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Cafe Doom  |  General Discussions  |  Book Reviews  |  A Key To The Suite - John D MacDonald

Author Topic: A Key To The Suite - John D MacDonald  (Read 2069 times)

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Offline delboy

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A Key To The Suite - John D MacDonald
« on: March 04, 2010, 05:13:45 AM »
A Key To The Suite
John D MacDonald
156 pages

You all know the esteem in which I hold JDM. This is a book I’ve read, and loved, before and I came back to now in an attempt to read it from the writer’s perspective, rather than that of a reader. I knew that the plot was very simple and that the key power of the book was the interaction of a small group of characters, and how their individual motivations result in murder and tragedy.

That said, it’s still clearly a genre novel, and it doesn’t explore the human condition the way a literary novel might. It’s a short sharp read. It’s a thriller. It’s sexy and fast. The characters and motivations are drawn in broad brushstrokes and they are, to a certain extent, archetypes. But like looking at one of the great pencil portraits, drawn in just half a dozen sweeping lines, you see and feel much more here than what’s actually on the page.

Interestingly, there’s a gun on the cover of the 1977 paperback edition that I’ve got, but there are no guns in the story… Also, the novel dates from the early sixties, so the details and the setting, the technology, the organisations involved and the way they’re set-up are all very dated. None of which matters. It’s a master-class in giving individuals motivations and problems, and then letting them clash…

Floyd Hubbard, trouble shooter for the American General Machine corporation is despatched to a sales conference in a resort hotel to secretly observe ageing sales chief Jesse Mulraney’s performance, and to produce a final recommendation to the AGM board on whether or not they should retain Jesse at the helm of the sales organisation or pension him off.

However, the board actually have an ulterior motive around Floyd Hubbard – they want to see how he reacts under pressure - and have therefore let word slip that he’s a hatchet man come to retire the very proud and well-loved Jesse.

So Jesse’s team decide to take the offensive and set a little trap for the married Floyd involving a beautiful high-class call girl named Cory Barlund - who has her own strong motivations for what she does.

As the drink flows, the sun-tan lotion is applied, and the heady conference atmosphere clouds judgement, the characters and their desires and fears and temptations all collide in one big nightmare.

As it happened, I failed in my attempt to read this as a writer. Sure, initially I observed how JDM had described his characters, had pieced them together bit by bit, how and when he revealed their conflicts and motivations…and then all of that went by the by, I was drawn into the story. I forgot I was meant to be studying. I carried the novel around in my back pocket and read it every time I had, literally, two minutes to spare. In two days, I was done.

It’s actually quite a downbeat book. It’s old fashioned. There are no car chases, on-stage fights, no explosions, as I’ve said no guns.

It’s great.
"If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it."
Robert B. Parker

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