“Take what you like and leave the rest,” writes George early on. It’s good advice for approaching this book.

An up-close and personal class in writing a novel.

Most authors of how-to-write books provide numerous excerpts and samples of work from successful, published authors in order to show aspiring writers how it’s done. Hot on the heels of her last Inspector Lynley mystery, The Punishment She Deserves (2018), the award-winning George breaks this tradition by analyzing a single novel, Careless in Red (2008), one of her Lynley mysteries. The excerpts are extensive and sometimes quite lengthy, so expect spoilers. Throughout, the author calmly teaches by example, pragmatically walking readers through numerous sections of the lengthy novel. “What I actually want to do,” she writes, “is show you how a particular process that I’ve developed over time works for me.” Before George begins a novel, she conducts extensive research. Here, she includes photographs she took of the seaside in Cornwall where the novel is set and discusses how she was looking for a location to establish tone and atmosphere. What she discovered “ended up giving me an entrée into my novel.” Once she has found a “plot kernel” and the settings, “everything else rises from the characters: the subplots, conflicts, theme, motifs, agendas, and the shape of the through line of the story.” The author creates elaborate prompt sheets from which a character “rises up and tells me who he is.” In other chapters, George explores dialogue, voice, point of view, and plot development. A key to the George method of writing is the “THAD,” or “Talking Heads Avoidance Device,” which is an “action that accompanies dialogue.” Writers must “avoid writing a scene that comprises only dialogue and taglines.” The author concludes with a detailed discussion of the importance of revising. “I’m a perfectionist,” she writes, but she doesn’t include much on language or style. Each chapter includes optional exercises. The author’s nuts-and-bolts approach may be a tad too dry for some fledgling writers.

“Take what you like and leave the rest,” writes George early on. It’s good advice for approaching this book.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7831-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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