"WHAT I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this -- two things: I crave truth. And I lie"...
"Women prefer to hate each other at close range, where you get more bang for your buck"...
"Any man who claims he's not into strong women is fooling himself; he's into strong women who know how to pout prettily and put on baby voices, and who will end up keeping his balls in a makeup bag"...
"I hate nostalgia, it's laziness with prettier accessories."
These are a series of quotes, from a number of different characters, culled from the Tana French thrillers I have read recently. In The Woods, Broken Harbor, The Likeness, Faithful Place and the latest, The Secret Place. ) I had to be led to these books by a few reading-crazy friends whose opinions I revere.
•TANA FRENCH began writing in 2007. Her tales, published by Penguin Books, take place in modern Ireland -- all involve a moveable cast of characters, men and women, from or aspiring to join Dublin's Murder Squad.
I have been amazed, confounded, sometimes frustrated and sometimes really angry while reading these novels. I often backtrack and re-read, because Ms. French does not stint on complicated plotlines, many, many suspects, unlikable "heroes" and unresolved personal issues. There have been times I've wanted to reach into the pages and shake Cassie Maddox or Scorcher, Frank Mackey, and Rob Ryan. None of these flawed people make the right choices until the final choice, which is always getting the bad guy, no matter what. (Including putting their own children at risk!) The books are chock full of dialogue, pages and pages of it. Attention must be paid! Especially as quite a few of the characters speak in varying Irish idiom.
Perhaps more than the murders, or the protagonists, it is the character of Ireland itself, the country's complicated history, caste system, financial problems, cultural stagnation and religion that are the real "stars" of these books. The author is Irish, but was born in the U.S. She did live in Ireland, the U.S, Italy and Malawi. She is also an actress. (Perhaps this is where her almost obsessive love of dialogue emanates.)
I'm hooked on these novels. Maybe I love them, but I don't like them, somehow. It's like -- let's have great sex, but let's not ever refer to it. Until we do it again. All are fascinating, challenging reading. I can't wait to dig into the next one and get myself into a state. (And a country -- Ireland.)
•THRILLERS are increasingly popular. The New York Times Book Review recently devoted an entire special issue to the onslaught of slaughter, sly murder most foul, and various supernatural entries. (I happen to loathe the super-natural.)
I was especially taken with Marilyn Stasio's article on Scandinavian authors who have made it big ever since the success of the late Stieg Larsson and his Dragon Tattoo books. Ms. Stasio listed a whole slew of new and upcoming Scandinavian mysteries. I'll likely investigate some of them.
Although I admit right up front, the Stieg Larsson books take some getting used to. All those odd Nordic names. I found myself longing for a simple Joe, Jane or Mary! (It seemed wise to write down a list of who was who, just in case I got lost during a thriller snowdrift.)
Of course, as soon as you settle in, the murderous chill descends, and you are happily trapped for the next 400 pages. Larsson's early death in 2004 was a real loss to literature.
•IN THIS special edition of the Times book review I was also lured by Christopher Rice's piece, Killer Company. Rice covers some of the more gruesome examples of the genre now inhabiting our nightmares. His review of the massive The Kills by Richard House caught my attention. The book (which is really four books in one) runs 1,000 pages! Rice says: "This is not an international thriller so much as a fiercely literate attempt to subvert the thriller genre itself."
So, that sounds like a tough read. I'll be reading it!
P.S. Christopher Rice is the handsome son of Anne Rice of The Vampire Chronicles fame. Anne re-invented vampire fiction, then she found Jesus. Then she lost him a bit. She's going back to vampires. Jesus forgives.
•I WAS at a party for Barbara Walters recently and sitting down, as is my wont these days, I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. Looking up, I found my longtime friend, Fox News emperor Bill O'Reilly, standing there. If you can make O'Reilly laugh, you are really gifted, so I tried.
"Bill, what are you doing here?" (This man doesn't cotton to the aspiring social get together; he is serious!) I went on: "Are you researching for another of your smash hit books--Are you and Martin Dugard preparing "Killing Barbara Walters?" As usual, I failed to make O'Reilly laugh and he simply said, "Why are YOU here?"
Bill and I have known each other in New York since we were hard-working minor broadcast figures, young wannabes, or since Hector was a pup (before he got killed.)
He knows I have liked his best-selling "historical" works, including Killing Lincoln...Killing Kennedy...Killing Jesus. I have always kidded him that after Jesus, there is no one famous enough to kill. But, of course that was wrong. There are plenty of people.
•THERE is his new one, leading the multi-million best sellers list. It is Killing Patton and this time O'Reilly took on a favorite character of mine, the tempestuous war-loving dynamo General George S. Patton, who died before World War II quite ended. The authors claim his death is a mystery to be solved, probably not an accident. Well, I was late tagging onto this book for one reason or another and before I did, another friend of mine, Richard Çohen, was questioning why Killing Patton didn't deal with the General's anti-Semitism? (Patton was controversial even in his time, a hero or a devil, wanting to race to beat the Russians into Berlin, disregarding orders from on high, brutally meeting his death in an "accident.")
I have always loved reading about the General and his ups and downs. I loved the movie, too, with George C. Scott. Now there is an added mystery.
Join the world of readers and get this Henry Holt book.
Maybe that and all the money O'Reilly & Dugard are making (they alone among writers these days) will give us a breather before the authors "kill" again! Their success is a boost to writers and publishers everywhere.
When Bill O'Reilly read for Literacy Partners as a favor to Literacy and me, he was a really big draw.