You wait forever for a book about the girls of the Manson Family to arrive and then two come along at once. This month sees the publication of both Emma Cline’s The Girls and Alison Umminger’s My Favourite Manson Girl. And, if we’re counting the TV series Aquarius, as well as Manson’s Lost Girls, the recent Lifetime movie (yes, really), Susan Atkins et al have, like, omg never been hotter.
Let’s save the “ethics of true crime” discussion for another time (hey, you listened to Serial, too, right?). There’s obviously something that still resonates about this legend of a magnetic man; one who’s capable of building a cadre of (mostly female) misfits willing to murder for him. The fact that attention has mostly shifted from Manson to his “girls” speaks to both the post-Gone-Girl wave of female-driven crime novels and also to society’s persistent astonishment whenever a woman does anything except what she’s supposed to. When we see her mugshot, we all still wonder, “How’d a nice girl like you end up there?”
It’s partly a snapshot of a political movement (Greenpeace); partly a real-life thriller (what happens when Greenpeace activists are arrested during a direct action); and partly a prison soap opera (they’re arrested in Russia… yikes).
This could have been a turgid read, but where Ben Stewart succeeds is by zeroing in on the individual stories, and teasing out not only the fearfulness of the situation but also the ridiculousness.
Looking at the current crop of Young Adult books, it can be tough to remember that there was ever a time before Twilight and The Hunger Games.
YA is now a juggernaut, spawning million-dollar box office openings, but let’s not forget that 20 years ago, it was a cute little side-line in publishing. And let’s not forget the authors who helped pave the way for the current success of YA. Although some 90s series, like The Vampire Diaries, have seen a renaissance, most languish in semi-obscurity.
So, if your interest in YA started with Suzanne Collins or John Green, why not check out some of my favourite 90s reads?
I’ll admit that, when I first heard about The Emotion Thesaurus, I reacted against the whole concept. It’s a reference book full of ‘beats’ of action (he bit his lip! he ripped at his hair!), which you can insert into your fiction to show the reader how a character is feeling, rather than telling them.
But… but… (I spluttered, rending my garments to show I was aggravated…) your beats should come organically! You should know your characters so well that their actions come to you automatically! You should strive for originality in your writing, not all this lip-biting/hair-ripping!
Of course, that’s the ideal and therefore not real life. In real life, you’re editing something and you’ve read it so many times that you basically want to die and goddammit you just can’t think of a way to convey to the reader that the character is angry (short of dropping in “he said angrily” — oh sweet sweet adverbs!). In that situation, The Emotion Thesaurus feels like it was sent from heaven. *angels singing*
In the few weeks since I purchased this book, it’s become close to invaluable to me. I do wish some of the suggested beats were less clichéd. You can find yourself in the situation of swapping out a tacky adverb and replacing it with a tacky cliché, which is hardly a step up. Nonetheless, in a pinch, it’s great (she said, biting her lip).
I love Gillian Flynn! Doesn’t everyone love Gillian Flynn?
(Real answer: No. My mum does not love Gillian Flynn. I recommended Gone Girl to my mum and she now refers to it as “that weird book you made me read”. Sad times.)
However, for everyone – my mum excepted – who has enjoyed immersing themselves in Flynn’s darkly-twisted, fiercely-intelligent (not to mention defiantly female-centric) novels, here’s my list of other books you should read: