Dark Passages: Writers Lost & Found
My newest column for the Los Angeles Times takes a close look at HAILEY’S WAR by Jodi Compton, her first book in several years. Only a small number of people read her earlier books, but I was one them and thought she had great talent. As such I’m very glad to see her back publishing books again, and this new book more than lives up to earlier promise. Here’s how the piece opens:
The comeback: Publishing as a whole is affected by this particular
scourge, but genre fiction in particular suffers from this plight in the
most obvious way. It’s when a writer appears, sometimes with
considerable fanfare, with a new series, garnering an audience with each
successive volume. The problem is, if the audience isn’t big enough, or
the money paid out to said writer doesn’t produce expected sales, the
publisher may cancel the series after just two or three books (or, in
truly worst-case scenarios, after just one). Another company may pick up
the slack for a variable advance, or the writer strikes out with new
territory, often under a pen name. Or in many instances, the writer
simply disappears, his or her career over.
Lately, a handful of writers have sidestepped the “whatever happened
to…?” parlor game by publishing new books years after they were last
heard from, book-wise….
Jodi Compton, however, may be the most stubborn of the “lost and found
writers.” She has a new publisher, and a new series but has kept her
real name and the same authorial voice, more or less. Her first series,
cut short after two books, featured Minnesota police detective Sarah
Pribek, whose ability to keep up with her male peers, inscrutable
personality and complicated relationship with her husband (and fellow
cop) Michael made her seem prickly, but all the more winning. If
Compton’s plotting in “The 37th Hour” (2005) and “Sympathy Between
Humans” (2006) faltered in places, her treatments of setting and
characterization more than compensated.
But inscrutable heroines are more in vogue, thanks to a wonderful little
fictional phenom named Lisbeth Salander. Something tells me that if
Hailey Cain, the 23-year-old protagonist of Compton’s new novel **“Hailey’s
War”** (Shaye Areheart: 286 pp., $22.99) and Salander ever met,
they’d circle around, size each other up and accept some grudging mutual
respect that might, with a lot of time, develop into mutual loyalty.
Woe to those who think Hailey is some knockoff; as Compton makes clear
very early on, she is a creature very much of her own making, singing a
metaphorical tune few, if any, can hear…
Read on for the rest.