Confession: I haven’t been keeping up with upcoming releases this summer. However, I have done a fair amount of reading. Because I’m working to whip a novel draft into shape before the ACFW Conference in September so I can pitch it to editors/agents, my summer reading has consisted of mysteries. And, because I have a handful of Raymond Chandler books on hand, I’ve been reading those.
Chandler was a master of descriptive narrative and internal dialogue, two things that are necessary in most genres of fiction, but vital for first-person point of view works, which is what I’m writing. So, while I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of reading well-written prose, I’ve also been infusing my brain with research.
Of course, Chandler’s books are definitely not Christian fiction, as there is much drinking and smoking done by nearly all the characters, but they are considered classics, and many writing craft books include his writings among their lists of authors to study.
The genre is hard-boiled detective, which was very popular during the Maltese Falcon days. Chandler is well-known for one-liner descriptions that immediately give the reader a mental image. For instance, in one book he describes a woman (who is attempting to flirt with the protagonist) by saying “Her legs had more tone than a lyric poem.” In another scene, Marlowe, the quintessential private eye, is caught while searching an apartment by someone with a flashlight. He says (via internal dialogue): The flash pinned me against the wall like a squashed fly.
Another series of (non-Christian) books I’ve read from this summer is that of Janet Evanovich’s popular Stephanie Plum mysteries. The protagonist in my mystery series is modeled loosely after Plum, although my series will be written for the Christian market, as this secular series includes a lot of sexual references (although not graphic, but still . . .) and bad language. I think it’s a shame for authors to feel the need to include such things when otherwise, the writing and story is superb.
Again, that reading was done mostly for research. Evanovich and Sue Grafton have written dozens of books in their mystery novel series, and my goal is to create such a series for readers to enjoy without having to trudge through unwanted words.