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minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sat Jan 24 16:20:33 EST 2004


Otter answered me:

>> In that case Georgette Heyer is in trouble: in some of her books nobody
>> ever seems to speak without they bellow at each other, even when it is
>> clear from the text that they are speaking softly.  As it were, "Leave
>> me!"
>> he murmured.  Or "Don't wake him!" she breathed.  My favourite is the
>> man
>> who has been seriously wounded in a duel and is lying nearly
>> unconscious on
>> the floor: "'I believe -- I shan't die -- this time -- either!'
>> whispered
>> Lethbridge."  Ah well.  I forgive her anyway, because she's fun to
>> read.
>She doesn't bother me.  I'll tell you who I think is rendered absolutely
>unreadable by this:  Brian Freemantle.  He wrote/writes the Charlie
>Muffin books.  I had to give up after the first few because people
>_always_
>said things with an adverb, or did something besides _say_ things.
>They retorted or said breathlessly or whatever.

On the other fin, Arthur Ransome's people almost never do anything but
"say" things, very dead-pan.  If it's a question, they "ask" it.  Every so
often they "shout" or "exclaim" or "cry" things, always for a reason such
as distance or surprise.  If they shout, it has an exclamation mark and
goes on, 'shouted John' (usually) (I mean, he's the one who usually shouts,
except when it's Nancy, and what they are shouting is usually to do with
the sailing).  In one splendid and memorable typo in my [21st impression
1963] copy of *Pigeon Post*, we get "I say," cried Roger [....] "Hi! I! say
Titty!"  (But he does think the Blacketts have driven off with all the
luggage, so that sort of excitement is excusable.)

>Lawrence Block is good respite from this.  He can write whole books
>without ever attributing conversation.  I actually didn't notice this
>until I read his book _Telling Lies for Fun and Profit_.

That's not a bad trick if it can be pulled off.  If it's done badly, it is
downright unfair on the reader.  I haven't read the author, and Charlie's
reply is making me wonder if I have misunderstood you, but I took that as
meaning two or more people speaking in turn and not having names of the
speaker attached to the speeches, rather than not having the manner of the
speech stated by the author.

Minnow


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