Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sue Grafton's Z is for ZZZZZZZ or How Mystery Books Put Me To Sleep

I Hate mystery books. There, I said it. Maybe hate is too strong a word. how about completely loath. Yes. I completely loath mystery books.

To clarify, I completely loath the modern mystery novel. On a whim, just the other day, I thought i'd man up and see what the buzz was about and bought a used copy of "__________" which has been all the rage lately. This is the fifth or sixth time i've done this this year with each time ending in exactly the same way: me dying of boredom 100 pages in, the anger rising up my throat before finally I just leave the blasted thing on the commuter rail train. I didn't even bring it back to work to sell back. That shows you the level of my disgust. So my question to ya'll is, why do people read, buy, and hype up this stuff? How many times can people read and re-read the same basic plot line? A terrorist attempts to disrupt the life of a placid small town where a local cop, looking to make good on his promise to his ailing mother-in-law to keep the town safe, falls in love with a corrupt DA? A small town sheriff nearing retirement stumbles upon some DNA shenanigans at a local chem-lab only to find that his old man who happens to be the president of the United States is the owner of said chem-lab? Danny Glover Is one day away from retirement and then has to tag-team with Mel Gibson to fight drug dealers? Wasn't that Lethal Weapon? Yes! Or how about an L.A. cop who blurs the line between civic duty and being a downtrodden renegade? That was great when Chandler did it sixty years ago.

OK, I sort of get it. Reading is a form of escapism and I completely understand the need sometimes to read something that doesn't require a lot of thinking (I myself read comic books). But what is it about the writing that warrants all the hype? Did Dick Francis descend from a mountaintop disheveled with a beard and clothes torn to rags with his latest manuscript in tow? Did the white smoke turn gray when Stuart Woods pressed the save button on his latest Stone Barrington thriller? Did Sue Grafton jump through publishing hoops and undergo massive re-writes and endure grueling editorial assessments? Beats me. But boy, does this stuff sell like hotcakes. Have you seen the best seller list? It is positively Jaw-dropping.

I'm torn, baby. I'm torn between being excited that people are reading books and are passionate and devoted to certain authors, and seeing that passion and devotion turned into something disposable. You can pick up a Grisham at any grocery store as though it were a magazine or the TV Guide.

So I want to hear from you, Who are the mystery writers worth reading that nobody is talking about? Who's doing something different? Innovative? My sweeping generalities re: this genre can not continue! I'm here to learn.

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