BOOK & BLOG
August 20, 2006
Book of the Week: ON OFF by Colleen McCullough
I know youve all heard of novelist Colleen McCullough, whos been writing bestsellers for years. I just had to read her mystery novel ON OFF, and I was really rewarded by the experience. There were a couple of jarring notes; McCullough is much more enamored of exclamation points than the normal mystery writer, and the book is set in Connecticut in 1965, which McCullough sees as a much more innocent time. Consequently, the actions and reactions of the characters are far different than the detective novel norms of today. Actually, this was quite interesting.
McCulloughs research pays off in spades. ON OFF is set in an elite university with a medical research facility, and she writes with absolute assurance about how such a thing is run and administered. There is a dauntingly large cast of characters, so the reader has to pay close attention as theyre introduced. After that, the book shoots off.
By accident, the activities of a serial killer who has access to the schools facilities are exposed. Detective Carmine Delmonico is horrified by the evidence he discovers, evidence suggesting that the killer has been enjoying free rein for months. Through a combination of sheer dogged determination, luck, and thoroughness, Delmonico finds the killer and incidentally falls in love. But the surprises continue up to and including the last page.
Next week Ill be in Anaheim for LA Con, the World Science Fiction Convention. Ill be on a number of panels and have a signing at the convention, and then on Sunday Ill be at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, the only horror bookstore in America, to my knowledge. I hope to see some of you along the way. I dont think Ill be posting another book and blog until after I return, so this one will have to do for two weeks.
I can go with a happy heart. ALL TOGETHER DEAD is on the desk of my editor, finally. There were a lot of reasons this book ran late: my mothers illness last winter, some family stuff, a lot of traveling. But I hated being late, and Im glad beyond measure that the book is out of my house. Always, at this point, Im convinced its the worst book I ever wrote, that my publisher and agent will be deeply disappointed, my readers will hate me, etc. It took me years to realize that almost every other writer I knew felt the same, by the time they sent the book in.
Of course, sometimes were right. Thats the scary part. After living with a book for so many months, wrestling with it, struggling with it, patching up holes in it, the writer loses all perspective and judgement about the work. I sure do. No matter how many times I reassure myself, say, I felt this way last time, and the book was okay, theres always that little voice that says, This time, the book really is worthless. Such is the insecure life of a writer.
In ALL TOGETHER DEAD, Sookie faces a lot of choices, and theyre by no means clear ones. These choices are even more basic than, Who is the right man for me? Im wondering, in posing them, if Im not biting off more to chew than the scope of the books permits. Well, well see.
In the meantime, I can fly off to California with a song in my heart, because now the work is over, at least temporarily.
® 2010 Charlaine Harris