BOOK & BLOG
October 15, 2007
Books of the Week: HIGH PROFILE by Robert Parker
Once again, all my new reading has been in the forbidden zone; books I can’t review or talk about since they’re still under wraps. After January, I’ll be free as a bird, and it’ll be wonderful. I have a huge backlog of books I’m just aching to read.
I listened to a new Robert Parker novel, HIGH PROFILE, as I was driving to and from my mother’s home over the weekend. Robert B. Parker is a much-revered mystery writer with a long career. I have always admired him intensely, and his earlier books are some of the best mysteries ever written. I still re-read them for the dialogue. There are few mystery writers working now who don’t owe something to Robert B. Parker.
In later years Parker has been . . . not so good. His characters, once so brisk and interesting, are now endlessly self-involved people (both men and women) who only want to talk about each other or themselves in minute detail, over drinks. There are always adored dogs, who are actually the most likeable beings in the books. Every now and then some action happens to space out the long discussions.
For excellent reading, try some of Parker’s earlier books, like THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT, or LOOKING FOR RACHEL WALLACE. Even his mid-career books are wonderful exercises in crisp dialogue and clean action. If you argue that people don’t normally converse as wittily as his most popular character, Spenser, and Spenser’s friend Hawk well, that was at least far preferable to the endless psychobabble that provides most of the interpersonal talk in HIGH PROFILE. You’re almost willing the characters to go out and shoot someone, just to stop the agony.
There’s a lot of Parker to read, and the bulk of it is excellent. Don’t be put off by my sour reaction to HIGH PROFILE. I’m just thinking about what it could have been.
Happily Down the Hill
There are lots of unpleasant aspects about being absolutely, undeniably, middle-aged. Arthritis, poorer vision, saggier everything . . . we all know the list. But there are plusses, too, and I'm just beginning to explore those.
I was always terrified of old ladies who said exactly what they thought. Now I plan on being one. I feel that for a lot of my life I've been thinking two or three times before I spoke, and now I plan on checking once, to make sure I'm not being unkind. After that, I'm letting it rip. Where's the fun in life, if you can't inspire a little terror?
There are scenes I've never written because I thought they might be offensive or too extreme. I think now I'm going to give some of those a shot, too. Maybe my more cautious brain will delete them; but who knows? Maybe not. Maybe I've been tailoring my work all these years to conform to an inner censor who no longer has residence.
When I was just starting my career as a writer, I wondered what my parents would think when I wrote a a sexy scene. (Since they were both mystery readers, I never worried about what they'd think about violent or bloody passages.) After the first ten years, somehow that wasn't a problem for me any more. Since I'd had three children, I guess I figured they knew I'd had sex at least three times. Now, on the occasions when I decide the plot of the book demands sexual activity, I find myself rewriting the passages to make them longer.
Readers tell me I'm getting scarier, too. Good! I want to write a book so hair-raising that I keep you up all night with the lights on. I want to frighten someone as badly as "The Haunting of Hill House" frightened me, in other words.
It doesn't all have to be bad, this being somewhat over the hill. I plan to get the last bit of fun out of the process, too.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris