My motto for our Dominican Republic experience seems to have been been “a book a day.” I read five books all in all, and that is counting two bloody thick novels by Stephen King.
Amongst others I read Softspoken, a novella by Lucius Shepard.
Now, I recently had my say about what I think of Mr. Lucius Shepard, and I still hold to it. The man and I will never be on the same page when it comes to literature or movies. But he sure can write.
Softspoken is a ghost story set in the deep South, and the heat, the moisture, and the thick accents seem to drip from the pages. Reading this book in the Dominican Republic helped, I think. The air must be similar.
Sanie Bullard (spellcheck just offered me Dullard as an alternative; not unfitting, I have to admit) has recently moved to South Carolina with her husband, to give him the peace and quiet to study for the bar. They live in his ancestral homestead with his hick brother and overly timid sister. At first Sanie is bored. Slowly a mystery arises, showing a way out of the boredom – and then there is also the handsome Frank Dean, for whom her husband has nothing but contempt. But all too soon feelings like boredom, curiosity and maybe love are swept away by the horrible secret that the old Bullard Mansion holds.
Softspoken may be a bit of a non-story (as Jonas pointed out to me), but I don’t mind that. It may be over before it begins, and I fear the ending is as solid as an elephant statue made from jelly, but what I’ve always loved about Shepard is there. The superb writing. The atmosphere. The beautiful sentences. I enjoyed Softspoken, despite the occasional stab at Stephen King and other popular writers. Oh do I wish Lucius Shepard were less of a snob.
A few notes on the visuals of the book: the cover art, which is terrible, was done by a man named J. K. Potter, a funny name given the author’s dislike of Rowling’s writing. Also, it would have been nice if someone had taken the time to proofread Softspoken. I find it hard to notice typos, both in my own writing as well in works by others. (That’s what Jonas is there for.) I am the anti-proofreader, so to speak, but in Softspoken even I caught plenty of errors. And don’t get me, started on the, punctuation?
The bottom line is that unfortunately Softspoken has more flaws than are good for it, on a writing level as well as in its physical appearance. It is not one of Shepard’s better works. Yet I still liked it. Why?
Mostly because, although I have never been to the South, I still feel that Softspoken captures the feeling of that region, the slowness and the heat, rather well. Shepard just has a knack for setting the mood. You gotta give him that.