Silent Joe: Lance's Thoughs
I really liked “Silent Joe”. I’m not just talking about the novel; I liked Joe Trona. A story needs a good baby face and Joe Trona was one of Book Marks’ first true blue baby faces. No anti-hero this time. Joe was the hero and a good guy. He was an honest cop, a loyal son, and above all else a polite individual. I’m a big mark for god manners so Joe Trona was my kind of guy.
“Silent Joe” (the novel this time) wasn’t the edge of your seat, can’t read the pages fast enough type of read, like say, “Killing Floor” but it peaked my interest early and had me thinking through out. There were two mysteries to hold my interest, the obvious one of who killed Will Trona and why, and the more subtle one of what happened to Joe’s face. I liked the fact that Parker took a while explaining what was wrong with Joe’s face, it created an added incentive to read on. “With a face like mine, you don’t want people paying attention to you…most people were afraid to even look.” This was page 6 and since Will hadn’t yet been killed, it was the main hook to keep me reading. By the time I learned that Joe was burned with acid we were well into the “who killed Will Trona and why”. I had a new main focus and still had the back-story of what really happened when Joe was a kid.
I think the thing that really got me with this novel was the characters. More than action or suspense Parker has a knack for relating real emotion through his characters. “Silent Joe” is the second Parker novel I’ve read (Cold Pursuit being the first) and I felt a real emotional attachment to the characters in both. I’m not sure exactly how he does it but when his characters talk about how and why they feel the way they do I can relate. The “TUT” bit hit home for me. It’s one of those things I’ve always felt but have never been able to put in words. When you can say to yourself “I know exactly what you mean.” when reading, a connection has been made. There have been very few women (or girls) that I’ve really been attracted to in my life. I’ve seen, met and know thousands of beautiful girls but very few of them have ever had that…I’ve never been able to explain what it is that those rare few had and why they did something for me, while others didn’t. Parker found those words, it’s “The Unknown Thing”. My wife has it in spades.
Another thing that I liked about this book was that it kept reminding me where I was. There were several characters to keep straight and when you have to read a book in several sittings it’s sometimes hard to keep all your facts straight. Whenever we learned something new and important, Parker found a way to remind us who everyone was and how this new piece of the puzzle fit. A lot of times it was just Joe rolling the facts over in his head and trying to figure things out himself, but I found it extremely helpful. This was a fairly complex conspiracy so the periodic reminders kept me from getting lost. I felt like I was solving this mystery with Joe, not just reading about him solving it. I felt like I was right there with him. That’s a home run in my book.
All in all, a good mystery, great characters, and a very entertaining read. Till next time “Eyes open, mouth shut. You might learn something.”
Silent Joe: T. Jefferson Parker's Thoughs
I really enjoyed all of the thoughtful essays. I was happy to see that Silent Joe was highly – though not unanimously – popular. I can see that many of your readers are experienced and have read widely, and some of the younger ones are just starting out. I was especially proud to have written student Mike Bernard’s “first finished novel.”
It was especially heartening to be credited with good characters – that’s always been a source of pride for me. When I was writing Joe, I kept wondering if he was coming out “right,” in that I wanted him to be a complex yet believable personality. I thought that all of his traits – from his good manners to his scarred face – were important. But it was hard to put them together in the right way, the right “amounts.” Because in the end I wanted Joe to be likable and liked. Most of the readers felt that he was likable and that was good. I noticed much talk of “heros” and “antiheros”. I intended Joe to be a kind of updated but still old-fashioned hero. Whatever that means.
One criticism that came up often – and one that I agree with – is the plot complexity and number of characters. You should have seen the first draft! I worked hard at getting the plot more linear and clear, and getting rid of some characters I didn’t really need. Other characters I actually “combined,” so I could use them in necessary ways but lessen their numbers. My greatest complaint about the book is the murkiness and density of the plot. One of the ideas I was working with was Joe’s revelation that “everyone” did it. In order to make this “true”, I needed to “spread” the guilt, such that several people and organizations all contribute to a murder that no one of them would have had the courage, skill or desire to commit on his or her own. I’ll stand by that thematic idea because I think a lot of life happens that way, though I see the problems it raises with drama. It’s always more fun to have one big, smart, bad antagonist than a cast of minor rapscallions.
I want to thank you for choosing Silent Joe. I know there are a lot of good books out there – I’ve got a stack of them on my desk right here, and one by my bed, and one by my reading chair. I’m honored that you thought enough of my book to offer it as one of your picks. And I’m thankful for each person who read it and took the time to write. You’re a thoughtful audience – exactly the kind of people I write for.
T. Jefferson Parker