Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When One Man Dies by Dave White

I got an unexpected ARC in the mail in September: Dave White's When One Man Dies. Intrigued by the quotes on the back, I started it right away. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past page 10. This is a good example of how a distracting "surface" (an author's style) can get in the way of the appreciation of deeper matters like character and story.

I have a few pet peeves in fiction, and one of them is long-windedness. Stating the same thing, reworded, in two (or three) consecutive sentences. Or letting characters spend five paragraphs talking about what's on the jukebox if they do nothing but agree with each other — that doesn't tell me anything more about them than I already knew.

Another thing that has unfortunately become very popular is an author's thinking that real-world dialogue is the same as realistic fiction dialogue. People in real life mutter and "um" and take forever to get to the point, but this is grating in a novel. If your characters state everything I need to know in two sentences of a conversation, the rest can safely be cut. I like a little color in my characters as much as anybody, but it needs to be carefully folded into an already tight text.

Style and voice are subjective things that we react to individually. Obviously, based on the blurbs, other people really enjoyed When One Man Dies, so your experience may be different from mine. But I won't be going any further with it. And this is unfortunate, because the relationship between the young P.I. and the older gent intrigued me.

Update: Though I only got to page 10, I am reassured that page 69 is no improvement.

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