Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Whirlwind Stops + Erle Stanley Gardner

Well, friends, I am happy to report that my new spy novel, now entitled The Eagle Intercept, is complete at 70,000 words. For those of you just joining us, this manuscript started out as my NaNoWriMo project and almost didn't get finished (I had a hard time with the first draft) and when it was finished, was far too short (about 40,000 words). The first read-through and subsequent revision netted a ton of material I hadn't realized was there to tap, and as spy thrillers go I think it's pretty good. I do not like being out of my preferred crime fiction arena, and as long as I don't get type-cast as the next Vince Flynn I suppose we'll be okay. After all, how many different subjects has Dan Simmons written about? Or, as Donald Westlake might have said, that's why we have pen names.

I wanted at least three chapters ready to mail out by January and I have more than met that goal; after the next read-through this coming week, the whole thing will be ready. Now I just need a bloody synopsis. Hate those things.

We will now resume regularly scheduled blogging since this site was never supposed to be about my own scribbling, but since nobody seemed to get upset by the detour, detoured I did. Thank you for your indulgence.

I've written before that I'm a fan of Erle Stanley Gardner, but not all of his books turn me on. I'm not crazy about Perry Mason. I like the character, but by the time he was doing Mason, Gardner seemed to be phoning it in and I've never seen as much effort put into the Mason books as there was in the Ed Jenkins series, and that's just one example, and an appropriate one since this note is about Jenkins.

I like the Phantom Crook. He's totally on his own. No gal Fridays, no side-kicks (except for his dog, maybe), and everybody from other crooks to the cops is somehow out to get him. But he always comes through in the end, and you have to dig that. The stories are fast an exciting and really carry you along. I have one collection of Jenkins material, Dead Men's Letters and Other Stories, and had the second collection, The Blonde in Lower Six, but the second book was stolen when some dastard broke into my shed at one of those pay-to-store-your-crap places. Oh, well. That's what ABE is for.

Back when Gardner was doing Jenkins stories for the pulps, he was often critizised for having his gun battles end as soon as the very last round was fired from the hero's gun. Gardner commented that when a writer only gets paid a penny a word, he's a fool to leave four-cents worth of ammunition in the hero's gun. I cannot disagree with that statement, hacked as much as it is because I don't have the actual quote handy. But gunfighting is not the only place where Gardner stretched out his word count.

Has anybody ever noticed, not only in Gardner stories but in those of Dashiell Hammett and Carroll John Daly, that the Big Bad Guy or Other Character of Note in their stories (often lawyers) were often referred to by their first, middle, and last name? I thought it was just a joke between then, since, allegedly, they all knew each other, but now I see it as a conspiracy of sorts to get even more money out of various editors, and one wonders why said editors allowed the conspiracy to exist. Somebody call Kevin Costner and Oliver Stone. This one's bigger than JFK and would probably be told just as truthfully.

Anyway, Gardner never fails to entertain with the old pulp stories. And Mason is entertaining, too, but Gardner's writing is far too anorexic for me to be a real Mason fan. That's why I'm glad that there is so much pre-Mason material available, not just Ed Jenkins but also Ken Corning (of whom more later will be written) and many, many others....

1 comment:

  1. I read The Deep when I was 11 years old. I think I found it on a train, and I was traveling alone, so there was no one there to tell me not to read it. Pretty sure it was my first adult mystery, and probably my first adult novel aside from the classics. Time I visited old Mickey again.