The usual Sunday potpourri

  • We had a bit of Northwest Georgia snow for a while yesterday, thick enough to cover the yards and mess up your hair if you walked out into it with a camera. It all melted away by mid-afternoon.
  • My novel Conjure Woman’s Cat will be among those listed on TaleFlick this coming week. According to their web site, “TaleFlick Discovery is a weekly contest that allows the public to vote on which stories they want to see adapted to the screen. Fans can now be involved earlier in the filmmaking process than ever before.” Personally, if Conjure Woman’s Cat became a movie, I’d like to see Viola Davis in the lead role of Eulalie–not that anyone would ask me for casting advice.
  • In spite of my criticism about the amount of backstory in Cemetery Road, I enjoyed reading the novel. The small-town alliances and secrets make for a very complex story that’s even hard for a man returning to his old hometown to figure out. Suffice it to say, there is great depth in the characters and enough lies to cover almost everything that happens.
  • I’m actually writing again, at work on a novel that might be considered a sequel of sorts to the three Florida Folk Magic novels set in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950s. It’s fun while I’m writing and frustrating while I’m researching the specifics from hospital care and to dishwashing soap promotions of the era.
  • My website will expire on the 20th of this month. I’m sad to see it go, but it’s no longer financially viable. I’ve deleted most of the information on it, leaving a home page with links to my writing. I’m happy to say that a fair number of people visited this site every month. Thank you.
  • My eyes are starting to glaze over about the American Dirt controversy. I see most of the complaints about the novel as a spurious tempest in a teapot.

Malcolm

Backstory adds depth while slowing down the primary action

Greg Iles Cemetery Road is a compelling thriller; I’ll stipulate that’s an early opinion inasmuch as I haven’t reached the half-way point yet.

The protagonist, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Marshall McEwan, returns to the small town where he grew up because his father is in ill health and his newspaper business is failing. (I would have used a different name since this one is too close to Marshall McLuhan, the famous media expert and philosopher). Marshall’s old friend is murdered and thus begins the current-day primary plot of the novel.

Having lived in a small town, I understand what Iles is doing when he shows how interconnected people are, including those who leave for the big city and then return. There are many kinds of loyalties and associations (including a former love interest) that make solving the murder about as tricky and running through a minefield.

The book has great depth in the development of its characters and is a page-turner when Marshall and others are up against entrenched and hostile movers and shakers who consider that murder to be a benefit to their business interests. The problems begin when the backstory segments get too lengthy; for example, Marshall was a reporter in Iraq, embedded with a group run by another long-time friend. But, my view is that when a description of what happened in Iraq runs to 16 pages, the backstory has run amok.

Suddenly, we’re in a different novel while the main story is put on hold. I think the Iraq relationship of two primary characters could have been explained in several paragraphs rather than taking us on such a long diversion. And, this is not the only time such a diversion happens. My cynical side says that without these diversions, the story would be pretty slim if it stuck to solving the murder.

I don’t know how things end up, of course. So, isn’t a review, but an an example of the problems of using too much backstory.

Malcolm