Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Book Review: "Violence" by Timothy McDougall

Violence by Timothy McDougall is a great story with a strong ending but written in an odd style. The author claims to have done screenplay writing, and I think that may have affected his approach. Too many asides and infodumps peppered this story. I have no idea how many Points-of-View (POVs) showed up. It's irrelevant when done seamlessly; however, the head-hopping made me stop and have to re-read passages to correctly identify the character I was reading about. Some minor characters' POVs weren't even needed. Movies bounce POVs endlessly, but the visual helps the watcher stay focused. In this novel, bouncing and unnecessary POVs made staying deep in the story difficult at times. It may be difficult for many readers to fall in love with the overall reading experience with this novel because of these elements.

But, if you love police procedurals or courtroom details, you might forgive the above issues. I love details. I just wish they had been more artfully folded into the story. The omniscient courtroom POV broadcast too much, told you background detail, motivations, minutia, tidbits, and thought process that didn't help the flow of the story, and in many cases, seemed unnecessary. Let it flow, Tim. Set us up, and let it rip. If this is the quality of plotting that this author can generate, I see greatness in his future. There are passages of excellent writing, in particular, when the protag takes a neurotic OCD female church office worker to dinner. The writing, dialogue, and scene twists are five-star. I wanted more of this. However, this story needed more attention to the story-telling craft. I did enjoy the story, but the overall experience was just average. It is a strong "3".


And yet, for all the details, all the facts, and all the importance placed on phone usage, a key element of testimony around which the defense rested its case was never mentioned, resolved, clarified, or brought up. And I waited for it! When did the wife call the three amigos and how did she know their number? D'oh!


Beth Camp said...

Nice review, Rick, even at a 3. I'm almost tempted to read it! Suzanne Collins is another author who wrote for television. I just finished HUNGER GAMES and am in awe of her ability to weave backstory in without her characters breaking a sweat. She did write in first person, though. And you forgive head-hopping????

Rick Bylina said...

You know the rule -- THE ONLY RULE: WRITERS WRITE! EVERYTHING ELSE IS A GUIDELINE. Yep, I can forgive head-hopping that is written well, purposely used, and advances the story. Like most things, it is about execution. Unfortunately, most head-hops are accidental and not spotted by the author, or weakly written and not fixed in the rush to push out a story in this age of quick of impatience. Write on, Beth. Write on.

Rick Bylina said...

Here's Shelia's comment that Blogpost recognizes, but doesn't ever post. Weird.
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Shelia has left a new comment on your post "Book Review: "Violence" by Timothy McDougall":

Rick you are the forgiving one when it comes to reviews. I think I might critique similarly to you in that I give the greatest benefit of the doubt to the story line and forgive technique. If someone can entertain me with an interesting story and I don't feel like pulling my hair out in the middle I'll give a strong "3" as well.