That third person, my friends, was the amiable Charles Benoit. At that time, he was writing incredibly entertaining thrillers cum travelogues cum I-don’t-know-what for adults to read. I believe he penned three of them, one of which was nominated for an Edgar and a Barry. It must have been his first one, Relative Danger, since it was nominated in the Best First Novel category. But Charles is a tricky devil, so you never know…
More recently, he’s been a leading light in the YA genre world, where he’s doing very well, thank you. His forthcoming (or should I say fourth-coming – since it’s his 4th) YA novel is Snow Job. (Living in Rochester, New York, as he does, Mssr. Benoit is an expert on the subject of neige.)
So here once again is one of the grand old persons of Type M for Murder, the one, the only, Charles Augustus Benoit!
The Elements of (personal) Style
Any day now, the ARC (advance reading copy) of my next novel, SNOW JOB, will arrive in the mail. It’s my second young adult novel with Clarion Books. I did two other YAs with HarperCollins, and, before I crossed over to the dark side, I published three mysteries with the great folks at Poisoned Pen Press. That’s seven books with three different publishers and two different editors. I’ve been nominated for a bunch of awards, won a few of them, and, generally speaking, earned a fair amount of praise from critics and fans alike. Kinda makes a guy think. And what I’m thinking is this: What makes a Charles Benoit book a Charles Benoit book? So with copies of all my books within easy reach, it’s time to step back and survey the damage.
Flipping through and reading random pages, I noticed a lot of similarities among my books. You could call it my literary style, but that sounds a bit too literary for me. It’s just the way I write. And those last three sentences are an example—two sentences (each with a comma stuck in there) followed by a shorter sentence that sums it up. It’s a pattern I get locked into more than I should admit, adding lots of fun hours to the revision process.
Something else I tend to do—and this goes for public speaking and general conversations, as well—is to use rambling, meandering, serendipitous sentences that head off waving in one direction, then veer drunkenly into the weeds, swinging back across the highway before careening downhill to the gutter, eventually crawling—exhausted and confused—into one of those storm drain culverts escaped prisoners always hide in, their original missions lost in a maze of misused em dashes and mixed-up metaphors.
I also like one-line paragraphs.
In my books, lines are said. Sometimes they’re whispered or shouted or mumbled, but never laughed or giggled. Or ejaculated. I don’t even want to know what that would sound like.
My characters stare a lot. At each other, out windows, at guns, at their own reflections. And when they’re not staring, they’re busy gazing or eyeing or looking or glaring. I bet if you added them all up, I’d have a solid day’s worth of staring-like action in my books.
My books written with adult readers in mind have light, upbeat endings, where my YA novels are way over in the dark, noir part of the room. Whatever the reason, I’m sure it has nothing whatsoever to do with getting picked last for dodgeball in my freshman year. Jerks.
There’s another thing you’ll find in all of my books, and I wrote about it many years ago on this very site. But nobody’s memory is that good, so I’ll tell you again. It’s Odenbach beer, a fictitious concoction I created to avoid a cease-and-desist order from a real, never-to-be-mentioned brewery. Now just how do I brilliantly weave that not-real-product placement into the story? That’s the part you have to find out for yourself.
Oh, and I like phrases with hyphens.