Sneezy and Breezy

by Jeff Abbott on January 23, 2009

Okay, here we go with the once-a-week longer-posting form of the blog. 

I had a strange week, writing-wise. I am an Austin boy through and through but late January always brings in the Austin plague: a k a cedar pollen. And it hits me like an anvil dropped out of the sky. My wife and I have both been muddling about the house, blissed out on allergy meds that don’t work nearly as well as advertised. The ones that work the best also impair all major brain activity; in other words, I’m just in a daze. But I don’t sneeze my head off. It’s a fair trade. Our kids thankfully don’t suffer allergies. Frustrating because the weather was stunning this week but you could hardly stand to be outside–the pollen started to work its poison nearly immediately, so you’d be itching, sneezing with the force of a cannon, and comparing your throat to sandpaper. All while it was in the seventies and sunny and just perfect to be outside, except being outside made you feel like you had bubonic plague. Writer, meet irony.

I still write when I’m sick but I can’t say I’m very happy with the results. I wrote a lot of words and I axed more words and I moved a lot of words around and said “hmmmm” a lot. 
I had two messages on the guestbook this week from two guys (one from Germany, one from Austria) who said they are not great readers but they really enjoyed my books. I love those kinds of notes. They make my day because people who don’t read a great deal are very difficult to keep engaged. So I take that as a compliment. And I got an email from someone who discovered my books because a copy of Cut and Run was left in a car being traded in and her husband started reading it during slow times at work and then she read it. That’s a first and I hope they got a great deal on the car. (Escalade? Porsche? Yugo? They didn’t say.) One car, two readers, I’m ahead.
And with people who don’t read a lot in mind, two recommendations this week:
What I Read:
Don’t Ask, by Donald Westlake
The Hunter by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)
It is hard to believe the same guy wrote both books. I’ve talked about Westlake before; he was a brilliant and prolific storyteller who passed away recently. Don’t Ask is one of his Dortmunder books, about a master thief and his sidekicks. The books are laugh-out-loud funny and quick reads. In this one, dating from 1993, Dortmunder gets hired to steal a saint’s bone from one newly minted Balkan country to give to another newly minted Balkan country. At stake is each country’s political survival. Wackiness results. It’s a fast, fun read, peppered with Westlake’s sharp observations about human frailties and the dangers of living in New York City.
The Hunter is from 1962, the first of the Richard Stark novels featuring professional thief Parker. Where Dortmunder is funny, Parker is brutal, violent, and vengeful. These books are short little jewels of noir writing. In the series debut, Parker is out for vengeance against the man and the woman who stole his share of a heist and left him for dead–a mission that soon pits Parker against the entire New York mob. Parker is the perfect anti-hero: the guy who is so brutal and cold-blooded that you can’t sympathize with him, yet you do. The University of Chicago Press is reissuing the Parker novels in very nice new trade paperback editions. I read this one in one sitting. If you want to try this series, I do suggest starting with The Hunter. You get a better sense of how Parker came to be, well, Parker.
Several people (including surprisingly more than one non-writer) asked me to keep doing Organized Writer tips. I hear you and I will. I don’t have any this week (other than to say: avoid allergy medication to enhance productivity) but when I do, will tag the weekly entry appropriately so you can find every Organized Writer mention with a click. 
Here’s to hoping that the cedar fades, and my brain sharpens.

    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    Ann Victor January 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Hope the allergy medication works & your productivity improves!
    Looking forward to more of your great “Organised Writer” series!

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