People generally advise writers to hint at things through the characters’ actions and words rather than reveal things forthrightly through the narrative. This rule is referred to as “Show, Don’t Tell,” and many people have told me to follow it–slightly more times than people have told me to add more detail to particular scenes. Yet, readers are all unique: the details desired by one another can live without. Generally, the rule of “Show, Don’t Tell” ought to be followed; but, Terry Brooks in his work on writing, Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life, reminds us that there is only one rule which must never be broken: “Don’t Bore the Reader.” One may understand it as the overarching rule from which the others derive. Depending on the writer, one can conceivably deep-six one or several others as long as this one is adhered to.
But, I have always thought that there would be dire consequences to explaining away too much. Then, I read, or rather listened to, an audiobook of Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers. He literally defenestrates this rule from the onset. Not only does he defenestrate it, but he tells the reader that he despises the authorial technique of the writer holding back details and keeping the reader in suspense for what is often a banal ending. Instead, he makes a pact with the reader with the result that, as much as possible, the reader will know everything he, the writer, knows!
For a while now, Thomp D. James has tried to convince me to read Andrew Klavan’s works without success. It’s simply more fun to listen to him perform in The Revolting Truth or On the Culture than to read his heavy, dark novels. Werewolf Cop happens to be the first novel of his I’ve read to completion, perhaps because Mr. Klavan (along with some help from my friend) convinced me that this would be a fun and over the top buddy cop novel. This subterfuge only lasts the first part of the novel, but one is hooked and can’t put the book down after that point.
The pulp fiction elements smack one right in the face from the onset: the pairing of a white knight Texas lawman and a smart aleck NYPD detective, the first murder having been committed with long swords, the villains being former KGB and SS officers, werewolves, and the name of the villain, Dominic Abend. (Those of you with a small dose of Latin and smaller dose of German will realize this name means “Lord Night”–Lat. dominus and Ger. Abend.) However, the more the Texan hero, Zach Adams, researches a witness’s statement about Abend looking for “Stumpf’s Baselard” and the more tragic the story waxes on his single betrayal of his marriage, the more serious the tale becomes. It is not the style of a pulp fiction to look soberly upon evil and then to tie it into the modern world.
After an absence of almost two months, it seems fitting for me to add a note about how we intend to write more on this blog in the near future. I use the plural in the hope that my partner, Thomp D. James, will have some things to say about the upcoming reviews. You see, I have taken his advice to read Andrew Klavan’s Werewolf Cop and have almost finished Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. The former author appears among his list of top ten novelists, and the latter greatly appeals to him.
A duel with words just might happen, but who knows?
At any rate, I hope to write at least one book review per week from this point on. (Surely, I can manage that?) As for the what to expect next, the review on Werewolf Cop shall be first, then an article on how Trollope applies “Show, Don’t Tell” in Barchester Towers, followed by a review of Anansi Boys, and by then I should have finished Taylor Marshall’s Sword and Serpent.