Sue Grafton’s A- Z Books and Authors Who Write Too Many Novels
When I first saw A is for Alibi and B is for Burglar, I thought to myself, no way. There is no way this author is going to get through the entire alphabet. Well, I have to give Sue Grafton credit for persistence; it looks like she’s going to make it. I’ve been mocking Grafton’s ploy for more than a decade now (R is for Repetitive and U is for Unreadable), but I guess the laugh is on me because I got assigned to review her collection for Dysfunctional Literacy.
THE SUE GRAFTON DRINKING GAME
Get a bunch of people and recite the alphabet using Sue Grafton books. A is for Alibi! B is for Burglar! When somebody messes up (“F is for… F***, I Can’t Remember!” followed by drunken hysterical laughter), that person takes a drink. Once participants complete the first round, then everybody has to do it backwards. V is for Vengeance! Yeah, it’s not out yet, but if you start with U is for Undertow, you have to take a drink. In the third round, contestants have to think of possible titles for X, Y, and Z. Z is for ZZZZZZZ because once you get to Z, everybody will be passed out sloppy drunk.
THE PROBLEM WITH U IS FOR UNDERTOW
It’s a 380 page book with a 150 page story. There were entire pages that could have been chopped, paragraphs of conversation that could have been paraphrased in one sentence and move on. My guess is that this is what happens when you’ve written over 20 books with the same character. Grafton’s loyal readers might actually be interested in every conversation and detail from her life. We dysfunctional literates don’t care. Solve the mystery, and let us readers get satisfaction from seeing justice done.
Evidently, Sue Grafton readers like U is for Undertow. And I’ll admit that we dysfunctional literates aren’t her target audience. But if she’s interested in dysfunctional literates (and there are lots of us out there), give me a couple days and a red marker, and I could edit that book down to 200 pages and make it much more readable. Of course, if we follow Dysfunctional Literacy’s Rule #2, we’re not going to read more than three of her books, so from her point of view, why bother?
WHY SHOULD I READ U IS FOR UNDERTOW?
The mystery is interesting. The first chapter sets up the plot very well, and when I read it, I thought maybe I had been misjudging the series all these years. Then I got to chapter 2 and was given a bunch of unnecessary information about the main character’s daily routine. When Grafton sticks to the plot, she’s great. If you choose to read it, you may have to skim through some pages and then read more carefully in other areas, but you have to be careful doing this because it’s not always easy to tell what parts are skimmable and what parts are important to the plot. If you don’t mind getting sidetracked with seemingly unnecessary details, you’ll probably enjoy the book.
More good news is that Sue Grafton has become the perfect example of Dysfunctional Literacy’s Rule #4.
DYSFUNCTIONAL LITERACY RULE #4
Don’t read authors who write too many books.
If an author writes too many books (One a year is too many. One every two years is pushing it.), it’s a sign that the author is not taking the craft seriously. Money, not quality, is probably the author’s first priority. I, as a dysfunctional literate, have no problem with an author trying to make as much money as possible. Go for it. But I, as a dysfunctional literate, choose not to read books by authors who churn out material that quickly (unless the sex and violence scenes are really well written).
WHY ARE YOU PICKING ON SUE GRAFTON?
I pity the fool who back in 1982 saw Grafton’s A is for Alibi and thought to herself (or himself, but probably herself), “I wonder what she’ll come up for the letter ‘Z.’ I can’t wait to read it.”
To be fair, Grafton is not the only author who writes too many books. John Sandford has written 20 Prey novels where all his characters talk the same way. Bernard Cornwell has written a bunch of Sharpe books that use the exact same formula (It’s a miracle that the French won any battles during the Napoleonic Wars). I haven’t read a Stephen King novel since Pet Cemetery (Yeah, I know I’ve missed out on a couple good ones, but those are outweighed by the stinkers I’ve avoided). Ever since The Pelican Brief, John Grisham has developed a very detached style that keeps me from caring what happens to the characters.
If authors can get away with writing this many books, there’s really no incentive for them to stop. As dysfunctional literates, we should realize that life is too short to read 26 Kinsey Millhone adventures. Surely one or two are enough. There must be at least 20 other books that are better than the Grafton novels (or the King novels, or the Clancy novels, or… You get the idea!) you miss by reading something else.
And yes, it really is an “either/or” situation. Our time is limited, and reading O is for Oh, I Really Don’t Want To Look it up is going to keep me from reading something else.
And that something else might be awesome!
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