Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lifeguard by James Patterson and Andrew Gross

Lifeguard by James Patterson and Andrew Gross, on 7cds, performed by Billy Campbell

I've never done a Patterson on cd, and I only did it this time, because I refuse to read another of his books. Well, I'm never going to listen to his stuff on cd either. I read something about him not that long ago, although, I can't, for the life of me, remember where or how long ago, that he loves coming up with story ideas, but doesn't like the writing that much. I don't know if he realizes how much that shows in his work or not, but he must, right? I thought that statement confirmed all of my criticism about his books. He writes a good outline for a story, he just doesn't seem to bother putting in any of the actual story. Yet, they continue to publish his works and charge real, complete book prices for them.

I always make fun of him for his impossibly short chapters, often just one or a couple of short paragraphs. I couldn't help but time them on the clock in the car as I listened to this audio book. There were chapters that took less than a minute for the performer to read. I can't imagine how you think you can write a real book and the chapters are only a couple of sentences long. Not only are the chapters unnaturally short, but one conversation, taking place in one scene, and not a long one, can take three chapters. Really odd. Someone asks a question, end of chapter. I figure it takes restraint to finish a sentence before starting the next chapter. I'm all for keeping the length of chapters down. When I read in bed, I often look to see how long the next chapter is before determining if I can continue. I don't like to stop in the middle of things. Patterson's chapter structure doesn't help. I can stop at the end of a chapter, but be in the middle of a scene. The book I'm listening to on cd right now (Prep) has really long chapters. I'm on disc 12 or 13 and on Chapter 7. The Patterson book is 7cds and well over 100 chapters.

Oh, you were expecting commentary on the plot? Okay, well, our protagonist is Ned Kelly, like the outlaw. Yeah, that's a big ongoing line in the book. He's the son of a small time hood from the Boston area, living over the garage of a rich guy, working as, you got it, a lifeguard in Florida. One day Ned Kelly is standing on the beach alone and notices a woman, who is also standing on the beach alone. Of course, there's only one reason anyone would do this, and that's because any woman standing alone on a beach must be a total drama queen who is going to drown herself in the sea. He races off to "save" her (from nothing) he decides that she is the woman of his dreams. He starts to plan a life with her and decides that after he gets rich from a big art heist, they can run away together and live happily ever after.

Things go awry as things are wont to do. While Ned is sitting off false alarms all over town, his friends, and partners in the crime, are discovering that they've been set up. None of the paintings they've been hired to steal are in the house. Ned goes to meet up with his lifelong friends to find out what went wrong, only to find that they've all been gunned down. Not knowing where else to turn, Ned goes to see Tess, his new rich girlfriend. When he pulls up in front of the hotel there is a lot of police activity, and Ned discovers that (Dun Dun Dun) Tess has been murdered.

Doesn't look to good for Ned, does it? Three crimes and he's involved with all of them. So, of course, he bolts. He goes straight back to his mother's house, where no one would ever think to look for him (he's not really a rocket scientist), kidnaps a teeny tiny little art historian/FBI agent and tries to prove himself innocent. Because, as everyone knows, running away and kidnapping federal agents really helps to prove that you had nothing to do with the murders of pretty much everyone you've ever known.

I guess I should give the few positives that I have about this book. James Patterson doesn't have any Mary Sues in his books. This is definitely something I can usually appreciate. I can read a book and enjoy it, then discover that the author Mary Sued all over the place and then just feel cheated and that the whole experience has been tainted. Not everyone who writes what they know, or even, writes about characters with backgrounds similar to themselves, can be considered guilty of Mary Suage. Stephen King has a lot of authors who live in Maine in his books, but I don't know if I'd qualify them as Mary Sues. Patricia Cornwell, on the other hand, writes the Kay Scarpetta books, and Kay Scarpetta is the queen of the Mary Sues, and that is not a compliment. Ooh, and I can't forget, Jonathan Kellerman's series of books featuring the king of the Mary Sues, Alex Delaware. But, as usual, I digress.

Secondly, I did like the art mystery back story. It's purely fiction and Patterson doesn't play like it's anything other than that. I find a lot of bogus intrigue to be really annoying. It makes it so I can't enjoy a story because I'm always on edge that they are gonna pull that "this is all real"crap, like you know who. Here, Patterson did some research and made up a decent back story that sounded plausible, but wasn't intended to spark a lot of intrigue and debate about a work of fiction. It was well thought out enough to make it an interesting detail in the story, as it should be.

That's all I've got. I don't think I'm willing to devote any more of my time to Patterson's work. He could probably write some good stuff if he'd just take his time and fully flesh out his stories and get a little more contemporary. I'm not interested in taking time to read dated skeletons of books.

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