Help me welcome Carl Brookins as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. Carl is the author of numerous mystery novels and has just released a new book, Grand Lac, that I reviewed here last Sunday. Hopefully, it will be the first in a new series.
Since national news is rather dismal at the moment, and winter refuses to relax its hold on so many parts of our country, I thought a nice warm latte would make us all feel good. Help yourself. I can pour some more, but can’t promise the same lovely swirl with the foam.
Now, here is Carl with…
Thoughts on the role of the writer/reviewer/observer
First, let’s get one question out of the way. I’m not a literary critic. I am a reviewer of crime fiction and an author of same. I am a constant observer of the human condition. It is not my purpose to apply in-depth analysis or to discover the innerdeeperhiddensecret meanings of the crime fiction I read. And write. But I bring a critical eye, honed on over thirty years of contract, freelance reading and writing reviews for print and on-line periodicals and an awareness of what is happening in the current world around us.
That experience, reading thousands of excellent, bad and indifferent novels and short stories, TV and film scripts, plus writing several, has given me a knowledge base, a foundation if you will, and some idea of what constitutes a good novel or short story collection. And even, some biases.
That foundation is the basis I use for judging a story. It’s the same foundation I use for writing stories. My current novel, GRAND LAC is built around an actual event. But the people and most of the events I write about in that story are products of my imagination. That foundation is also the basis for a new novel involving my short detective, Sean Sean.
That story, still evolving, concerns the formation in Minnesota, of a new political party, dubbed the Progressive Conservative Party (or PCP) of Minnesota. How toxic the subject becomes, well, we’ll see. The current relevance is largely what interests me, because time then becomes important. Will I manage to get the novel finished, edited and published before the real events of life on which this novel may (or not) be based radically change? Stay tuned.
I believe that my role as a reviewer and as a writer is to help bring to reader’s attention stories that are, or should be, of interest; stories that are well written, satisfying, entertaining and enjoyable. They must have believable multi-dimensional characters who act in believable and usually satisfying ways to further the aims of the story whether that story is of a current or past time.
For me, pace, character, plot and setting are paramount, but not always equal in importance. These primary elements must interact in ways that serve the story. What about good writing? Good writing can cover many weaknesses, but pretty language woven into soaring sentences and paragraphs that make a reader want to smile and stop reading, to spend a moment contemplating the totality of life, but leading nowhere is ultimately frustrating. Characters with no discernable dimension are almost useless. Well-defined plots with twists and turns that lead to no resolutions are provoking and questionable.
Reviews which criticize the life style of the author or call into question the veracity of the fiction or the intelligence of the author are simply bad reviews. I try very hard to avoid using my own social mores as the basis for judging the value of a novel. After all, we’re talking about murderers, thieves, criminals of every stripe here.
A final note to those authors crushed or angered by negative reviews. Fact is, bad reviews sell almost as many books as good, but trashed, lukewarm or highly praised, the worst circumstance of all is to be ignored.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.
He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.