Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Killer, Come Hither... By Louis Begley - An Alternative Style of Writing Novels... Exhilarating Story!

English: Team operators of Force Recon conduct...
This is a true story. I have changed the
names of certain persons in order to
protect them from harm. Other than
that, I have concealed nothing. My
conscience is clear. What I've done I'd
do again without a moment's hesitation.
Sine will think that I should have stuck
to the rules--put my faith in criminal
justice and let the murderer plea-bargain
his way to a cushy sentence. So be it. I
despise cowards and hypocritical pussies,
and their holier-than-thou naivete.
Wow! I have to make this a more personal opinion review for this book, based upon  on what I just discovered on Amazon... I went out to get the cover pic and was surprised to see the low ratings for this book! Very surprised! I didn't take the time to read anything other than the headline quotes...I didn't want to spent time reading other people's opinion...I came back to write my own...

Sure I had noticed the difference in style of writing, but it certainly wasn't bad. Rather it is a potential future for a style of writing that may become a dominant method sometime in the future! Do pay special attention to the excerpts included.

The best way I describe it is that it turns a thriller into a masterfully written literary story that I sank into and read in one day. Gone are the "show and tell" rules. Gone are the punctuation rules that traditionally are used to elicit excitement and adventure... No exclamation points in this book! This is a storyteller sharing what he has lived through...

Yet, what it does is allow the willing reader to listen to the author...I was immersed and sometimes overwhelmed with the main character's emotions and feelings... He opens with a statement that this is a true story. He's telling his side of the story and doesn't care whether you agree with it or not. Indeed, for those who don't like his writing, perhaps he's saying the same to those readers. I'm sure happy I'm not one of them! I loved this book. Yes, it took some time to realize and accept the very different style he chose, but after that, I was sitting across a restaurant table, drinking a cup of tea, chewing on pretzels, as he went on...

Killer, Come Hither

Louis Begley

First, the title is perfect, in my opinion. For me, it set the tone of the novel. Using "Come Hither" created an expectant response that, most importantly, proved to represent the entire story. (Don't you hate titles that makes you wonder why they were used?) Second, it provides a story that, if not real, certainly illustrates the thoughts of many of us living in today's world! Am I suggesting that we disobey laws? NOT! But I certainly enjoyed living through it in this novel!

Staff Sgt. Derek Pflugradt, 22nd Marine Expeditionary
 Unit force reconnaissance platoon team two team leader

It didn't take me long to identify a similarly-ranked Marine to step in place for...Jack Dana...

I am a former Marine Infantry offi
cer and Force Recon platoon leader. I am also the author of three successful books. The first of these I wrote at Walter Reed, undergoing surgeries to fix the damage done to my pelvis by the bullets of a Taliban sniper outside Delaram (a nasty spot in Afghanistan's Helmand Provice) in the minute or so before my team killed him. It may seem odd that someone like me--honor graduate of the Corps' toughest combat schools, those where you learn to gun down enemies unlucky enough to be in range or, if they're close enough push a blade between their ribs--should become a novelist. The truth is that to every thing there is a season. I put my training to use during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the door-to-door fighting in the second battle for Fallujah I learned how easy it is to kill a man. You squeeze the trigger slowly, the round finds its target, and he crumples and falls to the ground. Easier yet, you throw a satchel charge through a window, and down comes the building. I would have gone on doing just that but, though the repairs of whih the surgeons were so proud had put me into excellent shape, my new excellent wasn't good enough for a Corps Infantry officer. Never mind. Writing books was a return of sorts to the life I expected to lead before we were attacked on September 11, 2001...

A man, awarded for his leadership, expertise and bravery...in learning to easily kill men...taught to fight and defend his country. Yet, after killing and almost being killed, injured, he is forced to leave that service and chose to write about it, sharing what it had been like. He had thought, "to every thing there is a season..." and he was out of the time for killing...

He was wrong.

The beginning of the book shares some of the background for Dana. Both of his parents were dead and the only relative he had was his uncle, with whom he'd always been close. Harry who had never married had always considered Jack like his son and many wonderful times had been shared. 

Harry was a lawyer and partner in a major law firm in Massachusetts. Harry was the designated officer for the most important firm client, Abner Brown. At first the Texas billionaire was not well known but had slowly become known for his extreme right-wing politics and recognized across the nation. Little by little Abner had accepted Harry, more as a friend than business associate, and had let him into more and more of his activities.

At the same time Jack had his first book published, then his second and was
beginning to make it on his own, although he had initially moved in with Harry, their relationship growing in strength and love. And then...9-11...

Harry and Jack spent much time discussing world events as they happened.

The next day, Wednesday, was when I had intended to leave, but flights had been canceled across the nation, and trains weren't running. I remained at Harry's apartment, glued to the television. A conviction had grown by the evening that Osama bin Laden, a name I had never heard before, was responsible for the attacks, he had commissioned and masterminded them from his lair somewhere in Afghanistan. There were reports of explosions in Kabul, but the Pentagon denied rumors that we had attacked the city...Harry and I had dinner at his French restaurant. We ate the postponed grand meal, drinking too much, and both of us feeling we were at a wake. When I mentioned the explosions, Harry said that even if it were true that we had not yet moved against bin Laden we'd be doing so soon.
The drumbeat of war continued
implacably all that week, gaining
in force...
You heard Bush, he continued, hunt them down and punish, making no distinction between those who committed the acts of terror and those who harbor and support them. That's quite a brief! Lord know what the country will get into. Look, he added after a pause, it doesn't seem to me that you need to try to move heaven and earth to be in Cambridge tomorrow or any other day this week. You aren't teaching or taking courses you shouldn't miss. Why not stay here until things quiet down? Having you with me is a wonderful serendipity. It may not be repeated. I want to take the good with the bad.
I agreed gratefully. 

Time passed as both Harry and Jack went on with their lives...keeping in touch as much as they wished. But Harry was dealing with issues at work that was keeping him agitated, not knowing what to do. Of course, the confidentiality of his work prevented him from discussing it with anybody. So Jack had routinely planned to work on his next book while continuing his writing. But Jack did have the chance to meet and become very interested in Kerry Black, who was Harry's main assistant in his legal activities.

Jack was scheduled for a major vacation with Scott his long-time best friend, who was now with the CIA. They made a point of taking vacation together so they'd made time to see each other. They were to explore Tierra del Fuego... Then Scott went back to D.C. while Jack flew on to Cuiaba to visit and stay at a fazenda owned by a friend of Harry's... He stayed the full three months as planned, being totally cutoff without phone service on the cattle ranch.

As soon as he was able to use the phone he tried contacting Harry and, then when not reaching him, had called Kerry. 

Harry was dead. Suicide. He'd hung himself in his home...As soon as he was able to use the phone he tried contacting Harry and, then when not reaching him, had called Kerry. Harry was dead. Suicide. He'd hung himself in his home...

The rest of the book, of course, tells the story of Jack Dana, not being willing to accept that his uncle had committed suicide, beginning his own investigation, working with Kerry and Scott, the only two people he feels he can trust. He is confrontational with Harry's boss, wanting to know what had happened, and told a "cover story" he could not believe--that Harry had gone into dementia...

Remember, readers, you and Jack Dana are sitting across the table, having drinks, as he tells you what happened. There are no twists and turns to be solved in this mystery. Dana makes it clear throughout the book. He will kill the man who murdered his uncle...But, while climatic, it is not a surprise ending... Yet, I was hanging on Jack's story of what had happened. I had forgotten that there was one person, telling the story. Was I just as satisfied with no real showing--no mystery to be solved, no real guessing? Yes, Definitely! It was wonderfully freeing to not be caught up in which page is going to give the next big exciting thrill.

Perhaps, also, my own mindset and feelings about trust, about payoffs, about a legal system that allows the best lawyer to decide whether or not a criminal is convicted of his crimes, about bribes, about an individual being bound by laws and rules and regulations, so much so that an individual cannot act upon what is clearly wrong, without being called on a technicality and dismissed or, worse, murdered because your moral code is stronger than the demand of "privilege." Louis Begley takes you directly into the heart of the individuals caught in the "systems" created that are so bureaucratic and dogmatic, while forgetting the possibility that not every case can be handled "routinely..."

Finally, I was able to not be caught up in the action and suspense of a thriller, rather to observe and get to know the heart of the main character. I applaud Begley for this alternative thriller style. This was my first book by him, so I have no idea whether all of his books are handled this way. I don't think I'm ready to read every book in this style, especially related to the lack of routine punctuation, since that is so ingrained in my business mind. LOL

I urge you to allow yourself the opportunity to try this, what I must call, literary thriller, just to ensure you are aware of the completely different style of writing. In my opinion, a writer should write as he or she wishes to. In today's world, where the individual is predominant in privilege and recognition and where we readily watch reality shows where people sit around, I gather, and talk about their lives... Well, here's one reader who welcomes the writer who is willing to break with tradition and break out from the mold. It's a more personal style of writing, definitely. You may find yourself caring more about the characters than ever before, rather than the story...

Dare you try it? I highly recommend it, especially to all novel writers! Read it, analyze it, sink into it and decide if this is something that would work for what you want to write about. Not every book will allow this, but that's my naive, initial reaction. All that I do know is that I immediately saw the differences, adapted to this writer's presentation, and went on to thoroughly enjoy the novel! Killer, Come Hither... The character taunted the killer... "Come on, you're going to pay for what you did..." And he did...

Not even all the other characters agreed with what he did. Personally, my opinion was that justice was served... 


About the Author

Louis Begley’s previous novels are Memories of a MarriageSchmidt Steps BackMatters of HonorShipwreckSchmidt DeliveredMistler’s ExitAbout SchmidtAs Max Saw ItThe Man Who Was Late, and Wartime Lies, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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