Thursday, 7 January 2016

Book Chat: Versatility in Genre

Frank Parker, I salute you. You’re an extraordinarily versatile writer.

I’ve just finished reading Frank’s Transgression, which I suppose is best described as a political thriller with a twist. It’s a story set in some fictional suburban English town, in the very modern era of politics with past misdeeds becoming uncovered by time and exposed through the media. Sound familiar?

There was much I liked about it. Very much. I liked the pacing of it, which may sound odd because it’s not a rip-roaring read. But the (only slightly) gentle pace did justice to a complicated story and also suited the character of the main protagonist — Roger Jones, a journalist in his sixties, with much in life to reflect on and the keeper of many secrets. 

It’s a complicated plot and Frank handles it with immense technical skill. The action zips around at different points from the 1940s to the present day. As a writer I avoid flashbacks wherever I can, because I’m simply incapable of dealing with them without confusing either myself or the reader. The plot of Transgression requires flashbacks to work — and I’m impressed.

If I had a problem with it, it was that there was perhaps a little too much back story. One character’s back story, interesting in itself, isn’t sufficiently crucial to the plot to justify as much focus as it gets and that’s the only point at which my attention wandered.

It’s the second of Frank’s books I’ve tackled. The first was Strongbow’s Wife, his historical novel set in twelfth-century Ireland and the Welsh Marches. There’s politics here, too, but much more brutal than the modern day (though you might argues that its victims don’t suffer any less). Aoife is the wife of Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke (the Strongbow of the title) caught up in the power struggle that followed the Norman Conquest.

The pace is the same, too, and again I enjoyed being able to read a less-than-frenetic story, so that Frank’s thoughtful phrasing and descriptions aren’t lost. There’s plenty of action — but he succeeds in not sacrificing plot to pace or vice versa.

Of the two I’m bound to say I enjoyed Strongbow’s Wife the more, if only because the plot hung together rather more coherently. Some readers may not enjoy the politics of Transgression and  others may shy away from historical novels. But readers with wide-ranging tastes and an appreciation of subtle will surely enjoy either — or both.


  1. Thank you very much indeed, Jennifer. Your generous comments are much appreciated.

  2. They're justified. I really enjoy your writing style and I envy your versatility.

  3. It's so interesting to read an honest appreciation of these novels, Jennifer, even though I haven't read either.