A few words about Barry Eisler’s John Rain books

I’ve mentioned Barry Eisler before in my blog because it was after reading one of his books that I was inspired to write a thriller myself. Now, let me make it clear, I’m not saying that I read Mr. Eisler’s book and thought I could do better. Rather, when I read his book I was impressed that the thriller genre had the potential to convey more than just  mindless action. First, his book captured something about Tokyo and gave me a fine feel for that city. I’d visited Tokyo only once but felt very comfortable there, and his book stirred memories. Second, his hero, John Rain, was also extremely well defined, and despite being an assassin, was a sympathetic character. Finally, his book was realistic, not just in the descriptions of the locale but also in how men react when their lives are at stake. So many thrillers are filled with heroes who behave as if death doesn’t exist. I find that the most glaring inaccuracy of all.
But, to carry on, there are two things I find particularly well done in Mr. Eisler’s books. The first is the way he began his first book Rain Fall. The trick in a book is to introduce the scene, the plot, and the characters without bogging down the action. Mr. Eisler managed to do all of that so effortlessly that I find myself going back to that book from time to time and rereading the first twenty pages just to appreciate it once again.
The second thing I really like about his style is how he handles dialogue between the characters. It’s a small thing and I’ve seen other authors do it, but none so effectively. Interspersed in the dialogue are the thoughts of the main character and the way he is interpreting the words and gestures of his companion. It’s effective, nuanced, realistic, and consistent with the personality of the hero.
For my next post, I will talk about another writer I admire: Martin Cruz Smith
Zurich, April 6, 2011
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