The summer of 2020 has been a slog of work and California wildfire. Iâ€™m catching up on some books I read over August.
Itâ€™s hard to write light. Or at least I think so. And I havenâ€™t found very many fun, engaging, contemporary mysteries that work for me. Tonight, after reading the news about Amy Coney Barrettâ€™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 â€“ essential! â€“ light books are. Really, they arenâ€™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. Sheâ€™d come out from Rhode Island and brought a stack of Janet Evanovichâ€™s Stephanie Plum books. I wish I could remember exactly how sheâ€™d described them â€“ 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: â€œHollywood Homicideâ€ and â€œHollywood Ending.â€ 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 parentsâ€™ house will be repossessed, Dayna is desperate enough to call the LAPD tipline about a hit and run accident she might have information about â€“ 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: Iâ€™ll google surveillance tips. You drive.
At first I didnâ€™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 didnâ€™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. Garrettâ€™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 couldnâ€™t find the class we wanted in our area?? It now seems crazy to drive out to Danville) and leafing through issues of Writerâ€™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 Iâ€™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 Perpetuaâ€™s playlist of the Rolling Stone 2020 list of 500 greatest albums on Spotify. This has been perfect music for a rather tough day â€“ everythingâ€™s familiar and good, but some things I havenâ€™t heard in a long time. And this playlist has two songs for each album, so if you donâ€™t like something itâ€™s over pretty soon.