It doesn’t pay sometimes to re-read books even when those books were penned by a favorite author.
I am, for example, a huge fan of John Sandford’s writing. It’s quite possible I’ve read every work of fiction he’s published. Sandford is one of those rare authors where I’m even willing to suppress my distaste for crowds and get in line for book signings or a scheduled talk at a book festival. (The Younger Daughter said she didn’t realize authors had groupies until she saw me mesmerized by Sandford at the Tucson Book Festival a couple years ago. She likes Sandford’s books, too, but apparently not quite as much as her mother.)
I like Sandford because besides being a great story teller
he gets stuff right. He does actual research. When he describes one of his characters
speeding to a crime scene in Minnesota, he’s accurate in how long it takes to
get from someplace like Marshall to up by Ely. His descriptions of topography
are spot-on, too. No weirdness that can knock you out of being focused on the
story to thinking, “What the. . .? That’s would be a 4 hour drive under ideal
conditions. Why does the author describe him as doing it in 20 minutes?” I
loved Tony Hillerman’s books, but have to admit his compressing a hundred-plus
miles on the Navajo nation into trips you could do in no time at all annoyed
the crap out of me. Even when a person is reading fiction, the reader wants to
the background to feel right.
Which brings me to the latest revelation that one of my idols
isn’t perfect. I hit kind of a dry spell for reading material and decided to
re-read the first book in Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series, Dark of the Moon.
First thing that hits me is a continuity error. I want to know exactly when
Virgil’s father switched denominations. In later books in the series, Virgil’s
minister father is Lutheran. In Dark of the Moon he’s Presbyterian.
Okay, minor point. As the series progressed Sandford
probably unconsciously decided that Lutheran made more sense in thoroughly
Scandinavian Minnesota, which we all know is full of Norwegian bachelor farmers
and church suppers at which dual purpose Jello™ molds (if there’s Cool Whip™
it’s a dessert; if there’s Miracle Whip™ it’s a salad) dominate the menu. Pastor
Flowers is a minor character, a side note in the series overall scheme of
things, so Sandford’s copy editor didn’t catch it in subsequent works. No big
And then another character’s name caught my eye, and I
cannot unsee it. I have groused in the past about writers and their weirdness
in naming their fictional people. Terry Brooks and the Shanarra chronicles full
of people who sound like diseases or other health conditions (I’m still
surprised none of his characters were named Dysmenorrhea), William Krueger
looking at maps of Minnesota and coming up with gems like Marais Grand.
So what did Sandford do? No doubt he was drawing a blank,
had another detective he had to slap a name on, and nothing was coming to him.
And then he looked down at the keyboard.
Okay, so on most keyboards it’s CAPSLK, but we all know what
the inspiration was. What can we expect next? Paige Down? Con Troll?
The mind boggles. . .