Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heat Lightning

Fans of John Sandford and John Camp's novels -- they are the same guy -- know that he has three series running. The Lucas Davenport books, most of which have "Prey" in the title; then the Jason Kidd novels; and most recently, a couple about one of Davenport's guys on the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said agency which may be as fine a play on words as I've seen in mystery novels.

Dark of the Moon and most recently, Heat Lightning, concern, as Prey readers all know him, "that fuckin' Flowers." Virgil Flowers, who likes punk rock band T-shirts, wears his blond hair long, and is a serial marry-er. Like the other guys in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Virgil likes to fish, drink beer, and get laid, and he does all of those in his second outing, while chasing after a serial killer.

The story starts off with a murder, there are a bunch more along the way, and it is twisty enough to keep most readers guessing until the Aha! moment close to the end. You will suspect before then whodunnit if you are paying attention. He gives fair clues. 

Any of Sandford/Camp's books are worth reading, and if you can find them in paperback, start with the beginning and watch as Davenport grows -- it's quite the arc over twenty books or so.
Be interesting to see if he gives that-fuckin'-Flowers the same depth if he keeps these up.

Good read. Gets the gun stuff right. And when he was a reporter, he won the Pulitzer Prize.


Brad said...

I just finished reading Dark Of The Moon last night and I'm about 3/4 oif the way thru Invisible Prey. Right now, I prefer Wirgil over Lucas. Don't know why, I guess he seems more 3 dimensional than Lucas.
Invisible Prey kinda sucks, you know who the baddies are form the beginning. DotM sorta kept you guessing to the near end (I figured it out right after the character was introducedm, but kept second guessing myself the rest of the story).

All in all a good way to pass the time here in Africa.

Better way would be a new book by you.

Brad said...

Sorry, that's "Virgil" no "Wirgil". Honestly do not know who that happened. Must be the wife's Indian rubbing off on me.

Steve Perry said...

I think Sandford has run out of steam on Lucas Davenport. After a score of books, you have to be scrambling for something new to reveal about the character. You see this a lot in long-running series, literary or television. A book is supposed to be about the biggest thing that happens to a person, the change they go through between the beginning and the end is what drives their character, and over a long series, you have to age them.

Once a character becomes popular, or worse, beloved, it's hard to walk away from him, or her. Parker's Spenser, Crais's Elvis Cole; Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, they are all phoning it in these days. Good writers will try and step away, to get a fresh feeling. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Parker has come up with a couple of other series, one featuring a female private eye, Sunny Randall, but Sunny might as well be Spenser in a skirt.
His Jesse Stone character, a small-town cop, works better -- he's a drunk, hasn't gotten over his ex-wife, and has a couple of interesting sidekicks.

My favorite literary character for years was Travis McGee, by John D. MacDonald, and by the end of that series, Ole Trav was getting long in the tooth, and the villains had become the psychopath of the week. MacDonald never thought McGee would last as long as he did, and he kept having to fudge his history to keep him young enough to do the stuff he was doing. It was pretty obvious that Trav's war was Korea, thought MacDonald was vague; by the end of the series, it had slid over and south a bit to Vietnam.

Stephen Hunter has fewer books about a particular character -- he did four about Bob Lee Swagger, another three about Bob's daddy, Earl, and some that are loosely connected to both. Bob the Nailer is almost retirement age and beat-up pretty good in the most recent of these, and might have one more book in him, unless he jumps back in time.

Writers sometimes try to kill off characters they've gotten tired of, ala Sherlock Holmes. Sometimes they manage it, or like Holmes, sometimes they have to bring them back. Grafton is about to run out of the alphabet. MacDonald was running out of colors when he died ...