Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sense of Place


We've watched a few episodes of DETROIT I87 and it does a good job of capturing Detroit. Harder to do in a novel though. I once heard a somewhat belligerent reader tell Ruth Rendell some facts about Kingsmarkam-- a fictional town she created she reminded him.

Who's good at this? Where do you feel like you've been (or recognize because it's your own turf) in novels. Galway comes across loud and clear in Ken Bruen novels. And Laura Lippman's middle class areas of Baltimore's are now familiar too. Alice Munro brought rural Ontario to life for me. Paul Auster: New York, Philp Roth: Newark.

Who's good at this IYHO?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Patti - Oh, good question! And I agree about Laura Lippman. For me, James Lee Burke "takes one" to Southern Louisiana. I am in Venice when I read Donna Leon, and in Sicily when I read Andrea Camilleri. Oh, and in Stockholm when I read Sjowall and Wahloo.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I must read one of his books. Terrible hole that I haven't.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Margot on Camilleri; even though I've never actually been to Sicily I believe his portrayal is right.

I've always thought one of the most accurate depictions of New York was in Westlake's Dancing Aztecs, and Lawrence Block's New York (including visits to Brooklyn) is always on target.

I'm no expert on Edinburgh but I've been there many times and I certainly recognize it in Ian Rankin's Rebus books.

Jeff M.

Mike Dennis said...

Patti, I would add Raymond Chandler in LA.
George V Higgins in Boston.
Douglas Fairbairn in Miami.
Larry McMurtry in Texas.

David Cranmer said...

I'm reading novels by Jack London (MARTIN EDEN) and Patricia Highsmith (RIPLEY UNDER GROUND) and both were beautifully descriptive in their passages of California, London etc.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Larry McMurtry, yes. And I read Raymond Chandler's LA. Great.
I need to read Jack London.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

Reviewers have said that I have another character in my Laurano novels and it's NYC. I came to believe them.

George said...

Robert B. Parker did a nice job capturing the essence of Boston. And Ed McBain made the imaginary 87th Precinct real enough for me.

michael said...

I have never been to San Francisco, but Tim Maleeny's Cape Weathers books make me believe I have.

Charlieopera said...

Westlake did a hell of a job on Canarsie, Brooklyn, where I grew up (especially the train station). I like it even more when an author describes something that feels real enough to make me want to visit. Roth's Newark of old I have to take his word on, but I suspect it's pitch perfect. Higgins Boston, the same. How was Leonard for Detroit? Highsmith I love but I don't know Europe well enough (again, I suspect she nailed it).

Good post ... makes you (me) think.

Kent Morgan said...

I agree about Burke and Rankin. William Kent Krueger captures northern Minnesota in his Cork O'Connor series and Randy Wayne White does the same for the Sanibel Island region on Florida's Gulf Coast in his Doc Ford series. I always felt I was in Montana when I read Peter Bowen's series about Metis cattle brand inspector Gabriel Du Pre.

Charles Gramlich said...

I created a town called Deerhaven, Arkansas, which is a mixture of my hometown of Charleston, Ark and a couple of small towns in the Ozark MOuntains. I sure feel at home there and have used it in several short stories and in the novel Cold in the light.

Dana King said...

Burke for Louisiana, not so much for Montana. I have the feeling his type of writing is better suited for the warm, humid atmosphere of the south than the stark beauty of the West.

Chandler for LA, of course. John Connolly makes me feel the forests and small towns of Maine.

As for fictional places, Ed McBain's Isola is more real to me than much of new York is when I actually go there.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And forties New York with the last two, Sandra.
Bryon Gruley did a good job with upper Michigan (Starvation Lake) and Steve Hamilton too. Leonard is good for a segment of Detroit. Estleman does it well too.
Paretsky's Chicago.

Kieran Shea said...

Key West will always be Tom McGuane's as will Montana for me. Jim Harrison = the UP of MI. Daniel Duane = Santa Cruz, CA. New Zealand? Duff's. New Jersey? Depends what part.

Naomi Johnson said...

Have to agree with Margot. James Lee Burke really evokes southern Louisiana for me. As does Kenneth Abel in his Danny Chaisson books. And I think John Sandford does a good job with the colder clime of Minnesota.

Dorte H said...

Inspector Morse´s Oxford!

But Rendell´s Kingsmarkham is also very real to me, and Ann Cleeves & Martin Edwards are also really good at creating vivid settings.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oxford, of course. Can't believe I forgot that.
I didn't even know the Sandford books were set there. And my son's favorite to boot.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Florida has a number of good writers setting their books there: Vicki Hendricks, Charles Willeford, John D MacDonald, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Hiassen, Crews.
Harrison was great at portraying Michigan. But he deserted it as soon many have of late.

Ron Scheer said...

As someone from Nebraska, I rarely see my home state in fiction. Wright Morris' CEREMONY IN LONETREE even has a Charlie Starkweather character in it, but the whole thing doesn't seem like any Nebraska I know. I'd have to go back to Willa Cather for her memories of the open prairies, which don't exist anymore either.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have a copy of Will's Boy sitting right across the room. Morris was amazing and Cather even more so. The Professor's House is a favorite. Even more than My Antonio, which I also love.

Chris Rhatigan said...

I agree with a lot of these (Parker's Boston, Chandler's LA). I'll add Evanovich's Trenton. Never been there, but she definitely makes the setting come alive. And I think Karen Olson really captures New Haven well (where I used to live).

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

San Francisco and the North Bay Area in Bill Pronzini's books.

David Terrenoire said...

Lehane for Boston. Dear God, the man knows his city.

Pelecanos for DC.

Dutch Leonard knows Detroit's bones.

Dusty Rhoades for the sandhills of North Carolina.

And yes, our lovely Ms. Lippman for Baltimore.

Pat Downey said...

William Kennedy - Albany, NY

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ooh, a great one. Those books were just knockouts.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Nicholas Freeling for Amsterdam. I felt like I'd been there.
Cara Black for Paris--same thing.
Donna Leon for Florence--only read one but it seemed right.

John McFetridge said...

I like Stephen King's novels set in Maine. And I really liked a novel called "Go With Me," set in Vermont (can't remember the author's name right now) and Louise Penny does some great stuff in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

And Charlie isn't going to say it himself, but he also nails Canarsie - and some of Queens and Long Island, too.

Sean Charcover is doing a good job with Chicago and I hope someday he'll do something with Toronto because otherwise that city only has me ;)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Castle Freeman-Adored that novel.
Charlie is tops. Even if he does root againt the Lions.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sometimes one is enough.

Anita Page said...

Tony Hillerman's Southwest. I often think I'd like to sell my house and get a beat up trailer on the banks of the San Juan River.

K. A. Laity said...

Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, Anthony Trollope's Barchester, Dickens' London, Chandler's Los Angeles, Lansdale's East Texas...