Novels are stories, it being the responsibility of the tellers to make them interesting. Some succeed, many fail. The best are fascinating, the worst boring. As important as the story is the way it's told. If told well, seriously or humorously, you want to hear it to the end. If not you yawn, your mind wandering.
The Racketeer by John Grisham, 340 pp, 2012 Hodder Stroughton hardback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 750 baht.
John Grisham is publicly and critically regarded as the top contemporary novelist. The US lawyer-turned-author has penned two dozen best-sellers over the years, several adapted to the screen. Happily he's still going strong, his new books flying off the racks.
Lawyers are his literary creations and the author makes a point of dropping titbits of federal and state ordinances for our edification. The Racketeer, under review, differs from his earlier works in that his protagonist is a disbarred lawyer serving 10 years in a federal facility in Maryland, US.
Malcolm Bannister, black, an ex-Marine, one of three partners in a small firm in Winchester, Virginia, claims he was unfairly tarred along with a client. His wife divorced him and made off with their two children. His father, a retired state trooper, visits monthly but can't hide his shame.
Frostburg is a lenient place, Malcolm its librarian and jailhouse lawyer, giving free legal advice to the inmates and correction officers. At 43, having served half his sentence, he can't wait to get out. The murder of a federal judge and his girlfriend seems to be his opportunity.
Malcolm notifies the FBI that he knows who did it, but will only reveal it in exchange for his freedom. Having no clues, the bureau goes for it. He gives them the wrong man and flees. Hundreds of pages are spent on his turning up the right man. Then there's the $8 million worth of gold bullion stolen from the judge's safe.
The venue moves to Antigua in the Caribbean. Malcolm and his new love track it down. But unlike drugs, it isn't illegal (the judge had been corrupt) and they have no intention of parting with it. The tale is full of schemes, scams, twists and turns. Ultimately, everybody gets what they want, not least the readers.
It's sad to think that people are turning from thought-provoking books to mindless cellphones. There is no substitute for printed matter (books, newspapers, magazines, journals). Like so many things, IT is change, which ought not be equated with progress.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 466 pp, 2012 Phoenix paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 295 baht.
Match made in hell
We call it the seven-year itch. It's the average period _ statistically _ that a couple is together before the romance they felt when they exchanged "I do" has worn off. They realise that the match wasn't made in heaven, their two hearts aren't beating as one, that he's lazy and she's sloppy.
Love stories to the contrary, bride and groom don't live happily ever after. They come to see themselves as individuals, selfish and with dreams and aspirations their equally selfish mates aren't interested in helping them fulfil. Meeting others, they sense they could have done better if they'd only waited.
Sweden examined this best in six television episodes in 1973. Confessions From A Marriage was then adapted to the big screen. It had a husband and wife minutely analyse their mutual unhappiness and, ultimately, divorce. Yet, they had grown so accustomed to one another that the satisfaction they sought continues to elude them.
In Gone Girl, contemporary Yank author Gillian Flynn tries her hand at it with an American twosome, in the land where half of marriages end in divorce. Her plotting makes for a spicy story, as plain analysis would seem boring to readers. Presumably, Swedes don't insist on actioners.
In the US, the Big Apple is where aspiring writers gravitate to because it has the most publishing houses in the land, along with books and magazines. The two find jobs, meet, both over 30, they wed. But with the economic downturn, publications fail and they are among the unemployed. She has a little money, he has none.
To economise, they move in with his sister who is taking care of their ageing parents on a small farmstead in Missouri. They open a little bar. Amy looks for work _ any work. Nick waits for work to come to him, spending her money. A woman seduces him. A man sets his cap for her. The marriage is falling apart.
Amy disappears. In such cases, the police invariably take it for granted that the spouse is guilty of foul play. Evidence points to Nick. In her diary, Amy keeps referring to his bad temper and her fear for her life. There is a trial and he ends up on death row, his plea of innocence smirked at.
Until Amy returns, with a tale of having been abducted and raped for a month, before killing the fiend with a knife and escaping. Her story has many holes, but can't be refuted. Nick is released. Aware that she'd set him up as revenge for his infidelity, he wants a divorce. The finish has a diabolical twist. Of the two stories, I prefer the Swedish (Ingmar Bergman's).
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer