Thursday, November 03, 2005

Catching up

An interesting letter from Richard Wheeler


In October I lectured at a writers conference in western Montana. In a workshop period I proposed to my fiction students that they write biographical novels. I've written six; no one else is writing them, I explained, and I have the whole field to myself, which may be why I somehow survive as a novelist. I had jotted down the names of 25 or 30 Montanans who might be good subjects for biographical novels, and listed the names, which included Gary Cooper and Myrna Loy.

My wife, an English professor, was quite intrigued with the whole idea, noted that there are biographical short stories too, and thought it might inspire her university creative writing class, as well as her composition class. So she presented my ideas to her students, and read my list of potential subjects, including Cooper and Loy. Then reality intruded. Not one of the students had ever heard of Gary Cooper or Myrna Loy.

That has had a profound effect on me, a lesson taught to a decrepit 70-year-old about the transitory nature of celebrity and fame and distinction. It shifted my own objectives somewhat, but I'm still sorting it out. Those generations live in their own world, and we can't expect them to know or appreciate ours. I will write for my own, and when my own dies out, my work will die with it, and that is how it should be.


Ed here:

The other night Marty Greenberg and I were talking on the phone, as we do most nights, and were discussing how lousy the shows were on the old ZIV TV network (my friend and writer par excellence Tom Nolan was a child actor who often appeared in ZIV productions) and then Marty started laughing and said that we had to be the only two people in the entire world who were discussing ZIV TV at this moment Who could argue with that? . As you suggest, we take our time with us.


Lynn Viehel

A few weeks ago, I swapped books with the writer Lynn Viehl who works under various names in various genres. Her blog is Paperback Writer and it's generally excellent. Yes, she can be feisty. And fun. And instructive.

Two of the books Lynn sent me belong to a series called the Darkyn, which are vampire-like creatures hunted and haunted by humans for centuries. This very clever reversal of good and bad is matched by the role of the Vatican, an unseemly group of perverts and killers. The heroine's brother is alas, one of them.

These two books mix myth, science, religion, lust, mystery and romance into an breakneck epic storyline as colorful as any Sam Raimi movie--huge Technicolor moments but also quiet and very human times, too. Lynn Viehl writes with such passion you expect her to exhaust herself somewhere along the line. But these two books held me from first page to last.

If I had to choose one, I'd said the first entry, If Angels Burn, is slightly better because of the character Dr. Alex Keller, who is one of the rare believable medical women in recent fiction. There's a sorrow about her that Viehl is able to convey with great force throughout the book. But Private Demon, book two, isn't, as I said, any kind of let-down.

Lynn Viehl is a first rate storyteller, far better than many on the bestseller lists. Her books deliver 100% pure reading pleasure. The way any book should.


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