Peter Templeâ€™s THE BROKEN SHORE just won the gold dagger from the CWA, and deservedly.
I happen to like writing with the occasional bit I can turn over in my mouth and savor. (Happen to write that way too, oddly enough.) Not too many of them, mind, and thereâ€™s nothing more irritating than fancy writing, those laborious phrases that clearly the writer has fiddled with and rearranged and added to and changed a verb, a tense, a comma, when really s/he should just have hit the delete button. And a 350 page piece of writing that is an unrelieved flow of Fine Prose isâ€¦well, I canâ€™t say how I would respond to that because I know by experience I donâ€™t get past page fifteen.
But vivid bits that stick out, that encourage a re-read with a smile, yet contribute to the plot or the characterizations or even just the flow? Those I have time for. Bits like Templeâ€™s scene where the main character wakes early (â€œfelt terrible, in need of punishmentâ€) and goes out walking with his two unclipped standard breed poodles:
Today, Stoneâ€™s Creek was strong, the inlet wide, the sandbars erased. On the other side, a man in an old raincoat, a baseball cap, was fishing with a light rod, casting to the line where the crew flow met the salt, reeling. A small brown dog at his feet saw the poodles and rushed to the creekâ€™s edge, barking, levitating on stiff legs with each hoarse expulsion.
The poodles stood together, silent, front paws in the water, studying the incensed animal. Their tails moved in slow, interested scientific wags.
â€¦and the plot and the walk continue, to a place where â€œrabbits unfroze, scattered, bewildered the dogs for choiceâ€ and the dogs run â€œfrantically, demented by rabbit scents everywhere.â€ A place that figures later in the story.
As a writer, scenes like that are maddening, just infuriating, with how damned right they are. As a reader, well, thatâ€™s another matter entirely.