Sunday, January 22, 2006

Maybe It's Just Me

Sara Gran's Dope has been getting great notices, so I thought I'd read the ARC that's been lying around here. But I was having problems by the time I got to page 12. Two of the problems are just copy-editing things. Doesn't anybody read the manuscripts before the ARCs go out? I'm sure those things will be fixed, or at least I hope so. The other problem is a little more serious from my point of view. The book is very specific about the date: May 14, 1950, and on page 12 the narrator says this: "And the paperback novels were full of them--kids who started off popping a benny and ended up on heroin, murdering a dozen of their neighbors with their bare hands. Kids from nice families who got lured in by evil pushers. On the book covers, the pushers always had mustaches."

Well, I don't think so. I have plenty of paperbacks, and I'd guess that the publishers didn't really discover the teen dope fiends until a few years later than May 1950. Maybe someone can come up with a few examples before that time, but I'd say 1953 was more like it. That's when Ace published Junkie, Harry Whittington published Rapture Alley, and John D. MacDonald came out with The Neon Jungle. Some of the digest publishers could have done dope books a little earlier.

Of couse it could be I'm all wrong about this, and if I am, I expect you to let me know.


James Reasoner said...

I think you're right, and stuff like that drives me crazy. If you're going to be specific about something, you'd better get it right. A few years ago I read an award-winning mystery novel set in my neck of the woods, and the author made several very specific references about how long it took the protagonist to drive from Point A to Point B to Point C, etc. Problem was, none of them were anywhere close to reasonably accurate. As I said, the book won some major awards and sold well, so obviously those glitches didn't hurt it with the general public, but I've never read anything else by that author.

Plausible vagueness is the writer's friend.

Tribe said...

I dunno, Bill...I read that particular line, and while you're probably technically accurate (as you usually are), I just found the phrase to be a little poetic license that didn't ruin the book for me. Aside from us geeks who pay attention to that, I don't think it ruins the novel in any way.

But aside from that, didn't Hammett and/or Chandler touch on dope in general in their books?

Sarah said...

IIRC -- though I can't for the life of me remember the author or title -- there was a big hefty book about dope fiends that was published in the late 40s and proved to be a big cult hit. I know it was reissued recently...

But the fact that the line you speak of didn't pop out for me probably says something, or at least it didn't ruin my extreme enjoyment of the book.

Unknown said...

I don't mean to say that it ruined anything for me, but it did jerk me out of the story.