According to the Silmarillion, Gandalf is an angel, but his actions and words in the Lord of the Rings far outweigh his back-story in how we remember him. No one would care that Darth Vader is Luke’s father if they didn’t care first about Darth Vader and Luke.
When it comes to a great story, it isn’t the meat of the plot, it’s the motion of how you tell it. In the first chapter of Mark Coggin’s podiobooks.com release of Candy from Strangers, I was hooked long before I had any whiff of plot from the book.
Candy From Strangers opens with a jazz concert and a bar fight, firmly planting one foot in Film Noir and the other in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
The chapter focuses on characterization through action as the band plays and teases its audience before they find out the truth behind the lovely blond locks of the sultry singer.
The ensuing bar fight is not a surprise. We fully expect hi-jinks, as they say, to ensue and we love every moment. We’re in on prank the singer is playing on the audience.
According to the quick and witty 60 second promo on podiobooks.com, this is a mystery novel about a girl gone missing, but that’s meat and the author has wisely avoided loading us down with any bits of plot that might be hard to digest at this point.
Instead, he focuses on bringing us into a world of jazz detectives and their drag queen friends. An ominous prologue for the upcoming mystery would completely miss the point, as if The Big Sleep had started with Marlowe meeting General Sternwood instead of critiquing the heroism of a knight in a painting.
We know our hero, we feel the motion off the world he lives in, the way he moves through it, and, if you’re like me, it doesn’t matter what mystery comes after the hero because you know you’ll enjoy the way he solves it.
So as the detective drops his bass and joins the barfight less than 10 minutes in to the first episode of the podiobook, I know all I need to know about the book: as long as the author keeps up his end of the bargain I’ll be following the rest of it.
The combo of jazz, mystery, and playful gender bending creates a special setting and I haven’t even reached the plot yet. The episode reaffirms my belief that tone and character are more important in establishing a story and a world than any amount of summary, plot, or background. As the lovely Cassandra sings, “It ain’t the meat, it’s the motion.”
Bonus: What gets the sailors attention in the book isn’t the drag queen’s meat, it’s her motion. Of course, when they find out that package isn’t vegetarian, that causes the ensuing bar-fight.
Listen to the podiobook version here.
Visit Mark Coggins’s website here.
Visit podiobooks.com here.