Phil: A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d read Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King and not exactly been impressed. A couple of commentators pointed me in the direction of a longer novel, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, suggesting that it would be a better read.
My local Oxfam bookshop had a copy on the shelf so I picked it for a very reasonable £3.49. Nice clean hardback with no annoying scribble.
At 213 page, it’s not a long book. The story is handily divided into chapters too, which makes reading in several sessions easy. I hate taking a break part way through a passage but some writers don’t give you a point to pause at. Never mind how good the text is, sometimes a tea break is required! As it was, I read this in two sessions.
The story concerns a young girl (Trisha McFarland) who gets lost in the woods. Tom Gordon is a baseball player who appears in the book, but not really. I can’t say much more without runing the story.
I’ll admit to being impressed. For the overwhelming majority of the book there is only one character. In some hands, this would be a problem as the narrative would become leaden. Here, the story makes progress and you really want to make it to the end. In this respect, the length of the novel is an advantage. I doubt the tension could have been sustained any longer without introducing silly events. As it is, the build is entirely psychological and most importantly, very realistic. There’s been some painstaking research gone into the woodland setting. Some serious map-based planning too. If you were minded, I expect that you too could follow this book in real life.
Enjoyable? Yes, it was. I managed to avoid reading the end but it was tempting. I’m glad I didn’t as that would have spoilt things. As it was, the dénouement worked perfectly and tied everything up perfectly satisfactory.
Filed under Books, Phil, Writing
Phil: The last couple of short stories that have flown at me from the Nolan direction have been a long way from the expected chick-lit. They are tales of horror. I queried this and discovered that while most young girls were reading “Jackie”, my friend was immersed in James Herbert and Stephen King novels.
Until recently, I had never read either Herbert, King or Jackie but if this was the direction we are exploring with our writing then I felt it was time to make up for the omission. Doing a little work on another project in my local library, the opportunity was taken to brose the shelves for a suitable first book. Spotting that this once contains four short stories, I reckoned it would be a safe bet. This way, if I didn’t like anything, there wasn’t an entire book to work through to find out what happened.
According to the dust jacket blurb, all four stories are on the theme of retribution. Two of them (Big Driver and A Good Marriage) cover a victims revenge or that of a wife who discovers her husband is a murder. King claims to be trying to put the reader inside the mind of someone and examine what they might do in the same situation.
Fair Extension involves a man given the opportunity of recovering from cancer as long as someone else takes on his misfortune. It’s interesting as the expected finale where the protagonist doesn’t get his comeuppance.
The only story I’d really consider “horror” is 1922 in which a husband who has killed his wife, recounts his life as a form of confession. The whole thing is properly gory, spooky and unsettling. It’s also got a cracking twist right at the end.
To be honest, I’m still not sure. Maybe I need to try another book, but apart from 1922, I’m pretty certain that we could have produced stores as well-written and interesting. Give us a bit of time and even 1922 could be matched. This is a pretty recent book, first published in 2010, and so the author has sufficient success behind him that the publisher knows they can put out anything with his name on the front and it will sell – you can tell this from the cover design. I think I need to go and find an earlier book, and have another go. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the book, far from it, I rattled through each story pretty much in a single sitting, but I didn’t feel the horror.
Candice: Phil and I have been beavering away in the background for the last few weeks working on our next project. We’ve mentioned that we have been looking for new ideas and have been drafting something different from the usual.
Now Phil’s done all this research into Chick Lit, but no, to be different we haven’t written a Chick Lit story, but a horror story. As he pointed out it has generated a few comments in our weekly meets in the local near my work. Especially if the people listening also work there…. Hum that woman in Marketing was talking about murder at work… (well, to be honest, I feel like murdering some of them sometimes).
Anyway, the story is now finished and has been submitted to a writing competition. It’s with a magazine called Writer’s Forum who publish entries every month and you can pay extra to have a critique of your entry. Well, we are not expecting to win on our first entry (well, I am, but just trying to be modest) but we both think this is a cracker so are dying to see how we get on.
Writing a short is a different kettle of fish to a full book. We both got a bit lost into the reasons why our characters would do what they do when I pointed out, “We don’t have to explain, that’s what a short is all about.” My favourite parts were coming up with a punchy start and crafting the ending that just leaves things hanging. It was actually quite nice to not have to finish it off and round it up to explain all.
So, I thought you might like a taste of what we have been writing. I’m not going to give you it all until we’ve got the competition feedback, but tomorrow we’ll give you a taste of Nolan Parker, Horror Writers of repute.
Filed under Candice, Writing