No, not me, although that may be the case sometimes.
‘Here’s some more books from our neighbour,’ said Partner as he dumped the pile on the kitchen table. ‘Where does he get them all from? The top one’s meant to be good. It’s about Gibraltar.’ He disappeared back out of the door.
I decided to inspect. Ooooh. Stieg Larsson (always reminds me of Stig of the Dump, terrible book) and The Girl Who Played With Fire.
Some time ago, one or more bloggers suggested I might enjoy Larsson, so I pulled it off the pile and opened it up. I couldn’t see the connection between Scandinavia and Gibraltar though, but there was one. I think Gib, and Queensway Quay specifically, were mentioned all of three times.
But what about the book? It’s long, or perhaps even long drawn-out at nearly 600 pages, however, it’s eminently readable. No sickening gratuitous violence, the emphasis is far more psychological. The feisty heroine, Lisbeth Salander, is an excellent character. As is the female editor, Erica. Larsson created solid credible female characters, or maybe he created characters and just happened to give these two women’s names.
It was a fascinating read for me, as it combined journalism and sex trafficking. Nice mix of my trade (journalism) and feminism (preventing sex trafficking). As well as being a journalist, Larsson was a leftie and against violence to women. I’m going to like him aren’t I?
Reading The Pyromaniac was like reading Wallender, or rather, the images in my mind conjured up similar phlegmatic characters and interactions. Although there is action, and plenty of it, it’s all very distant third person for the most part. It probably breaks all the rules parroted by today’s creative writing schools in terms of style, even allowing for reading it in translation. But what it does do, is tell a good story, and introduce some good, and flawed, characters. It’s impossible not to like Salander, with her black and white view of the world and her own unique moral code.
My only criticism was the ending, which I found somewhat incredible. But hey this is fiction, so authors are allowed some leeway. More seriously, Larsson’s partner Eva Gabrielsson, has said that incidents in his book are based on real life. There is more to Sweden than Ikea and Volvo it seems.
On the theme of long books, I was asked recently about the ‘right’ length for a book. Now, if you are an established author, then you can write books that are 600 pages long. Or any length really. But if you aren’t, the standard advice is usually between 50,000 and 100,000 words. With, naturally, the mid range of 70–80,000 deemed popular.
Reading around, much of the current advice is to keep books short. Probably because people have the attention span of grasshoppers. And a bad short book is better than a bad long book. The truth is, a lot of authors could be a lot more ruthless in their self-editing, and prune out all the irrelevant dross that slows the story down and sends the reader to sleep. One of the good things about Larsson is that there isn’t any irrelevant text. Everything is tied into the plot, one way or another.
Sci fi, spec fic and fantasy get an opt-out on the book length thing. Authors have to explain their brave new world and that takes more words and pages. But if you are writing a book set in the here and now, or the recent past, or even the historical past, you don’t need to create a whole different world that the reader needs to understand. Horses for courses.
Here are some grey Nordic looking beach shots from the Costa del Sol. The sea, the sea?
My prize carrot. I think I spread it out over three meals …
Some houses for sale.
The obligatory dog shots.