I’ve read a lot of books, it’s basically what I do, but I recently came across a phenomena that I’ve never really experienced before; descriptive writing that encapsulated me, and really made me want to visit the location in question.
Let me contextualise this a little; lately I decided to start reading some Dennis Lehane. For those of you who aren’t too sure of who he is, go and watch Mystic River, or Shutter Island, or Gone, Baby, Gone, or even the episodes of The Wire that he penned. Then come back to me.
I’ve read some of his stuff before, but only the main ones, the books of the afore-mentioned movies, and now I decided to start from the beginning. If anyone isn’t familiar with his writing style, it’s basically modern noir, based in Boston, with a heavy concentration on character development and plot substance. You’ll find very few throwaway characters or filler chapters here!
It’s the setting that I want to concentrate on here though. Lehane is a Bostonian, and this is clear to see once you pick up one of his novels, especially any of the Kenzie-Gennaro series, where the Massachusetts capital is described in such intricacies that I can’t help but feel driven towards it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read books that have described their settings minutely before; Shakespeare and Dickens classics depict London like little other literature, and Steig Larsson must have single-handedly improved Sweden’s tourism industry ten-fold. Even authors like Zadie Smith, who sets some of her novels in and around the area I was born, and Malcolm Pryce, the author behind the seedy underbelly of a Druid-ruled sleepy town in West Wales, do not describe their setting quite like Lehane.