Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

by Daniel Depp

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Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby Liz » Mon Jan 17, 2011 2:26 pm

I know some of you have been waiting for this one.....

Did you like Daniel’s writing?

How do you think it compares with Loser’s Town?

Favorite passages?
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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:59 pm

I thought Daniel created his characters with a lot of skill. That first scene of Perec dripping the blood on Anna's photos was chilling and set the scene/created a character in just a few short paragraphs. The scenes with Perec and his mother were written really well, too; he told us a lot about character and relationship without having to spell it out. For instance, when Perec tore pages from the scripture to use as toilet tissue for his mother, I knew his anger and disgust far better than a phrase could have described it. As we have discussed, he made Special both a terrible crook and a sympathetic human character at the same time. He wrote about several complicated characters in some detail and pulled them all into the same story smoothly and in a way that made me suspend disbelief.

Compared to Loser's Town I think the characters are more clearly drawn and the story is constructed better. Over all, a much smoother and easier book to read. Loved loved loved the surprise ending!

I didn't mark any specific passages, unfortunately, but most of the descriptive passages were beautifully written.

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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby Betty Sue » Mon Jan 17, 2011 8:32 pm

Can't say I've been waiting for this one, but I'll jump in. It's hard not to like Daniel's writing style as he's so bright and witty and hilarious and brings out the personalities of his characters so well as he spins his entertaining yarn filled with shocking moments. So I do like his style, though his novel's different from what I usually enjoy reading. (Sometimes the volume of expletives gets a bit overwhelming.... Do people really talk like that?)
The one thing I missed in this book compared to Loser's Town was that there was less emphasis on the sweetness of relationships. Like some of you, I wanted to see some more of the relationship between Dee and Spandau. Their relationship was treated very sweetly, though, up until he choked her. Loved the tenderness of Pookie towards her men. After she blasted both of them and Spandau went off to 'help' Walter at the bar, Daniel wrote, "Spandau left. She managed to let him clear the room before she began to cry." And when she was so furious at Spandau for the disaster the night before, then caught a look at the desolation on his face, she ended up touching his shoulder and shooting Walter a look to: Do something! Fix it!
Nebraska, that's so true how skillfully he used amazing details to illustrate his characters. I noted several quotes as I read, but almost any paragraph was quotable. Creative mind that Daniel has! :cool:
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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby gemini » Mon Jan 17, 2011 8:56 pm

Did you like Daniel’s writing?
He can be unpredictable. I am not much on comparing style so I will leave that to you all. I’ll stick to his story themes.
How do you think it compares with Loser’s Town? In Losers town I always felt there was no real ending of any of the plot lines except those characters that died. None of the survivors had a happy ending except maybe the underworld top guys who got everything they wanted.
For Babylon Nights, he again lets the underworld guys run the show from afar, and even step in to add to their ranks in the end.

In both books, I like his style of giving the villains and even minor characters, a life with dreams and goals just like the hero. I felt myself just as caught up in their story as the main characters., I was sorry when Potts died in Losers Town, even though he was a killer, because I was caught up in his dreams of changing his life and being with his girlfriend and his daughter. As we see with Spandau in this book, Daniel gives all his characters a mixture of good and bad traits instead of the old western theme of you are either the good guy wearing white or the bad guy wearing black.

He also keeps me on my toes now since he killed off my favorite character, Terry McGinn the martial artist who never lost a fight, in his first book. We naturally expected him to save himself and his girl. This kept me from being sure how this story would end knowing Daniel had no qualms about killing off interesting characters. At one point I even wondered if he was going to let Perec get away. And even as damaged and uncaring as he was, I understood how he became that way.
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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby Liz » Mon Jan 17, 2011 8:58 pm

Thanks for starting us off, nebraska.

I agree with you completely that his characters were well drawn.

I, too, think his descriptions were excellent. The example you give, in which he used pages from the Bible as toilet tissue, makes me think of script writing in how you must describe what the character is physically doing. On the other hand, it didn’t read like a script to me. I think his imagery was equally as good in other places. His description of Perec in the attic was haunting. And although the very first chapter was disturbing, the writing was very lyrical to me….reminiscent of the writing in Perfume.

This passage is a good example of how he can write beautifully about very disturbing matters:

Pg. 85-86:


He made the first cut. The small strands of hair gave way into his hand. He was reluctant to let them go, to drop them on the floor. He finally released them, took a few more strands in his fingers. It was so long, so beautiful. Beneath the hair he could just see her neck. He raised the cascade of dark hair and there it was. So pale, so delicate. The long gentle curve of it to her shoulder. He thought of the straight razor sliding softly down the back of her neck, freeing the hundreds of near-invisible tiny hairs that clung to her skin, leaving in its path an ultimate smoothness. He imagined a tiny nick, almost painless, that would blossom at the base of that clean path at the bottom of her neck. There was always an imperfection. Flesh was never pure, never without flaw. The small crimson drop on that skin, so small it wouldn’t run, it would remain there like a dab of paint on a canvas.


Betty Sue, it’s not the genre I normally read either. But I think Daniel does more for me than just write a mystery novel. And I say that because he is so good at character development, structure, imagery and weaving a tale. Plus there is that element of humor that you mentioned. But don't give up on Spandau and Dee yet.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby Liz » Mon Jan 17, 2011 9:01 pm

gemini wrote:Did you like Daniel’s writing?
He can be unpredictable.

He also keeps me on my toes now since he killed off my favorite character, Terry McGinn the martial artist who never lost a fight, in his first book. We naturally expected him to save himself and his girl. This kept me from being sure how this story would end knowing Daniel had no qualms about killing off interesting characters. At one point I even wondered if he was going to let Perec get away. And even as damaged and uncaring as he was, I understood how he became that way.

Well, at least he gave Special a reprieve in this one. :applause2:
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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Jan 17, 2011 9:44 pm

Yeah I do like talking about writing, and not just style. But we can start there. :bigwink:

You know sometimes you read a book because of the plot - it's advertised as a good detective yarn or thriller - and after a while the words in the story are getting in the way of the story. It's like you're going yeah, yeah, yeah get on with it man. And then there are the other ones, the books where you read the paragraph, stop and realize you've got to read it again cause you love how it's written, the way it moves, the rhythm within the sentence, the way the words sound next to each other. Daniel fits in the the latter group for me. He has a distinctive style, a clear and strong voice. It's not intrusive but an intrinsic part of your enjoyment of the story. You're reading as much to see how he says it as what it's all about.

In particular I like the way he writes dialogue, which probably comes out of writing screenplays? (Just a thought.) The back and forth has a great ping pong to it, part of it's just wiseacre comeback (witty) but he also has a really good ear about how things are said, and the different ways different characters need to speak, to keep true to who they are. The profanity comes in here and I think he captures exactly the way many people speak. Profanity is a funny thing. Some people seek out tabboo words because of their power -- they raise the stakes when they're said. For others, it's just the way everyone around speaks. I also swear (no pun intended) that Daniel has increased the amount of dialogue and decreased the amount of introspection by a character. It's still there, just minimized. So now the dialogue moves the plot. In the beginning I kind of missed that floaty stuff, but I think Babylon Nights is a tighter work. No fat.

Lyrical. There are sections of Daniel's writing that I would call lyrical. For example "He wondered if she knew how beautiful she was, not in the public way she was told constantly but in this private form where she played no role, where she surrendered for a while the horrible self-consciousness that was her stock in trade....." and so on (pg 172). I guess you could call it long note writing too. It's slower, it winds around instead of doing a staccato. I like it alot. I especially like that these different ways of communicating with his audience exist side by side. Like an orchestra maybe.

I got more to say but this post is probably too long already. So, interested in hearing from others.
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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby fansmom » Mon Jan 17, 2011 10:11 pm

I'm going to be honest here (and hope the author isn't reading this). I liked his writing style in Babylon Nights more than in Loser's Town. I know most of you don't read many mysteries, but there is an entire sub-genre of damaged hero/LA noir fiction, some of which I read. I liked that he moved most of the setting to Cannes, since that's something he's uniquely qualified to write about. I especially liked the present-tense, second-person narration in Part Two, Chapter 3 where he describes the red carpet experience. (page 179: There's the noise first. You've been hearing it for a while . . .) There is no transition from what we've been reading, observing what Perec and Anna and Spandau have been doing, to the "You are there" immediacy of Spandau's helpless confusion, and for me, that section was very powerfully written.

There were stylistic things that I didn't like at all, especially some similes that felt labored. From the beginning of Part One, Chapter 3, at the banquet: The ladies pelted the Latinos with critiques like Roman Christians being stoned to death. It sounds awkward to me, and I think an example or two of the critiques would have served as a better description. And then the last sentence of that paragraph: But if they'd somehow been able to move the room to Tijuana, it would have been a gleeful bloodbath. That, too, made me pause. Really? All the waiters were homicidal? But then the author went on to describe Anna's panic over the vial so vividly that I moved past the awkwardness.

Ah, I see that fireflydances has posted since I began typing. (I'm scanning old photos for my parents as I type, which slows both processes down. My Christmas gift to them.) I agree, fireflydances, that the dialogue is his strong point. I think that's why I wanted dialogue rather than labored similes I mentioned.

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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Jan 17, 2011 10:54 pm

Liz quotes: "He made the first cut. The small strands of hair gave way into his hand. He was reluctant to let them go, to drop them on the floor. He finally released them, took a few more strands in his fingers. It was so long, so beautiful. Beneath the hair he could just see her neck. He raised the cascade of dark hair and there it was. So pale, so delicate. The long gentle curve of it to her shoulder. He thought of the straight razor sliding softly down the back of her neck, freeing the hundreds of near-invisible tiny hairs that clung to her skin, leaving in its path an ultimate smoothness. He imagined a tiny nick, almost painless, that would blossom at the base of that clean path at the bottom of her neck. There was always an imperfection. Flesh was never pure, never without flaw. The small crimson drop on that skin, so small it wouldn’t run, it would remain there like a dab of paint on a canvas. "
Yes, yes. Another a better example than the very short one I offered. (I haven't annotated the text well enough.) Long curling sentences interspaced with short ones. Even the choice of words: delicate, sliding softly, blossom at the base, imperfection --- long words. Captures the flow of a lovely woman's neck beautifully.

fansmom wrote: I'm going to be honest here (and hope the author isn't reading this). I liked his writing style in Babylon Nights more than in Loser's Town.......I especially liked the present-tense, second-person narration.
Yeah, it's more polished. I think his writing in Part II was truly a cut above. Perhaps because all the 'set up' was done and he could let go and let it roll out. The whole thing is cohesive, even though we move around, focus on different sets of characters. It just hangs well.

(Quirky Aside. I've noticed that the word "pure" as a descriptor occurs with slightly greater frequency than one would expect in Daniel's writing. When I see stuff like that I always wonder if the word is, you know, one that's in a person's repetoire, that kind of palette of words we all have. Perhaps there are other words like this. Not that it matters. It's just one of those things. But it's always interesting to find the words that resonant for a person. Please feel free to ignore this if it seems just on the far side of arcane :-O )
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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby Theresa » Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:00 am

I agree that overall, this book is much more polished than Loser's Town--and flowed very well from scene to scene. And thank goodness there was actually less swearing than in the first book, although there was one page early in the story where I counted 14 f-words in just under a page. Too many, too many.

I was less enamored of the switches in tenses in the writing. It was okay for when Daniel was describing a location--that read well enough, but when he would switch to present tense during parts of the action, like when Spandau declared war on the raccoons, or when he was fighting the scorpions; those transitions jarred me out of the story. Training in writing, I guess...never switch tenses in the middle of a story.

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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:01 am

I have to agree with what has been said about dialog. When I was reading about Walter I could see our old friend vividly in my mind -- something in Walter's dialog was exactly the way our old friend Al used to talk! and I haven't seen him for probably 25 or 30 years.

And yes, whole segments of society DO talk in foul language (I live with construction workers)

Did Potts die in Loser's Town? I thought we all debated and hoped whether or not he would be in the next story? :perplexed:

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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:14 pm

Theresa wrote: when he would switch to present tense during parts of the action, like when Spandau declared war on the raccoons, or when he was fighting the scorpions; those transitions jarred me out of the story.
I rather liked what he did in terms of tense in those sections. Obviously it was done deliberately, obviously to increase the sense of intensity, as both scenes were decidedly intense. I looked back at the racoon scene and the other thing he could have done was to written that entire short chapter (chapter 10 pg. 75) in the present tense. I don't think he would have lost anything by doing it. He also does a lot of things with POV, lots of switches that come out well done but which perhaps ride the line in terms of writing rules.

I am chiefly here today because I found one of my favorite sections of writing and wanted to set it out for others to read, comment on, whatever. Here it is:
"By the end of dinner it was like the food seduction scene in Tom Jones. She was licking the creme caramel off the spoon with the tip of her tongue, and letting Spandau watch her take her time doing it. Spandau teased her with a bite of warm chocolate macaroon, and when she finally took it in her mouth, he felt that light spinning sensation all men feel just before six million years of reproduction kick in."
That what I call 'lyrical' stuff again.
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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:20 pm

I don't know nearly as much about writing as some of you do so I'll leave the discussion of that to those who can do it justice. I do like his writing and for me his strengths lie in his character development and his dialogue. That must be his screenwriter expertise coming through. Some parts of it made me :harhar: some parts made me :blush: and some parts made me :fear: so I guess if you can bring out that many different feelings in one book that's good writing.

nebraska, as to Potts, I do believe he lived in Losers Town and Daniel mentioned in an interview that he would reappear in a future book because readers had such a strong reaction to him. Am I remembering that correctly?
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Re: Babylon Nights Question #11 ~ Writing Style

Unread postby gemini » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:22 pm

nebraska wrote:I have to agree with what has been said about dialog. When I was reading about Walter I could see our old friend vividly in my mind -- something in Walter's dialog was exactly the way our old friend Al used to talk! and I haven't seen him for probably 25 or 30 years.

And yes, whole segments of society DO talk in foul language (I live with construction workers)

Did Potts die in Loser's Town? I thought we all debated and hoped whether or not he would be in the next story? :perplexed:


Yes, you are correct Nebraska. I had to go back and reread the scene to remember. Potts felt all his dreams were shot because his job had gone so wrong with two murders, 3 counting his parter and he would loose everything because he had no choice but to run. Daniel leaves it at that so it is possible he could turn up later.
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