Thursday, July 25, 2013

stephen king liked munson's book and that worked for me

I stood before my shelf of paperbacks wondering which one to read next and finally decided to try Ronald Munson's Fan Mail only because its dark cover had nothing else but the title and the author's name in red and a glowing blurb from Stephen King (A fantastically crafty nail-biter in the Ira Levin tradition. I loved it!) instead of a tantalising drawing or sketch.

And I found it hard to find good places in the narrative to put the book down while life and sleep took over.

This doesn't mean that I had discovered a rich trove of literary achievement. It just means that it was the proverbial page-turner for me. For good reasons (more about that below).

This also doesn't mean that an endorsement from Stephen King is a guarantee of any kind that you will like the book (although in this case, it did for me).

The story of a beautiful TV anchorwoman who is the object of the obsessive creepy attentions of a secret admirer on the deranged side of the fence called "The Watcher." It is told entirely using emails, faxes, messages left on answering machines and transcripts of recorded conversations. I've had mixed results with such a device (worked for me with The Anderson Tapes and didn't with Death of a Politician). This alone can make this book seem unfilmable (something that has happened with an Ira Levin work before). Although Sidney Lumet managed to do well with The Anderson Tapes, a similar exercise with Munson's book would require a significant departure in material and setting. A heaping bowl of To Die For and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind along with generous doses of John Waters might work, but it still feels too stale. Perhaps some David Lynch and David Fincher for good measure. Oh! And perhaps Oliver Stone in his Natural Born Killers mood.

But I digress.

Not entirely.

Just like in Condon's book, you find yourself laughing at and with some of the characters in the book. Unlike Condon's book, though, the turning of pages ends appropriately. There's almost no fat in the book.

And of course, no flights of expository fancy. What a relief.

Back to the bookshelf now to find the next rabbit. Thank you so much, Mr. King.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

did crichton have a dan brown phase?

I just finished reading a copy of The Terminal Man, Michael Crichton's second novel after doing really well with The Andromeda Strain. There's woefully little to the plot and the bulk of the book is dedicated to exposition showing off all the research in the areas of mind control, psychomotor epilepsy, police reports (there's even a recreation of a report for a death in the book), advances in cutting-edge medical research (call it "bleeding edge" if you will) and the like.

And I thought of Dan Brown.

And then I remembered writing that I had preferred Crichton over Brown for doing a far better job at exposition than Mr. Brown ever could.

And yet, here I was looking at a novel that could well have been written by Dan Brown, except that the actual narrative was written crisply -- had Mr. Brown written this novel, it would have been thicker with some more exposition and with more pages devoted to the narrative recovering after an ambitious dive into the sea of exposition.

And now some questions float through my head.

Did Michael Crichton have a Dan Brown phase?

Does Dan Brown represent a stage in the evolution of a commercial writer of pulp thrillers?

Does Michael Crichton represent a later stage in this evolution?

Will Dan Brown evolve into Michael Crichton?

Will Dan Brown ever evolve?

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