Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Save My Soul

People, I need a frickin' day off.  I'm sorry to disappoint, but I just can't hack it today.  See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Sixty-Two

Day 62, Chapter 62
"You're quiet, Princess," said the voice in my ear.
"What do you want me to say?"
Yeah, man, what the hell?  It's been 62 frickin' days of this nonsense and now you're calling me "princess"?  I'm gonna punch your face if I ever get the chance, WCF.  Are you not entertained?! 
"No, you're right. Don't think too much. Just execute the mission."
Oh, I'll execute the mission, all right, buddy.  And I guarantee you, I won't be thinking too much.
My god, what has happened to me?  Now the book is talking directly at me.  I'm still not as crazy as Lindsay, thankfully:
If I saw his face and lived, I would quit the force if I had to in order to get the job done. I would look at all the thousands of photos of every former soldier, sailor, coastguardsman, and marine in San Francisco. And if he wasn't living in San Francisco, I'd keep looking at photos until I found him, if it was the last thing I ever did.
So, even though there has been absolutely zero proof of any sort of military record for WCF, Lindsay is apparently completely convinced that he's a retired soldier of some sort.  (Coast Guard?  Really?)  Her utter conviction is a little disturbing to me, actually - the idea that she's willing to quit her job and hassle every member of the military community in San Francisco in order to maybe catch this guy...  I don't get it.  But it's not for me to get, I guess.  Just shut up and read!

Lindsay heads to the long term parking lot that she's been directed to by her ear-bud buddy, where she presents her ticket stub and is given access to the matching green Chevy Impala left there by WCF.  Inside on the back seat is a "Pelican gun case".  What is this, you ask?
Pelican is known for its protective cases. They are lined with foam, have unbreakable locks, and can withstand anything fire or water or an explosive blast can throw at them.
Today's post has been brought to you by Pelican gun cases. "Yes, we're a real company that makes huge, scary gun cases!"

"I'm James Patterson and I approve this message."

Following instructions, Lindsay puts all the money into the Pelican case - angrily, since she's "helping a psycho get away with holding up a city."  Then, WCF tells "princess" to put the old case under the car next to the Impala, just in case there's a tracking device in it.  Oh yeah, one other thing:
"And take off your shoes," the killer said. "Slide them under the car with the case."
"Feel like going for a ride?" my constant companion saked me.
"I'd love to," I said with false brightness.
"I'd love to, what?" said WCF.
"I'd love to, sir," I answered.
There's a lot more going on here than I'm prepared to deal with, false brightness aside.  That's enough for today. 
Go to Day 63.

Monday, June 28, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Sixty-One

Day 61, Chapter 61
Little did I know, up until 2 weeks ago, JPatt was the owner of not one, but two massive mansions in South Florida.  On June 16th he sold the small one off to some dude from Connecticut for $10.3 million.  I presume that the reason he sold it was the size - a mere 11,000 square feet.  As you know, the other house (currently being renovated) is 20,000 sq. ft. and can more easily accommodate the (plus-size?) family of three.  Plus there's room for the treasure trove room.
I crossed Market to the Whitcomb, an elegant four-hundred-room Victorian hotel, and entered the opulent lobby, glittering with crystal chandeliers, marble floors underfoot, wood paneling everywhere, and humongous floral bouquets scenting the cool air.
Is Lindsay "glittering with crystal chandeliers" or is the lobby?  This is what you get with such a frenetic pace of writing - hopefully, people read it so quickly they never notice the preponderance of bad grammar.  (Wait, was this a description of JPatt's house?)

Lindsay walks to the Market Street Grill, on the instructions of WCF, and picks up an envelope left there for "H. Tyler."  The receptionist's name is Sharron, by the way.  Not sure why we needed to know this.
"Open the envelope, sweetheart," the killer said, and, gritting my teeth, I did it.
It must have been crazy-glued shut or made out of cast iron and bolted shut.  Inside is a parking lot ticket stub and 25 bucks.  Then WCF drops a bomb on Lindsay - he knows her real name!  (Remember, she's pretending to be Henry Tyler's fictional secretary, Judy.)
"Who is Lindsay?" I asked, but I was rocked. My stride faltered and I nearly stumbled down the hotel steps. How did he know my name?
Anyone for sweetmeats?
Duh!  You're a famous detective, star of now nine bestselling novels by James Patterson!  When I Google your name, a zillion pictures of Angie Harmon pop up because she played you on TV for a season.

WCF reminds her that he can easily hurt the people she cares about if she tries any funny business.  She fantasizes about this prospect:
I pictured Cindy in the camera's eye, Conklin, Joe working in his home office, Martha at his feet. I saw myself with my Glock in my hand, sights  lined up between the no-color eyes of a guy in a baseball jacket. I squeezed the trigger.
Problem was, I didn't have the Glock.
By my count, WCF has called Lindsay "sweetheart", "sweet stuff", "princess" (three times), "sweetmeat" (twice!), "good girl" (twice), and "my girl on a leash".  
Go to Day 62.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet (Redux)

"Do you think of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet as a departure, or as another step along the path laid down by the first four novels?"
Mitchell: "It's on the same path, but the path has passed through a gate into a new garden." (from The Paris Review)
Tuesday, June 29th is the U.S. release date for David Mitchell's new novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.  In case you were blissfully unaware, Mitchell is, like, totally my favorite author!  (Check out my early, brief bit on Thousand Autumns, posted back in December 2009.  I was a very lucky boy.)  Briefly, back in the Spring, Random House used my early comments on the manuscript in their advertising campaign - you can see my blurb on the novel's website,  My words have now been relegated to the "Comments" section, as if I were a common paean or a book club member.  Don't you know who I think I am?

Anyway, there is a great interview with Mitchell in the current issue of The Paris Review, a pretty snobby literary quarterly that you might be able to find in your local indie bookstore (not available at Warwick's.)  And there's also an article on him in the June 27th New York Times Magazine.  Mitchell is the critical darling of the moment, it would seem, and his new book will do much toward pushing him further into the light where the general reading public can see him.  Or at least, I hope it does.

Because of the wide-scope of his influences and the differing styles he manages to utilize in his work, he has often been (wrongfully) accused of being nothing but an expert mimic, rather than a creator of original ideas.  A bunch of bunk and hooey.  This new book - although I suppose other literary influences can been seen within it if you look hard enough - should dispel this myth.  There is no denying his various influences, and there is nothing wrong with being amongst their company: Borges, Italo Calvino, Solzhenitsyn, Nabokov, Haruki Murakami, Don DeLillo, Herman Melville, Two Years Before the MastGuns, Germs, and Steel, Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Matrix, Patrick O'Brian, Ursula K. LeGuin, Susan Cooper, Isaac Asimov, and J.R.R. Tolkien.  It was actually a Tolkien reference in his Paris Review interview that really turned my head, simply because of the way his thoughts mirror ones I've always had myself:

"I was reading Tolkien, and it was the maps as much as the text that floated my boat. What was happening behind these mountains where Frodo and company never went? What about the town along the edge of the sea? What kind of people lived there? The empty spaces required me to turn anthropologist-creator."
Not only does this remind me of my own childhood daydreams on what sort of folks lived near the Sea of Rhun, but also puts his style of creative writing into wonderful perspective.  He is truly an anthropologist dressed as a novelist in the way that he explores the intricacies of human interaction.  I suppose, deep down, that this is what drew me into his work in the first place.
"The reason we love the books we love - it's the people. It's the human mud, the glue between us and them, the universal periodic table of the human condition." (NYT Magazine)
His previous novels - especially Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas - were complex, multi-layered forces of nature that bent and reshaped the face of narrative fiction.  His latest is much different, in nothing if not for its straightforwardness, but equally excels in transporting the reader into a new David Mitchell world.  Set mostly on the manmade island of Dejima in the middle of Nagasaki Harbor in 1799, Thousand Autumns is generally about Jacob de Zoet, a low level clerk for the Dutch East India Company who, along with the rest of his Dutch brothers, is not allowed to set foot on Japanese soil. The foreign traders are welcome for their goods and trade, but may never walk on the shores of the tantalizingly close empire of the Shogun.  In an earlier post, I wrote this handy synopsis:

"The Dutch survive as Japan's sole trading partner through an uneasy alliance based on the certainty of supplies from the outside world - what happens when something goes wrong on the supply chain?  Jacob is faced with internal corruption and vicious political manuevering, the delicate balancing act of the Japanese partnership, a daunting language barrier, the mysterious banishment of the woman he loves, the hushed-up financial collapse of his employer, and an imminent attack by foreign invaders, all of which test the limits of his faith - a faith strictly forbidden in Japan on the cusp of the 19th century. There are multiple narrators throughout, as is Mitchell's wont, but it is structurally done in such a subtle way that you hardly notice - you are just swept along in the flow, wondering, as a foreigner like Jacob, how much of the lush, inner world of Japan you will be allowed to glimpse."
"I've come to realize that I'm bringing into being a fictional universe with its own cast, and that each of my books is one chapter in a sort of sprawling macronovel.  That's my life's work, for however long my life lasts.  Of course, it's important that each of the books works as a stand-alone, so that readers don't have to read everything else I've written to make sense of the novel in their hands.  But I write each novel with an eye on the bigger picture, and how the parts fit into the whole." (from the NYT Magazine) 

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Sixty

Day 60, Chapter 60
The phone hanging from my neck felt like an explosive charge. The Lipstick Killer could see everything I saw, hear what I was hearing and saying, and if that vile, crude psychopath became unhappy, he'd cut down more innocent lives.
I'm nursing a pretty mean hangover today, so JPatt has even less appeal than normal.  It's just not funny - it makes my head hurt more.

Lindsay is out following the instructions of WCF - he's leading her to wherever the drop-off point for the cash ransom will be.  Several other cops are following her, of course, and as she exits the SF Chronicle building, she notices a Women's Murder Club member hanging around too.
That's when I glimpsed Cindy. Her eyes were huge, and she was hanging back against the wall of the Chronicle Building, looking at me as though I were headed for the guillotine. I was suffused with love for her. I wanted to hug her, but I winked instead, holding up crossed fingers.
She squeezed out a smile.
I was so suffused with love as I headed for the guillotine, I squeezed out a smile as hard as I could.  

WCF makes Lindsay drop her handbag into a trash can.  Since she's an unprepared idiot, her gun and her cell hone are both in the bag.  What sort of detective keeps their gun in their purse?  Conklin continues to follow her as she heads into a BART station & boards a train headed for the airport.  At the first stop, WCF has her get off the train quickly.  Conklin, ever the model of clichéd, bumbling police officer, gets stuck on the train and can only look out the window with a sad face as the train leaves the station.  
"Take off your jacket and put it in the trash can," the killer said. 
"My house keys are in the pocket."
Really?  Your keys, too?  Actually, wouldn't they have been in her purse? 
"Throw your jacket into the trash. Don't question me, sweetmeat. Just do what I say. Now, go to the stairs. On the first landing, pan around so I can see if anyone is following you."
I did it, and the killer was satisfied.
"Let's go, princess. We've got a date at the Whitcomb."
Vile, crude Princess Sweetmeat, suffused with love, heads for another commercial break.
Go to Day 61.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-Nine

Day 59, Chapter 59
Really, James Patterson?  You want me to read and write about this crap when the Round of 16 starts today?  Believe me, Uruguay vs South Korea is infinitely more appealing than another chapter of inanities from you, sir.  You are a slavedriver and I resent you for it.

Via the James Patterson fan page on Facebook yesterday, I found this: 10 Questions for James Patterson - running in the July 5th issue of Time magazine.  All ten answers he offers have some rather enlightening lines, but my favorite has to be the tenth:

Q: What do you say to critics like author Stephen King who say you are not a great prose stylist? - Andy Williams, Augusta, GA

A: I am not a great prose stylist. I'm a storyteller. There are thousands of people who don't like what I do. Fortunately, there are millions who do.

Excellent question, Andy "The Emperor of Easy" Williams.  "There are thousands of people who don't like what I do."  Nice.  Count me in.  And by the "millions", do you think he's referring to readers or dollars?  Hmmm, it's a little vague.

Business time:  Henry Tyler, under the supervision of Lindsay and Conklin, makes the call to WCF (as I will hereby call him, rather than the idiotic "Lipstick Killer") to discuss the hand-off of the $2 million ransom.  Once on the line, WCF has Henry take a picture of the cash using the camera on the phone and send it to him as proof.  Then he introduces "Judy Price," his "secretary" and "go-between" for the transaction - aka, Detective Lindsay Boxer.  Sneaky!
Tyler handed the phone to me. I said, "This is Judy Price."
"Judy. This phone can stream video to my computer for three hours. I hope we can conclude our business in less time than that. Use the neck straps and wear the phone with the camera lens facing out. Keep it on until I have the money. I'll direct you as we go. Do you read me?"
Ah shit, I have to wear the neck straps?
"Don't try any stupid phone tricks, Judy."
WCF makes Lindsay (Judy) "do a little pirouette" with the camera on, so he can see who else is in the room with her.  Conklin is referred to as "Rich in ad sales" as part of the subterfuge.  WCF tells Conklin and Tyler to not follow "Judy", blah blah blah.  Then things get good.  And by good, I mean supersized, sexified, and amped up, Patterson Style!

"Come here often?"
"Point the camera at yourself, Judy."
There was a pause. Longer than I expected. Then the killer's voice was back.
"Nice rack, Judy. And let's hope you're a smart blond."
Go to Day 60.

Friday, June 25, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-Eight

Day 58, Chapter 58
Halftime show!
I am officially calling today the halfway point in the 117 Days of James Patterson.  Patterson is remarkably efficient with his pagination as well - the start of today's chapter on the 178th page, is almost exactly at the halfway point of the physical book as well.  He is nothing if not predictable, I suppose.

On that note...  So, if you recall, (although I don't know why you would) the Lipstick Killer sent a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, demanding $2 million to stop killing people.  The Chronicle ran the killer's letter, followed by a reply of compliance 48 hours later.
The reply to the Lipstick Killer's "ransom note" ran in the Chronicle, and within hours, the planet slammed on the brakes and all eyes became fixed on San Francisco.
Really?  The entire planet came to a screeching halt because some nutjob in California started killing people and the authorities want to pay him to stop?  I'm sure Nancy Grace would talk about it, but c'mon.
Every man, woman, and child with an opinion and a computer fired off letters to the editor.
Literally?  That's amazing, actually.  Lindsay and Conklin, along with the help of new character, Inspector Cappy McNeil (are you fucking kidding me?) are screening calls and mail to the Chronicle, waiting for the real response from the killer.  At 2:15 that afternoon, Dave Hopkins, the Chronicle's "mailroom kid", delivers a package for Henry Tyler, the editor.  Lindsay becomes suspicious.  I'm suspicious because Patterson gave the "mailroom kid" a name.  What's he really up to?
I called out to Conklin, who exited the cube across the hall and followed me to Tyler's doorway.
I said, "Henry, this could be it. Or it could be a letter bomb."
Tyler asked, "Do you want me to drop it in a toilet or open it?"
I looked at Conklin.
"I feel lucky," he said.
So...drop it in the toilet?  What does he feel lucky about?  Does this have something to do with Conklin screwing Cindy?  Because I really don't want to hear about that again.  Also, did JPatt mean "cubical" where he wrote "cube"?  Or is there a sci-fi element to this that I'm missing?  Actually, that would be awesome. 

What is it that's making Lindsay so suspicious?  How does she know that this "could be it"?  Oh wait, the envelope has a return address that reads "WCF" in red letters.  No, seriously, that piece of information was obscured when the letter first arrived.  JPatt, you son of a bitch, always keeping me on the dangle.

Now, in between Chapters 36 and 37, the police decided to dub the murderer the "Lipstick Killer".  If you recall Day 37, I was a little disappointed in their decision, especially since there is already a real serial killer with that name, but also because WCF had such a nice ring to it.  Well, it turns out that the killer refers to himself as "WCF", so once again, the cops got it wrong.  Tyler opens the package and removes the items.  JPatt is quite precise in illustrating this information:
Moshi moshi?
Item one was a phone. It was a prepaid model, the size of a bar of hand soap, complete with neck straps, a headset with earbuds, a chin mic, and a built-in camera.
Hold up - how big is a cellphone?  There's no briefcase with a cord attached?  It's not the size of a home phone, with a big, metal antenna protruding?  Is this the future?  Do I have to wear the neck strap?
Item two was a standard envelope, white, addressed to "H. Tyler." I opened it and shook out the folded sheet of white paper inside. The message was typed and printed out with an ink-jet. The note read: "Tyler. Use this phone to call me."
There was a number and the signature: "WCF."
Commercial break.  Up next, Nancy Grace interviews Cappy McNeil. 
Go to Day 59.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-Seven

Day 57, Chapter 57
First off, I'd like to apologize for using a photo of Lawrence Taylor yesterday to illustrate the number 56 (for chapter 56).  In a complete and totally awkward coincidence, Taylor was indicted on third-degree rape charges yesterday afternoon.  Oops.

So today, we're back with secret lovers, Sarah "Hello Kitty" Wells and Heidi Whats-her-face-who's-married-to-the-fat-guy.  They're meeting at a diner on their lunch break (they're teachers) to covertly celebrate Heidi's birthday.  Sorry, no doughnuts today.
(Heidi) kissed Sarah quickly, then looked over her shoulder, making sure there were no other teachers around.
"Happy birthday, darling," Sarah said. "You're a flirty thirty."
Menus were brought to the table and hot open-faced turkey sandwiches were eaten quickly because the lunch break was short and there was a lot on their minds. 
Photo from Seriously!
Hey, nothing says "Happy Birthday" like a hastily eaten, hot open-faced turkey sandwich.  Heidi wonders (or rather, "blurts") whether they will still love each other when the secret element of their relationship is removed and everything is out in the open.  Yadda-yadda, blah blah blah.  Three waitresses bring out a cake with candles on it and sing "Happy Birthday" to Heidi.  Patterson prefers to be more specific in this scene, explaining that the waitresses sing "Happy birthday, dear Heidi.  Happy birthday to you", presumably because we don't know the words.  

If you recall, since both women are married to men, theirs is a secret relationship, so being discreet in public is a necessary requirement.  Although, they are sitting next to each other in a tiny diner booth...
Applause sounded up and down the length of the narrow diner, and Heidi looked at Sarah, squeezed her hand, and then blew out the candles, every one of them on the first try.
"Don't tell me what you wished for," Sarah said.
"I don't have to. You know."
Choke down that vomit, you can do it.  And do you think anyone as noticed them now, what with the thunderous applause and a whole diner of people looking at them?
Sarah then busts out with Heidi's birthday present.
She dug into her pocket and came out with a packet so small only something really good could be inside.
Guess what it is!
"I can't guess what this is," (Heidi) said. 
Never mind.  It's the yellow diamond that Sarah stole from the Dowlings back in the prologue, reset into a new pendant setting.  Seriously, how frickin' stupid is this chick?  You steal a diamond ring worth a million dollars, the owner ends up murdered right after you leave the scene, the cops (however inept) are looking everywhere for you, as you're the only suspect, so you go and have the diamond reset into a pendant so you can give it to your secret lesbian lover.  Who you work with.
"I love this. It's the most beautiful gift, Sarah. What kind of stone is it?"
"It's a citrine, but I think of it as a promise stone."
Heidi looked into Sarah's eyes and nodded.
And Seth threw up in his mouth again.

Why would a millionaire have a citrine ring in her safe at home?  Does Sarah really think that it's just a piece of quartz, worth a few hundred bucks?  Or is she just lying to Heidi so she doesn't get freaked out?  Do I care?  No.
Go to Day 58.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-Six

Day 56, Chapter 56
172 pages in, I think JPatt has finally hit his stride with the majestic Chapter 56.  I'd like to tear Chapter 56 out of the book, put it in a frame, and hang it in my bathroom.  I'd like to cut it out, fold it up, and keep it in my wallet.  As Tracy Morgan would say, I'd like to take Chapter 56 out behind the middle school and get it pregnant.
"I told her nothing," Conklin said to me.
"Whatever," I said back. My mind was splitting, I think, literally. Hello Kitty. Lipstick Killer.
Conklin insists that he didn't give Cindy any information about Hello Kitty being a woman (see yesterday's chapter) and Lindsay believes him.  Because she's a terrible cop.
We've been partners for more than a year and, in that time, I've put my life in his hands more than once - and he's put his in mine. Crap.
He put his crap in your hands?
Images of the two of us working through bombings and firestorms and covering each other while trading shots with homicidal punks washed over me.
We had a bone-deep connection as partners, and then there was what Claire called the "other thing."
Is the "other thing" bone-deep as well?  Okay, if you've been faithfully reading along for the previous fifty-five days, you really need to brace yourself here.  The following passage is dangerously off the hook.
There was still a lot of spark in our relationship that had never been fully resolved. I remembered us grappling  half naked on a hotel bed, an action that I'd stopped before it was too late. I recalled confessions of feelings. Promises to never discuss them again, that we had to keep our relationship professional, that it was the best and only way.
And now Rich was head over heels in amour with Cindy.
Google wants to know, "Did you mean: head over heels in armour?"
So how does Detective Lindsay Boxer handle these thoughts of near sexual contact with her partner?  
I took apart my stack of doughnuts and gave the chocolate one to Conklin.
I bet you never thought we'd get two days out of that stack of doughnuts.  Will the sharing be enough to distract Lindsay from her unwelcome, erotic thoughts?
I was mesmerized for half a second. Conklin's good looks have that effect on me, and there's also something about the way he smells. Whatever the heck soap he uses.
I guess not.  Damn Conklin, you smell awesome today!  Is that Irish Spring?  Wanna do some half naked grappling?
Go to Day 57.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-Five

Day 55, Chapter 55
Just a little "morning doughnut".
There was a pile of doughnuts in the coffee room, and I went for them.
If only every chapter started with such a choice line, my work would be so much easier. 
I hadn't eaten a square meal in almost two weeks, and hadn't had more than five consecutive hours of sleep in that time, either. As for exercise, zero, unless my brain running 24-7 on a hamster wheel counted for something.
Lindsay heads back to her office with her "pile of doughnuts", where she is met by Cindy, Women's Murder Club member, Chronicle reporter, and Conklin's current love interest.  Cindy's been - how do I say this? - plumbing Conklin for info?  Drilling him for news?  Reading him his rights?  Boning up on police work?  She also shows that she's done more work than the entire police department when she produces a list of male suspects from high-society who have rock-climbing backgrounds etc.  (This is regarding the Hello Kitty burglary case.)  Lindsay doesn't seem to like the situation.  Cindy has also "figured out" that the cops think Hello Kitty is a woman, but Lindsay really doesn't want her to print the information in the paper.  
"...let's not get crazy and print that, okay?"
"Cindy, we will not be able to vet a single lead that comes in if you print that Hello Kitty is female."
"Hmmmmm."  Hilarious.  Where does he come up with this stuff?  Lindsay then mentions the letter that the Chronicle is going to print the following day.  Cindy, of course, knows all about it already because Conklin can't keep his mouth shut and his gun in his holster.  Wink wink. Patterson's subsequent attempt at making Lindsay's words icy in the face of this news is so sad and pathetic, I'm at a loss.  Here:
"Well, you're up to speed. Is there anything else, Cindy, dear?"
"I'm off to interview Dorian and Jim Morley. This is a heads-up."
"Thanks," Conklin said.
"Off you go," I said to Cindy. "Have fun."
"You're not mad about anything?"
"Not at all. Thanks for the list." I waggled my fingers.
"See you later," she said to Conklin. I turned my face when she touched his cheek tenderly and kissed him. When Curlilocks had gone, I lifted my coffee, opened the file folder, and spread the morgue pictures of Elaine and Lily Marone out on the desk.
"Let's get back to work," I said to Conklin. "What do you say?"
I hung icicles from every word. 
Wait, is she angry?  But she told Cindy that she wasn't angry.  She "waggled" her fingers - wasn't that done in genuine friendship?  I can't think for myself and now I'm confused, Mr. Patterson.  Why are there icicles in the room?  Can we have more doughnuts in Chapter 56?  Maybe sex with doughnuts involved in some way?  Wait, are the doughnuts sexual euphemisms?  Now I'm really confused.
Go to Day 56.

Monday, June 21, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-Four

Day 54, Chapter 54
At the end of Chapter 53 - which I just didn't feel like writing about yesterday, forgive me - Lindsay makes a call to the associate publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, Henry Tyler, whom she knows from a previous case.  Apparently, in The 6th Target, Lindsay helped find his kidnapped daughter, so he, in turn, owes her a favor.  The favor is, of course, to not run the Lipstick Killer's letter of demands in the paper - or at least to give the cops a few extra days to work before they do run it.  Tyler's also the guy who's going to pay the $2 million demand - a fact that Lindsay has a hard time comprehending.
I was startled to hear Henry Tyler say he was going to pay off the killer and even more surprised at his conclusion: that the Lipstick Killer's spree had been about the money all along.
Lindsay's first foray into actual free thought leads her to a sensible conclusion: paying this guy will never guarantee that he will stop killing people.  Why would he?  If you're the sort of person who kills women and children in broad daylight with a silenced pistol, are you really going to be convinced by a pile of cash to stop?  Tyler agrees, sort of, and expects that Lindsay will find a way to stop the killer if they set up this ransom exchange.
My headache had gone molten right between my eyes.  I was a cop, nothing more.  I couldn't see through walls or into the mind of a psycho.  While it was flattering that Henry Tyler thought I could stop the Lipstick Killer, it was obvious the murderer was smart - too smart to fall for your basic van full of cops waiting for him to pick up a briefcase of money.
Well, alright.  Good effort anyway, Detective, I guess we'll just quit then?  Can you imagine if this was really the way the police operated?  "Ah well, he's clearly smarter than us, so, screw this crimestoppin' junk." 

On another note - this is something that's been bothering me for a while now - as I type these excerpts from the book into these posts I've noticed that Patterson always tends to drop demonstrative adjectives from sentences, which makes me CRAZY.  For example, in the excerpt above, he writes, "While it was was obvious the murderer was smart" rather than, "it was obvious that the murderer was smart."  To me it just feels too choppy, like the sentence is missing a word just for the sake of economical writing.  (Keep it short, Jim, you don't want to run out of paper.)  Maybe this is just a matter of minor grammatical differences, but I hate it and it makes me want to punch Patterson's smug, lazy-writin' face.  But I digress.
The worst-case scenario was the one that seemed the most likely: Killer get the cash. Killer gets away. Killer continues to kill. And he inspires terrorism all over the country. There weren't enough cops in America to cover an epidemic of sickos killing for money.
Okay, what would you suggest, Detective?  This seems to be our only lead in this case.

"Duhhhhhh.  I dunno.  More sex scenes to distract from the plot?"
Go to Day 55.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-Three

Day 53, Chapter 53
In all honesty, I couldn't give less of a shit about James Patterson today - it's my birthday.  But to prove my dedication to this stupid project, here I am!  Thankfully, today's chapter barely covers two pages - I'll just offer these little golden nuggets of bad prose and junior high school metaphors for your enjoyment and be on my way:
  • When Jacobi, Chi, and I walked into the squad room, all eyes turned to us, the silent question hanging in the air like a thundercloud. What did the chief say?
  • The gasping and commentary were as loud as that thundercloud breaking into a downpour.
  • I filled Conklin in on the beat-down we'd taken from Tracchio...
  • It was insane, completely magical thinking to believe that if we handed the killer his millions, he would leave town. Even if he did, where would he go? What would he do when he got there?
I think even the Lipstick Killer wants out of this awful story so bad he's just looking for a payoff to get the hell out of town.
Go to Day 54.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-Two

Day 52, Chapter 52
Good times today - Lindsay and the A-Team have been called into the Chief's office for not getting their work done.  Mockery shall ensue - both by the Chief and myself.
Being summoned to Tracchio's office is always an adventure. You never know if you're going to get a high five or a front-row seat on a meltdown. Tracchio hung up the phone as Jacobi, Chi, and I took seats around the curve of his mahogany desk and watched him pat his comb-over. I don't dislike Tracchio, but I never forget that he's a bureaucrat doing a job only a real cop should do.
Hey, high-five, Comb-Over!  Tracchio's pissed off because the San Francisco Chronicle is running a story that morning, featuring a photo of Lindsay's BFF, Claire Washburn, telling a crowd of reporters that people should start carrying guns to protect themselves from the Lipstick Killer.  (See Day 43)  
I flushed, both scared and embarrassed for my best friend.
"One of our own said this," Tracchio said, his voice rising. "Told our citizens to carry guns, and the mayor says that all of us, and that includes you, you, and especially you," he said, stabbing a pudgy finger at Jacobi, "don't know your ass from a lemon tart."
Before Jacobi can get up to display the differences between his ass and said lemon tart, the Chief busts out the big guns - a letter to the editor of the Chronicle written by the Lipstick Killer. (We saw Pete Gordon attempting to write this same letter, back in Chapter 44.)  He passes the copy to Lindsay and makes her read it out loud.  Essentially, the killer wants $2 million to stop murdering women and children.
My head throbbed at the idea of it.
"Sir, you're not really thinking we're going to pay off the Lipstick Killer?"
The Chief claims that a private citizen has already offered to pony up the cash, but Lindsay and Jacobi protest pretty heavily.  Chi just sits there silently, as usual.  I'm not sure why he's in the room, actually.  Then Tracchio leans forward, "smacks the flat of his hand down on the newsprint", and offers us this brilliant speech.  Please note how he has also noticed that these cops are inept and lazy.  See, it's not just me.
"You all listen to me. Several innocent people have been shot dead in the last couple of weeks. Forty men and women are working this case around the clock, and we've got nothing. Nothing. Except the chief medical examiner saying that people should start packing. What choice do I have? None. This letter is going to run," the chief said, glaring at each of us in turn, "and I can't stop it. So figure out how to catch this psycho. Set a trap. How you do it is up to you. I know it's hard. That's why it's called 'work'. Now, I need my office, I've got to call the mayor."
In yo' face beeotches!  Get the F out of my office!
Go to Day 53.

Friday, June 18, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty-One

Day 51, Chapter 51
Back to some hot cop action today.  I've read and re-read this section several times and I still can't really decipher what Lindsay says. 
Conklin muttered to me as he parked the squad car in front of the Tudor-style mansion on Russian Hill.
"What a coincidence, huh? Hello Kitty does a job the same night the Lipstick Killer attacks Elaine Marone and her child."
"Rich, when my eyes flash open, you know? After three hours of sleep, I think it's all too much, that the Job is getting to me, that I should quit before it kills me. And then I ask myself what the hell I would do after that."
What does that mean, "When my eyes flash open"?  There's no real effort made to convey any sense of real character depth here - this isn't creative writing, it's Babblefish translations of Patterson's undigested garbage.  The first thing he barfs into his dictaphone every day.  In fact, I'm going to try my hand at this today.  Here's how I would have written this scene:
Conklin pulled the squad car into a shady spot in front of a large Tudor home in Russian Hill.  He sighed and shook his head as he turned off the car.  I knew what sort of inane bullshit was coming my way.  I just stared out my window as he cleared his throat.
"It's weird, isn't it?  Another Hello Kitty robbery on the same night that Lipstick kills two more people?"
"How the fuck is that weird, Rich?  We're working two cases - ongoing investigations with multiple crime scenes - there's bound to be some overlap.  God, I haven't slept a full night in a week and you're blathering about this shit like it's a fucking X-File case.  Jesus.  Just get out of the car, will you, and go talk to these people?"
See, Lindsay swears like a sailor in my version.  I don't think it's that hard to give the characters a little bit of life.  They're all just going through the motions in the book - no one's believable as a real person in any way.  To me, that would be harder to do than just giving a micron of effort towards character development.  JPatt, if you're reading this, I'm ready to collaborate.  Step aside Maxine, you're finished.

Anyway, as far as plot in Chapter 51, Lindsay and Conklin interview the Morleys - the wealthy, sporting goods-selling, Big Chill party-throwing power couple from Chapters 45-47.  Jim Morley had a face-to-face with Hello Kitty as she was robbing him, but he thought she was another friend from the party and left her alone to empty his safe.  But he did identify Hello Kitty as a woman - something that had never occurred to the police.
I was reeling from this new information.
If Hello Kitty was a woman, it was our first real lead. A blind lead to be sure, but something!
I say we just leave it there - I don't want to overwhelm Detective Boxer.
Go to Day 52.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Fifty

Day 50, Chapter 50
The fiftieth day of this ridiculous marathon project seems monumental in some way.  50 days is a long time, yet I'm still - unbelievably - just shy of halfway through.  Is it still funny to anyone else other than myself?  I know that daily readership has dropped off a bit, but imagine if you were me - I HAVE to read this every day.  While you sit there, blowing your vuvuzelas, I'm mired in the swamp that is The 9th Judgment.  Then again, this is my own fault.

I became a fan of James Patterson on Facebook the other day.  If you really want to make yourself depressed over the state of literacy in this country, check out the comments his fans leave on that page.  Maybe I'm a total bastard for making fun of this, but...there you have it.  Some are genuine - one woman expressed her happiness at being able to escape into his books when so much horrible stuff is happening in her life - even a cold, heartless jerk like myself can get behind that, but most are just awful, fawning gibberish.  Here are a few examples - anonymous, of course:
  • Everytime I start reading one of your books I think, "How is it possible that one man could come up with something this amazing?" James Patterson, I'm convinced you are the best author known to mankind!
  • By the way u are an amazing writing no one could think of the stories u come up with i loved swimsuit it is so good and cant wait to read the new one
  • It drives me crazy waiting for a new Patterson to come out! I try to bide my time reading other substandard books. So keep em coming! 
  • Mr. Patterson, I love EVERYTHINK you write! Your the MAN!
  • ahaha I got paid $298 on Friday from just about no work, this site is a money machine - do yourself a favor and try it now www•cashreport•org
In Chapter 50, Sarah finally makes it home after her latest heist - remember, she escaped the crime scene in Chapter 47, so this has been a long time coming.  She sneaks past her slumbering husband and goes through the "loot" from the Morley job in her bedroom, experiencing twinges of regret as she gazes upon the opulence of the stolen jewelry.  Then she takes out the big yellow diamond that she stole from Casey Dowling in the prologue and she feels better.  The end.  The best part happens to be the opening sequence, where we find Sarah slipping back into her house... oh hell, just read it.
Sarah opened the door to the one-bedroom apartment she shared with her revolting, hair-trigger husband. She stood listening for a moment in the small foyer, and when she heard snoring, she stepped into the living room. "Terror" was slumped in his brown leather recliner, asleep in his wife beater and shorts, his plaid underwear not only showing but unsnapped and open. She wrinkled her nose at the porn couple silently humping on the TV, then slipped past her husband and into the bedroom...
Go to Day 51.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Forty-Nine

Day 49, Chapter 49
I know it's probably not creative or clever enough to just post a bunch of excerpts from the daily chapters, but sometimes the writing just speaks for itself.  Speaks to me.  I honestly don't think I've laughed this hard at anything in the previous 48 chapters.  But maybe I'm just starting to lose it and this stuff isn't that funny.  Yesterday we left off just as Sarah was pulled over by the cops.  Could this and the previous 3 chapters been folded into one?  Shut up.
In the moments Sarah needed to construct an alibi, her mind foundered. She was far from her own neighborhood, and she was sure she looked guilty of something. Her whole body filmed over with sweat as the cruiser door opened and the man with the brimmed hat stepped out and walked toward her.
So, she's sweaty and the guy from Poltergeist 2 is after her. "He looked every bit like an official with no slack to cut." 
"License and registration, please."
"Yes, sir," Sarah said, fumbling in the glove box, finding her wallet on top of the maps, hands slippery from nerves, credit cards shooting out of her fingers and onto the floor. Sarah picked up her driver's license, dove back into the glove box to retrieve the registration card, and handed one after the other to the officer.
So, the scene is of Sarah inside the car's glove box, wearing her stylish, blue quilted shirt, sweating profusely, with credit cards shooting from her fingers.  Nothing suspicious here, officer. 

She panics, thinking about how stupid it had been to rob the Morleys, how she's going to have to get out of the car and put her hands on the hood, how all the other cops that show up are going to laugh at her, how she's going to crack in the forthcoming interrogation. 
The pain in Sarah's ankle was excruciating, and along with it was a swooping dizziness that turned to nausea. What would happen to her? What would happen to Heidi?
Heidi?  Who cares?  Do you think Heidi's going to have anything to do with you when she finds out?  God, you're so stupid, Sarah.  Shit, the cop's back.
"Your left taillight is busted," he said. "You need to get that fixed right away."
Sarah apologized, sounding ridiculously guilty to her own ears, saying she hadn't realized the light was broken, promising she'd go to the auto shop - and then it was over. As the cruiser sailed past her, Sarah opened the car door and vomited into the street.
Funny, I just did the same thing.
"Thank you, God," she said out loud.
Go to Day 50. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Forty-Eight

Day 48, Chapter 48
In today's edition of "Thrilling Stories with Jim Patterson," Sarah Wells gets in her car.  What will she do when she gets there?  1-2-3 here we go!
1. Sarah almost cried out in relief when she saw her red Saturn...
2. She got inside, whipped off her lamp and knit hat in one movement, and stripped off her gloves.
3. She sat in the comforting dark of night, gripping the steering wheel, her ankle throbbing as she marveled at her minutes-long, heart-stopping escapade.
"Marveled", "minutes-long", "heart-stopping"   Gee, isn't there a better way of describing the events from yesterday's chapter, Mr. Patterson?  
It was unbelievable.  
Never mind.
Sarah fluffed up her hair, slipped on the blue quilted shirt she kept in the backseat, and started up the engine. 
Hey look!  A blue quilted shirt!

Stay focused!
...her mind floated on the aftermath of her success, starting to think now about seeing Heidi.  She imagined telling Heidi the truth about herself, about how the loot she'd stolen would fund their freedom for maybe the rest of their lives...
 Wait, her mind is floating on the afterbirth of... what?  I don't get it.
As she thought about Heidi clapping her hands and throwing her arms around her, a distant sound nagged at Sarah until she couldn't ignore the whine any longer. The looping, high-pitched wail came from behind...
Oh Heidi, you're such a simple soul.  Clap for me, Heidi!  What's that sound?  Oh crap, it's the cops!  Wait, they're idiots.  Forget it.
Sarah's mind churned and her heart nearly pounded out of her chest as she pulled over to the side of the road. 
Oh no, another "minutes-long escapade"!  What about that "comforting dark of night"?  Won't that protect us?  Is this quilted shirt bulletproof?  Help me Heidi, you're my only hope.  Clap the cops away!  It's not working!  They're coming!  My stomach's churning and my brain just pounded its way out of my skull!

'Til tomorrow then.
Go to Day 49.

Monday, June 14, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Forty-Seven

Day 47, Chapter 47
When we left things yesterday, Sarah "Hello Kitty the Cat Burglar" Wells was attempting to rob the home of sporting goods magnate, Jim Morley, when the drunken owner himself made an attempt to enter the locked bedroom Sarah was hiding in.  The question I had was whether Sarah would resort to faking amorous relations with another party in order to keep Morley out of the room.  Just as she makes her way back to the window to make her exit, Morley enters the room through an alternate entrance.  Oh shit.
He called out as he fumbled for the switch on the bedroom wall. "Is someone here?"
Sarah's mind did a backflip. Without the light, she could see him better than he could see her. She had to brazen it out. "Jim," she said, "can you give us some privacy, please?" 
"Laura? Laura, is that you? Jesus. I'm sorry. You and Jesse, take your time. Take all the time you need."
Awwwww yeah!  Mission accomplished. 

To make a great chapter even better, on the way out, Sarah finds the elusive home safe - cleverly hidden behind a small painting next to the bed, yet impossibly, left unlocked.  C'mon, who has the wherewithal to have an Agatha Christie safe behind a painting, but leaves the thing unlocked?  Not just unlocked - like just having the door open - this thing has a frickin' padlock on it, but the padlock is hanging open.  Like Morley just couldn't be bothered to close that clasp and save himself millions of dollars in jewelry and diamonds.  Sigh.

Sarah cleans out the safe and makes to leave. 
Time to go! Sarah peered out the window and saw a man walking his rottie.
(I included that last sentence just because it sounded so stupid, abbreviating Rottweiler.) Then she jumps out the window.  She sprains her ankle when she hits the lawn - I'm sure that this information will resurface.  Blah blah blah, see you tomorrow.
Go to Day 48.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Forty-Six

Day 46, Chapter 46
Sarah wriggled over the sill and dropped to the carpet.
Her head swam with a high-octane blend of elation, urgency, and fear.
Sarah gives herself 3 minutes to get into the Morleys' home, rob them, and get out.  (Although, the "urgency and fear" may just mean that she needs to use the restroom before she leaves.)  She crosses the room and closes & locks the door, so as not to be disturbed.  What if someone tries to get in?  Won't they think it odd that the door to the bedroom is locked?  Wait, think like JPatt!  That would be a perfect opportunity to stage a fake sex scene to keep the intruder away.  Keep your fingers crossed!
Sarah took in the heavy, Queen Anne-period maple furnishings, evidence of an inheritance as well as the bazillions the Morleys had made in sporting goods. 
What's with the Robin Hood, stealing-from-the-rich theme?  Does he think so little of us that we are supposed to forget that the author of this novel has also made "bazillions", lives in a huge mansion, and has author photos of himself seaside & in fashionable sailing digs?  The description of the Morleys' home contains oil paintings, a plasma screen television, and photos of the family in sailboats...or is that a description from the author bio on the back jacket?  

JPatt is a sexy beast isn't he?

Sarah was on her mark and ready to go.

She makes her way, in the dark, toward the closet in the bedroom, assuming that this is where a safe will be located.  The closet is massive and filled with "racks and racks" of extravagant clothes, but Sarah has a hard time finding the hidden safe.  The clock is ticking!
Sarah worked quickly, looking behind evening gowns and running her fingers along the baseboard moldings and shelves, feeling time whiz by as she inventoried the Morleys' frickin' closet.
Just as she gives up and turns off her headlamp (yes, she wears a headlamp on the job), someone tries to get in the bedroom.  "Hey, who locked the door?", some guy shouts.  C'mon fake sex scene!
The man called out again: "It's Jim. I need to use the can." His laugh was sloppy with drink. He put on a high-pitched, fruity voice. "Hello Kitty? Is that youuuu?"
Sarah's heart nearly stopped. It was Jim Morley, and he was pounding on his bedroom door.
"Hey. Open up!"
So exciting!!  How will Sarah get out of this one?!  Tune in tomorrow to find out!
Go to Day 47.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Forty-Five

Day 45, Chapter 45 - marking the start of Part Three: The Trap
The first paragraph is almost too much for me to handle this morning.
Sarah Wells crouched in the shrubbery between the huge Tudor-style house and the street, her clothes blending into the shadows. She was having a three-dimensional flashback of the Dowling job - how she'd hidden in the closet while the Dowlings made love, later knocking into that table of whatnots during her narrow frickin' escape. And then the worst part - the murder accusation hanging over her.
Oh man, I'm having another 3-D flashback!  Ahhh, more frickin' whatnots!  Somebody bring me a shrubbery!  

Sarah is breaking into the home of Jim and Dorian Morley, aka the "Sports Gear Morleys" who own the chain of athletic stores.  She has chosen this particular evening because the Morleys are having a "Big Chill" party in their backyard and will be distracted by entertaining their guests while Sarah steals all their diamonds.  That's the plan at least - it's not like anything happens in this chapter.  I mean, we don't want to blow all this plot all at once, do we?  Let's drag things out a little longer.  Here, let's recap the plot of the last 145 pages and 45 chapters:  

Burglar breaks into house, steals jewels, home owner kills his wife as a murder of convenience.  Cops stumped.  Serial killer kills woman & her child.  Cops stumped.  Sex scene.  Another sex scene.  A lesbian sex scene.  Killer kills again.  Cops stumped.  Killer kills again.  Cops stumped.  Burglar plans another robbery.

How that translates into 45 chapters, I'm not sure, even though I've spent the last 45 days writing about it.  So in this chapter, Sarah sneaks up to the side of the house, climbs the gutter, hangs on the windowsill for a few minutes, then hooks her leg onto the sill.  The end.

I'm more interested in what a "Big Chill" party would be like.  Lame.  Do you think JPatt has actually thrown a "Big Chill" party at his Florida mansion?  I bet he played the dead guy.
Go to Day 46.