In 2009, for the first time, I reviewed a book, Killer Year: Stories to Die For… and posted it publicly in the blogosphere. This “review” became my second post on Crimespace. I’d discovered this social network “ning” site as a place for readers and writers of crime fiction and thought it a perfect place to have a presence. Though I joined in February and posted that month (see that first post here), I didn’t contribute again until 17 April 2009:
Another Thursday Night
Yeah, second blog post. Finally! I just had my Thursday night mystery book discussion at the library where I work. This month’s selection was Killer Year: Stories to Die For… Overall, I didn’t like the collection. The stories aren’t the type of thing I typically like to read. Too many of the stories seemed like they were written by the same author, working from the same set of guidelines on style. I like to see more—what I can only describe as—flavor. A better sense of individual author style with colorful descriptions of the people, places, and things to discover in the pages of a mystery. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages, but it’s no fun reading a story that’s set in Anywhere, USA with people that I can’t visualize because no description is given. What’s the character wearing? How are they wearing it? Does it matter? Maybe not, but it can reveal character and help visualize a scene. Sometimes, it seems like the trend in fiction lately is all action and dialogue.
Or maybe I’m just reading the wrong books! I did enjoy last month’s discussion pick: Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. A couple of the stories in Killer Year reminded me of that noir style. Another story reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s books. But liking 3 or 4 stories out of a collection of 16 isn’t a good result. But then, they weren’t cozy* mysteries which I tend to prefer. At least I can look at them as a learning experience to better craft my own writing and develop my style. Just hope I’m moving in the right direction. (No pun intended.)
I wouldn’t consider this my best review, but I still agree with the sentiments. I remember how action-oriented the stories were and how there was a great deal of dialogue and little or no description. Don’t just tell me a story takes place in Boston, Mass. or NYC, show me.
Killer Year, released in 2008, features stories by Brett Battles, Robert Gregory Browne, Bill Cameron, Toni McGee Causey, Sean Chercover, JT Ellison, Patry Francis, Marc Lecard, Derek Nikitas, Gregg Olsen, Jason Pinter, Marcus Sakey, and David White. Each author had a book scheduled for released in 2007. Publishers Weekly said, “Not every entry is a winner, but the disturbingly good new talent showcased in this volume bodes well for the future of the genre.”
I remember particularly liking the stories by Sean Chercover and Toni McGee Causey. Causey’s entry is the one I compared to Evanovich. A couple of the others were of interest, but most of them lacked “flavor” as I mentioned.
In any event, it’s always better to have read than to never have read at all.
* I should clarify that it would have been more accurate for me to have used the term traditional or malice domestic here. I find a good number of today’s cozy mysteries too fluffy.