Tag: Tana French

Tana French

The Long and the Short of It (Books I Saved to Read in Mexico)

For me, the anticipation of a trip is often as pleasurable as the actual journey. Wherever I go, I always bring books. Choosing them is more important than picking what clothes I will pack. The criteria for which books get saved for a trip is: 1.) Do I need time to relish a particular book written by an author whose releases I eager await? 2.) How many of these tomes can I fit in a suitcase without breaking the travel budget with excess baggage fees? 3) How much can I test the patience of my saintly husband who is still gallant enough to insist on carrying the heavier bags?

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Dorsey's SASSIES AWARDS

 It’s award season, not only for books, but also music, movies, and plays. A lot of the time, I’ve never heard the names of people nominated, although that shouldn’t diminish the recognition that they deserve. But I’ve been thinking, well, maybe I ought to give out a few awards of my own. (DISCLAIMER: The awards made in this blog entry are solely attributable to the blog post writer, me, C. Michele Dorsey. No blame should be placed on the shoulders of my fabulous blog mates, the Miss Demeanors. ) Now that we have that out of the way, I am announcing the SASSIES, Still Awesome Sustainable Series I Enjoy Savoring.             I read a ton of books, lots of them are marvelous, but the SASSIES are about books I wait for, as in I usually know the pub date and anticipate it eagerly. The SASSIES have characters I consider longtime companions if not friends. Their authors are writers whom I admire and frankly have a literary crush on. I write sentences from their books in a notebook reserved for “Sentences I Wish I Had Written.”            Some of these writers have been writing the same series since the 1980’s. While I confess I may find an occasional entry in the series a little less perfect than the others, the character evolution and plot development always are at a level I seek to emulate. The writing never fails. Never.             And so please roll out the red carpet for Dorsey’s SASSIES:  1.        Elizabeth George for her Inspector Lynley series. George combines intricacy of plot, fallible characters, and bucolic settings in England to deliver time after time. Her vocabulary has challenged me more than once in each book to head for the dictionary, a trip I thoroughly enjoy. The books can be a tad long, but when they are this good, who cares? The best in the series was“Playing for the Ashes.” 2.        Peter Robinson for his Inspector Banks series. Alan Banks and I are growing old together, but I haven’t minded because Robinson is able to humanize his police procedurals, also set in England. Like in George’s series, the reoccurring cast of characters live lives almost as messy as those of the criminals they pursue, but Robinson never lets that get in the way of the story. My favorite in the series was “In A Dry Season.’ I do wish Inspector Banks hadn’t changed his taste from opera and classical music to rock.  3.        Tana French for the Dublin Murder Squad series. Stunning writing, brutal storytelling, and characters that stay with you make this newer series one of my favorites. I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite, but I can tell you “Broken Harbor” was spellbinding and haunts me to this day. French’s books keep me up at night and often have me switching from audio to print versions so I don’t have to put them down.   4        Louise Penny for the Inspector Gamache series. I came late to this party, reading the tenth book, “The Long Way Home” first.  By the third chapter, I wanted to move to Three Pines where Penny has created a village of imperfect characters who all care about each other even as bodies fall around them. I was so taken with Penny’s writing and ability to create characters you truly feel you know, that I vowed to read the all in order. A year ago I ventured back to Three Pines and read each book in the series in succession. When I was done, I felt a void. I tried the if-you-like-Louise-Penny-try this author without success, which is a true tribute to the cast of characters she has brought alive for readers. My favorite is “The Beautiful Mystery” set in a cloister of monks in the wilderness of Quebec, a brave endeavor skillfully executed.  5.        Robert Galbraith (J.K.Rowling’s pseudonym) for the Cormoran Srike series. I hadn’t followed the Harry Potter series closely, so was surprised at how well the characters captured me and had me waiting for the next in the series.  Strike is former military police and an amputee who has begun his own private investigation business. The tension between Strike and his assistant, Robin, rivals Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting.  6.        Sue Grafton for her Kinsey Milhone series. I went through the alphabet with this series, never imagining it would be cut short at “Y” by Grafton’s recent death. Kinsey’s quirkiness coupled with a truly sad childhood not born of cliché made me bond with her early. Grafton’s ability to use small details to flesh out her characters inspired me to write. My favorite was “M is for Malice,” in which she portrayed the murder victim with such melancholy, I felt the need to mourn him, much as I do now this gifted author. I will miss Kinsey Milhone.  7        William Tapply for his Brady Coyne series. Tapply died nine years ago, but I gave him a SASSIES award because every year, I miss having a new Brady Coyne mystery to ready. A wonderful writer, Tapply created an irreverent lawyer who preferred to be fishing on a river than in a courtroom. All of his books are good, so if you’re looking for a series to devour, consider this one.So there you have it. The 2018 SASSIES are now history. I am grateful to each of these authors for consistently giving me something to look forward to each year. Keep on writing!Who would you give a SASSIES award to?

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International Rights

Tomorrow, I leave for France for two weeks. My dream is to have one of my novels published in French and have an excuse to go to French bookstores to talk about my work. Right now, I’ll have to settle for peeking in said bookstores and taking photos of my English-titled book on shelves.  The MissDemeanors’ wonderful agent, Paula Munier, recently sold my book rights for The Widower’s Wife to Estonia. I am hoping there’s a road trip in my future.  As I muse about what the title of my book might be in Estonian (and, maybe, someday in French), I thought I’d share some the foreign covers for some of my favorite mysteries. On the right is Tana French’s Broken Harbor in Swedish, I believe. Below is Paula Hawkins Girl on a Train in French and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, titled Les Apparences… The Appearances.  Have you ever read a favorite author in translation? If so, what? Was the experience different?     

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Why do you write suspense?

As someone new to writing, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I’m drawn to write mysteries.  So, I thought I’d ask the experts: why do you write what you write?  Cate: I write suspense because I love the feeling of surprise when I learn something unexpected about a person, that in retrospect makes sense. I am also fascinated by the justifications people have for doing badthings. I like creating flawed characters that you feel for. Some of my favorite suspense writers are Gillian Flynn, Dennis Lehane, Ruth Ware, Stephen King, Fiona Barton, Herman Koch and Patricia Highsmith. Susan: I think I like mysteries so much because the writer has to interact with the reader. You’re always thinking: Will the reader guess this clue? Will she be surprised? Is it satisfying? There’s something about that interaction I find very appealing. I’ve heard some authors say that they write for themselves and don’t care if anyone reads it, but I’ve never felt that way. I also love the whole idea of good versus bad, even if there are lots of shades of gray. Tracee: I fell into suspense through old fashioned mysteries. I confess that I am still not ready for hard core scary (I recently saw a preview for the movie It based on Stephen King’s book and that couple of minutes was almost enough to make me leave the theater…. and this was at a matinee!). My preferred suspense writers are in the vein of Patrica Highsmith and more recently Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger. I suppose that I am driven to write in the mystery/suspense genre because that’s what I return to consistently as a reader. I like reading and writing about what people do, what they conceal and why, and how choices sometimes lead people away from their ‘ordinary’ lives.  Robin: I wrote my first ghost story at 8 years old, the cleverly titled “Haunted House on the Hill.” I don’t recall what inspired that particular story but my parents saved it because I also illustrated and hand-bound it with a cardboard-and-construction paper cover complete with spine title and back jacket copy. I think it’s somewhere in my attic now. Later in life, meaning junior high, I fell in love with Stephen King’s work but what drove me to start writing suspense myself was reading Dean Koontz’s Strangers when I was 20-something. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances seemed like a revelation. I wanted to see if I could write a novel-length page-turner. My first couple of attempts weren’t terrible but weren’t very good. They were great learning experiences, though. Something I didn’t expect was how much fun they are to write. I’ve been honing my crime-writing craft ever since.  Michele: I have always loved police procedurals, but for many of them the methodical, sometimes plodding unraveling of the mystery, is the draw. Not so for Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, which while challenging my skills at deductive reasoning, somehow rivet me. French’s lyrical writing lures me into her stories about ordinary people who find themselves tangled in awful circumstances that slowly become riveting. Without a contrived twist, French delivers a punch to the gut at the end that stays with me long after. Her writing inspires me to want to share that same kind of adventure for my own readers. “In the Woods” was her first book. Seven years later, I still wonder about what happened to – no, wait, no spoilers here. But wouldn’t I love to think I had a reader still challenged that many years later. I call that writing that stays with you and that is what I want to write. Alexia: Had to think about this one. Why crime fiction as opposed to other genres? I think because of my sense of justice. Every day I see real world examples of injustice, towards people, animals, the environment. Horrible people get away with being horrible and there’s nothing I, nor anyone else, can do about it. We can (and should) donate to causes, march in protests, sign petitions, rescue animals, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, soothe the afflicted, comfort the dying. Yet, for every good work we do, we turn around and see some gazillionaire put people trying to eke a living on minimum wage out of work so the gazillionaire can increase his profit margin and bring home a $50 million bonus instead of a $30 million bonus. Or sneak them across the border to do his laundry or pick his fruit then have them thrown back to a country they haven’t lived in for 10 or 20 years once he’s done with them. Or we see someone beaten up or shot or fired or evicted or denied the right to marry the person they love because someone else doesn’t like their skin color or religion or gender or sexual orientation. Or one puppy mill or dog fighting ring is shut down and 3 more pop up or some demonoid tortures a cat and posts the video online–and gets likes. Or school girls are kidnapped by fanatical creeps who think women shouldn’t be allowed to read– and then some newspaper reports our government has been funneling arms to that particular group of fanatics because they were more sympathetic to our agenda than the opposing group. Or some honest, hardworking person is denied health care because someone decided they weren’t worthy of not having to choose between rent and medicine or, let’s face it, that they weren’t worthy of living. And instead of sticking up for that person, narcissistic jerks take to social media to trumpet about how they’ve got theirs so they don’t give a fuck about anyone else and expect to be applauded for being cold-blooded vultures. Or someone has to travel for miles to get drinkable water because the stuff from their tap is loaded with lead or live in the shadow of a pipeline that won’t benefit them but will certainly poison them if it leaks, all because they’re too poor to buy the political clout to send the mess to someone else’s neighborhood. Or they lose the home that’s been in their family for generations because people with more money suddenly decide their neighborhood is the place to be–as long as the original residents are forced out with sky-high property taxes and restrictive ordinances. We fight and fight and fight and bleed and fight some more and help the ones we can, maybe even save a few but, at the end of the day we have to accept that some things are beyond our control. Except in crime fiction. In crime fiction, I control the world I write. I can create justice. The unrepentant bad guy will go down. The underdog will have his day. Revenge will be had on the cat-torturing, woman-hating, narcissistic, bigot. In crime fiction, the devil may think he’s gotten away with something but by the last page, the angels will have the last word. (Here ends the rant.)      

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Feeding the Hungry Reader

French Comfort Food, by Hillary Davis, one of my favorite cookbooks,    How would you like a buttery grilled cheese sandwich filled with Cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and bacon right now? Or perhaps a tuna melt on rye bulging with melted Gruyere? Maybe a plate of creamy macaroni and a combination of three cheeses, not one? Too plebian? We could add chunks of lobster.            Not feeling savory at the moment? Could I get you a plate of warm chewy chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven? Or a piece of apple pie with feathery light flaky crust? No? I could dish up a piece of moist golden cake with homemade chocolate buttercream frosting if you’d prefer.            If you aren’t hungry by now, you may not be human. Just the very description of these foods, often categorized as “comfort food” is enough to make a reader salivate, which is why most readers and writers are captivated by food in stories. Food helps to create atmosphere and lends authenticity to an environment. I defy you to read Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake series and not crave lobster. When Stone Barrington cuts into a steak at the legendary, now defunct, Elaine’s in Stuart Woods’ wildly popular series, most readers find their mouths mysteriously open.            Food enhances reading. Food enriches writing. Food brings joy to life. Cozy mystery writers have long understood this. Joanne Fluke (Blueberry Pie Murder), Diane Mott Davidson (Sticks and Scones), Lucy Burdette (Killer Takeout), and Edith Maxwell (When the Grits Hit the Fan) all have written popular series with variations in food themes.            Other mystery subgenres feature food regularly. Olivier cooks up a gastronomic storm at his bistro in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, while Clara serves comfort food to friends at her kitchen table. From Steak Frites with Mayonnaise to Coq Au Vin with a Hint of Maple, readers feast on Canadian specialties when not merely content to munch on a steady diet of buttery croissants.            Readers, myself included, have been driven to patronize restaurants featured in books. Margaret Truman’s books enticed me to try the old Le Lion D’Or in Washington D.C. when my daughter was in college there. My husband didn’t get it, especially when the tab arrived. He was on board when we headed to a Spanish restaurant in Harvard Square where William Tapply had his protagonist, Brady Coyne frequenting.            Writers use food more than gratuitously. It can be part of the plot as in Tana French’s recent release, The Trespasser, where a romantic dinner prepared by the murder victim but never shared, became an integral part of the story.            In Permanent Sunset, I chose the bride’s choice of her wedding menu as a window into her soul. I later used the wedding meal, which was never served to guests due to the untimely death of the bride, to color a police officer corrupt and to paint a portrait of the surviving family members.            I happen to love writing about food, possibly because I love reading about it (I own a few hundred cookbooks and this is after “downsizing”), only slightly less than cooking it. For me, it is as much pleasure deciding what to serve my characters as it is what to serve guests in my home. I recently created a meatloaf dinner for my grieving protagonist, which she quite enjoyed.            Fortunately, calories don’t count when you are writing about food. Only pleasure. What brings you please when you read or write about food?                       Dessert from Hillary Davis                       

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