Friday, October 7, 2011

Mark de Castrique

A native of North Carolina, Mark de Castrique writes mysteries primarily set in the Appalachian mountains. He is an award-winning film and video producer whose work has been broadcast on PBS, HBO, and network-affiliate stations as well as the author of the Sam Blackman mystery series, the Buryin’ Barry series, and two mysteries for young adults. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

His new novel is The Sandburg Connection.

Last month I asked him for some input here at "Writers Read"--his reply:
Or in my case WRITERS LISTEN. I find I have more time in my schedule to listen to books than read them. They make great travel and driving companions, and there is something soothing about having someone tell me a story – a pleasurable experience that goes back to early childhood.

Two authors whose books I always enjoy are Lee Child and David Rosenfelt. Each has developed a character at opposite ends of the Hero Spectrum. Currently I’m listening to Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, The Affair.

I like Reacher because he’s the contemporary descendent of Raymond Chandler’s knight errant archetype. At six-foot-five and two-hundred-fifty pounds, this mountain of mayhem embodies Chandler’s story title “Trouble Is My Business.” Reacher is a trouble magnet, constantly finding his way in and out of other people’s problems. Chandler writes in the introduction to his short story collection, Trouble Is My Business, “There are the aficionados of deduction and the aficionados of sex who can’t get it into their hot little heads that the fictional detective is a catalyst, not a Casanova.” Reacher is a catalyst who stirs things up, rights wrongs, and basically returns to his nomad existence, a Sir Galahad in armor that he only keeps for a few days before buying new armor at a discount store. He eschews materialism and consumerism in the age of creature comforts gone wild. As the strong, silent type, Reacher can ratchet up the tension in a scene with this common non-dialogue, “Reacher said nothing.” When Child strings a few of those responses in a scene, you know the bad guys should just dial 911 or check the Yellow Pages for the nearest funeral home.

But being a catalyst doesn’t mean that Reacher hasn’t undergone his own changes. Child has let Reacher age and important characters come in and out of his life. The Affair is a back-story tale of Reacher’s early years, as Child explores different eras of his character. His short story earlier this summer, “Second Son,” introduced us to Reacher as a thirteen-year-old boy, and Child’s skill continues to make Reacher a growing character instead of a stagnant caricature. Throw in the excellent reading performance of narrator Dick Hill and you’ve got the perfect combination of story and storyteller.

If Reacher would take on a swarm of terrorists and triumph, David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter would take on a swarm of mosquitoes and lose. I’ve just finished listening to Andy’s latest adventure, One Dog Night, and the Patterson, NJ lawyer is in fine form. As usual, Andy is drawn into defending a client whose innocence appears impossible to prove, while the grim reaper is harvesting everyone associated with the case. When Andy Carpenter says nothing, it’s because he’s unconscious. Faced with danger, he begins to prattle. But his heart’s in the right place, and though he might not be a knight in shining armor, his quick thinking and quick-witted repartee serve the cause of justice and serve up laugh-out-loud situations. Narrator Grover Gardner captures Carpenter’s whining and observations on life with comedic excellence. If you haven’t sampled Rosenfelt’s series, you’re missing out.

Now if Andy Carpenter ever meets Jack Reacher, well, the outcome will depend upon whether Andy faints before Reacher says nothing.
Visit Mark de Castrique's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sandburg Connection.

--Marshal Zeringue