Thursday, March 31, 2011

Billy Boyle, A World War II Mystery.

Here you go: a man trap. Mystery and WWII. I love both, every man does. Together WWII and mystery must be like peanut butter and chocolate. Wait a minute, I don’t like peanut butter and chocolate. It has been determined through a careful examination of the facts; I am the only human alive who does not like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. As far as I can tell, the peanut butter cups only utility is trading for much better candy from unsuspecting children and adults. That opportunity is short-lived and only occurs in October. If while freight hopping, traveling across the country,  I was trapped in a railway car for longer than 24 hours and there were Reese’s Peanut Buttercups in boxes in the car with me, I would in fact open the boxes and eat some; Starvation being the only other alternative. Beets are another story. I can never imagine a scenario in which I might be placed which would force their consumption. With a car load of Reese’s, I would suffer for a while and relent. Of course if it were beets in those boxes, in any form, starvation would be the only alternative.
There is a “competition  of the first line”, which  occurs every year. In this competition writers compete to see who can write the best first line of the novel.  There is a commonly held notion amongst writers which argues the first line is the hardest thing to write and sets the tone for the entire book.
A better competition is held at San Jose State every year. Here is the Wikipedia reference:
“The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) is a tongue-in-cheek contest that takes place annually and is sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Entrants are invited "to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels" – that is, deliberately bad. According to the official rules, the prize for winning the contest is "a pittance",[1] or $250.[2]
The contest was started in 1982 by Professor Scott E. Rice of the English Department at San Jose State University and is named for English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the much-quoted first line "It was a dark and stormy night". This opening, from the 1830 novel Paul Clifford, continues floridly:
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
The first year of the competition attracted just three entries, but it went public the next year, received media attention, and attracted 10,000 entries.[3] There are now several subcategories, such as detective fiction, romance novels, Western novels, and purple prose. Sentences that are notable but not quite bad enough to merit the Grand Prize or a category prize are awarded Dishonorable Mentions.”

I think James R. Benn should have entered. I quote; ” I wanted to die. No actually I didn't want to die. Or live”. Technically that was three lines. I'm sure you get the point. I forged ahead anyway. The books basic premise revolved around a Boston detective, recruited in the Army, in World War II. He was sent to London because Dwight D Eisenhower was his uncle. Apparently they anticipated trouble. Sure enough within five pages, the Swedish ambassador was murdered. Detective Lt. Billy, makes a few friends and was sent into the countryside to investigate. Spoiler alert, although he didn't realize it at the time, he later found out he was chosen for the job because no one believed he would be able to solve any crimes. They hoped he would wander around aimlessly and give the appearance of trying while subterfuge persisted. In fact, that's how it turned out. As he solved the crime, he almost ruined the high commands plot to sabotage the Nazis. It was lucky he was so bad at detecting. He was surprised to learn the truth of the story.  In an unusual twist, the main heroine (spoiler alert) was brutally murdered and this gave him another murder to investigate. Of course it was the same perpetrator. The clues were all too easy. I had it figured out almost 20 pages before he did. As the entire book took place in England, there was not much of a war story. The mystery was not that mysterious: I figured out the most of it ahead of the story. There was a real twist at the end which was interesting but….I think you may want to pass on this one.

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