Monday, December 02, 2013

Who Writes Great Dialog?



“Freaky Deaky” (1988)
Robin said, “I could tell you were a little ripped when you walked in.”
“Not bad. All I had after work was some hash and beer. I’m still geeked on acid, but couldn’t find none. I can get blotter in L.A. once in a while, it’s okay. But old Owsley’s preemo purple or even windowpane, that stuff could get you in touch with your ancestors. ... Acid’s good for you — I mean you don’t overdo it, become a burnout. It’s like laxative for the brain, it mellows you while it cleans out your head.”
Robin sipped her wine. She said, “I have some,” and saw Skip’s sly grin peeking through his beard, a sparkle coming into his pale eyes.
“You know I suffer from anti-acrophobia, fear of not being high.”


Who else? 

29 comments:

Jerry House said...

"K. C. Constantine" was a genius at dialog; his books always left me in awe.

Another great one for dialog is Joe Lansdale.

Anonymous said...

All good choices, though it is hard to beat Leonard. Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, Ross Thomas and Ken Bruen would make my list too.


Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, these are very good. I think Tana French is good too. And Sara Paretski and Louise Penney.

David Cranmer said...

Patti Abbott and Ed Gorman write exceptional dialog. And Richard Matheson. Also dig Hilary Davidson, Garnett Elliott and Frank Bill.

Al Tucher said...

Yes to Constantine, at least until he started his three-page tirades against public libraries.

I enjoy pungent working class British dialog when it's well rendered, and Liza Cody does it well.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Paretsky, yes! Also J.D. Salinger, Jo Nesbo, and Salley Vickers.

George said...

I'm with Jerry and Al on K. C. Constantine. But, for my money, the best is P. G. Wodehouse.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

George Higgins wrote great dialog.Joe Lansdale and Lawrence Block also are very good.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cormac McCarthy

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, David. It is certainly the thing I spend the most time on in editing.
Lansdale is a master. I really like attempts to reproduce the way people actually speak. No in full sentences and not in perfect grammar. THis is something contemporary writers have really improved

Anonymous said...

I'm currently reading the latest Vish Puri mystery by Tarquin Hall set in India and I love his dialogue.

"Who is this?"
"I'm Vish Puri's Mummy-ji this side," she said without a trace of apology. "Something urgent is there."


Jeff M.

John said...

Margaret Millar captured everyday speech to perfection and still made the dialogue interesting.

To my mind a good dialogue writer also understands voice. Few fiction writers I've encountered ever create new syntax, different vocabulary, different rhythms for each character. One of the reasons I close a book is when all the characters sound exactly like one another.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Millar did it all well, didn't she because I will certainly place her at the top in terms of plot too.
Another writer I haven't read, Jeff. Need to branch out.

MP said...

Leonard and Higgins are the best in the crime field. Getting into the literary stuff, can't think of anyone better than John O'Hara.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

This is not the first time George beat me: I was thinking of Wodehouse too. John Steinbeck and Martin Cruz Smith come to mind.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti -I really like Håkan Nesser's dialogue and Sarah Caudwell's. They're very different kinds of writers, but in each case, the dialogue is authentic and witty.

Erik Donald France said...

Not wanting to repeat previous comments, I will go with Sinclair Lewis . . . often pretty funny, too.

JJ Stickney said...

George Pelecanos and Michael Chabon

Richard said...

James Clavell.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read every book by Lewis in my youth. And I can't remember the dialog really but I certainly enjoyed him. I remember when most people knew what you meant by a Babbit but bet few do now.
Have never read Clavel, Rick.
Steinbeck is a great choice. Have also not read Caudwell or Sally Vickers. This always makes me feel ill-read.

Anonymous said...

William Gaddis, Ronald Firbank, Evelyn Waugh.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Westlake/Stark wrote great dialog.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Waugh is terrific.
Judy Blume always captured children's speech well. And also S.E. Hinton.

Dana King said...

I second the Higgins nomination, and have to add John McFetridge. Not as well known as the others mentioned here, but his dialog reads as real as anyone's.

Kieran Shea said...

I'm shocked nobody said you, Patti.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Kieran. David did. Nice of you.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, John has it nailed. Both cops and street life. Higgins is so good in Eddie Coyle but I haven't read anything else. I will take your word.

Anders E said...

Ed McBain / Evan Hunter

Cap'n Bob said...

Me. Chandler, Estleman, Crider, Pronzini, and Evan Lewis.