Comparatively Fantastic! Our favourite authors

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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:01 pm

:lol: I did qualify it by saying - diverting attention away from what can be (in some cases) a not terribly good storyline? I have read some graphic non-superhero novels and enjoyed them to read and to look at, but I guess I've never yet got over the prejudice that they're 'proper' works of fiction (or whatever) where by and large (except for dustjacket and maybe a few plates) its you and the author working at the inner visualisation aspect?

And I do draw and paint myself (the latter digitally these days admittedly) so I know exactly what you mean. But then if you take that to a logical conclusion why bother publishing it in 'novel' form at all? Just use the plot & artwork to storyboard/script a movie which is even more easy to absorb?

I've grown up with a vivid imagination I suppose so I mostly don't need the visual input. Some authors are bloody annoying and don't do much in the way of descriptive writing and even the best of them - my 'god' Tolkien being numbered amongst these as he was shocking with his lack of physical info on characters - so yes of course artist/writer combos are often highly sophisticated and successful.

In the end I suppose its down to personal preference and your own reading/comprehension ability to some extent maybe? And I don't mean that in a derogatory fashion as such (though I guess to some extent it's down to what 'sort' of books you associate with GNs). For instance I can't see and certainly wouldn't read something by Trollope or Austen in that format, although I did read a modern adaptation of Madame Bovary (Gemma Bovary) as a GN (although that was in some respects a spoof). So I guess I'm a snob about these things in the end - but not as much a one as my sister who refuses and still does refuse to watch Peter Jackson's LotR Trilogy because 'it will spoil my vision of the books'.

Maybe we should agree to differ on this one :)

Cinderella was perhaps too much of a literal blanket term - but that also depends on how you define 'happy endings'. Mine don't necessary confine themselves or even have to be rags to riches.
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Postby Tonyblack » Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:12 pm

:lol: Terry is particularly bad at describing his characters physically in most cases. However, that's fine by me. I don't need a picture to imagine a character and sometimes someone else's image can be just plain wrong in my head.

I once had a conversation with a guy I know who didn't see the point of books at all and thought that they should just concentrate on making movies. Shades of Farenheit 451 there. Escaping into a good book is a pleasure in itself and a great stimulus for the mind and imagination.

I am in no way decrying graphic novels or comics - they are an art form in their own right and in some ways just another way of putting across a story in the same way that books, movies and theatre are. But I have to admit that I don't have a lot of experience of them. :)
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Postby Jarmara » Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:15 pm

Yeah, well bad writing is bad writing, a weak plot is a weak plot and will fail in comic form just as much as in standard form. The average comic book reader these days is a man in this 30's with a degree, not someone to be easily distracted by all the pretty pictures :lol:

I'm not suggesting comics are superior to normal books, clearly not as I'm on this forum because I do read non-comics. I don't even own the graphic discworld books as I don't see the need. All I'm saying is they're not inferior by any means and deserve as much respect as any other form of fiction. I may also be suggesting that to reject the format out of hand would be to miss out on some very excellent writing. I can get a bit soap-boxy about it though :oops:
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Postby Tonyblack » Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:19 pm

Jarmara wrote:
I'm not suggesting comics are superior to normal books, clearly not as I'm on this forum because I do read non-comics. I don't even own the graphic discworld books as I don't see the need. All I'm saying is they're not inferior by any means and deserve as much respect as any other form of fiction. I may also be suggesting that to reject the format out of hand would be to miss out on some very excellent writing. I can get a bit soap-boxy about it though :oops:


Absolutely! :D
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:39 pm

And the artwork for it's own sake is wonderful as well - as we saw with the various Discworld fanart that you put up in the art thread Tony?

Actually just backing up a little on your point about GNs being a close collaborative process between writer and artist/illustrator Jarmara, with that of course you would get a truer visual the writer's vision of his characters and landscapes supporting the words. And in other cases maybe the art comes first and helps the writer to develop the attitude of characters and define environments - I think most animation studios certainly have their artists (trad or cgi) work in tandem or collectively with writers and live actors too for visual characterisation certainly, but also to ensure the action sequences 'work' well and the hero doesn't run like a girl... :P (as opposed to vocal sound track/drawing synchronisation which is actually done quite early on in the animation process).

So yes I can and do see how it is a distinct literary form and like any others there are great works and not so great - although I'm not so sure about 30 something men with degrees as an indication of inherent quality and integrity - but then I will admit to being completely jaundiced if not downright prejudiced in that dept... :twisted:
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Postby swreader » Mon Jan 19, 2009 1:34 am

Jan, I'm so glad to see that you've posted this thread, especially since it gives us a chance to talk about books in general that we've really liked. I have several types of books that I like and have read, so for this post, let me tell you about three mystery authors that I have liked tremendously. Interestingly enough--though not comic, or overtly comic--these authors are neither puzzle mystery or the brain candy type - that you read because they hold your attention on a long flight--but don't care if you never read again. But like Pratchett, all three of these authors both entertain (superb storytellers) but equally all of them take you into different worlds to deal with problems that make you think.

Tony Hillerman - Although I must admit that I have my favorites (Dance Hall of the Dead, Coyote Waits if I have to mention two), Hillerman was the first writer (in mystery or other genre as far as I am aware) to set his police procedural mysteries on the Navajo Reservation. He has a tremendous ability to create a sense of place that becomes almost a character, and to incidentally introduce you to a different culture--one with great value and insight, but not well-known to lots of people. But be warned - Hillerman is as addictive as Pratchett & will make you really want (as Tony & I have done) to visit the land he describes.

Margaret Coel - What Hillerman did for the Navajo, Coel has done for the Arapaho who now live on the Wind River reservation in Wyoming. Her detectives--a lady Arapaho lawyer & a white mission priest--will by definition never be more than great friends (though the relationship has a certain tension). Coel explores some of the problems that relate specifically to Native Americans in this brilliant series of mysteries. The Lost Bird, for example, as a background to the plot, deals with the fact that thousands of Indian children were essentially kidnapped and adopted by white families because presumably well-meaning people thought it was better for them to be raised as white. And The Spirit Woman, which weaves the story of Sacajawea (the guide for Lewis & Clark's expedition) into a current mystery was a well-deserved award winner. Coel weaves the frontier history of the Arapaho into the present with a skill few other writers can match.

Peter Bowen has written about 12 mysteries set in Montana and featuring Gabriel Du Pre a Metis cattle brand inspector (in the first of his novels) Coyote Wind and uses him and his family and a mysterious ancient Medicine Man to create novels that explore social problems that particularly affect Native American people but also all of us. The Stick Game (which I am reading now) deals with the sometimes fatal impact of water pollution by mining companies which has caused birth defects and later illnesses both mental and physical. Unfortunately his books have only been published in hardcover, but reasonably priced used copies are readily available on Amazon. I couldn't have summed up his work better than this review of his first book.

"Bowen has taken the antihero of Hemingway and Hammett and brought him up to date....As the best literary novels are able to do, Coyote Wind brings many worlds together and hones the language to create a fresh, memorable character and a profound vision." -Jonis Agee, The New York Times Book Review
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Postby Tonyblack » Mon Jan 19, 2009 7:29 am

I can certainly vouch for Tony Hillerman (who died recently). Sharlene recommended his books and I devoured them and learned a great deal not only about the Navajo way of life but also about the wat the Navajo people think. They have, for example, an incredibly dry sense of humour which Hillerman portrays really well. I was delighted to learn (when we spent almost a week on the Reservation) that that sense of humour is for real.

I haven't read any of the other two authors Sharlene mentioned, but I will do on my next trip to Tucson. :)
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Postby WannabeAngua » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:55 pm

I'm a criminal novel lover myself. Have every one of Kathy Reichs books and think they're all great, but must say I think it is riddiculus that the series Bones are supposed to be based on her books :?
Sure the basic idea are from the books, but the rest seems to be totally unrelated.
So glad I discovered Kathy Reichs because P. Cornwells latest books (and they "sort of" write about similar topics) are just...maybe uninspired is the word.

Also read all the Lee Childs books about Jack Reacher who is just the ultimate lean, mean, fighting machine. That is, he's not mean but there is absolutely nothing that man cannot do :lol:

John Connoly is another good writer in my wiew, but haven't read all his books yet. Enjoyed Book of lost things and Black angel.

Hmm, who's next....Some of James Rollins books are quite action filled and fun. They can be a bit too much sometimes, he's the one who wrote the book wich the latest Indiana Jones movie is based upon. Didn't like that one at all.

Mo Hayder writes great, but really creepy. Haven't been able to re-read The treatment after my baby was born...to close to home.

Also read a lot of Stephen King, some of his work I like, som I don't.

There are more, but need time to figure out who to mention next.

And by the way, speaking of graphic books, have any of you read the Elfquest series?? Spent hours and blissfull hours reading them again and again and again :)

OMG, almost forgot Neil Gaiman - a thousand apologies.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:04 pm

I wish my old man had a library I wanted to 'devour' Tony :lol: But it's all aviation collectors type stuff :x

Sharlene - I've always been interested in Native American culture (my Dad's a wild west nut, although with him it was cowboy/gunslinger movies more that drew him initially) and I know the Navajo in particular have a very rich cultural background - was it their very complex language that was used for the US 'unbreakable' code in WW2 I heard somewhere? And close to where I live now there was a water pollution scandal that still hasn't been satisfactorily resolved in 20 years (Camelford), whilst the medical corroboration that people were severely and fatally ill as a result is now almost incontravertible and still no proper settlement with the Water Authority concerned and fairly justified rumours of earlier medical evidence being suppressed or completely wiped.
And in 1920/30s Australia, 'half-caste' aboriginal children were also mandatorily taken away from their native mothers and placed in orphanages (so not even a foster home) - did anyone see that Kenneth Brannagh film over Xmas about those 3 girls (two of them only about 6 I think) who ran away and lived rough and even walked for a week across the desert to get back to their families?
So truth being without doubt stranger than fiction, I can see how these books must grip the imagination even before you get onto the spirit/medicine man side of things. :)

I also know what you mean about brain candy with the convoluted detective novel or salacious romp that'll be in one lobe and out the other in next to no time. :lol: Sometimes that kind of book's very readable in a sort of 'I know its bad but it tastes so good' way and actually I do have a favourite author of that pulpy 'mildly X-rated posh people having a good time' genre (Jilly Cooper) who once saw me through a disastrous trip to a very swampy and ill-equipped 'safari resort' in Tanzania by making me laugh when all around me was going belly up. That was Rivals for the record - about TV types trying to win the franchise for the ITV region that covered Rutshire (as in stags rutting - subtle huh! :twisted: ) and sort of based loosely on the celebrity/monied 'set' in the Cotwolds. Jilly's an ex-journalist who's horse-mad (her recurring hero is now getting a little long in the tooth and has settled down to train race-horses after retiring from a glittering career in show-jumping and being an MP for a time :lol: ). Her writing's actually pretty engaging and witty, so it certainly qualifies on candy status and she's also a good researcher too so the 'fluff' does actually hang quite nicely as you zip on through. And she does a nice line in Cinderella/fella 'journeys' too.

So comfort reading has its place, although I wouldn't so readily admit to enjoying Jackie Collins or Harold Robbins who are also arguably great story-tellers and Robbins work of course made some cracking movies (I'm thinking Nevada Smith and The Carpetbaggers more than the TV mini-series spin-offs). Funnily I wouldn't be so shy about saying I really liked Jacqueline Susann - whose Valley of the Dolls must be right up there as one of the most compelling books of the 20th Century - I would however make a point in saying that I was only 16 when I got into Jacqueline and Harold.... So that was really a kind of knee-jerk protest on getting to earn my own money and not having to read set-book Dickens any more :P
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Postby Tonyblack » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:10 pm

Angua I agree about Kathy Reichs. People kept telling me that I must read Patricia Cornwell so I tried and hated her writing. I just couldn't care less about her characters and that was a real put off. Then Sharlene suggested that I try Reichs and what a difference. :D

Kathy Reichs is, to a degree, the person she writes about. A forensic anthropologist working in North Carolina and Quebec. She knows her stuff and the science in the books is authentic. But her character is likeable and funny as well. The reader cares about her and gets scared for her when she's in danger.

The books can be quite gory, but that's not over done and it's authentic. Her character cares about the victims she tries to identify and that adds to the realism.

As to the TV series - I haven't seen it, but I have seen an interview with Reichs where she talks about it. She is very much involved in the making of the series and is a consultant for the technical side, but the series is sort of set using a younger Temperance Brennan before the events in the books - sort of. Brennan in the books is in her mid forties, I think the Brennan in the series is considerably younger. :D

I'd recommend the books.
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Postby Tonyblack » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:17 pm

Jan that movie is called Rabbitproof Fence and is excellent!

Yes it was indeed the Navajos who created the code based on their language. It was a big secret for many years and it's only fairly recently that they've been recognised for it. I have a book here that I got from the AMARIND Foundation all about the Code Talkers. There was a movie starring Nicolas Cage about the code talkers, but it really is a load of crap and should be avoided at all costs - they didn't even use real Navajos. :shock:
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:23 pm

Angua - we simuled :lol:

In the detective genre I tend to like 'quirky' so I did like Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently books (who maybe doesn't count - I don't know really?) and I have read a couple of PD James books (and I love to watch the Adam Dalgleish TV specials - Roy Marsden is such a good actor of course) and find her a very intelligent writer. I tried to read Patricia Cornwell once as forensic medicine/pathology is so fascinating - and yes I agree she's hard going so I didn't persevere.

But as a 'type' I don't tend to read crime books too much, possibly because they're so 'overdone' on TV and film... Although one of my all-time favourite films is Outland which is a detective story but set on one of the moons of Jupiter (Sean Connery starred which may also account for this but it was a great plot) - oh and also Julian May's Rampart Worlds would qualify too - but those of course have a sci-fi basis which possibly over-rides

I'll talk about Julian May another time as she's right up there with Pterry and Tolks for me - a very under-rated and under-read author I think as few people I talk to have heard of her.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:28 pm

Argh! Tony - we simuled ROFL.

I loathe Nicolas Cage too although he's been in good movies generally with others who made up for him being so - sucky :x

Argh! and I meant to comment on Mr King too... :roll:
So this is an edit :P He is too prolific, too varied and so in some cases (most possibly) - too trite. I;ve enjoyed some of the early horror stuff and Stand By Me is another of my all time fave films (I adored River Phoenix) and I now find most of his books far to glib and almost formulaic? It's like - ooo yeah - we haven't had a decent shocker for about - shall we say 30 pages... get another one in and then we'll cosy again for another 2 - hell maybe 5 as I just excelled myself I think. That how I feel sometimes with his stuff anyway, just too mechanical in a way maybe.
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Postby Who's Wee Dug » Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:49 am

I have quite a collection of humorous SF and Fantasy Authors like Robert Rankin's tales of toot and far fetched fiction,Tom Holt, and Anthologies Edited by Mike Ashley, and Peter Hanning.

Spoofs of Star Trek, Star Wars, LOTR and The Hobbit Etc.

Which lightens the load and makes you laugh and smile. :)
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:00 pm

Heya Wee Dug - :D I think Tom Holt's a wonderfully funny and perceptive writer although I've only really read his 'follow-up' Lucia books that continues E.F. Benson's memorable and awe-inspiring (as in I don't understand how she has the brass neck!) social titan-bully's career with 'Lucia in Wartime' and 'Lucia Triumphant' - I have read Grailblazers and (I think anyway) Expecting Someone Taller (there was a time in late 80's early 90's where my head was not altogether retentive for various reasons so memory is hazy as I read A LOT... ahem!). I think his work is sort of comparable with Pterry although Tom's fantasy is bound to our Terran reality so in a way he's Douglas Adams and Pterry cross genre-wise? :roll: But nevertheless a very intelligent and skilled writer - borne out with the Lucia continuations 'cos if you hadn't clocked the author info then his style in there is barely an eyeblink's different to Benson's.

And spoofs... :twisted: Did you ever read Bored of the Rings by any chance? :P That's by National Lampoon (who also amongst other things wrote the book of the film for Animal House and the Chevy Chase Vacation movies) and in Bored features such memorable characters as Tim Benzedrine and Eorache, Goodgulf and Gimlet, Spam Gangree... very, very sidesplittingly funny book if you haven't seen it. NL did a whole series of rip-off parodies and another one of theirs I loved was Doon - about a Dessert planet with wild, dangerous but delicious free-roaming.... pretzels. Mad stuff and laugh a minute if not a page! :D

Guaranteed to cheer you up but subtle they're not of course :lol:
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