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September 4, 2006

good writing

Last week, in bed with the flu, I read four detective novels whose dates of publication ranged from 1938 to 2003. There was stylish writing in all those books: rhythmic, observant, atmospheric--and various, too. For example:

When I thought of Germany I thought of parades, of swastika banners flapping from tall poles, of loud-speakers, of stout field-marshals and goose-stepping men with steel helmets, of concentration camps. When I thought of Russia I thought of dark, stupid Romanoffs, of the Winter Palace, of Cossacks, of crowds streaming in terror, of canopied priests swinging censers, of Lenin and Stalin, of grain rippling in the breeze, of the Lubianka prison. (Eric Ambler, Cause for Alarm, 1938)

The magnificent stones, symbols of courage, cruelty, and betrayal, stood sentinel at the one cleft in the ridge of the Purbeck Hills as they had for a thousand years. As he ate his solitary picnic, Dalgliesh found his eyes constantly drawn to those stark embattled slabs of mutilated ashlar silhouetted high against the gentle sky. (P.D. James, The Black Tower, 1975)

He ordered another scotch and told the guy who came in and sat next to him at the bar he'd won 470 bucks at Spade's Boardwalk. Just like that, in about three minutes. The guy said, big fucking deal; you want to keep it, get out of town, fast. The guy was a blackjack dealer at Resorts International, across the street. He had been a floorman at Tropicana, but he'd tapped out a dealer for looking away from the cards and it turned out the dealer had more juice than he did, so listen to this, he got fired for doing his job. Politics, man. Who you know. You'd don't party with the right people, kiss your ass good-bye. (Elmore Leonard, Glitz, 1985)

He turned the radio on and moved the dial to PGC. The Super Funk Regulator was on the air, talking to a woman who had called in from her car.

"Where you at right now?" asked the DJ.

"I'm on Benning Road, heading home from work."

"Who you goin' to see?"

"My son Darius," said the woman giggling, obviously hyped to be on the radio and live. "He's ten years old."

"You have a good one," said the DJ. "Thanks for rolling with a brother."

"Thanks for lettin' a sister roll."

Strange smiled. He did love D.C. (George Pelecanos, Soul Circus, 2003)

September 4, 2006 8:09 AM | category: none


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