Heaven: October Book Club: The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax

Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
edited January 16 in Limbo
I read the October book, Vinyl Detectives - Written in the Dead Wax earlier this year and suggested it for a number of reasons:
  • the author, Andrew Cartmel, collaborates with Ben Aaronovitch on the Rivers of London graphic novels - and the Rivers of London book we read was popular;
  • he's also been involved in Dr Who and various other TV programmes over the years;
  • this book has an evocative background - West London, an area I used to know well, both geographically and the record collecting;
  • he's writing about things he loves
  • it was fun
It's a crime novel with a laconic first person narrator, and I found it engaging because it went in unexpected directions. For those who are not keen on detective novels, and I can't find the quote online, in response to a question about the popularity of the crime novel, Val McDermid recently said something along the lines that current detective fiction has everything, realistic settings, an entertaining plot and things to learn.

The usual, sign up if interested, questions for discussion around the 20th.

[Edited the thread title.
jj-HH]

Comments

  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    I’m looking for stuff to read next week when I have to hang around in France for a couple of days - so I’ve downloaded the Kindle edition.
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    Looks interesting; I'll see if I can pick a copy in the Library.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I'm half way through and thoroughly enjoying it.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Sounds interesting. I can only get it on CDs, not my preferred format, but I'll give it a go.

    (access to Christchurch's new Central Library, Turanga, will be available on the 12th of October :smile: 💜🎈- but I'm not going in until after the school holidays
  • Hurrah for the new library! Wise to wait til after the holidays...ha ha. :smile:

    I'm hoping to hunt this book down too.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    I read it back when it was first suggested, but maybe I should reread it before the discussion starts... might see if I can get hold of the others in the series too.
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    When do we start the discussion, please?
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    Sorry, I keep getting sidetracked.

    What did people think of the ideas, setting and plot of this one? And did it work having a nameless first person narrator?
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I very much enjoyed (most) of this book. I think it could have done with a severe edit. Two glamorous women after the narrator, three changes of character for one person was a bit too much and I thought the whole thing dipped about 60% through, but picked up again at the end.

    I thought the search for the 'McGuffin' was fun, specially as the narrator was looking in places I know. I also liked the narrator's obsessive personality (which I wonder if he shares with the author), but as someone who lives with a coffee geek, his coffee obsession was a bit amateur.

    I didn't really pick up that we didn't get his name, but I did think there seemed a bit of wishful thinking going on where women were concerned on the part of the author.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    Those two beautiful women falling in love with this unemployed geek did feel very comic book (and was one of the criticisms of Arcanum too, that this hero didn't feel as if they had that much going for them). I also felt that this suggested wish fulfillment on the part of the author - if I can't find a girlfriend, I'll write myself one. It also made me wonder a bit about the classic Chandler detective heroes and how much of that was Chandler's own projections.

    The bits that rang truest were the descriptions of the places and the obsessive nature of the record collecting. And the sense of place with a romp of a story is what amused me, as it does with the Ben Aaronovitch books,
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    It's what I call Spreadsheet Writing.

    That is, the author sat down and drew a graph with all the incidents carefully plotted on it (This is the last chapter and we have to have a final Peripeteia, so we'll bring back someone that the reader thinks is dead and hope they don't mind that I've already pulled that trick once a few chapters ago , that sort of thing) and then thought 'Now, let's give everyone a few random characteristics; so our hero's a coffee buff but is careful about drugs, and this other chap grows weed and tomatoes,' and so on.

    Of its sort it's very well done, but it's no surprise to discover that the author has written episodes of Midsomer Murders as well.

    A nice easy read, just like Midsomer Murders is a nice easy watch.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    When I suggested this book I was thinking lightweight August read, which is the one I often lead. It's interesting you describe it as spreadsheet writing - is that style so obvious usually?

    I'm torn between seeing if his writing improves with the next books in the series or not bothering, because I enjoyed the sense of place and some of the characterisation of the lead, particularly the geeky record collecting and discussion around jazz, but wasn't totally convinced by all of the plotting and particularly the two glamorous women getting involved with him. Although I did enjoy Tinkler coming out of his coma in shock after having the Vinyl Detective chatting about the liaison with Nevada as part of his visit, which I didn't pick up until I reread it.

    The hi-fi obsession also rang true, that one I've come across, not quite the self-built kit, but detailed concern that buys a special table for the turntable that buffers vibrations from the environment and needs to connect the cables in the right direction to get the best sound. And the preference for vinyl over digital sound production.
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    Robert van Gulik, who wrote the wonderful Judge Dee Mysteries back in the 60s and 70s, would apparently start each book by drawing a map of the town in which the crime(s) would take place, and then writing down a careful timeline of events, making sure that distances and times all worked out properly; but it was never obvious from reading the books that that was how he worked.

    I suspect that Agatha Christie did much the same, though of course she created her own tropes as well, such as the 'Agatha Moment' (properly the Summation Gathering) when all the suspects are brought together and the murderer is unmasked - great story-telling, but totally impractical in the real world.

    In a more serious fictional vein, Thomas Hardy never gives the impression that his characters are anything other than puppets, and that he is the puppet-master. That's why he bores me rigid.

    I suspect it really comes down to the author's skill at creating character as opposed to characters; if we as readers believe that someone really would behave in a particular way, then we don't notice the author's sleight-of-hand. And of course sometimes characters in books take their own authors by surprise, which is both wonderful and a liittle frightening.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    I though the writing was fine. It flowed and there were no obvious clunky sentences. I thought the bit when the narrator though Nevada was dead (even though I was 99.9% sure she wasn't) was well done, or maybe I was feeling sentimental at the time.
    There were a lot of things that didn't really make sense, why the Aryan twins were on a killing spree, what the guy in the beginning who fell off the roof had to do with all etc, but I'll be up to reading something else by him
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    The guy at the beginning who fell off the roof was a jazz collector, the original owner of the first copy of Easy Come, Easy Go the Vinyl Detective found. He was the secret jazz collector whose collection was being dumped by his wife, turning up in charity shops and jumble sales.

    The Aryan Twins were the descendants/inheritors of the Davenports/AMI (EMI?) - with that historic back story of early recording contracts, with the musicians losing rights to their work, being tied to exclusive contracts and not being paid royalties. Pseudonyms in jazz were common. Not sure why they were on a killing spree unless it's just the way they operated.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I got that the guy that fell off the roof was the secret jazz collector, but having set him up as being an important character, Cartmel seemed to have rather lost him. I'm reading Robert Galbraith's (J.K. Rowling's) Lethal White at the moment. Another epic tale, but she seems better focused at keeping the story in hand than Cartmel.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    I liked the sense of place and the stuff about jazz collecting (which was surprisingly interesting, given that I don't like jazz). I agree that it was *unlikely* that this geeky unemployed guy had two beautiful women yearning after him. Not impossible, though - depends what other assets he had. Also this is a standard trope in thrillers - unlikely male hero is inexplicably irresistible to young glamorous heroine.

    At least Cartmel can write coherent English, unlike George Mann who has great ideas for plots, is fairly good at dialogue and characterisation but cannot write prose. <tangent> Maybe he's improved since his first book, but I couldn't bear to read any of his subsequent works. Reading The Affinity Bridge was like listening to Les Dawson playing the piano. <\tangent>
  • Jane R wrote: »
    I liked the sense of place and the stuff about jazz collecting (which was surprisingly interesting, given that I don't like jazz). I agree that it was *unlikely* that this geeky unemployed guy had two beautiful women yearning after him. Not impossible, though - depends what other assets he had. Also this is a standard trope in thrillers - unlikely male hero is inexplicably irresistible to young glamorous heroine.

    At least Cartmel can write coherent English, unlike George Mann who has great ideas for plots, is fairly good at dialogue and characterisation but cannot write prose. <tangent> Maybe he's improved since his first book, but I couldn't bear to read any of his subsequent works. Reading The Affinity Bridge was like listening to Les Dawson playing the piano. <\tangent>

    Yes, I agree with all that (except that I've not read George Mann, so thanks for the warning). It might make a decent Sunday evening serial on the telly; indeed, bits of it seem to have been written with that at the back - or the front - of the author's mind.
  • ISTR Andrew Cartmel is a scriptwriter too, so this may not be entirely coincidental.
  • Jane R wrote: »
    ISTR Andrew Cartmel is a scriptwriter too, so this may not be entirely coincidental.

    Yes, for Midsomer Murders among other things. It shows, but none the worse for that.
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