Once again, I’ve come face to face, or nose to page as the case may be, with “the master.” An entire year of reading other authors’ books has deprived me of this thrill, this high, this bow-down-to-the-best-writer-on-earth sensation. I’ve missed it. Frankly, it’s been so long, I didn’t even remember how much I missed it!
This week, I had the intense pleasure of reading Relentless by Dean Koontz. Blazed through it in two sittings. Glued to the pages, mesmerized by the story and the writing, I whipped through the chapters with eyes wide open and heart pounding.
As fast as I read, I also stopped to savor every witty conversation. I lusted after each poetic passage. I marveled at his ability to keep me hanging off the cliff for the whole damned story. And of course, I underlined a hundred passages.
Reading this type of book is how I learned to write, how I continue to hunger for his level of craftsmanship, how I push myself harder and harder.
Damn, he’s good.
“The lead-gray sky of the previous afternoon, which had looked as flat and uniform as a freshly painted surface, was deteriorating. Curls of clouds peeled back, revealing darker masses, and beards of mist hung like tattered cobwebs from a crumbling ceiling.”
“Curls of clouds?” I LOVE that. “Beards of mist?” Divine. How many times have I described the sky or mist in my books? Dozens upon dozens. But my brain never came up with “curls of clouds.”
Here’s another genius passage, once again describing the sky.
“High in the steadily blackening sky, a silent convulsion broke the string in an infinite necklace, and fat pearls fell through the day, bouncing on the slate patio, dimpling the water in the harbor, rattling the gulls off the seawall to sheltered roosts.”
Sigh. See what I mean? “Fat pearls fell through the day.” “Rattling the gulls off the seawall.” Magic. Genius. Sheer beauty.
Of course, Koontz’s rising and plummeting, rocking and rolling, constant fast heartbeat action is renowned. Even more so here, with shocking, luscious secrets unveiled partway through the story about a writer who gets a really bad review by a reviewer-turned-psycho. It escalates so fast from there, my head spun for the rest of the thrill ride.
Koontz is also a master at dialog. He’s just about the best I’ve ever read, and I particularly love his page long passages of dialog that contain not one tag or beat. Just quotes. Clear. Concise. Never a doubt who’s talking. That’s Koontz.
Of course, his sense of humor slays me. Check out this description of a very huge man.
“As usual, he wore a vibrant Hawaiian shirt, khaki pants, and sneakers. The shirt presented an acre of lush palm trees silhouetted against a sunset; and one of his shoes could have carried the baby Moses down the river more safely than an ark full of bulrushes.”
More than once I laughed out loud, waking up my poor wife who was trying to sleep. (Sorry, hon! Don’t blame me. Blame Dean Koontz!)
As writers, we need this kind of literary shaking up as often as possible. As readers, we deserve this kind of a treat. Now I’m on to my next Koontz book–The Longest Night of the Year. I can’t wait!
If you read one book this week, treat yourself to Relentless. I guarantee it will stir up your creative juices and take you on a virtual thrill ride that will knock your socks off.
Aaron Paul Lazar wasn’t always a mystery writer. It wasn’t until eight members of his family and friends died within five years that the urge to write became overwhelming. “When my father died, I lost it. I needed an outlet, and writing provided the kind of solace I couldn’t find elsewhere.”
Lazar created the Gus LeGarde mystery series, with the founding novel, DOUBLE FORTÉ (2004), a chilling winter mystery set in the Genesee Valley of upstate New York. Like Lazar’s father, protagonist Gus LeGarde is a classical music professor. Gus, a grandfather, gardener, chef, and nature lover, plays Chopin etudes to feed his soul and thinks of himself as a “Renaissance man caught in the 21st century.”
The creation of the series lent Lazar the comfort he sought, yet in the process, a new passion was unleashed. Obsessed with his parallel universe, he now lives, breathes, and dreams about his characters, and has written ten LeGarde mysteries in eight years. (UPSTAGED – 2005; TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON – 2007 Twilight Times Books; MAZURKA – 2009 Twilight Times Books, FIRESONG – 2010; with more to come.)
One day while rototilling his gardens, Lazar unearthed a green cat’s eye marble, which prompted the new paranormal mystery series featuring Sam Moore, retired country doctor and zealous gardener. The green marble, a powerful talisman, connects all three of the books in the series, whisking Sam back in time to uncover his brother’s dreadful fate fifty years earlier. (HEALEY’S CAVE: A GREEN MARBLE MYSTERY, 2010; ONE POTATO, BLUE POTATO, 2011; FOR KEEPS, 2012) Lazar intends to continue both series.
Lazar’s books feature breathless chase scenes, nasty villains, and taut suspense, but are also intensely human stories, replete with kids, dogs, horses, food, romance, and humor. The author calls them, “country mysteries,” although reviewers have dubbed them “literary mysteries.”
“It seems as though every image ever impressed upon my brain finds its way into my work. Whether it’s the light dancing through stained-glass windows in a Parisian chapel, curly slate-green lichen covering a boulder at the edge of a pond in Maine, or hoarfrost dangling from a cherry tree branch in mid-winter, these images burrow into my memory cells. In time they bubble back, persistently itching, until they are poured out on the page.”
The author lives on a ridge overlooking the Genesee Valley in upstate New York with his wife, daughter, three grandchildren, mother-in-law, three dogs, and cat. Although recent empty nesters, he and his wife just finished fixing up their 1811 antique home when the kids moved home. Again.
Lazar maintains several websites and blogs, was the Gather Saturday Writing Essential host from 2006-2008, writes his monthly “Seedlings” columns for the Voice in the Dark literary journal and the Future Mystery Anthology Magazine. He has been published in Absolute Write as well as The Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine. See excerpts and reviews here:
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.