Monday, August 18, 2008

James Patterson

I started reading James Patterson's "2nd Chance" because I'd finished Michael Crichton's "A Case of Need." It started off okay, but the novel didn't grab me at all. Was it the characters that had no background except when needed? The way the reader (me) could tell what was going to happen, and yell out "You're not solving this right, ya moron!" or "Look out! It's a trap, dummy!" to no avail? Or just the way the writing style was flat?
Not to mention that annoying repetitious habit where Patterson would have people drop the first verb, article or word in a sentence which had me half expecting the entire novel to eventually read like: "DA called. Said, 'Claire, get ass down here! Murder! Bad! Now!' I hung up phone. Drove to the docks. It looked bad. Real bad. Talked to Jaboni, 'You get this?' 'No. You?' 'No. You gonna stay out here all night?' 'No.'"
Just think about the last time you had a conversation with a person who rarely used articles or pronouns. For me, this person didn't speak English as their native language, and so it seemed ridiculous to have people in the novel mangling their own native language and speak in a way that's a few steps up from a Cro-Magnon.
But overall the novel read out like Patterson wanted it to become a TV movie or something. Several times the main character apprehends a dude with advanced Parkinson's without backup, a cellphone, or kevlar. The first time, the guy escapes, but she comes out unscathed and looks back and wonders, "Boy, what was I thinking?" It's like Patterson's just trying to hype up the tension and make the main character forget any kind of cop protocol. Then the second time she apprehends the guy, she's with two partners, but she's not wearing any kind of kevlar or body armor. She gets grazed by a bullet and just thinks, "Boy, I was lucky!" Then to complete her death wish, she apprehends the Parkinson dude's son who is the main killer in the book despite not waiting for SWAT or getting her partner to go with her or taking any sort of body armor.
Overall, the novel was actually quite boring. It was lacking in details that really make up a story that's this short, and the dialogue was terrible, so that the entire thing read like a first draft.

One thing to say about Michael Crichton: he may not be the best writer, but he is a good writer. A perfect example is "A Case of Need" where a pathologist, John Berry, investigates a young socialite's death due to a faulty abortion in the town of Boston, after his fellow doctor and friend has been arrested for the death. The novel has a seedy feel to it; the pathologist discovers the town's been having a vibrant sex life resulting in a need for black market abortions performed on the sly by OB-GYN's, a burgeoning drug problem of the youth that ultimately contributed to the abortion being performed on the socialite, and all of this under the conservative Catholic stance of the townsfolk. And Crichton wrote this when he was just 26. Sheesh.
One thing that I did find interesting was that the novel had been made into a film (I wondered if it had been made into a film; Crichton's got a pretty good track record for novels into films) which starred James Coburn of all people as the pathologist. I'm pretty sure Crichton was just a nobody then and had no say in the direction the film took, but I'm also sure that his vision of Dr. John Berry was not of one who would slink into a room, take a drag off his cigarette, and drawl, "I heared there wuzz some trouble 'round these parts."
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