Sunday, December 31, 2006

Memorial Day by Vince Flynn

One of the other benefits to working at Book Store (in addition to tear-offs, the ability to borrow hardcover books, discounts, and the ability to pay my bills) is working with people who love books and love to read. Sometimes I hear strange things, like "I never read fiction," or "I only read technical manuals," but they all read. On the other hand, some of these people have no ability to tell good writing from bad.

Vince Flynn is popular with the employees at Book Store. This is partly because Mr. Flynn lives nearby and stops in from time to time to shop, or to sign books. As a result, most of the people I work with endorse Flynn with glazed eyes and goofy grins. When one of his books showed up in the tear-off box, I picked it up. I promise you that won't happen again.

Within the first paragraph I realized Flynn's prose needed help. Flabby constructions, adjectives everywhere, and cliches stacked on cliches. Hans Hetrick would have described it as a "was farm." I've seen better writing from moderately interested freshman comp students. Here's a sample:

The door to the observation room opened and a man approximately the same age as Rapp entered. He walked up to the window and with his deep-set brown eyes looked at the handcuffed man. There was a certain clinical detatchment in the way the man carried himself. His hair was elegantly cut and his beard trimmed to perfection. He was dressed in a dark, well-tailored suit, white dress shirt with French cuffs, and an expensive red silk tie. He owned two identical sets of the outfit, and in an effort to keep his subject off balance, it was the only thing he had worn in front of the man since his arrival three days ago. The outfit was carefully chosen to convey a sense of superiority and importance.

And that's on page five. One problem? The character to whom this man is compared, Mitch Rapp, hadn't been described to this point, and we don't know how old he appears. AND HIS AGE DOESN'T MATTER ANYWAY! Geh. It never gets better than this. I was going to give it a hundred pages, let it get underway, before I decided to toss it. Before then, though, I'd already started badmouthing the book to my co-workers, so I decided to stick it out to the end. I needn't have bothered.

The characters are types, including Rapp, the protagonist. Rapp has the added quality of being flawless. He reminds me of a Blues Traveler lyric from "Runaround":

But I've been there, I can see it cower
Like a nervous magician waiting in the wings
Of a bad play where the heroes are right
And nobody thinks or expects too much

Rapp never has a moment's doubt about the rightness of his actions. The only conflict he has is with those pantywaist bureaucrats (all Democrats) who won't let him do what needs to be done. Mitch Rapp is Right--both right-wing and correct--and engenders as much interest as a stick figure can. To belabor the simplemindedness of this book, I'll add that it was endorsed by both Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.

Characters? Flat.
Plot? Predictable.
Language? Execrable.

Like the stereotype cops say, "Move along, Johnny. There's nothin' to see here."

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