Archive for David Baldacci

A good thrill

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2008 by Trina

After last posting that I like to read, I thought I’d dedicate this post to my favorite writers. During my teenage years, I read romances and watched soaps. Eventually, I grew bored. Real life is not the happily ever after of romances, and I wanted more from the books I read. I discovered horror: Stephen King, and werewolf and vampire stories. I began to enjoy the excitement of a good scare. I also began collecting the works of Lawrence Sanders, Grisham and Crichton. After watching SILENCE OF THE LAMBS I realized that I liked psychological thrillers. I read the Hannibal series by Thomas Harris. Harris did such a good job developing Hannibal’s character that I found myself being repulsed and empathizing with Hannibal at the same time and wanting more. And so began my relationship with fictional serial killers and their catchers.

I also stumbled upon the genre of medical thrillers, thanks to Michael Palmer. The combination of medicine, science and suspense makes an awesome read. Looking for more medical thrillers, I discovered Tess Gerritsen. Gerritsen is one of my favorite authors because of the rich characters she creates, normal and flawed people who are interesting because of it. She writes from the point of view of killer, detective and medical examiner equally well. I especially like medical examiner Maura Isles’ character because she must deal with death on a daily basis, and yet is likable as a woman with insecurities like the rest of us. What I most like about Gerritsen is that she fully develops the autopsy scenes to give the reader medical details not found in any other thrillers I’ve read except for the work of Kathy Reichs.

Reichs’s series is fascinating in its detail. How Tempe Brennan can discover the age or race of a skeleton and more from just bones. Tempe’s character is also fully developed. Reichs does not, however, write from the killer’s point of view. Her pov character is always Tempe. But it works for the series. Reichs also uses humor to lighten up the heavy topics Tempe deals with, which makes an entertaining read. I like BONES, the TV series loosely based on Reich’s books. I say loosely because Television Tempe is completely different from the alcoholic divorcée with a twenty something daughter from the books.

In terms of humor, JA Konrath is the king. I discovered his detective series with star Jack (Jacqueline) Daniels after reading one of his short stories in a thriller anthology edited by James Patterson. I bought WHISKY SOUR, read it, and then bought the next three books. I laughed my way through all four books, one right after another. I didn’t want to stop to sleep, eat or work. Konrath’s is the only series I read straight through like that. He doesn’t skimp on the details. One killer drove nails into the bones of his victims, one peeled off the victim’s skin, all while the victims were alive. One scene that sticks in my memory is when one of the killers put razor blades into candy bars. The resulting scene after a detective bit into the razor blade was both graphic and humorous. The humor lightens the story and works with the graphic scenes in this series. I’ve preordered the fifth Jack Daniel’s book and can’t wait to read it.

Lucas Davenport is my favorite detective. I love John Sanford’s PREY series. In the introduction to RULES OF PREY Sanford said, “Cops don’t act like Lucas Davenport–they’d be fired or even imprisoned if they did. They aren’t rich, they don’t drive Porches, most could give a rat’s ass about fashion. Lucas Davenport does all of that. … he’s a cross between a cop and a movie star. I wanted him to be a star. I wanted him to be different. I wanted him to be a mean, tough cop that women liked.” Sanford succeeded. Davenport is a star. He’s gruff, mean and yet he’s likeable and sexy. But more importantly, John Sanford’s writing is stellar. I’d rank him with literary writers. He is a former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and it shows in his writing. He also draws from his experiences as a newspaper reporter, the dead bodies and crime scenes he witnessed ground his novels in reality.

I like David Baldacci for the same reason, the way he can string words together. I am in awe when I read his novels. His recent works are political thrillers that are well researched, interesting and powerful. His latest, THE WHOLE TRUTH, explored one possible scenario for the return of the cold war.

I would be remiss not to mention James Patterson. I like detective doctor Alex Cross almost as much as Lucas Davenport. The African-American psychologist detective raising several children alone in DC makes for great reading. The Cross novels are page turners. Patterson’s works may lack the depth of Gerritsen and Sanford, but I can always count on him for a good thrill.

I have only mentioned some of my favorites writers. There are many others, like Diane Chamberlain, who does a fantastic job writing about the interrelationships between people. I am happy to have such a vast selection of great literature to choose from.

Here’s to summer reading and staying cool. Temps should reach the triple digits in Raleigh this afternoon. I can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than sitting in the air conditioning with a good book.

To puzzle or not to puzzle

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2008 by Trina

Harry and I came back Monday from a four-day weekend in Topsail Island. We took our black lab Alex and frolicked in the waves with him. It was an awesome break that we both needed. And watching our dog have so much fun swimming and chasing his ball over and through waves was worth the extra expense to bring him. Like the commercial, priceless. Aside from Harry dunking in the surf unexpectedly and losing his favorite pair of glasses, the trip was fantastic.

We didn’t take any pictures on the beach because neither of us ever remember to take them, but here is Alex on the back deck with his favorite squeak toy.
Alex with Squeaky

Alex carried Squeaky around everywhere at Topsail Island, just like he does at home. It is so comical to see a 90 pound labrador with a squeak toy. At one point Squeaky fell of the second floor deck and we had to restrain Alex from jumping over the railing to get him.

And that finally brings me to the topic of this post. When Harry and I have downtime on vacation or even relaxing at home on a Saturday afternoon, Harry likes to work crossword puzzles and I like to read novels. At Topsail, I finished David Baldacci’s latest THE WHOLE TRUTH, which was very powerful, and started one of the PREY series by John Sandford. But I digress, I love to read. If I was to sit and work a crossword, I’d be frustrated and bored and probably end up burning the paper and breaking up my pencil into pieces. Harry says working crosswords keeps his mind sharp and makes him a better writer. I have to agree with him. Harry has the most extensive vocabulary of anyone I’ve ever known. I have yet to find a word that he doesn’t know. So am I missing out by not forcing myself to work crossword puzzles? I find reading novels in the genre I’m writing makes me a better writer. I’d much rather read a book.

Is it better to puzzle or to read? What do other writers do in your downtime and what do you do to sharpen your writing skills?

This question won’t be much of an issue for me for awhile. I simply don’t have a lot of downtime. It has been a busy time for me developing questions for state tests. By the time I sit at the computer for ten hours or so editing test questions, I just don’t feel like writing anything, not even this blog. But that’s what they pay me the “big” bucks for, and I like developing tests–it just means I won’t be posting as frequently for awhile.

Also, I’m looking forward to a trip to central New York to visit my daughter and grandson. I’m leaving on Wednesday and I can’t wait.

Simple Genius

Posted in All posts with tags , , , , on June 4, 2007 by Trina

I’ve made myself a new writing schedule where I write on M, W and F morning for two hours before work. I’ve only done it last week and this morning, but it has made a difference in my attitude. Writing throughout the week has allowed me to make excellent progress on The MAGIC QUILT because I never mentally get out of the book. Each time I write I am immersed in Katharine’s life and I think about her even when I’m not writing. I write down notes to myself several times a day — sometimes when I’m driving to and from work. I apologize to the other drivers out there. I’m that car going 55 in the slow lane that everyone is passing while I’m writing on a scrap of paper. I’m going to work on rewriting the final chapter this morning, which is an awesome feeling.

It was a rainy day yesterday – much needed after the drought we’d been experiencing. After writing in the morning, I used the rainy afternoon to finish reading SIMPLE GENIUS by David Baladacci. This was my favorite of the series with dynamic duo Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. The former Secret Service agents turned private investigators have their hands full in a twisting plot involving mathematics, codes, the CIA and murders made to look like suicides.

But it wasn’t the espionage that drew me in so completely — It was Michelle. The book begins when she picks a fight in a bar with the biggest man she could find and lets herself be beaten, despite her superior fighting skills. “Before she blacked out completely Michelle’s final thought was simple: Goodbye, Sean.” I wanted to read on simply to find out why.

While Michelle is recovering from her injuries in the hospital, Sean King gives the man she fought $45,000 of his own money to prevent him from pressing charges against Michelle for his medical injuries. Now Sean must find a case to keep their business afloat. He finds one — a murder in Babbage Town, the think tankmodeled after World War II’s Bletchley Park. Baldacci’s twenty-first-century version of Bletchley brings together a community of scientists working on a new kind of computer. Sean soon learns enough to put his life and that of a girl who shows extraordinary genius in jeopardy. He is working alone, while his partner is receiving psychiatric treatment — until Michelle stops a shooting in the psychiatric center where she is being treated, checks herself out and joins her partner in Babbage Town.

I love the way Baldacci captures Michelle’s voice. This books works especially well because of the interplay between Sean and Michelle. Well written and captivating.