A good read

I ran through a few things which in my opinion make a book a good read, but especially  – because during the day I want to sneak off and read it. When I wrote that I hadn’t yet given in to temptation, but today my will weakened and I sat reading during daylight hours, in fact I started reading it again when i woke up this morning which is practically unheard of! The book is the same one I mentioned the other day, Scrublands by Chris Hammer. It is stonkingly good – I’m racing though, but not skipping a single word because it’s so complex I might miss something and get in a muddle. It’s complex but it has to be – not for the sake of confusing or impressing the reader, but to make an intriguing and engaging plot, which drives the reader on, challenging them to keep up. I feel as if my reading muscles are being given a good work-out!

I know I keep mentioning this, but one of the aspects of writing which I think is a weak point for me is descriptions of settings and locations. I could do with sitting down with this book when I’ve finished it and analysing why Scrublands is so good in that department, and what Chris Hammer does to make it so. The book is set in a small, well, tiny town in the middle of absolutely nowhere in Australia. It is the height of summer and the heat becomes a character in itself. The novel starts on the first anniversary of a terrible and horrifying event, and is told through the eyes of an experienced journalist come to report on it. Martin Scarsden has had an interesting life and been through some tough experiences so, without being a world-weary, cynical hack, he is able approach the survivors and draw out their stories. However the small township seems a magnet for horror and more dreadful events and calamity falls upon it, drawing Martin into more shocking events. It’s so well written, every character, even minor ones, is vividly brought to life as is the town, almost shrivelling under the unforgiving sun. Backstories are discovered, webs of relationships, life, death, love, betrayal,  Martin himself is caught up in it all, and I was compelled to keep reading to find out how everything would be explained. I haven’t yet finished, I may have done by tomorrow morning!

When I was writing about another book which although I enjoyed I had some small criticism of the structure, I mentioned that trick endings are almost expected, but when there are several within one book I find it wearisome – fiction is often the impossible made believable, but if the writer loses the audience’s engagement, when the reader thinks oh for goodness sake get on with it, don’t play around trying to make me keep reading by spinning it all out unreasonably, then there’s a risk that the reader won’t bother with other books by that author. However – in Scrublands one of the main plot lines is resolved three-quarter way through and yet the subplots are strong to take over and carry us on. I’m sure when I do get to the end things will all be woven together and the complex strands with reveal the complete truth about the mystery.

Much as I am enjoying it, and I really am as you will have gathered, a little part of me thinks how much I wish I was as good a writer and plotter, as good at character and brilliant at scenes and scenery. However, instead of being fed up about it, I should look at Chris Hammer’s writing and see what I can learn! That’s one excuse for compulsively reading!

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