Friday, September 25, 2009

Jeffery Deaver's masterful dialog run

This week I'm re-reading Jeffery Deaver's great book, The Broken Window, and decided to blog about his masterful dialog. I've loved his Lincoln Rhyme books since the first one, The Bone Collector, and would say to anyone who's seen the film (Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in starring roles), read the book, its a completely different experience, and I really found the film disappointing after knowing the characters so well. Also, rather like Felix Leiter who has been played by a variety of actors, black and white, in the James Bond films, I was surprised at the casting, as I always envisioned Linc as white.

Anyway, for the uninitiated, Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic criminalist who is incredibly clever, and a wonderfully abrasive personality. For those of us who finds it difficult to differentiate between characters within dialog, I think this is a great excerpt to show just how a master does it! Here goes....

Rhyme spoke into his stalk mike. "Command, call Sellitto." He was excited now. He could feel that unique buzz-the thrill of a budding hunt. Answer the damn phone, he thought angrily, and for once he wasn't thinking about England.
"Hey, Linc." Sellitto's Brooklyn-inflected voice filled the room. "What's--"
"Listen. There's a problem."
"I'm kinda busy here." Rhyme's former partner, Lieutenant Dectective Lon Sellitto, hadn't been in the best of moods himself lately. A big task force case he'd worked on had just tanked. Vladimir Dienko, the thug of a Russian mob boss from Brighton Beach, had bee indicted last year for racketeering and murder. Rhyme had assisted with some of the forensics. To everyone's shock the case against Dienko and three of his associates had been dismissed, just last Friday, after witnesses had stonewalled or vanished. Sellitto and agents from the Bureau had been working all weekend, trying to track down new witnesses and informants.
"I'll make it fast." He explained what he and Sachs had found about his cousin and the rape and coin-theft cases.
"Two other cases? Friggin' weird. What's your cousin say?"
"Haven't talked to him yet. But he denies everything. I want to have this looked into."
"'Looked into.' The fuck's that mean?"
"I don't think Arthur did it."
"He's your cousin. Of course you don't think he did it. But whatta you have concrete?"
"Nothing yet. That's why I want your help. I need some people."
"I'm up to my ass in the Dienko situation in Brighton Beach. Which, I gotta say, you'd be helping on except, no, you're too busy sipping fucking tea with the Brits."
"This could be big, Lon. Two other cases that stink of planted evidence? I'll bet there are more. I'll bet there are more. I know how much you love your cliches, Lon. Doesn't 'getting away with murder' move you?"
"You can throw all the clauses you want at me, Linc, I'm busy."
"That's a phrase, Lon. A clause has a subject and predicate."
"What-fucking-ever. I'm truing to salvage the Russian Connection. Nobody at City Hall or the Federal Building's happy about what happened."
"And they have my deepest sympathies. Get reassigned."
"It's homicide. I'm Major Cases."
In my opinion, this is a wonderful example of a dialog run. It's fast, the reader flies through it, not slowed by narrative at all. There are no modifiers (he said's or stuff like that) because they're not needed. Also as both of the people speaking are male, they would be difficult to use. Not only does the dialog flow so beautifully, they have such different voices that there is no possibility of getting confused about who's speaking. I'm in awe of how much he manages to convey about these two character's relationship without spelling it out, I can just hear these two going at it in my head!

For anyone who hasn't discovered Deaver yet, I can't recommend his writing enough. The above is an excerpt from The Broken Window.