I was stunned this from Jenny Davidson about mystery writers:
The crime fiction community is smart and adult and welcoming, and so many good books are being written (Lee Child was mentioning his peer group – i.e. they were the new kids around the same tie – being Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman – the list speaks for itself) . . .
Why was I stunned? Because just a few days earlier I had a look at a book by Robert Crais. It just happened that Phil, when he was visiting, had finished this book (which he described as “pretty good”) and left it with me so he wouldn’t have to take it back with him. I’d never heard of Crais, but it had pretty amazing blurbs on the cover and Phil recommended it, so I took a look.
It was bad. From page 1 it was bad. It was like a bad cop show. I could see the seams where the sentences were stitched together. I could see how somebody might like this sort of book, but I certainly can’t understand the blurbs or the idea that it’s a “good book”!
I don’t think this judgment is snobbery on my part. I read A Simple Plan several years ago and liked it a lot. And I like to carry an old pocket book around that I can read while waiting on line. Right now my two pocket books are by Eric Ambler and John D. MacDonald (but not that Travis McGee stuff, which is so smug it makes me want to barf). And I’m not doing that reverse-snob, pulp fiction is the best, kind of thing either. The Robert Crais book just seemed kinda dumb to me. I’m not saying Crais is dumb–maybe he’s just not such a good writer, or maybe he’s carefully writing to the market. And there was nothing special about the plot. Perhaps Jenny or Phil can explain Crais’s literary virtues to me.
Later on Jenny writes:
I [Jenny] grudgingly have to admit that yes, I will write more novels, and no, I am still not sure what sort of novel they will be . . . Might spend some time later this summer looking back through the archive – perhaps it will tell me that I should be writing a high-concept series of thrillers with journalists, scenes set in research labs, Big Pharma scandal and genetic engineering . . .
All I can say is, I’m pretty sure she can do better than the last novel I read with that theme, a book that to me revealed a fundamental lack of understanding of science. (To be fair, I think a lot of scientists have a fundamental lack of understanding of science too…)