08 September 2011

Betrayal of the reader

Dan Conrad also wrote about another gripe he has about some writers.
While I'm at it, I wish to raise another gripe of mine -- besides series of novels going on longer than they merit. That is when authors break a kind of pact I think they (should) have with readers.

The pact is that as readers we will more or less suspend disbelief and go along with the story, even enjoy being led astray as we go, but NOT be suddenly tricked in a kind of "Ha, Ha, I sure made an ass out of you" revelation in the last two pages.

I don't mean a solution to the mystery that you never suspected, but being told at the end that the whole thing was actually someone's nightmare, or the ravings of an inmate in an asylum, or the last thoughts (before the killer returns) of a murder victim who you have been continually led to believe was going to escape, etc.  

Two such that come to mind are Shutter Island by Dennis LeHane (& movie w/ Leaonard Decaprio) and the more recent Sister by first time author Rosamund Lupton. Both novels are exceptionally well written page turners which makes it doubly irritating to get to the ending which is a: "WHAM! Ha! Ha! Fooled Ya! -- Did you really believe that story? -- Well, maybe it happened as I told it--or maybe some of it, or maybe none. Now I can tell you that ya got all worked up over absolutely nothing. HA! HA! The jokes on you!"

Perhaps they think such an ending moves them out of the mystery genre (with its pact?) into something more Shakespearian in level of tragedy -- or something. 

Does this bother you? I know lots of people loved the two mentioned novels, so maybe I shouldn't be upset.

[Well, I'm the one going around giving negative awards for improbabilities and refusing to read books where I expect to see too many of them.

[I agree that an author who betrays readers is a jerk. I don't want to read about angels, miracles, protective spirits, and sprites unless I'm reading something that's obviously fantasy.

[What do you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world.]


Ken Wedding said...

Dale Stahl wrote to agree.

"Always enjoy these observations.

"I completely agree with Dan’s take on Shutter Island – loved it and then was disgusted at the end (and in no way could picture Leo DiCaprio as tough enough to be the character I pictured so never bothered to see the film.)

"Denis Lehane has a habit of that in his books, though he writes a great story. Loved Mystic River but hated the ending, and the same is true for Gone Baby Gone. The main character returns the little girl, her life turns out hellish. Ugh, who wants to read that?

"The sequel he wrote to Gone Baby Gone, name escapes me, but it was horrible. Seemed an attempt to make up for leaving the little girl to a taerrible fate in the previous book, but makes her all too smart and wise and mature as a young adult and the story is implausible besides that.

"I enjoyed his book The Given Day, however, and recommend it as a good blend of a historic event with interesting characters and events – the Boston Police Strike and the Flu epidemic of 1918 I think.

"One other little gripe I have, why does almost every male mystery protagonist have to have a murderous psychopathic sidekick that only he gets along with?

"Like Mouse in the Easy Rawlins books or the big psycho in Lehane’s books – I’d like the protagonist to be a little more like Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, able to be smart and tough enough to handle things themselves if need be.

"Though I do enjoy the Mouse character in Mosely’s books, maybe that unpredictable violence keeps the main guy a little more human."

Ken Wedding said...

I had a thought about authors who betray readers with endings or who insist on including some kinds of supernatural accessories in otherwise real world stories.

It's like playing Scrabble with someone who gets to make up words, spellings, and rules. No appeal. Nothing they do can be wrong. How long would you play with such a person?