Daily Archives: January 17, 2012

Suspense on the Reginald Hill

I only want to add a small footnote to the obituary of crime writer Reginald Hill, whose passing is covered adequately elsewhere http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/13/reginald-hill?intcmp=239
Hill was one of the few popular crime fiction writers to do suspense.
The detective thriller is mostly modelled across the world on the American template, a series of puzzles within the main enigma. The author will make a cryptic statement, explained three or four sentences later. A mystery introduced in chapter 9 will be solved in chapter 10, 11 or 12. This is the structure of the page turner and a profitable one it is.
Hill, most famed for the Dalziel and Pascoe series, liked to mix it up more, accounting for his literary forays into historical novels, adventures, and rural comedies.
He liked to imbue humour, whimsy and sometimes satire, in  Dalziel and Pascoe novels as well as suspense.
Suspense is a different animal to mystery or the puzzle. 
The 20th century doyen of suspense was film maker Alfred Hitchcock. The stratagem of the auteur is to have the villain and the viewer/ reader privy to to the violent plan which is unknown to the intended victim.
Suspense is a wonderful device. The late Reginald Hill, an expert  proponent keeping it alive, we salute you.

Real books are for people who cannot accept reality

eBooks are real: there I have said it.
I thought we would quickly see the end of the absurd term “real books’’ favoured by counter revolutionaries in publishing, literary retail and  media. It seems not.
The homage to the 3D book – I think that is a term we can agree on – the video  The Joy of Books’ has rightly gone viral on You Tube. It approached two million views when I last looked with 28,000 likers and 160 dislikers. I think many of the naysayers were more turned off by the propaganda than perceived lack of quality. At the end of the comes the moral: “There is nothing quite a like a real book.’’
Well, those books in the video appearing on our flat computer screens look much like 3D books, thanks to digital technology. Here’s the rub: this surreptitious attack on digital books is only possible because of digital technology. If the story was told in a 3D book it would never have reached two million readers in a short space of time.
Irony is a much abused word but it is an appropriate description here. Let us vow to poke fun at real books as humour is a good debunker of silliness.
Most real books are fiction with fantasy, romance and the supernatural some of its popular genres. Almost all reality in 3D books is rendered by text which comes from the Latin to weave thoughts. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=textMost reality is comprised of thoughts. Descartes was right: I think therefore I am. Unfortunately the first “I’’ presupposes a human before they start thinking or reading real books. But that quibbling is for the philosophers to worry about. The counter-revolutionary literati know what’s real.
Text in eBooks looks much the same on a flat screen as it does on the flat page of a real book. But there is obviously a difference beyond some book fonts translating better than others to the screen. I created a controlled experiment reading Alice in Wonderland in the 3D book and as an eBook.
I was quite disturbed when the Walrus said, The time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things  Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings / And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wigs.’’ I knew we had climate change but I had no idea the sea had turned boiling hot. Yet I could not shrink from this disaster which was in a real book. Only when I read the digital version a couple of times did I realise Lewis Carroll made it up to make us laugh.
My adverse experience with a real book aside, I wish the counter-revolutionaries well. I, too, like 3D books and I have four of them sitting near my computer screen. Let’s just have the debate within a circle of sense and sensibility and exclude the nonsense of a real book. Elsewise, we will need to continue to extract fun from it.Can you think of anything else funny about real books?