A New Favorite – Author Dennis Lehane

Another author I’ve recently discovered is Dennis Lehane. He wrote the book Mystic River, adapted for the screen and directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie earned several Academy Award nominations including best picture; Sean Penn  won in  the Best Actor category and  Tim Robbins winning the  Best Supporting Actor.  Mystic River may  have won more categories, but  in 2003, the last Lord of  the Rings installment was released and Rings  walked away with 11 Academy Awards.

This past Christmas, while searching for a writing prompt at  my in-laws cabin, I picked up Mystic River. I planned to use it  for a  “first sentence writing prompt” – take the first sentence from a book and then free write for fifteen minutes using the sentence as the prompt (you can also use the last sentence of a book or open to a random page and use any sentence).   However, before I realized it, I’d read the first three pages of Mystic River and I was hooked.

Lehane has a gift for writing convincing dialogue; his characters’ voices each have their own distinct tenor. He also writes uniquely memorable descriptions. Mystic River, the movie version, follows the book closely, but even if you’ve seen it, the book is a captivating read.  I had not seen the movie since 2003, so the picture Lehane painted in my mind wasn’t influenced by the screen adaptation. Plus, as in all books-turned-movies, the characters in the book are much more defined and developed than on the screen, especially the female characters.

Lehane has also written a group of books featuring Patrick Kenzie, private investigator extraordinaire.  One of the Kenzie books is Gone Baby Gone, which was made into a major motion picture last year (it is now on DVD – read my review under Movie Reviews).  It has received one Academy Award Nomination in the Best  Supporting Actress catagory (Amy Ryan).  I haven’t read Gone Baby Gone, but I have read the first book in the Kenzie adventures, A Drink Before the War, an easy, less serious read than Mystic River, it retains Lehane’s unforgettable descriptions and adds a dash of humor that threads through the Kenzie books.

I rarely read Lehane’s genre. I seldom read any genre fiction – romance, suspense, mystery, horror, etc. I usually stick with the literature section of the bookstore and the few times I’ve strayed I have been disappointed, until I read Lehane. I enjoy character driven books and genre fiction is often plot driven with little attention given to character development (I realize this is not true of all genre fiction, but in general, it’s true). Though the books featuring Kenzie are plot driven, Lehane take the time to develop the character of Patrick Kenzie so the reader actually cares what happens to him and therefore the plot actually takes on  new, important meaning.

Author’s website: http://www.dennislehanebooks.com/

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