Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brilliant - Just Not For Me...

Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventures of She...
Sherlock Holmes in
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"We set up the checkpoint at that S on Route 94.
You can't see it coming for more than about a
quarter mile in either direction..."
"How are you?" "Have you been drinking?"...
Kai knew the drill.
"Yeah. Stuff like that. It's not rocket science.
If we have any doubt, we have troopers waiting on
the sides with Breathalyzers."
"So if it's not rocket science, how'd our guy get
"That's what I'm saying..."
The Warwick Files
Episode One: Checkpoint

J. M. Hoffman

There is no way that I could deny that this is a well-written tale of crime. Perhaps if I were a cop or true-crime aficionado sitting at a bar, sharing stories, I would have enjoyed it more. Apparently, each "file" will come out as an episode. For me, there was not enough story to the crime. Does that make sense? I hope so, because if you want to quickly get into solving a crime and enjoy the nitty-gritty details of how the mind of Sherlock Holmes or Columbo or other top cops automatically think to quickly figure out a whodunit--and hand it to you, then this is surely something you would enjoy.

I found, though, that for me, it really is the characters, the background, the setting, that fully surrounds the solving of the crime, that allows me to enter into and be part of the action rather than "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts..." So, decide who you are and choose, because this truly is a fascinating tale of murder and the crime's solution spun in just 36 pages.

Warrick is the town where Kai Goodman is Police Chief...and he is definitely one of those men who thereafter think they own the town...LOL

He also has some experience behind him, but don't be sure you know what that is by the time he solves this case...

Sooooo, after a drunk driver got through a checkpoint, the driver was then killed before he reached the town???

Chief Goodman declares that he will solve the crime, but he calls and gets Special Agent Brooks to come to town. Brook's not too please about this and immediately is wary of Goodman and who he really is to have such connections...

After interviews and brilliant thinking by Goodman, of course, the crime is solved...

And then Goodman goes through the steps by which he solved the case and explains everything to Brooks, as well as a couple of Russian women who were along for the ride...

Seriously, there is no way to share any more about the story and so there are really no twists or turns to keep you guessing.

I admit I was a bit bored...

Even while acknowledging the brilliance of  Goodman's crime-solving skills and hoping that, if I ever really need a police chief to help me, I'll have somebody like Kai Goodman...


Acclaimed as a "master raconteur" who writes with a "flair" (Times Literary Supplement of London), Hoffman authored two non-fiction books and contributed to over a dozen others before writing The Warwick Files.
In addition to writing and traveling the world speaking about his books, Hoffman has also directed a dance troupe, taught darkroom technique, and explored Patagonia on horseback. He lives just north of New York City.

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  1. Glenda,

    I'm honored by your appraisal that "this truly is a fascinating tale of murder and the crime's solution spun in just 36 pages."

    And I'm intrigued by your comments about balancing character development and plot. This is, after all, a short story, and I tried to pack a lot in. I think you'll find that you'll learn more about the characters as the series progresses.

    The next story comes out in January.

  2. Thank you so much for your feedback... I wanted to make sure that the story reached those who were interested... because I am sure there will be many who will follow your files...

    Normally, reviewers don't read/review short stories--there is just no way that those who routinely review books can commit to a serial type of activity. I am normally running months behind and see no way to fit in short episodes on a routine basis. I didn't realize what this was until I had received it...Sorry...

    I do think, though, that you will have to work on figuring out how to "show, not tell" I saw that you have moved from nonfiction--I realized that in your writing because, truthfully, it has a "text" feeling to it, rather than the fictional flavor that comes in novels... While you had the Chief explaining (telling) to the Agent in dialogue, perhaps some of the internal thinking could have come earlier and in context of time would have given us the "showing" of action more effectively throughout the story rather than mostly at the end, which is where I got bogged down...

    If you ever decide to merge the episodes into a novel rather than serializing it...I'd love to read it! Your mind manipulations for the main character are exhilarating in concept--find a way to have them happen via action! Hope these further thoughts you can see on Amazon, I ranked it as a 5 because of the quality...but I really think you can do even some books by the late Robert B. Parker of his Spencer series and see how he merges the dialogue into the action...


  3. P.S. I appreciate your coming back publicly to question my review. I wish more writers would do that, and maybe we'd start forcing some of the readers who gave low rankings to wake up and...think... if they are going to review books...

    I hope my critical comments will be of help, even while praising your words...I'm happy to have the opportunity to share a little more about my thoughts with you...

  4. Our writers' group set a challenge to write a 2,500 word mystery over Christmas. I'm not sure if I'll manage it, but it's interesting to read your review here and wonder what I would do.

    1. Sheila, it reminds me of the very short murder mystery tales that appeared in a magazine I used to read. I never got anywhere with guessing who...and actually thought I was just not good at it...

      But, there are very few mysteries now that I don't know the ending. The key issue to get your reader involved is to immediately start the process of grabbing us into the story. It really has to start at the beginning so that, as the reader, I can begin to wonder...In this case, how did a man get past a DUI stop who was very clearly drunk.

      I of course had no idea, except to assume that somebody had allowed him to go through...which I had no reason to assume, given the interviews and the cop himself questioning as he told the chief.

      At that point, I think, the chief could have given us some internal thoughts; i.e., got the reader involved... or he could, of course, have talked it over with his own officer...

      Recognize Sheila, that I'm an avid reader who gets into the story, so if you want to capture my attention, do something quickly to get me involved and then just continue... with something short, you can't afford the luxury of waiting to grab reader's attention, unless of course, you meant to tell/solve the case for the reader... For me, then, I as the reader can admire your writing and thought processes, but you didn't really make me want to read you again...

      And, of course, there are many different types of readers, so that maybe explains the wide difference in rankings???

      The book by Elizabeth Lowell, apparently, turned many off because there was an element of historical background that really was required and was what made it special for me...If I want pure romance, which apparently a lot do, then I'd read more romance...simple, at least as I analyze the whys of some reviews I read, even though I don't agree that a writer doesn't have the right to move into different genres! LOL

      If you enter the contest, I'd love to read the story--just make sure to grab readers ASAP, and that's fast for 2500 words...LOL


  5. Glenda:

    Funny you should mention "show, don't tell." Lee Child, apparently, gave a ThrillerFest presentation, "Tell, Don't Show." (Lee Child is one of my absolute favorites, and, in fact, I was honored that one of the early reviewers of The Warwick Files compared me to him.) I suppose it's a matter of balance and of the reader's personal preference.

    I don't normally respond to reviews, by the way, but this short-story thriller series is a bit of an experiment for me, and I'm grateful for your thoughtful feedback.

    And it's unlikely that this particular series will become a novel, but there are three novels in the works, with publication details pending. So stay tuned, as they say.

  6. J.M. Thank you so much for stopping back to talk more...and for the link to the article, which I'll be passing on...You know, as I get older, I tend to agree with what he's saying. On the other hand, if you eliminate the rules that you learned along the way, the English language would continue to deteriorate and those who are just learning to write, wouldn't necessarily have any guidance to help him/her along the way. Truthfully, I use the rule only when I can for helping expressed myself better.

    Buttttt, there is much that is happening in Reacher's books along the way that is telling the reader what is going on, even though the conclusion may not be clear until the end. Besides I think there is a difference between a mystery and a thriller... If I remember right, yours was advertised as a thriller, but... I wasn't thrilled either. Without some background or character development, we have to have something... don't you think? For instance, in A Wanted Man, Reacher is first heading to Virginia to meet a woman who sounded nice on the phone (reader interest point #1, especially for your women readers...LOL) He is picked up almost immediately into a real mess (reader captured quickly) then he realizes that the woman apparently is trying to get his attention (reader alert that something's wrong)...etc., so that within just a few pages, we are totally involved... To do that in a short story, means that you've got to move very fast to pull a reader in... Key thing for me is that Lee Child is sharing (telling), but we also seem him acting out a cool communication interaction with that waitress to share info, as well as action all along the way..."not just at the end..." I think that is what makes the entire story a thriller, at least for me... but I'd argue whether he doesn't follow the "show" rule at the same time he is "telling" us...

    1. (continued)After I had written my review and published it, I had another detective pop in my mind--Charlie Chan--remember him? What I remembered was that his son worked with him, but unless he had to, Charlie kept his knowledge and conceptual thinking within himself, and forced his son to try to solve the case himself... If my memory is correct because it's been many years since I've read or seen any of those movies, but it seemed to me that your Chief was doing that with the agent??? If I'm correct, though, what that meant was that you also made the reader wait as well...which could have been done by sharing the Chief's thoughts... In fact, I would enjoy some fun stuff like the Chief knowing that agents coming in to meet with a small-town cop is going to feel superior and he enjoys playing it close to the hip with them and then throw out all the answers at the end...

      Or, I could see where the Chief could share a telephone call in more detail with some of his contacts so that the reader knows what he's thinking. From my standpoint, I had no reason to know whether the guys coming in were drug dealers, mafia, or human traffickers...

      I wonder if you were trying to put too much into your story? By that I mean, that if you had some of the ending material earlier in the story, such as having heard the waitress speaking another language sometime in the past, maybe even right as the Chief was coming into the building, that would be a clue for readers, especially if the Chief had "thought" hey, have we got Russians in town? All these things would be clues/actions in a thriller that allow serious readers to enjoy all aspects of the story, in my opinion...

      On the other hand, I know that I read books more for content than maybe the average reader. Quite a few authors have written to me privately and told me that "I got their story" when others did not. But then, I've been accused of over-ranking books just because I really take the time to get into what the author is trying (or not) to tell me...

      Anyway, I'm certainly happy to have you continue the discussion since as you say, a lot of authors tend not to respond to reviews, understandably in many cases... If you think I could help in your experiment, I'll try to help if I can...just let me know...