disney World. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was the weird juxtaposition that made this book seem nasty. But having gone back and re-read it, I honestly think nasty might just be James Ellroy’s style.

I’m not entirely sure what it is, but there’s something about his writing that just draws me in. Even though most of the book is about bad things happening to two good cops (the story’s leads Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard) it’s still totally riveting to watch these two fairly likable (if very flawed) characters descend into madness and obsession over this dead woman.

There’s an early passage that describes Bleichert’s preparation for a boxing match with Blanchard:

We left our dressing rooms simultaneously, at the sound of a warning bell. Pushing out the door, I was an adrenaline live wire. I had chewed a big steak two hours before, swallowing the juice and spitting out the meat, and I could smell animal blood in my sweat. Dancing on my toes, I moved toward my corner through the most incredible fight mob I had ever seen.

There’s just something about the prose that feels perfect for the story it’s telling. It has a raw animalistic feel to it. Something I really wish I could capture at certain points of my own writing.

Mr Mercedes

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

You can’t really go wrong with a bit of Stephen King, can you? I don’t know what it is about his writing, but there’s something to it that feels like wrapping up in a warm blanket or some other euphemism for comfort. Although I suppose the notion of Stephen King as literary comfort food isn’t a new one, it’s apt.

I read Mr Mercedes in two sittings, across two train journeys, and it really is very good. It has shades of last year’s Joyland but a bit longer and lacking the slight supernatural touch the previous book had. The cover advertises it as “A riveting suspense thriller” and that’s not unfair. The book actually reveals the killer’s identity fairly early on, and a good chunk of it is told from his perspective. It’s an interesting idea that moves the story away from whodunit to examine exactly why someone would drive a Mercedes into a crowd of people.

Let’s be honest, it’s the sort of thing King could probably write in his sleep at this point. But it’s a good solid read, packed to the brim with the sort of sympathetic characters he excels in (yes, even his villain at some points).

Above all else, I’m just super happy to see King still churning out work this good so late in his career. And I’m very much anticipating the release of Revival later this year.

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