1.07.2006

Yes, Laurie King IS the cat's pajamas

Every time I read one of Laurie King's books, I'm reminded anew of how good and deliciously subtle her writing is. This is one author that every aspiring author should read about a dozen times, just to be watch the master at work.

For example: LOCKED ROOMS, what I'm reading now, page 85 in the hardcover, a Chinese man says' "I have to say, Miss Russell, that your display of English--do they call it 'phlegm'? is most impressive."

Well, that doesn't make much sense does it? But woe to the reader who thinks Miss King has gone off the rails. No no.

A mere nine paragraphs later, Mary Russell, in whose POV this chapter is told thinks "I might have returned his earlier question aimed at me, for his own demonstration of phlegmatic behaviour..."

the classic example of show, not tell. There's nothing in the narrative other than the correct use of a word, but it give us everything we need to know. This is the apex of elegant writing.

And that's just one example. She builds this elegant novel with elegant bricks, one by one. And the mortar ain't too shabby neither.

A piece of advice I give often is to closely study a book you admire. Watch what the author does. Laurie King would be a good choice for that.

8 comments:

ValMarie said...

I love Laurie R. King. I've been autobuying her Mary Russel mysteries since I read The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

I haven't bought Locked Rooms yet. It's my reward for one of my goals.

bordermoon said...

And who can resist Sherlock Holmes' line in THE GAME: "Why, Kim is as real as I am."

kitty said...

The author whose style hooked me is Nora Ephron with Heartburn. All it took was the first page.

Mama Rose said...

Laurie King is one of my favorites, too. :)

Linda

Molly said...

I love Laurie King, but that example seems heavy-handed to me. Like, Just in case you didn't get that comment back there, here's the correct use.

I can't see any other reason for her to name his behavior as such. Yes, you could argue it was the only and best word to describe his behavior, but I wouldn't be convinced. It felt like a total tell.

The Green Cedar said...

Laurie R. King is one of the half-dozen or so authors I check on a lot: "Got a new one out yet, please, please?" Pathetic, but she writes a hell of a book. A lot of writers have tried to "continue" the Sherlock Holmes saga, but she's the only one I think has absolutely nailed it.

BTW, Miss Snark, thanks for a link quite a while back that introduced me to Ross Thomas. Just finished All the Fools are on Our Side. Amazing writing.

Flames fanatic said...

Molly's comment about heavyhandedness may be missing the point of the repetition. It's not, I suspect, designed to show the reader what the unusual word means (it's not THAT unusual), but serves to demonstrate something about the character's behavior and Mary's 'voice'. As well, it neatly circles the reader's mind back to the earlier part of the scene - like hitting 'refresh' on a webpage - so that some key elements will be clearer and the impact of other elements greater as a result.

Besides, it's amusing, in a word-smithy fashion.

Gina MarySol Ruiz said...

Laurie R. King has been my favorite author since I first read A Grave Talent. I went on to Beekeepers Apprentice and I read everything she writes. I loved Locked Rooms. I'm so glad you wrote about her.