all’s well that ends

I finally finished that book I complained about earlier.  Now I can go into some additional detail regarding the literary crimes of the writer.

1) the main character is a jerk.  I still think the writer was living out some weird fantasy through this character.  Wealthy, super-strong (hits one guy over the head with another guy!), ready access to weaponry, savvy about food, wine, fashion, art and literature, has a high-powered job but doesn’t seem to have to work very much, real ‘ladies-man’ (and insists that you hear all about it).  did not like this guy, and he’s in the book all the time.

2) most other characters are mannequins.  the author tells you about everything they’re wearing, but not much else is developed. boring!

3) unnecessary details.  At one point, which is supposed to be exciting and filled with menace, he stops to describe the interior of a stretch limousine.  Who cares about the location of the bar in relation to the seats?  He even starts out with, “there’s the driver’s seat, of course” – like he’s slightly exasperated to have to tell us that.

4) that is incorrect. He has some characters that need to make good time flying from London to New York, so he gives the plane a “strong tail wind”.  The prevailing winds at the mid-latitudes are from the west.  Called the “westerlies” for that reason.  I’m willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story, but not global atmospheric patterns.

5) taking the easy way out.  I was interested in reading this initially because it included cryptography and ciphers as part of the story, and I thought this might be a fun way to learn more about that.  There is a short overview of encryption techniques.  But when he has a character finally get around to describing how the cipher puzzle is solved, he happens to be talking to the jerk main character,  who tells us that the conversation wasn’t interesting to him so he won’t go into any more detail.  Thanks.

6) lack of editorial oversight.  Early on the main guy uses a slang term to describe an old building, a term you wouldn’t typically hear, and certainly one I would not use.  But then two other people use this term, on different occasions.  Distracting.

7) lack of editorial oversight continues. He has two younger people in the story – they’re supposed to be in their mid to late twenties (I guess; we do know what they were wearing) and they use expressions from an earlier era.  Would you expect a young person to talk about meeting their friends at the Drive-In, or quote a John Denver song?  No, neither would I.

He also used a story-telling technique that got on my nerves, but I won’t classify as a “literary crime”.  It possibly could have been done well by somebody else.  A character that is a movie buff keeps talking about ongoing events as if they were part of a movie plot.  Here, it seemed intrusive and contrived.

And there were two things I enjoyed quite a bit in this book; he has some interaction with a professor friend, and one or two of those sections of dialogue were really good.  Like you were sitting at a table with smart people.  I’m guessing that these sections were transcribed directly from interviews with actual smart people, and not a product of the writer’s imagination.  He also includes letters that are supposed to have been written by a man who lived in England during the early 17th century.  All of these are fun to read – really well done.  My assumption is they were ghost-written by someone else.

Anyway, I’m done with the book if you want to borrow it.

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