Sunday, February 6, 2005

Les Mystères

I just finished reading Greg Herren's Murder in the Rue St. Ann, and I am absolutely shattered. I've never before read a murder-mystery that made me cry. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever cried from reading any book before. But the ending was soooo sad! If you end up buying the book (and I recommend it, it's a pretty good read), just stop reading at page 248 and make yourself believe that everything is going to be OK. Don't read Chapter 20 unless you want to be rendered sad for the rest of the day.

While reading this book, I came up against a couple of things that made me think about my own novel. For one, there was a scenario in which an innocent person was arrested and booked for murder on circumstantial evidence that paralleled in several ways the scenario I have set up for Danny Vandervere to be arrested and booked for murder. It's unpleasant when you find some device in a published book that you are about to use in an unfinished book. One doesn't like to imagine one's readers coming across the passage and saying, "Oh, this tired old device, Greg Herren used it in Murder in the Rue St. Ann; I don't know what this slob Robert Manners thinks he's doing, trotting it out again."

For another thing, the central murder was not solved by the detective, but was rather explained to him in one scene by another detective. Nor did it have anything to do with the secondary crime that directly affected the narrator (though I guess that was a spoiler... forget I said it). Though the narrating detective did put a lot of pieces of the puzzle together, it had to all be tied together by the police detective and handed to him in a tidy little explicative scene.

I found that a little surprising, a little not-quite-pukka-sahib. I am also not quite playing by the rules, since the murder in my story is merely a catalytic agent with which to introduce dramatic tension into a story that is really about first love... but since I felt a little bit of disapproval over Herren's little fudging of the rules of the genre, I wonder if I can get away with such a fudging myself.

But these are all worries for another day... I should try to finish the damn story before I start worrying about my genre or the reactions of future readers. And so, since today Grandmother didn't get us up for church today, and since I therefore had the whole day to myself while she went and watched the Superbowl, I was able to devote myself to finishing Chapter Two, Part Two of Worst Luck, which, I posted for your enjoyment a couple of hours ago, before I finished reading Herren's tear-jerker.

So go read. I'll wait here for you.


As I mentioned in my last post, I was stuck on writing about Danny's trip up Polk Street, and so last night on the way home from Drag Bingo, I drove up there and had a look at the place. It's a lot different than I remembered it: Polk used to be pretty gay and remarkably seedy, but it looks a lot more like the rest of downtown now.

The bar on which I loosely based "The Brat," which used to be called "Q.T." in my day, is now called "Club Rendez-Vous" or something equally pixillated. And there is a bar with a blue awning on the side-street where I have moved my bar, but since that street is one-way going in the other direction, I wasn't able to cruise by and see if it had a name. I hope it's not a hustler bar, or I might have a problem with libel.

The Hotel Leland, on which I based the over-painted landmark hotel, has been painted solid white since the last time I really looked at it, fifteen or so years ago... one morning with a hangover, I should mention, after waking up there. It was a classic "coyote-ugly" moment (where you'd rather chew your arm off than wake him by moving it), coming to in a seedy hotel with this little hairy troll whose name, I suddenly remember, was Wally.

And though the exterior had been painted green, gold, and white in those days (I think), the elevators and hallways were carpeted and walled in the color-scheme I mentioned in Worst Luck, and were terrifying to a pair of eyes that were drunk enough to find coyote-ugly Wally an acceptable sex-partner. I think I capture the mood of that morning in my passage about the hotel.

So though I didn't really change much of my description of Polk Street, which I in fact didn't describe in very great detail to begin with, and though Polk Street has changed so much since the familiar olden days, I felt secure enough in my atmosphere to move forward and concoct the scene.

I think it's a pretty good scene, and I am rarin' to get to work on the next scene... though maybe not tonight, as it's getting a little late. But if you have a moment after reading the section, please leave me some feedback in the comments on Worst Luck. I always enjoy the encouragement I receive from my regular readers Will and DM, but I would also appreciate any stylistic observations, criticisms, or questions for clarification that might occur to you as you read.


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