by jkatejohnston

12 March 2014

Dear Max,

I’ve been working on my crime novel. Oh dear. The characters make a lot of jokes, and they always seem to be in a good mood, and it’s incredibly annoying. Must remember that in good TV—which is what I’m trying to write, without the TV part—the characters aren’t amused with themselves or each other. They’re pissed off or bored most of the time. It’s the reader (watcher) who gets to be amused. Still, even after I take out all the annoying banter, I think the book will be pretty funny, and it occurs to me that a hilarious book about a serial sex offender may not be to everyone’s taste.

I decided not to write about a murder because I want the victim to testify. As defense attorneys like to point out, a murder is nothing but an assault without the star witness, and I want the star witness. I want to show how someone who’s smart and honest can misidentify someone because of cues that the cops accidentally give her. Also it bothers me that to be heroic, victims of crime have to fight back. I want to show another way of being heroic—going on afterward.

Also, how to write in an entertaining way about all the boring things lawyers say in court? My favorite example of this wasn’t written by a lawyer. It’s from the big constitutional land reform case in A Suitable Boy. The writer skips arguments one through five altogether and describes the people instead. Then:

“Sixthly, my Lords,” continued G.N. Bannerji, “The Zamindari Abolition Act cannot be said to have a public purpose in the strict, or should I say proper, sense of the word.” (Vikram Seth—that wonderful man—A Suitable Boy 746.)


In school, Enzo is learning to pearl. As he put it, “I am not a big fan of pearling.” Teresa is trying to stay one step ahead of him in knitting, so that she can help him and the other kids, but especially him, and he’s not having it. When she tried to teach him to pearl, he said, “I am never going back to knitting again.” We told him he has to because it’s part of school. “Okay, I’ll die.” I think it was before that that I saw him examining his sweatpants and t-shirt, stretching the fabric and looking at it intently. “All my clothes are pearled,” he said.


“Did you know that some of my favorite times I’ve had in my life are in the airport?”

“How come?”

“Because everywhere you go you can smell the smell of Skittles.”


“I’m considered one of the strongest men in school.  There are two species of humans around the world. One is men and the other is girls.”


“Yeah, women.”


“If you are on the Himalayas, a gersade is very nice.” (I have no idea what a gersade is and can’t find it on the internet.)


“I never felt what it feels like to be dead. Which is good.”