Writer’s Desk: Pull a Gatsby

Megan Abbott, whose newest novel The Turnout is out this month, had some good advice for how to find the right narrative perspective for your book:

I’ve always been interested in the “Gatsby structure,” which is when you don’t tell the story from the point of view of the most interesting character, though they can become the most interesting character, of course. You let Nick Carraway tell it…

You want a watcher to tell your story. Somebody with an exciting life may not have the time or focus to notice what’s happening around them.

Reader’s Corner: ‘You Will Know Me’

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One of the finest American crime and noir novelists working today, Megan Abbott specializes in tales of domestic unease that stick with you long after the book is done. She’s been getting plaudits from the likes of Paula Hawkins and James Ellroy. Her latest, You Will Know Me, a suburban murder melodrama, was just released and looks like it might be the biggest hit of Abbott’s career.

My review is at PopMatters:

You Will Know Me is an emotionally grisly mystery story where the crime was committed long before the dead body appeared. Set in one of those suburbs where certain kinds of parents seem to do nothing but act as a shuttle service for their off-spring (school, activities, repeat), Megan Abbott’s novel starts at a party where everything just seems wrong no matter how much effort is put into making it right. Parents and teenagers mingle. There’s too much sweet-tasting alcohol, too many songs remembered from younger and more daring times, and too many limits tested. It’s as though everybody were rewarding themselves for abstaining from their true, dark desires for so long…

Reader’s Corner: Women and the New Noir

meganabbottIt used to be that mysteries were a particularly men-centric corner of the publishing world. You had your Agatha Christie and later on Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell. But while those authors could sell in the millions, the authors that many literary types preferred tended toward the male: Raymond Chandler and the like.

But more recently, in the post-Gone Girl era, that seems to have changed. Not only do female readers appear to be taking up more of the audience, and women authors occupying more of the bestseller positions in the genre, but the books are increasingly being critically recognized.

There’s good reason for that, argues Terrence Rafferty:

The female writers, for whatever reason (men?), don’t much believe in heroes, which makes their kind of storytelling perhaps a better fit for these cynical times. Their books are light on gunplay, heavy on emotional violence. Murder is de rigueur in the genre, so people die at the hands of others—lovers, neighbors, obsessive strangers—but the body counts tend to be on the low side. “I write about murder,” Tana French once said, “because it’s one of the great mysteries of the human heart: How can one human being deliberately take another one’s life away?” Sometimes, in the work of French and others, the lethal blow comes so quietly that it seems almost inadvertent, a thing that in the course of daily life just happens. Death, in these women’s books, is often chillingly casual, and unnervingly intimate…