So, having just finished The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady it’s time to type up a list of things I learned from Elizabeth Stuckey-French.
1. How to write about Florida – TRotRL is CHOCK FULL of Florida weather. It even features a fictional hurricane set in the summer of 2006 (remember when we all thought that summer was going to be worse than the 2005 season?) that serves as a sort of deus ex machina which might be an homage to The Mill on the Floss (in which a storm destroys everything but saves the story). Every other paragraph or so discusses the cloying, heavy summer weather we native Floridians know and love. It’s especially interesting to hear the perspective of Tallahassee weather. Being situated about four hours south of “Tackalackee” we experience different winter weather and their summer weather seems a bit more oppressive. Tampa’s at least on the water. There are the ever-present bugs, summer fires, and concern over sunburn. Summer in Florida is distinct and one professor suggested I attempt to incorporate this into my writing. I’m still mulling over this advice. A lot of Southern Literature seems concerned with the weather and atmosphere of the South and it seems that Northern Literature (if that distinction really exists) is not as much concerned with their weather. I’ll be honest, I found it a little annoying, but that could be because I’m reading it in the summer and it seemed like an over-anxious reminder of how easy it is to sweat in the good ol’ Sunshine State.
2. Murder is funny guys – I don’t think I’ll ever be much of a big murder-mystery writer… and comedy as a genre seems a bit difficult to sustain throughout a novel. This one seemed to inexplicably shift gears on me. It reminded me a bit of this movie :
For those of you who haven’t seen it Man of the Year starts out as a pleasant romp through a “what-if” alternate universe where a comedian news-anchor (sort of like Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert) becomes the actual President of the United States. Robin Williams is kind of funny and then all the sudden there’s dark lighting and the dun dun dun murder plot is revealed to have deep roots in every level of the government. Essentially, it’s a movie a bit confused in its identity. Same with TRotRL. There’s only so much humor to be had in an 80 year old woman plotting the murder of a senile old man and the destruction of his daughter’s family. It’s a little twisted.
3. Everyone’s basically a screwy, irresponsible adolescent – though Stuckey-French writes these characters better than the whiney 20 somethings of All the Sad Young Literary Men, I still found myself rolling my eyes a bit. Reckless behavior, especially when it will impact a marriage and offspring is never excusable. I was a little tired of it before it even became an apparent plot device.
The mother is apparently suffering from a mid-life crisis, menopause, and empty nest syndrome (while all 3 of her kids still live at home). She’s basically given up on being a person in her own life. She just made me sad. The father frustrated me. The kids were brats. The only one I really liked was supposed to be the villain. Irony? I guess that’s comedic. It was just a little too much like an overly depressing reality.
All in all, it was a much slower pace than Unwind. And though TRotRL is an adult novel I found it a little more juvenile than Unwind, at least the characters anyway.