Showing posts with label Robert B Parker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert B Parker. Show all posts

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Colorblind - A Book Review

'Colorblind' by Reed Farrel Coleman 
Published by No Exit Press 2019

I just want to start this by saying I'm not criticising - I'm reviewing. As a hardly published author I take my hat off to those who are established 'real' writers, and as ever want to express my condolences to the estate of Robert B Parker and appreciation and gratitude for the great man's work. This blog post is merely for the sake of analysis and writing practice for myself to understand what works and what doesn't, in my own work and others' in the hope of becoming a better writer.

I've just finished reading Robert B Parker's 'Colorblind' written by Reed Farrel Coleman, which is an interesting case because Robert B Parker is one of my all time favourite authors in the person of private detective Spenser, who inspired me to work on my Old Mice Killer series with Jake Jones. I won't lie to you, it was his name in huge letters on the front cover which attracted me to this book in the library, but after Robert B Parker's sad demise in 2010 his characters and worlds threatened to be no more, until his estate passed his baton on to other writers to carry on the flame.

In principle I've been both for and against this in the past. On one hand I think it's great that Parker's characters live on, but on the other hand it seems inauthentic. The cover itself, as with Clive Cussler's recent pair up novels where he works with other authors, is designed to - as with me - lure in readers using Parker's name in huge font at the top, and the real author's name (who I confess I'd never heard of until now) in small letters at the bottom. It seems like false advertising on one level. But from a publishing standpoint I understand they have books to sell, and from the estate's standpoint they want to honour the great writer's memory.

Even before, I hadn't read much of the Jesse Stone series, but I was that much a fan of Parker's strong male lead characters, sense of humour and turn of phrase that I thought I'd give it a bash. So it was with a dip of disappointment when I realised it wasn't actually he who had written the story. Nevertheless, I started the novel (283 pages), and sure enough I could see signs of Parker's handiwork in the strong male lead with steel will and moral fibre, who took it upon himself to shelter the weak and lost, but not much humour. I don't know if the original Jesse Stone had much of a sense of humour in the past, but perhaps it was due to being a recovering (bereaving?) alcoholic at this stage in his life maybe there was less to be cheerful about. I don't know. I'll have to dig further back to find out.

The story is definitely a slow burner - or perhaps I should say, has a long fuse. Well written, with an involving mix of characters all with their own issues and directions. But Jesse doesn't seem to do much but keep his ears open and stay off the drink (although myself trying to abstain from various addictions over the years I know how hard this can be) for most of the book. And then all of a sudden – Boom – on page 261 (the 92% mark) all of the groundwork that Reed Farrel Coleman has built pays off and blows the top of your head off. And you're left thinking, Holy sh-cow, how did he do that? The rug has been pulled out from under you and you're flying slow motion in mid air with the book in one hand, a cup of early morning tea in the other and lines of amazement creasing your forehead, thinking, what the hell?

Anyway. The book was a rewarding read. If you're familiar with the characters from earlier novels (which I wasn't, so perhaps that was why a lot of them were hard to remember 2D names for me – hooks with nothing to hang on) then I think Reed Farrel Coleman does an admirable (and brave) job of carrying the torch, as after all Robert B Parker is a hard act to follow and a writer worth devoting some study and time to.

I'm going to give this book four stars out of five. I think it's a solid work that delivers on all promises. Coleman does an admiral job - one that I certainly couldn't do and would immediately shy away from. But I still feel cheated by the cover. I know we shouldn't judge books by their covers, but we do. Anyone who's tried to self publish knows a book's cover is important. You get one chance to make a visual impression, and your cover is it. I think the climax is rewarding enough to make all the waiting around worth it, but the waiting around is another reason why it's 4 stars and not 5. As I said, I know staying off the one thing you want in all the world is hard going, and Coleman captures that well, but the first 90% of the book needs more rewards, more meat. More character development. More Easter eggs. More humour. More flashes of the old Robert B Parker. It was nice to see Vinnie Morris pop up again, but that wasn't enough. Personally I would have appreciated about 50 pages' worth of Robert B Parkerisms sprinkled throughout the book. Food, humour, romance, geography, history, baseball trivia (Al Dente). You know what I mean? That kind of stuff. It's great when the bus finally comes, but it helps to have someone interesting to share the bus stop until that happens. That said, I was inspired to stand and write a long and involving blog post about this novel in my pyjamas five minutes after the last page, which doesn't happen often, so something's clicked.

This is how, in my mind, the cover should have looked, and would probably fit in with the high moral standard of Robert B Parker's lead characters.

Reed Farrel Coleman
The New Jesse Stone Mystery


Based on The Characters and World
Created by Robert B Parker

Have a look at Robert B Parker's Wikipedia page. I thoroughly recommend investing time, money and effort reading his original works and I intend to go back and fill in the holes as soon as possible. Reed Farrel Coleman's pretty good too and I think I'll pick up more of his work in the future also.

Thanks for reading.