The summer of 2020 has been a slog of work and California wildfire. I’m catching up on some books I read over August.
It’s hard to write light. Or at least I think so. And I haven’t found very many fun, engaging, contemporary mysteries that work for me. Tonight, after reading the news about Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation and not having slept the night before because of fire anxiety (high winds and red flag warning in the hills) I am thinking how important – essential! – light books are. Really, they aren’t light at all for the work they do to ease worries and reassure. I remember one day when my grandmother was ailing, I was over at her house and my aunt was there. She’d come out from Rhode Island and brought a stack of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. I wish I could remember exactly how she’d described them – but it was clear they helped that sad, difficult time go by.
I hope Kellye Garrett writes as many books as Janet Evanovich. I can use more than the two so far: “Hollywood Homicide” and “Hollywood Ending.” Her amateur sleuth is Dayna Anderson, a transplant from Georgia to Hollywood. Dayna had a brief moment of fame appearing in commercials as a spokewoman for a fried chicken restaurant, but her acting and on-camera days are behind her. Broke, out of work, and fearing that her parents’ house will be repossessed, Dayna is desperate enough to call the LAPD tipline about a hit and run accident she might have information about – and maybe collect a reward.
Garrett writes in a very real, relatable first-person voice. And I really like how naturally Dayna integrates modern communication (Twitter, Instagram, cell phones) in her sleuthing: I’ll google surveillance tips. You drive.
At first I didn’t know if I wanted to read about Louboutin shoes and gossipy blind items. But before long Dayna had completely won me over:
Having two of something normally was a good thing. Socks. Dumbbells. Twinkies. Earrings. Shoes. Parents. Boyfriends. The list went on and on. Unfortunately, it didn’t include murder suspects.
The other thing that I appreciate so much about these books is that while Dayna and her friends are fun to hang around with, the stories are really well-structured and fast-paced. I took a lot of notes while reading both of these. Garrett’s written some great things on Twitter and elsewhere about plotting and process. I vaguely recall sitting in the Danville public library on a Saturday morning a couple years ago while J. did SAT prep in the community center building next door (I think we couldn’t find the class we wanted in our area?? It now seems crazy to drive out to Danville) and leafing through issues of Writer’s Digest and finding an article by Garrett on some craft related topic. It stuck with me. If I ever do see my way through the thicket of plot in the story I’m writing I may have Garrett – and Dayna Anderson – to thank.
Been listening to: Today the thing helping me get through the workday was Matthew Perpetua’s playlist of the Rolling Stone 2020 list of 500 greatest albums on Spotify. This has been perfect music for a rather tough day – everything’s familiar and good, but some things I haven’t heard in a long time. And this playlist has two songs for each album, so if you don’t like something it’s over pretty soon.