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Friday, March 25, 2011

Whose Skills?

You are walking in the mall and discover a lost cell phone. You pick it up and open it, intending to find out who’s it is so you can return it. When you turn it on a heavenly voice comes on saying,

“Because of your good intentions the angel of writing is going to reward you.”

“Can I get a five book publishing contract with a guaranteed big advance?

“Sorry, I’m only an angel. A miracle of that magnitude is way out of my league. What I can do is give you skills. You can name one skill from four different living authors and I will give you an equivalent level of that skill without reducing the ability of the author.”

“Can I have time to think about it?”

“Nope. In three minutes this phone will disappear and any unused requests will vanish with it.”

In this, sadly imaginary, situation I chose.

Elmore Leonard’s ability to write dialog

David Mamet’s economy of language

Carolyn Hart’s ability to engage readers

Lee Child’s skill in creating suspense

What authors and what skills would you chose?


E. B. Davis said...

Heaven calls? And there is an angel of writing? Blow me down.

1. Robert Parker-because he was frugal with words and he wrote amazing dialogue.
2. Dorothy Cannell for her word smithing.
3. Katy Munger, who not only writes beautifully, but also conceives fresh premises for her work. She now writes a "dead detective" series under the name Chaz McGee.

That last one was hard. I debated among Martha Grimes, Ian Rankin, Deborah Crombie, Sue Ann Jaffarian, and Peter Robinson. I'd like more skill wishes fulfilled.

Angels don't take bribes, do they?

Warren Bull said...

Great choices, E.B. You couldn't make a mistake with any of your last candidates and sadly angels do not take bribes.

The Warbler said...

1. Larry McMurty. Wonderful dialogue, and great characterization.
2. David Morrell, top of the thriller writers.
3. Tim Dorsey, I giggle when I pick up a new Serge Storms adventure.
4. John Sanford, his Prey series continues to excel. Sometimes characters burn themselves out. Spenser did for me. Reacher is still at the top of his game.
You beat me to Dutch Leonard, love everything he has ever written.

Barry Ergang said...

1. Evan Hunter (a.k.a. Ed McBain) for both dialogue and characterizations.

2. Raymond Chandler for his prose-poetry. (And dialogue. And characterizations.)

3. Ross Macdonald for his plotting skills. (And prose-poetry. And characterizations.)

4. William Faulkner for his stylistic experimentation and because when he was at his best, he could do it all. (At his worst, he was insufferably tedious.)

Others I admire for various reasons I won't list include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pat Conroy, Bernard Malamud, Carl Hiaasen, John Dickson Carr and, when he didn't overdo showing off his lexical skills, Anthony Burgess.

Warren Bull said...

It's hard to choose only four.

Anonymous said...

1. Ruth Rendell for plot
2. P. D. James for lean, clean sentences
3. A. S. Byatt for plot (and brilliance)
4. Clyde Edgerton for Southern storytelling and for evoking tears and guffaws simultaneously

Warren Bull said...

To Write,

Excellent choices. There is surprisingly little overlap between responders. I wonder if current literature will someday be regarded as par of a "golden age" of fiction.