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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Airplane Reading

posted by on May 29 at 13:00 PM


It used to be, when I went to BEA as a bookseller, I’d try to read a classic, in order to keep my head amid all the shiny new free books. I’ve read The Scarlet Letter at BEA—if you haven’t read that book since high school, you really should; it’s amazing—and one year, pretentiously, I brought Billy Budd along with me. But since I started writing Constant Reader, every time that I’ve flown, I’ve tried to read something popular.

This time, I brought The Broken Window, by Jeffery Deaver. This is a Lincoln Rhyme mystery, which may ring a bell for you because of The Bone Collector, an adaptation of a Deaver novel of the same name starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. I’ve been reading these books for years—they’re the definition of guilty pleasures. Lincoln Rhyme is a paralyzed forensics detective. His lover and partner is Amelia Sachs, a former model and muscle-car enthusiast who is a tough-as-nails cop.

These books are bad. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the hell out of them, but they’re super-poorly written. Especially when Deaver tries to write African-American dialogue, which invariably sounds like something out of Song of the South. Rhyme sends Sachs out to investigate crime scenes left by meticulously clean serial killers. Sachs almost always winds up captured by the serial killers. And things end happily, but Rhyme remains grim.

Deaver loathed the casting of Denzel Washington as Lincoln Rhyme. You can tell this because, in just about every Rhyme mystery that has come out since The Bone Collector movie, Deaver comments about how much Rhyme looks like Tom Cruise.

Window is about identity theft, and the serial killer is of course someone who uses the system to track victims. Things are going well for the killer, until he accidentally frames Rhyme’s cousin. Then, of course, he’s in the shit. I read this book in one sitting, from the airport to the runway at LAX. All I can say is, if you dig on pulp geniuses—from Sherlock Holmes to Doc Savage—this might be your thing. Just don’t expect anything resembling good writing.

I think that Deaver might be a little sensitive about the quality of his work, though. The dedication on this one reads:

To a dear friend, the written word.

Sure thing, Jeff. Your Nobel is right around the corner. Just keep the cheesy forensic mysteries coming.

RSS icon Comments


You should read Lucifer's Hammer sometime. It's by Larry Niven, and a lot of people regard it as classic sci-fi. I found it to be quite silly, and appallingly racist. The racial stuff with the black characters is really over the top. And the pro-nuclear angle of the book is also quite strange.

Posted by AMB | May 29, 2008 1:22 PM

"To a dear friend, the written word."


I can see the author mailing a screenplay version of this to studios now.

Posted by Dougsf | May 29, 2008 1:45 PM

We'd rather not moderate your comments, but off-topic, gratuitously inflammatory, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate remarks may be removed, and repeat offenders may be banned from commenting. We never censor comments based on ideology. Thanks to all who add to the conversation on Slog.

Posted by I see your boobie | May 29, 2008 1:58 PM

all those guys, James Patterson and the ilk who sell boatloads of crime novels, are AWFUL. In a former life at "Seattle's largest Internet retailer", I had to "read" tons of those fuckers and they're all poorly plotted and written. They're the literary equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer produced, CBS crime drama and just as inanely popular.

Posted by michael strangeways | May 29, 2008 2:22 PM

I've written millions of words on the internet. Most of those words have been total crap and yet -- I still consider the written word to be a dear friend. Crap sensationalistic writing composing, as it does, the abstract and brief chronicle of our times, etc, etc.

A person doesn't have to be Charles fucking Dickens to be good friends with the written word.

Posted by Judah | May 29, 2008 6:16 PM

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