i might have picked up somebody else's two books by mistake at the library. robert harris's the ghost and john sandford's dark of the moon are suspense thrillers, the type of novels i usually stay away from, especially the ghost a book that ends up untangling some mad c.i.a. plot.
BUT the ghost is terrific and dark of the moon, not bad. both of these books have a chief protagonist who writes and who is the detective we follow as he and we try to solve the crime or crimes. the ghost is not one who goes bump in the night. he is a ghost writer, called upon to write the memoirs of a famous british politician after the previous writer has mysteriously died. along the way, our friendly ghost writer gives the reader many writing tips. in talking about the work completed by his predecessor, he says, 'it's not really publishable. it's research notes, it's not a book. it doesn't have any kind of a voice. ...i'd like to open differently, find something more intimate.' later talking about his own writing he says, 'in the absence of genius there is always craftsmanship. one can at least try to write something that will arrest the readers' attention, that will encourage them, after reading the first paragraph, to take a look at the second and then the third.' chapters later he refers to his skills again, 'i don't write sensitive explorations of my adolescent angst. i have no opinion on the human condition, except perhaps that it's best not examined too closely. i see myself as the literary equivalent of a skilled lathe operator, or a basket weaver; a potter, maybe: i make mildly diverting objects that people want to buy.' most of us who write have a slightly higher opinion or ourselves, but still my aim is that eloquent corpse and eloquent blood are mildly diverting objects that people want to buy!
virgil the detective in dark of the moon doesn't share writerly lore, but he does try to write fiction about his experiences with the minnesota bureau of criminal apprehension as a way of making sense of the crimes and murders he is investigating, and there are many murders involved in this novel. it's too intricately plotted for my taste, but i do think there's a lot to be said for fiction as a way of organizing our lives and seeing truths.