Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Encouraged by Midnight In Peking

This is my first post for the Insecure Writers Support Group and I’d like to tell you about a book I just finished reading--a very depressing book. It took me three days to read, and it certainly wasn’t something I’d normally pick up. I’ll blame that on hubby. He’d read several reviews and bought it with his B&N gift card. Midnight in Peking by Paul French totally captured his attention and eventually, mine.   

I kept asking hubby why he thought the book was so good.  “It’s about an unsolved case,” he said. He knows I like books and movies about cold cases. This tale sounded right up my alley.
When I started reading the book, it yanked me in immediately but every now and then I’d look up and ask, “Now why were you so taken by this book?”
“It describes an era,” he said. “It’s the story of Peking.”   That made more sense. Hubby is into history-not maniacal murder.
Midnight in Peking is the story of the unsolved murder of 19 year old Pamela Werner, the daughter of a former British consul to China. The murder was horrific. I don’t dare describe it here or you’ll quit reading this post. Stay with me; I have a point.
Paul French is an expert on China and wow, he plopped us right down in the middle of Peking, 1937. We lived, breathed and tasted the setting. He went into fine detail.  
Midnight in Peking reads like a novel. The pacing is great. The corruption has readers on edge. The facts are well-documented, fascinating and heartbreaking.
Honestly, we don’t know who to root for in this book. There seemed to be no goodness. There are no bright spots. Even the young girl’s dad seemed questionable. I wasn’t sure about him. I had to put my reading aside now and then to catch my breath and look out the window, think of my own daughter and say a prayer for her safety. Midnight in Peking reminded me of the horrors all around us--yes, even today, in our own country.
By the time I reached the end of the story, I realized there were a couple of heroes after all: The father turned out to be a good guy. When all else failed, he dedicated his life to finding out who killed his daughter. And without a doubt, the author is a hero, because he shared their lost story with the world.
And there’s the encouragement today: words have power and writers are heroes. No matter what we write--fiction or nonfiction--we have the power to make someone laugh, cry, think, experience something new, see something in a different way, or actually feel something. We can’t ever take that privilege, that opportunity, lightly. We should pore over every word in our stories, make certain it’s the right word, the best word to evoke what we want our readers to experience. We can be--we are--heroes.

At Booktopia Blog, Paul French answers 10 Terrifying Questions: He offers this advice to new writers:
Never, ever, under any circumstances put pen to paper and start to write about anything that doesn’t completely obsess and fascinate you. Without a complete absorption in the subject you’re guaranteed that, at best, it’ll turn into a dreary and frustrating slog and, at worst, it’ll drive you mad and put you off writing anything else ever again.
What a responsibility we have! What a challenge! What a gift!


Karen Walker said...

What a post!

Siobhan said...

Hi there. Popping by from IWSG. Thanks for sharing this. I'm tempted to check this book out, though I have a lot of depressing books yet to read on my list. I'm going to have to start taking anti-depressants.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Karen, thanks.

Siobhan - I know exactly what you mean. This is a fast read, but I can't guarantee it won't stay with you for a long, long time.

Charles Gramlich said...

"Words have power." Amen!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

If it sucked you in and made you feel, then I'd have to say it was effectively written.

Cherie Colyer said...

Great post. I do try to avoid depressing books, but I'll keep this one in the back of my mind for that moment I decide to break that rule.

Susanne Dietze said...

Sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.

MJ said...

The power of the pen is mighty! Great post. :) Stopping by from the IWSG.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I generally avoid true crime novels because I hate to think those horrors are real. You make it sound so interesting and I love historical suspense so I might have to check this out. Nice to meet you from IWSG

Arlee Bird said...

I guess a morbid curiosity can draw us in to such things, but I sometimes feel kind of dirty after reading something like this. Horrible things happen in the world and sometimes there's no good way to understand where it all comes from.

Wrote By Rote

Siv Maria said...

Great post! I have this book but have been putting off reading it. Half the time, the news depresses me! We are heroes and what we write about can even change a persons life.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Pour over every word - no pressure, right?
Thanks for joining the IWSG!

Candilynn Fite said...

Hi, Jess * Jessie * Jessy! I'm Candy, Candi, Candilynn, Candy Lynn and Candice. :)) Talk about split personalities. O_O

Welcome to the IWSG!

I'm also a southern writer. I live in Texas.

Thanks for sharing your recent read with us. I agree, as writers we hold the power of word. I love reading pieces that evoke any emotion, well, except hatred or extreme dread. I usually avoid or stop reading those. Just my thing. My favorites are the ones that make me laugh until I cry.

Look forward to reading more!

Donna B. McNicol said...

Better late than never (from IWSG). I have to admit to not dealing well with depressing books or movies so think I'll pass on this one. ;-)