Tag Archives: Gone Girl

Clunk, click – every trip?

Shhh! What was that noise?

 

I’m humming along on the laptop, metaphorical wind in my hair, hitting a nice steady cruising speed and then there was that noise. I’m not sure but I think it might just have been the sound of my plot gears grinding.

That sound is the one I call ‘The Clunk’. Yes, you know what I mean. It’s that bit when you’re reading a book and you’re brought up short or feel a little invisible wince as, for a second, you hear the book ‘machinery’ going into overdrive.

Look, what an unexpected twist! A startling moment of revelation! What a cliff-hanger!

Clunk, clunk, clunk.

It’s hard for storytellers to entirely avoid the clunk. By definition there have to be some plot devices or elements that drive the story forward, simply to get the intrepid hero/heroine from A to B, creating a sense of peril or surprise before the resolution.

Thankfully, readers have different tolerance levels for clunk. For example, I think Dan Browns novels, The Da Vinci Code particularly, clunk along like my mum’s old Nissan Micra trying to get past 55 in the middle lane but that hasn’t harmed his sales.

Clank, clank, clank.

Even literary masters aren’t immune to engine problems. Look at Thomas Hardy’s novels, especially Tess of the D’Urbervilles and the The Mayor of Casterbridge. They have more clunk than Stephenson’s Rocket (or should that be clank). I have to resist the urge to stick my hands over my ears every time a crucial letter gets accidentally shoved under a doormat and lies unread for ten chapters, a person reappears from someone’s past at a very inconvenient moment or a sailor/soldier rises from the grave. This doesn’t mean the writing is bad or it stops you enjoying the book, you just decide to take it on faith as part and parcel of the ride.

Fingers in ears!

But it’s a dilemma for writers. Plots and characters should act in a way that seems psychologically convincing, shouldn’t they?

During the filming of the classic film The Birds, actress Tippi Hedren famously asked Alfred Hitchcock why the heroine decided to venture into the dark, dusty, cottage attic in the middle of a bird-related siege.

‘Because I need her to,’ Hitch replied. Basically because he knew chucking seagulls at Ms Hedren in a dark room would make a great scene. He ignored the clunk.

This is why storyteller extraordinaire, Stephen King, in his manual ‘On Writing’ says he abhors ‘plot’. He likes to let the characters lead him as he goes along, that way their actions always make internal sense. Doesn’t always work, mind you. Just think of the ending of IT or The Stand!

Rattle and Hum.

So, I‘m at the laptop, writing and re-reading and listening hard for the clunk as I drive along. I think I’ve got the noise down to a quiet little rattle now and maybe that’s the best a writer can hope for. After all, real life isn’t a series of convenient beginnings, middles, exciting bits and ultimate ruin or catharsis. Imposing structure on a story is clunk in itself, and very necessary, otherwise you’d just be writing text books, not novels.

A little clunk will get your book through its reader MOT – how much depends on their hearing and how much they’re enjoying the scenery!

 

Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Mark Billingham’s Rush of Blood – an absorbing and layered thriller about three couples, one Florida Holiday, one dead girl and many red herrings.

‘Listen up’ moment – what was that about a kayak??

 

Sabine Durant’s Under Your Skin.

A twisty thriller with some enjoyable media satire in which TV personality Gaby Mortimer discovers a dead body only to find she becomes a suspect.

‘Listen up’ moment – You touched her bra and you just remembered that now?

 

Tana French’s Broken Harbour.

Atmospheric thriller set in post economic depression Ireland where a young family have been brutally murdered in their home on a ghost estate.

‘Listen up’ moment – Holes in the walls? Mink on the loose? Are you sure?

 

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. A deliciously dark, multi-narrative, domestic nightmare surrounding a missing wife.

‘Listen up’ moment – do you really want to make friends with the sort of people who hang around cheap motels??

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Vampires, fast cars and Twits – A Purely Subjective Review 2012

 

2012, eh? The Olympics, The Golden Jubilee, Gangnam Style, the shenanigans of Carrie and Co in Homeland and all the other things that made the year so special! As they slide into hazy, fond memory What about the books? I hear you literary fiends cry.

The publishing event of 2012 was, of course, not Fifty Shades of all that, but that two of my own novels Telling Stories and Holiday Money were published by Cutting Edge press. (Both future classics and bestsellers, obviously….) But, as an avid guzzler of all things bookish, (and for the rest of the world who don’t live within five feet of my laptop or my fantasy-addled head) what else brought little moments of literary delight to Bev’s house of books in 2012?

Here are my purely subjective hits. Technically some of these were out in 2011 but I only cottoned on to them this year. If you’ve missed them too, you might nab them in the New Year sales. (But, don’t forget, both my book are really cheap on Kindle…#ShamelessPlug)

 

Gee you cant trust no-one!  Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn.

My own super-favourite crime novel of the year, for selfish reasons – chiefly, that when I wrote my own first novel  ( Telling Stories http://amzn.to/U8Z3pd ) I wanted to create a heroine who would be self-interested, brutally honest and difficult to like. Gillian Flynn does this brilliantly with her ‘heroine’ Amy in this page-turning mystery where no one is what they seem and you certainly wouldn’t want any of them coming round to dinner. Twisted brilliance! Selling by the well-deserved bucket-load. (If you like this, you’d probably like my stuff as well #ShamelessPlug2.)

 

It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong (wrong)

1.  Shhh! It’s the apocalypse. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson-Walker explores a very near future where the earth’s rotation is slowing, meaning days and nights are stretching out to increasing lengths. Crops are failing, the economy is starting to crumble and no one can get a decent night’s kip. But what does this mean to a girl on the verge of adolescence who likes a boy? Understated, and beautifully written.

2. Tool up! It’s the apocalypse! Justin Cronin’s The 12. This long-awaited sequel to The Passage is the yin to ‘Miracles’ yang – vampires, survivor colonies, explosions and all sort of mad stuff. No chance of a doze, soldier!

3. The kids are alrightBlood Red Road, Moira Young. Ms Young is about as unlikely a ‘novelist’ as you’ll ever meet, far more interesting than say, Hilary Mantel who won the Booker Prize this year, again. Not that I’ve got anything against Ms Mantel but she can’t count her former jobs as alternative comedian, tap dancer and opera singer. But this does beg the question how is this YA story of girl’s quest to find her brother in a dust-land dystopian future is so good. Uber-director Ridley Scott agrees and has ‘reportedly’ bought the film rights! You heard it here first, or from your 14 year old son or daughter, over and over again!

 

Pure’ class! 

Costa Book of the Year, Pure, by Andrew Miller, is the one to read if you want to look cultured on the train or in er, Costa Coffee. (But resist the urge to get out your nosegay or lace handkerchief!) It’s based loosely on an 18th century project to move a Parisian cemetery which was overflowing with corpses and poisoning public health –it has sinister overtones of the approaching French revolution but is written in a lovely, lyrical, easy-reading style that makes it feel like the best kind of historical fairy tale.

 

E-book Wild Card  

No sheep, no leeksIronbark by Stephen Venables. I read this with my new Kindle to repay Stephen for a very nice review of my own novel,  hoping it wouldn’t be some awful Welsh-cliché-ridden pastiche. Luckily it’s a beautifully-written mystery/historical romp that starts in the South Wales Valleys, with a funeral and the bequest of a Jacobs cracker tin, then turns into a cross continental adventure spanning 50 years. It has laughs, a twisty-turny plot, and loads of corned beef sandwiches! Epic! ( http://amzn.to/PGdL0m )

 

No time to read a whole blooming novel?!

Got 90minutes? Then buckle up and watch the movie version of James Sallis’s noirish thriller Drive – starring Ryan Gosling. Discover LA as we follow the exploits of taciturn ‘Driver’ who does car stunts for the movies / moonlights as a getaway driver. Displaying some brilliant silent ‘face’ acting (he only has about 30 lines in the whole film), you’ll be hooked as Gosling gets in a bit of bother over a girl. Sit back, feel like a cool kid and enjoy the fab soundtrack. But when Driver starts kicking the man in the elevator, look away!

Got ten minutes? Take a bite of the poisoned Apple and read The I-Hole.  Sci fi meets consumerism in this BBC story competition shortlisted tale by Julian Gough .  The ‘I-Hole’ is the next, near-future must-have piece of technology – a little black hole you can keep at your desk. What could possibly go wrong?

Got ten seconds? Try the Lit-lite soundbites of Twitterature by Penguin. Does what it says on the tin – The ‘classics’ in 140 characters or less. Your sixth form English teacher would hate it but if you don’t laugh yourself silly you aint got no bidnes being all up in this literature n sh*t. #Totally!

 

Happy 2013, reading pals! 

 

Think I’ve missed a little gem of 2012? Do tell? 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized