Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty Series

I finished Timothy Hallinan's The Queen of Patpong this morning. Well, twice this morning.

Forced to stop reading a little after 1 a.m. because my vision was going wonky (I'm usually lights-out by 11 at the latest) I got up this morning, pushed the button for my French Roast and continued until the end.

For those reading this series (and everyone should), here's my tip for Queen: Do not read chapter 19 thinking you'll go to sleep afterward. Ain't gonna happen.

But there's more from a writer's view. It is totally interfering with my own work at this point. Until I get it out of my system (thank goodness for blogs) it's in the way. I try to focus on the story I'm writing (which I totally adore, and has some potential in its own right) but this unseen element keeps punching me in the shoulder. So. In the interest of me getting back to my cadaver dogs and foolish humans, here's what I want to expound on.

The Poke Rafferty series in general: The second one is the weakest of the four, but still good. Don't skip it. They all hang together like some delicate lace. Read them in order. Read them all.

Hallinan's characterization:They are rich and complex. They live in a rich and complex society (Bangkok) and one bleeds into the other. They both will rip your heart out. Heroes abound in the most unlikely places. And no one, no one, has given me an eight or nine or ten-year old girl better than Timothy Hallinan.

Chapter Length: I haven't checked this, but my impression was that somehow they got longer in the last two books. There were scene breaks, but personally, I miss the shorter chapters. Could have been an editorial/publisher/cost thing. (So, in reference to my tip, Chapter 19 in Queen is long. And intense. Just sayin'.)

Third Person Present: This is awesome. I don't know how long it took him to find his voice there, but you have got to check it out. I don't know if it's operator error or truth, but on my Kindle edition of the first book in the series, A Nail Through the Heart, I did a search for the word "was". Guess what, it showed up a grand total of . . . . ZERO times.

Action scenes: We've been taught that short, bullet-type sentences help convey the speed and urgency of a situation. I get that. It's true. The problem I've seen with this technique in the past is that an action scene can come out sounding like a To-Do list. Hallinan conveys intensity using a zillion commas. Here's one sentence (if I can choose just one—okay, I picked three in succession) from page 256 of The Queen of Patpong :

She's emitting a high, earsplitting squeal, as even and unvarying as an electronic alarm. Her assailant brings up a hand and hits her with a heavy slap that rocks her head and loosens her grip, and she pitches forward onto her stomach. The man brings back a foot to kick her.

I just sat back and said, "Oh, wow."

CR: Think I'll begin a Jeffery Deaver tonight. One I bought at the Writer's Police Academy. Sorry, can't think of the name right now.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Can you believe I haven't read any of this series yet?! I can't either!!!! But. I have them on my list of "gotta reads!" I have the first on my iPad and have The Queen of Patpong in my TBR stack. You've just moved them up several notches, thanks very much!

  2. Oh, Kaye. Read it, read it, read it! I have now downloaded what I think is the complete Simeon Grist series (earlier than the Poke Rafferty), and am ready to hear the word that his new, wing-spreading, PULPED is out via e-book. If you haven't checked out some of his offerings via his blog (website, then click on Blog Cabin) you might get a kick or two out of what he comes up with.

    I'd been reading great things about Poke Rafferty on DL for a long time, but there's a lot of competition out there, ya know? FINALLY, I got lucky and decided to take the plunge.

    Dive, dear Kaye. Get soaked.

  3. Your description of Tim's series is as good as some of the writing in the books, Peg!

  4. I can't remember the last time I was this inspired.

  5. Peg, I'm so glad you've read and love Tim's Poke Rafferty series. I fell in love with it when I read A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART shortly after it was released. I agree with you that the second is the least wonderful of the four, but with Tim's books, that still means pretty darn good.

    I blogged a review of THE QUEEN OF PATPONG on Murderous Musings awhile back, but the link is about a million lines long, so I can't include it here.

    Thanks for the great article.

  6. And I can't remember the last time a day started this well. I got up, pushed my OWN French roast button as Windows booted (and booted and booted) and sat down to see a Google Alert. Followed the link, and here I am.

    Thank you sooooo much, Peg. I'm really deeply moved. We bang our heads against our stories for so long, telling them to the imaginary listener sitting across the table (or at least, I do) and then they toddle out into the world, and all we can do is hold our breath.

    This is the kind of reaction that makes me truly happy I decided to do nothing with my life but write. A GIANT lift as I confront the new book, which is presently as inert as Argon.

    (And it's especially gratifying to me when a woman likes this particular book.)

    Thanks, Peg.

  7. Beth, hey . . . it's Thursday! Need to wander on over to Murderous Musings and see what's on your mind.

    Tim, I can't thank you enough for stopping by and taking the time to comment. What's not to like about any of your books? And Rose's story opened my eyes and my heart exactly the way you had in mind.

    Tres kewl that you needed a bit of a lift in order to confront the new book. I feel so much better to know those feelings aren't tied to ineptness.

  8. Peg -- just linked to this post on my blog (the fifteenth in the STUPID 365 PROJECT). Some people from my site may be popping in to say hi.

  9. Any friend of Tim's is, well, um, ...

    Great review of Queen.

  10. The author was kind enough to make me a major character (John Bohnert) in his QUEEN OF PATPONG.
    I'm very honored to be in such a great book.

    I've read all the books in this series and enjoyed them all.