Hope For Aspiring Authors (and a Book Review of “The Killing Clause” by Gregg Hurwitz)

Gregg Hurwitz is an author I deeply admire, a writer who goes to painstaking lengths in his research and carefully constructed prose. His settings (often my beloved California) take on a life of their own, and he knows how to keep a reader turning the pages. In my opinion, he’s one of the best thriller writers working today and it’s great to see the success his new Orphan X series is having.

kill clause.jpgThe Kill Clause is the first in his Tim Rackley series, and while the setting and characters and research are all there, it’s also obvious this is one of his earlier books. This novel is heavy on the grief, with the main character and his wife losing their daughter in a savage murder, but for a reason I can’t fully comprehend I never connected with their loss. Maybe I’m just a jaded and heartless individual, but the emotions never went beyond the words for me and I struggled to want to come back to this book. There were some major character decisions that were more plot driven than something the characters would have actually done as well as some very obvious by-the-book twists that were far too predictable. Again, read the whole jaded admission.

Interestingly, I purchased and started reading Hurwitz’s first two novels a while back and never could complete them. As an author myself, and someone who knows many novelists and would-be-writers, I find this incredibly encouraging. It really is the act of doing something that enables you to grow and learn from your mistakes and hone your craft and move on to the next project, and then the next and the next, hopefully improving every step along the way.

You don’t start off as a marathon runner, you tackle a single mile, and then as you condition yourself you keep pushing those boundaries you’ve already hit until soon you’re running further than you could have ever thought possible. Writing is no different, and sadly I see a lot of authors put out a single book and then spend the next several years marketing that one book, trying to grow their readership and market without ever doing the legwork of completing their next project. This would be like running a 5-K race and then repeatedly sharing your results with everyone you know, showing videos, putting new music tracks to clips, trying to get one more view on your Youtube channel, while giving up running! An actor doesn’t talk about the movie they were in two years ago. They promote the one that’s about to come out, creating buzz where they can while then moving on to the next project and the one after that.

So if you’re a writer or dream of one day being a writer, stop thinking about it. Stop talking about it. Stop spamming people with ads for what you’ve already created. Instead, write your next project. If you’re doing it correctly, challenging yourself with each project and not just repeating the same formula, you WILL get better. You WILL grow your marketshare. You WILL make a name for yourself. You might not be able to support yourself with your writing — less than 1% of authors do — but you will find joy in what you’re doing. And who knows, maybe like Gregg Hurwitz, you’ll break out with international success. Just know it’s a long road to get there and if you’re not enjoying the ride, you’re missing the point.

Enough of my ramblings. 2.5 stars for “The Kill Clause” – at least I finished this one, though my journey with Tim Rackley and company has come to an end.

Book Review: “Kill The Father” by Sandrone Dazieri

dazieri.jpgFar from your typical police procedural, Kill The Father, by Sandrone Dazieri, is a dazzlingly complex psychological thriller with two of the most memorable characters I’ve read in quite some time. These complexities however come with a caveat that this read will NOT be for everyone — in fact, I imagine this will be a somewhat polarizing read, with people who either love it or hate it.

Here’s what you need to know before deciding whether this one’s for you:

— Kill The Father is translated to English from its original Italian debut. For the most part the translation is fantastic, though there are moments where text or ideas feel “blocky” and not fully compatible.

— This is a longer novel than most within the genre, due – in part – to quite a bit of unnecessary filler of what happens “off camera.” Meaning, you’ll read about what the characters had for breakfast and the jog and shower they took before the scene starts. This takes what should be a tightly-wrought thriller and turns it into a much lengthier story. Taking that into consideration, this is by far one of the most character-driven thrillers you’ll find. These moments have their place, I just felt there were too many of them.

— The narrative point of view slips from third person to an omniscient narrator quite jarringly in places, jumping from one person’s thoughts to another’s mid-scene. Distracting at first, but not a complete buzz-kill.

— Dazieri does not pull any punches. This is a dark journey told through two broken protagonists. Conspiracies to political manipulations to the gritty details of an investigative mystery will keep you fully enthralled. As an example, there’s a four-five page description of a bomb exploding — (in contention for some of the best writing I’ve ever read). There will be details in this novel that haunt you and keep you awake at night.

— It’s all about the characters. Colomba Caselli and Dante Torre are ingeniously drawn and its the dynamics between the two of them that carries this novel. With Dante, it’s hard not to draw comparisons to a modern Sherlock Holmes, though one who suffers from a plague of mental issues due to his own sordid past with the Father. These are characters you grow to love, characters you root for to win.

This novel is a slow bath, one that’s meant to be drawn out and enjoyed, a story that allows you to lose yourself within it. I, for one, am looking forward to more from Sandrone Dazieri.

** I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley and chose to review it. All opinions are my own **