BOOK & BLOG
October 30, 2012
Catriona (pronounced “Katrina”) McPherson has joined the rank of the Femmes Fatales, my blogging/newsletter group. Of course, I wanted to read her work, since I’d heard so many good things about it. After the Armistice Ball is a period mystery set between the wars, and it’s a charmer. Dandy Gilver is an amateur sleuth, a married Scottish woman whose children are off at school and whose husband seems to lead a separate life from Dandy’s. Dandy, always short of money, agrees to negotiate a settlement between a society matron whose fabled diamonds have been stolen at the house of a mutual friend, who is also the insurer of the gems. But the trail of lies gets more and more complicated, and Dandy gets deeper and deeper into trouble as she tries to uncover the truth. Dandy’s attraction lies in her willingness to admit her errors, and she certainly makes a few; but overall, this is a fun book with lots of fascinating background material.
I had looked forward to The Twelve forever, or at least I felt that way. I was such a huge fan of The Passage, Cronin’s first book set in a world in which vampire/zombie creatures have taken over the United States. And if you’ve recently finished The Passage, you won’t have any trouble with The Twelve, which is just as action filled. But I had forgotten a lot of the characters, and I didn’t feel I had time to reread the first book in preparation for the second. This is my fault, not Cronin’s, who has written another great book about what happens when society breaks down and must rebuild on different principles. It’s a troubling and absorbing book. Someday, I’m going to set aside the time to read the two books back to back.
G.M. Malliet is a new favorite of mine, and I was delighted to get A Fatal Winter. Father Max Tudor, Church of England priest and former MI5 agent, is called to assist when Lord Footrustle and his sister Lady Baynard are both killed on the same day at Chedrow Castle. There is the usual group of greedy heirs there to be suspects, and Max Tudor’s affection for the pagan Awena is growing with his absence at the castle. Of course, since we’ve read a million mysteries, there are certain plot twists we can see coming – but there were several we couldn’t. Another fun book by the reliable Malliet.
Benedict Jacka is becoming a more interesting writer with every book of his that I read. Taken is another Alex Verus novel. Alex is a mage, and though his power is not as pertinent as some others’, he’s learned to use it to his advantage. Any fan of Jim Butcher’s or Mike Carey’s will enjoy these books as much as I do, and will come to admire Alex for his persistent survival instinct and loyalty. Amazingly imaginative.
I have been thinking lately about something I find hard to write about. I know, you’re thinking, What on earth could unnerve a woman who writes the occasional explicit sex scene and lots of violence? I’ll tell you what: religion.
I come from a long line of true believers who don’t talk about faith. In my family, religious education and upbringing were taken for granted . . . but we didn’t talk about it. It just was. My parents had both been brought up in stoic households. Love was there, but not frequently expressed.
When I began writing the Sookie novels, and I was so delighted with the result, I suddenly wondered if writing a book about a woman dating a vampire was really such a Christian thing to do. It was a daunting thought. I was so happy writing the first book, the book I felt I’d been wanting to write forever. True, I was trying to express my thoughts about inclusion and moral conflict through the tale of Sookie and her adventures. True, I thought the underlying themes of the books were on-track with what I thought God would like. (And I’m cringing even writing this.) But I would read the reviews of the inspirational books in Romantic Times Booklovers Magazine, and I’d wonder.
What changed this uneasiness about my work and its morality? The first letter I got that began, “When my mother was dying, I sat at her bedside and read your books out loud to her . . .” And I received many more after that. “When I had chemo, I read your books through every session.” “When I had post-partum depression, I read your books while I breast-fed.” “When I was living in Alaska, and missing my southern home, I read your books and felt like I was there.”
There’s something terrifying and exhilarating about hearing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, someone you don’t even know. It’s a scary responsibility, one I never thought of, resting on my shoulders.
(That’s something the writer cannot think about while she’s working. My goal is to entertain, and perhaps work in some window on my world view while I do it. I don’t know why anyone should care about my world view, but it’s part of the package.)
But to come full circle, after I’d heard the sad stories of readers, and how I’d helped them through some particularly difficult patch of their lives, I felt fine about what I was doing. I felt that I was square with God.
© 2012 Charlaine Harris