Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Heart Dennis Lehane

by Susan Seyfarth

I'll say it right up front: I don't read to improve my mind.

Reading does improve my mind, of course, but it's just a fringe benefit. I read to be entertained. I read to be taken away. I read to get sucked in, carried along, then spat out, exhausted but satisfied. I read to see characters I love grow, change & earn their happy endings.

I read because sometimes characters become so real to me that I keep thinking about them well after The End. I hear their voices in my head, the particular cadence of their speech. They turn up in my dreams.

If I find an author who can give me those kinds of characters plus the happy ending I love so much, I'm a fan for life. I'll gorge on their backlist then gnash my teeth, mutter bad-tempered things about slow writers & wait for a new book to come out.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself crushing on Dennis Lehane.

The characters are everything I could want but Dennis Lehane isn't exactly Mr. Happy Ending.

Remember Mystic River? It came out as a movie several years ago--Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon? Three kids in Boston who used to be friends until one of them got snatched off the street by child molesters? That was Dennis Lehane.

Remember Gone, Baby, Gone? Another book-turned-movie. Came out last year, Ben Affleck's directorial debut, earned his little brother Casey a Best Actor nomination? The one about a little girl's kidnapping & the PIs who investigate? Also Dennis Lehane.

I enjoyed the movies. But I wasn't hooked. Not until my husband brought home Shutter Island from the library. Shutter Island starts out like a traditional dectective novel. A U. S. Marshall is called to a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from a hospital for the criminally insane. And you roll through 2/3s of the book totally buying it.

And then the final third unspools & you think, "Wait. I didn't sign up for this. I was supposed to get a detective novel. Good guys taking it on the chin, then rising up in triumph. I didn't sign up for...for...for THIS."

Because what you get is totally different from what you're led to expect. And it's a mark of Lehane's immense talent that when it's all said & done, you're satisfied. You think, "Okay, not what I was hoping for, but it was the only way. I see that now. If I had been paying attention, I'd have seen it sooner."

I'm being purposefully vague because I don't want to unload any spoilers on you. I'll only say this: The book jacket actually says "Nothing is what it seems." But do you believe it? Of course not. Lehane takes you by the hand & says, "Pay no attention to that. We're going this way." And you go. He's that good.

After I finished the book, though I realized what really impressed me about it. As a writer, I know how hard it is to keep several balls in the air. Try writing a sex scene or a fight scene sometime--it's like being schizophrenic. You have to keep track of the physical action, the emotional consequences of that action, & then keep moving the plot forward at the same time. It's one scene--five to ten pages--and it's exhausting.

Then I thought about Lehane writing an entire novel in which he knows the reader is going to think one thing is happening while meanwhile an entirely different reality is spinning out before our eyes. But we don't see behind the curtain until close to the end of the book. So he had to write an entire novel in which every single scene had to work on two levels--the surface level he'd encouraged us as readers to buy, then the ultimate reality which he as a writer had to make inevitable so that we'd get to the end of the book & think, "Of course. I should have known. I should have seen it sooner." But that's the trick. We did see it sooner. We saw everything. He laid it right out there. We just didn't get it.

So here I am, the most devoted hearts-and-flowers romance reader you're ever going to find, nursing a killer crush on a guy who takes me to some of the darkest, sickest corners the human psyche has to offer. And why? Because he's a damn good writer. Too good to resist.

Just try him. If you don't like him, that's okay. He's not the most comfortable of reads. But if you do like him, you're going to track me down me in San Fran next week to shake my hand. Either that or to punch me in the nose for getting you hooked on the literary version of crack cocaine.

Start with Shutter Island. They're making a movie of it as we speak (Scorcese!) so there's no time to waste.

So tell me--have you ever found yourself in love with something--a book, a food, a TV show, a person--that completely surprised you & everybody who knows you? Have you ever had a crush that was wildly out of character? When was the last time your heart surprised you?


Jennifer Y. said...

OOOH...just in time for him to sneak in my suitcase ;)

Jennifer Y. said...

I am pretty predictable, I guess...hmmm...I did have a fascination with Alton Brown's shows on the Food Network (and with the entire Food Network) that my family didn't quite get since my cooking skills involve pushing a button on a microwave. Every time the tv was on, it was on the Food Network...but I am growing out of that phase.

And my family used to make fun of me for watching shows like Junkyard Wars and Whose Line is it Anyway....

I guess a recent surprise enjoyment for myself has been the BBC show "Top Gear". I am not that into cars, but I love this show...the hosts crack me up and the cars kind of fascinate me.

jo robertson said...

Oh, Susan, I HEART Dennis Lehane. I read his books long before I picked up one by Nora Roberts. Obviously, I'm not one who HAS to have a happily ever after LOL.

I became hooked on Lehane when I read DARKNESS TAKE MY HAND, the first in a series about PI Patrick Kenzie and his secretary/partner Angela. This series starts in the tradition of the old noirs, but becomes increasingly dark and gritty. I loved them! Hehehehehe.

Wahoooo, Jennifer, AGAIN!!

Nancy said...

Jennifer, no! NO suitcase! The bird stays home. And congratulations.

I like the movie Terminator, the original one. The one that opens with Schwarzenegger ripping some guy's heart out of his chest and ends with . . . well, not the ending I was rooting for (adhering to your rule of not spoiling, Susan). Yet it worked. I think it holds up remarkably well.

When we were in San Francisco for our honeymoon, that movie came on TV. I turned to the dh and said, "This is the coolest movie! You have got to see this." We watched about half an hour before he turned to me and said, "You like this movie?" It was too late for him to change his mind, though. *g*

I think I like it so much because it works, even though it's much darker than I usually like, not to mention way more violent. I could say the same about the movie Broken Arrow with John Travolta, Christian Slater, and Samantha Mathis. That one, I like mainly because of Mathis's gutsy park ranger character. The ending is more upbeat, but it's still a very violent movie.

Jo, I've never tried Lehane. Maybe I should. That's 2 bandita recommendations.

Natalie Hatch said...

Jennifer, he's a tired guy after spending the day with my girls and Mister3 chasing him all over the yard.
I love Top Gear, Jeremy, Hamster and James are just great characters they roll off each other. Another really good British show is The IT Crowd, they're fantastic and I know people who are exactly like them, strange but true.
Susan, now you know I have to go find this book because you've got me intrigued.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

WTG Jennifer! But why am I not suprised the GR came to your house just in time to leave for SF?!?!

Thanx for the interesting post, Susan. I LURVED the films of both Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. Never read one of Lehane's books, however, since I'm an HEA gal.

Nancy, I too LURVED the original Terminator movie. The sequels, not so much. :-P Another movie I lurved was Pulp Fiction, but when I told my 2 sisters-in-law they were both terribly shocked (tho I doubt anyone here in the Lair is). One asked, Isn't it full of swearing? And the other said, Isn't it horribly bloody and violent? I had to admit yes on both counts but added that it was one of the most original films I'd ever seen. I doubt either of them watched it...

Something I totally LURVED that surprised me was the TV show Lost. First, I seldom watch TV, and second, this show was just plain WEIRD, but I quickly became addicted and even bought the first season the week it came out on DVD. Then came season 2 and... I wanted a DIVORCE! I still watch it, if I remember, but certainly not with the same fervor.

Helen said...

Well done Jennifer

Great post Susan you have me intrigued as well I will be looking for his books. And you described how I feel exactly when I pick up a book by one of my favourite authors and how I feel waiting for another one from them.

I really love the Harry Potter books and movies it tool a while for my daughters to convince me to watch the first movies with them I kept saying I didn't want to that they didn't interest me but I am so glad I finally gave in and watched the first two movies at home on video then that was it I read the first 4 books in two weeks just in time for the release of the 5th book and have picked the 6th and 7th books up as soon as they were released and read them in 24 hours and I am at the movies either on release day or the next day to see the movies love them but I do surprise a lot of my friends who can't understand why love them so much when I read romance all the time. The next Harry Potter movie is due for release here in Australia on 11th Dec the day one of my daughters baby is due I have told her till wait till I have seen the movie or go early LOL

Have Fun

Carol said...

Susan, thanks for the book recommendation! My local library had quite a few I'm next in line...
I also loved Mystic River, Terminator, Pulp Fiction, anything with Tommy Lee Jones too! Three Burials...
and I really loved Rendition (great movie! we had our own issue in Au about this! I would'nt want this to happen to anyones son!)

Nancy my son has to have his fix of Terminator(now 26) at least once a year!

Jennifer... I think he knows you are on his side...have you got a special compartment in that bag!

Cheers Carol

Christie Kelley said...

I'll say it right up front: I don't read to improve my mind.

Okay, I LOVE this sentiment! Because I feel the same way and always have.

So my secret passion is the TV show Supernatural. When I started watching this show I never expected to love it and its characters the way I do. My husband doesn't get it and he can't stand to watch the show. But luckily, my 16 yr old also loves it.

One of my secondary characters was created with Dean Winchester in mind. I just lurv Dean.

Anyone with me on this??

Louisa Cornell said...

Of course he WOULD hitch a ride to San Francisco with the one gal who lets him do whatever he wants. Look out Golden Gate! The Golden Rooster is coming! Safe journey, Jennifer. I'm not flying out until Tuesday.

I loved the movie Mystic River! Haven't read any of his books so I will add them to the TBB list. Sounds like a great suggestion to put on my list for Christmas.

I resisted the Harry Potter phenom until my brother told my nephew he couldn't read them because their minister said they were evil. Can't stand ignorance like that! SO, I told my nephew to suggest that I read them first to screen them and see if his Dad would let him read them then. Fortunately my brother trusts me implicitly when it comes to all things "intellectual" so our nefarious plan worked. I read each book as they came out, then called my brother and said "Buy the kid the book!" And of course I was hooked from the start. Attended the release party at our local bookstore at midnight for the release of the last one. We even had our own Hagrid there and lots of little Hogwarts students and teachers in full regalia. The hostess of said party is coming to San Francisco with me so you will get to meet her. For the last book my nephew, who at the time was 16, called me every day to say "Are you finished yet? Are you finished yet?" What he didn't know was I had already bought the book and fed exed it to my Mom's. I will be forever grateful to J.K. Rowling for writing something so magical it kept an Alabama deer hunting, mud riding, football playing, FFA member reading through high school and maintaining a terrific relationship with his old aunt who loves him. We are reading the Eragon series AND the Twilight series together now.

Susan Sey said...

Jennifer Y! Congrat on the GR, you early riser, you!'re bringing him along? Hang on to your hats, everybody, the GR is about to be set loose in the City of Love! :-)

And I hear you on the food network. For a while I liked to watch surgery shows on TV. And I feel faint at the sight of actual blodd, but TV blood was apparently a different story. It gave my family plenty of chuckles.

Susan Sey said...

Jo! I just scarfed up all the Kenzie/Gennero mysteries & am now in total withdrawl. I just want to hang out with those people some more, you know? Plus, Bubba. I kind of have a little crush on Bubba now. What am I going to do NOW?

Susan Sey said...

Oh, Nancy, if you can hack the Terminator, you can hack Lehane. Waaaaaay more heart in Lehane than Schwartnegger.

p.s. I'm a sucker for Christian Slater. It all started with the Heathers...

p.p.s. I also love blow 'em up summer car chase movies. I watched Transformers like three times last summer & walked away with a raging crush on both Shia Leboeuf AND Optimus Prime. I know, sick, right?

Susan Sey said...

Natalie--I'm totally intrigued now by the Gear show. That's two mentions. Sigh. I'm going to have to google it now & get hooked, aren't I?

Gillian Layne said...

Hallelujah! "I don't read to improve my mind." I'm right there; as long as there's a HEA, I'm reading it. I've been shocked by the variety in my library now--I was telling dear Louisa all the types of books I DO like, and then I realized there isn't really anything I don't like....

People are surprised when I sing along to ACDC or Eminem. It's not like I listen to them all the time, but folks peg me more as a Josh Groban gal (who I also love).

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Oh Susan, my fascination with Robert Ludlum confused members of my family and just about any co-worker I had at the time I "discovered" his books! He became my sorbet. His books cleansed my pallate between gorging myself on a steady diet of romances. And you can see his influence in my writing.

Sigh. Then he died.

My new sorbet?

Steve Berry! Adored the Romanov Prophecy, and have three more of his books in my TBR...for that week when, a romance just won't cleanse my pallate!

peggy said...

I fall in love with a lot of charactors in books.

Jennifer Y. said...

Of course he WOULD hitch a ride to San Francisco with the one gal who lets him do whatever he wants. Look out Golden Gate! The Golden Rooster is coming! Safe journey, Jennifer. I'm not flying out until Tuesday.

LOL...I don't let him do what he wants...I have him trained better than that. ;o) I think he is scared of me...he's shaking over in the corner right now...not sure what the bird's been through lately.

Susan Sey said...

Hey, AC--if you loved the movies, you'll LURVE the books. Seriously. Soooooo good.

Oh, & LOST! I tried so hard not to watch that show. I didn't want to be addicted to a TV show. Then we got the first two seasons on DVD, crammed through them in like three weeks & sat there chewing our nails until September. Now though? I think they kinda jumped the shark. I mean, I'll watch next season, but if I miss a night? Eh. I'll catch it on line.

Susan Sey said...

Helen--I'm sure your daughter will understand & respect your need to see the new Harry Potter movie, & will hold off on labor & delivery until you're available. :-)

Besides, how many babies are born on their due dates anyway? Certainly none of mine were. Come to think of it, mine all came early. Huh. Impatient little things I guess. They still can't wait worth a darn. :-)

But seriously, one of the things I love most about the Harry Potter movies is Hogwarts. It's so gorgeously atmospheric & richly drawn, almost like another character--one of those world building things in action. I can't wait for the next one myself. I hear they're splitting the last book into two movies. Is this just a rumor? Anybody?

Susan Sey said...

Hi, Carol--Ooooh, you're in for a treat! Buckle up, because once you read one of his books, you're going to march straight down to the library & demand the rest of them ASAP! I have two Kenzie/Gennaro mysteries still in line, but I'm saving them for the plane ride to San Fran. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Christie--Supernatural, huh? I've heard of this, just never managed to catch it. Another one to put on my list, I suppose. :-) Another day, another addiction.

Have I ever mentioned that I used to LOVE me some Dawson's Creek? And in general, I guess I do just love teen TV.

Gillian Layne said...

My oldest daughter--HP super fan--assures me they most certainly are splitting the last book into two movies. :)

Susan Sey said...

Louisa--this is the coolest story. I love the auntie-nephew book club idea! I wish my sisters would have some darn kids so I could play, too!

I've heard the Twilight series is amazing. And Eregon, too. Man. I have a lot of book to read.

Susan Sey said...

Gillian! Another Eminem fan! I had to give him up when my kids got old enough to understand the radio, but it hurt me tremendously to do so. I also have a soft spot for Kid Rock. And country music. And ice skating movies. And the Olympics. Which is coming right up! Yay! I'm a total human interest sports watcher. Like I don't care so much about the score, but I love the backstories about the figure skater & her blind mom who comes to ever performance & has her husband narrate the action on the ice. Or the Russian orphan who overcame club feet to become a world-class gymnast or something. The cheesier the better!

Susan Sey said...

Suz! I love the idea of a non-romance as a palate cleanser. Steve Berry, huh? I'm trying so hard not to buy any books this close to Nationals--I always come home just swamped in books so why buy 'em you know? But on the other hand, I'm always building a list so I never turn up at the library without a Recommended list.

Susan Sey said...

Peggy said: I fall in love with a lot of characters from books.

Hi, Peggy! Any favorites? Anybody really stuck with you over the years?

Susan Sey said...

Jennifer Y wrote: he's shaking over in the corner right now...not sure what the bird's been through lately.

He's a master of deception, that bird. Don't let the vulnerable act fool you. Keep him on a short leash, or you'll find him in your underwear drawer, sure as anything. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Gillian wrote: My oldest daughter--HP super fan--assures me they most certainly are splitting the last book into two movies. :)

Thanks for the confirmation, Gillian. I actually like this idea. That last book was just crammed, plot-wise. It'll be nice to give all the info some room to breathe & unfold at a reasonable pace.

Nancy said...

AC, I know other people who reacted that way to Lost. Maybe it'll snap back this year.

Helen, we love Harry, too. We resisted for a while, just because the books had gotten so much buzz that we wondered if they were just the latest hot new thing, soon to fade. Then we read one, and wow! We were all hooked.

I hope your daughter's baby comes by 12/9!

Carol, I'm going to use Terminator in my SFF class this year. Most of the students weren't born when it came out, which makes me feel really, really old. *g*

Christie, I'm always suspicious of people who claim to read only for intellectual development. They sound as though reading for fun was somehow suspect, and that makes me think maybe they're closet readers of genre fiction. I like the quote, which I've heard attributed to H. L. Mencken, but I don't know whether it's his, that the intellectually secure can read whatever they please.

Louisa, there was always a huge flap around here when a new HP book came out. Some church or other was always having a book burning. Which is a shame and, imho, ultimately their loss. I'm glad you and your nephew are enjoying reading together. Our boy is getting away from reading, so I'm thinking of starting the evening reading custom again. If I can get him to go for it the way he did with Harry.

Susan, movies where stuff blows up is one of my guilty pleasures. I loved the Bourne movies. Reveled in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, though the video game doesn't appeal to me. I'm looking forward to the workshop on Joss Whedon (a HUGE fan of Battlestar Galactica, BTW) in San Fran. I wanted to take that workshop online but missed the cutoff date. Serenity is a great movie. We enjoyed it despite having not seen the Firely series that spawned it, though we immediately bought the box set Even the dh, who isn't that fond of stuff blowing up, enjoyed it. Lots of heart in that movie. And explosions. *g*

Gillian, I like a wide range of music, too. My niece was shocked, simply shocked to learn that I liked Avril Lavigne.

Suz, I read Berry's The Templar Legacy and really liked it. The pages just kept turning.

Peggy, I think the characters are everything. If I don't care about them, I have better things to do than stay with that book or movie.

Beth Andrews said...

Fun post, Susan! I've never read Lehane's books or seen the movies but they sound really great! At the suggestion of an editor, I read a few Harlan Coben books which are not my usual style at all but they were excellent stories. Gripping and chilling - the kind of story that stays with you long after you put the book down.

I really like the show Myth Busters - which comes as a surprise to me as I have absolutely no interest in science *g* I just let all the technical and mechanical stuff they do go in one ear and out the other but I so enjoy their humor :-)

Christie, I'm a Dean girl too! Which works as my older daughter prefers Sam *g*

limecello said...

Heh - I... am recently surprised by my love of the history channel. 3 years ago, a friend immediately turned on the history channel and I was all "ew" - but I've found some new loves, and it doesn't hurt there are all those specials on Batman/Dark Knight going on now. Squee.
I've always loved Food Network... but um... My Boys (no, that makes sense for me to like it.) Generally, sitcoms surprise me. Maybe I'll have some extra time and watch a show online, or :X I just won't feel like changing the channel because I'm doing something on the computer, and I discover a great show. Eli Stone I didn't think I'd like - but I love it. (And it's fun that Johnny Lee Miller is the star.)
Also, romantic suspense- I generally avoid it, but have been reading some great books in the genre.

Helen said...

I too have heard that the last Harry Potter book will be in two movies as well which is great I agree just so long as we are not waiting too long between them coming out.

Have Fun

Terri Osburn said...

I have not read Mr. Lahane and from the sound of it (and what I know of the movies) he's not for me. I like substance but that kind of dark messes with me.

For some unexplainable reason, I'll watch an reality show on Bravo. Love Project Runway - don't know a thing about fashion and usually don't even like the clothes they make. But I never miss it. Also love Top Chef - don't know a thing about cooking and usually the dishes they make sound nasty. But I never miss it.

See a pattern here? LOL! Very strange. And I too love the Olympics! I'm so excited to watch them. I like the winter events better but there's alway great human interest stories that are impossible to resist.

Congrats on the GR, Jennifer. I bet that hotel is going to wonder where all the gold feathers came from after we leave. LOL!

Nancy said...

Beth, we LOVE Mythbusters at our house. Not only do they do way cool stuff, but they seem to have such a great time doing it.

Limecello, I love those Batman specials, too. We watch a lot of the History Channel, but I have to admit Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men don't really appeal to me.

Helen, that second book is so long that it would make sense to do two movies, as Susan also pointed out and Gillian confirmed. They'd have to cut most of the book to get it into 2.5 hours.

Terrio, I also watch Top Chef despite a notable lack of culinary skill and Project Runway though I wouldn't wear most of those clothes. They're just fun!

Susan Sey said...

Nancy wrote: I'm looking forward to the workshop on Joss Whedon (a HUGE fan of Battlestar Galactica, BTW) in San Fran. I wanted to take that workshop online but missed the cutoff date.

Hey, Nancy, speaking of Joss Whedon, did you catch Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog last week? Oh. My. That was some musical deliciousness right there. And who knew Doogie Howser grew up so cute?

Susan Sey said...

Hey, Beth--I've never seen Myth Busters. Is that the one where they actually test out rumors? Like the Diet Coke/Mentos thing? Speaking of which, does that really work? The Diet Coke/Mentos explosion?

Susan Sey said...

limecello wrote: Eli Stone I didn't think I'd like - but I love it. (And it's fun that Johnny Lee Miller is the star.)

You know, I caught an episode of Eli Stone & I actually really liked it, too. Have no idea why. I just heard Katie Holmes is guest starring on a few episodes. Can't imagine what that's going to be about, though having already confessed my long time love of all things Dawson's Creek, I'll go ahead & tell you all now that I'll probably tune it. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Terrio! A fellow Olympics junkie! Yay! I, too, prefer the winter games, but the summer games will do me just fine. I'm already looking forward to all the hoopla surrounding the new scoring for gymnastics. No more perfect tens? What? I'm supposed to get worked up about a seventeen instead? Where's the symmetry in that? A prime number? Huh?

Louisa Cornell said...

Has anyone heard from Anna Campbell? She is supposed to be visiting Yosemite before the conference and they have FIRES there!! If someone hears from her please let me know. They said there were fires at the entrance of Yosemite and that they had cut the power to the park.

catslady said...

I've been wanting to read Lehane's books for a long time and I just keep forgetting to pick out some of his books.

Pat Cochran said...

Goodness! Now I'm really going to worry about Ms. Anna, knowing there are fires in Yosemite. I was just the tiniest bit concerned when I heard about the Quantas explosion,
even though I knew it wasn't near
Anna. Now this situation! Please
let us all know if anyone hears from
her! Thanks.......

Pat Cochran

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Late again but putting in my 2 cents.
The movie Sommersby was a major surprise to me, up to the very last I had hope. I hated how it ended. I just have to have a HEA.
Susan, I loved The Transformers too, but I love Bumble Bee, not to mention it makes such a totally cool car.

Susan Sey said...

Louisa--I haven't heard from La Campbell. I'm sure she's just fine but if anybody's heard from her, give us the heads up here in the Lair. We like to know our own are safe & sound, however far they roam from home.

Susan Sey said...

Oh, Catslady, remember Dennis Lehane next time you're in the library looking for something to sink your teeth into! You won't be sorry!

Susan Sey said...

Oh, Pat, I read about the Quantas thing, too! Isn't that scary? Did anybody else read that story & think LOST?

Susan Sey said...

Hrdwrkdmom--Awww, bumblebee. :-) I liked him, too. Such a cutie! But you know, you put him next to Optimus Prime, & he IS a little insubstantial. Not to take away from Bumblebee or anything. Because he's adorable. I'm just saying. Optimus Prime. Mmmmmm....

Did anybody else hear that Shia LeBoeuf just got arrested for drunk driving last night? Could be a rumor, but I was reading my good buddy Perez Hilton this morning & rumor has it that my darling Shia was caught behaving badly last night. If it's true, I'm extremely disappointed. Any heard the latest?