Several months (yes, months), ago I received a note and book from Ian Sansom (author of "The Book Stops Here"), which I have just now got around to answering; those who know me know that it often takes me seconds to answer an email, but way too long to answer an actual letter--a bizarre phenomenon, I know. My wife is the one you should direct any corresponds to if you desire a prompt reply.
Added to the fact that that this letter was physical and not digital was the matter of the book. I felt obliged to read it, as I feel obliged to read anything sent to me in the regular mail, and I found it would be rude to reply before reading it. But I feared reading it, because that would mean I immediately was put in danger of not liking it, and having to fluff my letter in reply with unfit praise.
Alas, however, I have finished the book, finished the letter, and wrote a blog to tell about it.
Some of you know that I teach online writing for the Gotham Writers’ Workshop in NYC; the thing I tell my students most often is write characters well. It doesn’t matter how weak the plot is—if you create characters that are interesting, then your book will be great.
I’m not trying to say the plot of Sansom’s book was bad (it’s not)—I’m trying to say it has fantastic characters. They were absurd, dry, bitter, and absolutely hysterical to watch. The plot of the book centers around the disappearance of an old, beat-up, bookmobile. It’s a strange plot for a book, but Sansom makes it work.
I’m not a fan of mystery books (it’s probably about the only genre, aside from erotica) that I do not read. Because of this, I had a stand-offish attitude towards the book, and that’s a shame because it was such a fun read.
In recent years, I have been drawn away from contemporary fiction; I think part of this is the stories I’ve read in recent years takes themselves too seriously and don’t offer the same kind of escape as classics. They are often full of thought provoking themes, but not enough actual storytelling—there are exceptions to this of course, but sometime it seems like these days there’s less and less exceptions. The Book Stops Here is an exception; it’s a lighthearted story that never takes itself too seriously.
I recommend you buy, borrow it, check it out, or do whatever it is you do when you are looking for something good to read.