Tuesday, January 26, 2010

James W. Hall

James W. Hall recently presented his new book, Silencer, at Inkwood Books in Tampa. Hall started his career by writing poetry.  Luckily for his many fans he switched to writing mystery/suspense stories set in the messed up state of Florida. He won a Shamus Award for best novel from the Private Eye Writers of America for Blackwater Sound.  He won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his short story, “The Catch” which was published in Greatest Hits: Original Stories of Assassins, Hitmen, and Hired Guns.

During his presentation Hall shared with the audience his like for John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee mysteries, and the influence these stories have on his own writing.  My friends and I also enjoyed the Travis McGee novels.  This could explain the popularity of Hall among my contemporaries, and the large percentage of males in the audience.

Hall admits his main protagonist, Thorn, differs from McGee on a couple of points.  McGee tends to be outgoing, and he does salvage jobs for people.  He assists people in regaining assets through various means that may or may not be legal, and he keeps a percentage of whatever he recovers.   Thorn on the other hand, tends to be a loner, and trouble finds him.  One thing the two protagonists share is the likelihood their female companions will experience untimely deaths.

Hall also made the point concerning the importance of character growth.  He follows the traditional literary approach that the character should grow/change from the beginning to the end of the book.  “The character ends in a different psychological place than where he begins.” I agree with the importance for the character to change or evolve in a story.  I have quit reading a couple of mystery series because the character does not grow.  The character becomes predictable, and makes the same mistakes in every book.

I enjoyed the author discussion today. He managed his time well, and entertained questions from the audience.  During the signing he shook hands, and had time to chat with the attendees. Inkwood Books provided a comfortable location for the discussion and had plenty of books on hand for the signing.  

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