Back in January, I wrote about the excruciating experience of being trapped in front of a big screen showing Law & Order: Special Victims Unit at a pizzeria
, and the ordeal had nothing to do with the pizza, which was fine. Rather, my agita was induced by the show's massive information dumps, the scenes in which crime-scene investigators spout facts rather than talk like real people.
That's why I was pleased to host Jonathan McGoran
at this evening's Noir at the Bar reading in Philadelphia. Under the pen name D.H. Dublin, McGoran writes carefully researched forensic thrillers, but he never forgets that his job is to tell a story, and that stories are about people.
His series about Philadelphia forensic investigator Madison Cross, now up to three books, adopts the clever strategy of following Cross from the beginning of her police career. This, McGoran says, lets the reader learn along with her. In practical terms, it means there is little need for the globby blocks of story-stopping information that make forensic TV shows hard to watch.
McGoran, while acknowledging that his novels are in essence police procedurals, said he hates the word procedural
because it reminds him too much of manual
, "something I'd get with my microwave." That's another indicator of the human touch he brings to his work and another indicator that forensic, scientific crime fiction can have heart, and not just severed body parts.
Why not make this a question to readers? What writers manage to make difficult, highly technical, potentially dry material interesting? How do they do this?
Labels: D.H. Dublin, Jonathan McGoran, Noir at the Bar, readings, television, television criticism