October 13, 2016
(Or at least until you screw up big time.)
I’ve been listening to a new (for me) favorite author on Audible, Gregg Hurwitz. If you’re one of my SF/Fantasy fans, don’t feel too bad if you don’t know him. He’s a thriller writer, not SF, and if that isn’t your genre and you don’t pay attention to the NY Times bestseller list, he may have escaped your notice. But, on the basis of two of the fifteen books of his I’ve been through, Survivor and Orphan X, I highly recommend him. Survivor, in particular, does something that instantly earned him my trust as a reader. To talk about it, I’m going to have to enter spoiler territory, so consider yourself warned.
Trust from your reader is a nebulous thing, but it really amounts to how willing that “willing suspension of disbelief” actually is. As a thriller author, Mr. Hurwitz has a tougher row to hoe than myself. Everything Gregg Hurwitz puts on the page must have a level of real-world plausibility that many SF and Fantasy authors don’t have to deal with. More importantly, for his books, that willing suspension, that trust, can be much more fragile. A reader who’s already bought into werewolves may have a bit more flexibility to accept strange mutations of police or medical procedures. A contemporary thriller writer doesn’t get that kind of slack.
So how did Mr. Hurwitz gain my trust?
In his book Survivor, his main character is a guy on the run from the Ukrainian mob. Nasty dudes. He is also in the early stages of ALS. He’s still mobile, and, at the moment, is only having a few neurological symptoms here and there. So we have a great setup (my description here doesn’t do it justice) with a guy who’s facing life threatening issues on two sides, one of which is certainly going to kill him. I’m on board. (I should also mention that Hurwitz has a Stephen Kingesque ability to create sympathetic characters, both heroic and villainous, with very quick precise strokes.) So as the novel goes on, the symptoms of the ALS become worse and worse… And suddenly I’m wondering, can the disease progress that quickly? It’s only been a few days. Maybe, I think, Hurwitz is taking some liberties with the symptoms. Ok, I’ll give it a pass because I’m caught up in everything else. But it nags me.
Then he sees a doctor. And Hurwitz, like magic, explains exactly what’s happening. Our guy, who’s been prominently popping his ALS meds along with an antibiotic prescribed in the first few chapters by some other ER doc, is having an adverse drug interaction. We’ve been watching his body react to the antibiotic he’s been taking nearly every chapter…
If you’re a writer and can answer a reader’s unvoiced question like that, in a way that it all makes sense retroactively, you got their trust.