Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bloodline, Indeed.
Can a famous author's son inherit his job?

Where I've been: Camping. Attending a writing conference (but not doing much writing). Making jam. Figuring out my kids' fall plans (community college for the oldest. Homeschooling supplemented with various classes for the youngest). Trying to get organized.

What I'm doing today: Preparing for my youngest's 13th birthday, which is tomorrow! Presents must be bought, cake and plans and fanfare sorted out, all without use of a car (that's a story for another day). Also, heading over to Cathedral Park later for a picnic and to watch Trouble with Tribbles, a live play of my favorite original Star Trek episode.

What's Been Happening on Worducopia: Crickets.

What I'm Reading: Just finished Bloodline, by Felix Francis. No, Scratch that: the official title is "Dick Francis's Bloodline," which put me off so much that I almost didn't read the book.

Here's the thing: I get that Felix helped his father, famous mystery writer Dick Francis, with his books in the later years before Dick's death at age 89, and that he is writing in the style of his father, so publisher Putnam wants readers to get the connection. And as a writer, I don't begrudge Felix the advantage he has as a fledgling writer (Bloodline is his second book), because of the connections he had made through his dad. But if the novel is good enough to be published (which it is), it should be good enough to draw readers in its own right. Put "Son of Dick Francis!" in big letters under Felix's name, if you must, but putting Dick's name as part of the title goes too far with the Blatant Marketing Ick factor.

That said, I don't particularly like mysteries, and I was assigned to read one for book club. I've been a Dick Francis fan since I was 14 years old (he managed to write mysteries that read like character-driven novels) and discovered a shelf full of his books while staying with my parents at a house in Tuscany. But I've read all of Francis's books, and I thought that for book club I should branch out.

I picked up a James Lee Burke book, read a few pages, and switched out for Michael Connelly's "The Black Box." Set that down when Chapter 2 started out twenty years after the grisly murder scene in Chapter 1 (Disguising a prologue as Chapter 1? A nasty and underhanded trick! I fling your book at you!)  and tried a Leonard Block mystery that was sitting on the free shelf at my hairdressers. It was okay. I carried it around for a couple of weeks, occasionally reading part of a chapter, mostly not.

Book Club's date loomed closer and closer on the horizon and I found that the nearer it came, the less interest I had in actually finishing "The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling." Book Club Anxiety Syndrome reared its ugly head. It's one thing to show up with a particular book unfinished, but who could justify arriving with a stack of 4 unfinished books and the excuse, "I guess I just don't like mysteries much?"

In desperation, I picked up Bloodlines. Ten minutes later, I felt like I'd taken the medicine doctors might prescribe to remedy Book Club Anxiety Syndrome. Yes, I could read this! I could even finish it by Tuesday if I read 60 pages per day. I ended up finishing it in 3 days.

So, Felix, you're forgiven for taking advantage of your dad's many years building a name for himself. And as for you, Putnam: you've got yourself a decent writer who is admirably filling the hole left by Dick Francis's death. Why not give him credit where credit is due, and let him be an author in his own right?

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  1. Ah, good point. I can figure out how many pages per day I need to read for this book club book I am not that into.

    1. One of the handful of useful skills I learned in college. :-)

  2. Trouble with Trebles is also my husband's favorite Star Trek episode. He's shown it to me more than once, even though I also grew up on the show. :-)

    Recently, I read an article in Writer's Digest about the son of Steven King. Apparently, when he first published, he used a different name because he wanted to establish himself as an author in his own right. I respect that choice and one day hope to try his books for that reason alone.

  3. I think you were probably reading Lawrence Block?