Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Little Too Much Description!!!

By Fred Fields

Since his death in 2001, 23 new novels have been published in Robert Ludlum's name. Tom Clancy and James Patterson rarely write the new novels attributed to them; WEB Griffin, one of my favorite authors, has turned his writing chores over to his son, William E Butterworth IV (WEB).

I mention these facts to demonstrate a new era in publishing, one that causes some pain to readers when the substitute authors don't meet the standards of their originals.

Here is a demonstration of the quality of Butterworth's writing, and why I no longer look for Griffin in the bookstores. The following is a synopsis of eight pages, early in the book, Double Agents, by Griffin (Butterworth IV).

Bottom of  Page 17: President Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomes General William J. Donovan to the Oval office, followed by a description of Donovan.

Page 18: Begins with two paragraphs commenting on Donovan's recent promotion from colonel to brigadier general. This is followed by two paragraphs about what Donovan thinks of Roosevelt's happy state of mind, and that he is sorry to be bringing bad news. Donovan says how happy he is to note the President's good mood. Roosevelt thinks Donovan looks unhappy. The next paragraph discusses Donovan's experience in World War I.

Page 19: Continues Donovan's record, including partial wording of his Medal of Honor citation, followed by eight paragraphs describing the two men's original meeting and subsequent friendship.

Page 20: Six more paragraphs about the friendship. Four paragraphs about what FDR is thinking about the lack of coordination of intelligence gathered during World War II.

Page 21: The whole page is devoted to the history of interagency warfare between intelligence services and the formation of the department of Coordination of Intelligence, headed by Donovan.

Page 22: More on the Coordination of Intelligence Department and its transition to the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services.

Page 23: History of the President's desk, (yes) along with a description of its contents, including FDR's stamp collection and how the State Department saves foreign stamps for his collection. A paragraph describing the Oval Office. Roosevelt looks out the window at his rose garden, rolls his wheelchair behind the desk, and asks about Donovan's family.

Page 24: Five paragraphs about the Donovan family condition. Two paragraphs about Major James Roosevelt, USMC. Donovan goes back to discussing his son's military activities

Page 25: In paragraph two, General Donovan finally delivers the news that the Germans have nerve gas in Sicily! On the ninth page after we learn that General Wild Bill Donovan has important news for the President, we finally find out what the news is.

BORED TO SLEEP? ME TOO! By this time, I have put the book down and decided no longer to search for Griffin books in the bookstores.


Len Lawson said...

This concept can be a power struggle between show vs. tell. Too much description or explanation can wear a reader out. Too little will leave them asking too many questions. There is definitely an art to this balance.

WritePersona said...

I don't understand why any writer would entrust the good reputation he's built to any other person, of whatever perceived talent. In this regard, writers are unlike other artists. Would Andy Warhol or Edward Hooper have given up artistic control of their work? Would any other painter? Any sculptor? Movie director? Maybe the difference is that painters are all artists, as are sculptors and directors, but all writers aren't artists.