As I was working my way through a pair of recent books it occurred to me that there was a striking similarity to the books and the works of some of my favorite fiction authors. While on their face the books by Robert B. Parker, Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy are nothing alike, there is one common thread that connects them; the authentic voice.
Parker, Flynn and Clancy all featured dynamic characters that lived in the settings and surroundings that their skillful creators devised that gave you as a reader a level of authenticity that can’t be faked, whether it’s Spenser’s Boston, Mitch Rapp’s rough and tumble antics or Jack Ryan and friends high tech global adventures, they all come off with a lived in, been there done that feel.
This authenticity can come in many forms, be it a lived in firsthand knowledge of Parker’s stomping grounds and Berkley and Boyleston or learned by Flynn and Clancy’s interactions with folks that move in those circles of life.
Veteran bestseller Robert Harris brings a crackling level authenticity as he moves you through the confines of World War II era Europe; you can’t help but sense the desperation of the times in the lead up to battle in his latest outing Munich: A Novel – Robert Harris (Knopf).
Clearly Harris wasn’t present at the time, but he delivers superior insight into the inner workings of Britain’s 10 Downing Street and the jockeying inside Hitler’s Germany and the machinations and manipulations in the dial up to war. It becomes very easy to get caught up in the story as Harris plays out both side of the coin, tugging hard with the backdrop of military and diplomacy set against family.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but Harris does a fascinating job of tackling Neville Chamberlin set not in the rearview mirror but in the time period of his failures, which makes for a great read.
On the other side of the authentic voice is Jason Matthews, who taps into his 33 years of firsthand experience as a CIA Operation Directorate officer that ratchets up the authenticity in the third and final installment in the Red Sparrow Trilogy, The Kremlin’s Candidate: A Novel.
Matthews’ career in the clandestine service collecting national security intel spanned the globe, with stops in such entertaining hotbeds as the fomer Soviet Bloc, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. It is that insiders knowledge that he draws on to fill the stories and the characters that populate them in the Sparrow series. You just know that the places and people he describes are folks he crossed paths with in the dark alley of the world.
As a willing kitchen participant in trying new things, I have always been a fan of Matthews inclusion of rough recipes of the foods he describes as part and parcel of the stories he weaves. At times he describes them in detail to the point that you can almost smell and taste the food and the surroundings they are served up in; chock full of spices and wood smoke.
It will be an interesting, challenging, test to see how these detailed stories will make the transition from page to screen when Red Sparrow hits movie screens later in the week. Based on the experience of fellow authentic voice writer’s work making that leap, I can’t say as a reader I am hopeful for the outcome.