Monday, March 16, 2009

Hanging out with author John Knoerle

I am happy to be part of this great blog tour for author, John Knoerle. Today is about getting to know Mr. Knoerle a little bit. Come back tomorrow and read my review on his book A Pure Double Cross: Book One of the American Spy Trilogy.


John Knoerle’s first novel, “Crystal Meth Cowboys,” was optioned by Fox for a TV series. His second novel, “The Violin Player,” won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction. His new novel, “A Pure Double Cross,” is Book One of the American Spy Trilogy. John lives with his wife in Chicago. You can learn more about John Knoerle at


Cleveland, Ohio, 1945. Hal Schroeder returns from a two-year stint behind German lines as an undercover agent for the OSS. The horrors of war have left him bitter and cynical. He is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate a local mob that is pulling bank heists. The feds have concocted a sting operation to capture the head of the gang and they want Hal to execute it. He agrees. But Hal Schroeder is no longer interested in being a hero. Hal Schroeder is interested in a fat payday.

Writing Fiction in an ADD World

by John Knoerle

Marcel Prousts’ “Remembrance of Things Past” is considered one of the finest novels ever written. His American contemporary, Henry James, was the greatest American novelist of his generation, perhaps the best of all time. The recently departed John Updike, most famous for his four Rabbit novels, deserves a place in the Pantheon of immortals beside them.

Proust, James and Updike were not writers who labored in obscurity, they were well known and well respected in their day. And I’ll bet you a Booker Prize that not one of their manuscripts would make it off the NY publisher’s slush pile were it submitted for the first time tomorrow.

The problem?

Too long-winded! Cut to the chase!!

Such is progress. Blame television, instant messaging, the disintegration of the nuclear family or Pop Tarts. Whatever. The era of reflective, slow-moving fiction is dead and gone. We are now firmly planted in an Attention Deficit Disorder culture.

I wrote “The Violin Player” in the ‘90s while under the spell of Updike’s superbly crafted Rabbit novels, his scene descriptions so precise I felt as if I was right there in the moment. But I wasn’t up to the task. A newspaper reviewer said my novel “sagged in the middle.”

It was an arrow to the heart. A true arrow.

I had let long-winded descriptions of minor scenes get in the way of a perfectly good story. I loved those minor scenes, I thought they contributed mightily to overall atmospherics, which they did.

The bad news is that nobody in this day and age gives a bleep about overall atmospherics. In the age of James and Proust the average person probably hadn’t traveled fifty miles beyond his hometown. Novelists were travel guides as well as story tellers.

That was then. The advent of the film and video age means that even the most house-bound have a good idea of what the wider world looks like. The novelist doesn’t need to describe the interior of a drug store, nor the items displayed on the shelves.

The exception to this rule is when the drug store is the scene of high drama. In that case the reader wants to know the chilling details.

This rule also applies to the protagonist’s innermost thoughts. If she goes to the drugstore to buy cold cream we don’t much care why. If she goes there to meet her child’s kidnapper - or her illicit lover - then we want to hear her thoughts.

Of course John Updike could craft a compelling scene from his central character buying a Slim Jim at a Mini-Mart. He once said – and I’m paraphrasing – ‘Plot is whatever keeps the reader turning pages.’

Ah, those were the days! As writers we can mourn the passing of the golden age and sob salty tears. Or we can hitch up our britches and meet the challenge of a new era of reading and writing.

Cut to the chase!


Tracee said...

What a great post! I think there are some authors that can still get away with A LOT of detail, Stephen King being one. But, for the most part a lot of people don't want all that description which is sad because it can lend a lot to the story. I am sure you are right, a lot has to do with the fast paced lives of most individuals.

Dorothy Thompson said...

Thanks for posting, Cheryl!

Cheryl said...

Excellent article, John. Your words are so true. Our world moves too quickly and sitting down to read a full-length novel seems almost impossible for some these days.

I'm curious to see what Cheryl's impressions of this book are. I'll have to check back in tomorrow.

All my best,