That's about the best that can be said for David Baldacci's "Hour Game." It's all downhill from there. I bought this book not because it particularly appealed to me, but because I was going to take a train ride back home from Flushing (Which is located in Queens and apparently, judging by the distance, abuts Mongolia) and I needed something to read. I hadn't brought a book because my route had included a stop at a memorial service, and it always seems rude to bring reading material to a wake. "Yeah yeah, he was a great guy, blah blah, fascinating, where's the cake. Isn't there going to be cake? Oh well, I'll just read." There are only two kinds of books in Flushing. Chinese books, and bad books. I got one of the latter. It turned out to be the wrong decision.
David Baldacci's "Hour Game" opens with a bad sentence. "The man in the rain slicker walked slightly bent over, his breathing labored and his body sweaty." There's nothing good about this sentence. It isn't interesting, it doesn't tell you much of anything except that there's a man in a rain slicker who needs deodorant, and it contains the awkward phrasing "Walked slightly bent over." It might be a memorable sentence, for its badness, were there not dozens more to choose from in the Baldacci repertoire. For example the third sentence of the book is "It was never an easy thing to tote a dead body through the woods in the middle of the night." In addition to being a classic example of telling rather than showing (Now we know he's toting a dead body. If your goal is to horrify us with suspense at what he's doing...you fail.) it's also patently false. There are numerous scenarios in which it would be easy to tote a dead body through the woods in the middle of the night. If it were the body of an infant, for example. In addition since the main problem seems to be that the body is heavy, the time of day has absolutely nothing to do with it. This sentence tells us the time of day in an awkward and uninteresting way. Bad work Baldacci. Bad work.
The book continues on like this for roughly however many pages I managed to read, which was not that many. On the same page we are told "The soles of his shoes bore no distinguishing marks; not that it would have mattered, since the rain quickly washed away any traces of footprints." Why do we need to know about the soles of his shoes? I'm not sure. Perhaps it's to 'show' us that he's careful about not leaving any distinguishing marks, but if that's the case then he's just being redundant since the book lets us know that he's there precisely because it's raining. His redundancy does not appear to be an interesting character trait. It's just kind of random.
The problem with all this is that it's crap and it's popular. I have nothing against pulpy novels, Robert B. Parker's Spenser series is a guilty pleasure rather short on the guilt. I do, however, have a problem with shitty novels. Parker's books are fast paced and fun, but he also has an interesting way with language. The sentences are short, sparse, staccato. Each word has relevance. If the books were people then Parker's novels would have 5% body fat, while David Baldacci's would be like...well...me.
I could go on and on about the problems with Baldacci. About the fact that characters think things that nobody would ever think purely so the reader can have exposition. About the bad dialogue and the weird attempts at humor that you can never quite be sure are wry jokes and not just bad writing. About the seemingly random italics and quotation marks. I won't.
Instead I'll just ask everyone reading this journal not to read books by the Baldaccis of the world. They make the act of reading that our society so prizes (at least in theory) so pointless that you might as well watch TV. And not good TV either. "How I Met Your Mother" TV. The rule should be that in order to be a rich and famous writer you should have to be able to write at a level above the average high school junior. Baldacci fails that test.