Sunday, 24 August 2014

As you know...

Actually,  I'll ignore the many "as you knows" that once again pop up in the dialogue and concentrate on the unnatural way people are always speaking in Rohmer-world.  After HTWAB$ and his encouraging comments on dialogue getting to the point, again in Red Arctic we again have to suffer through lines and lines of information that is supposed to represent the way a conversation might sound, fact after fact after fact.  For example, as Boychuk, Raisa and pilot Joe Palmer are getting ready to leave in the Twin Otter to go flying off in search of  Shalaurov's cairns, Boychuk tells the other two about the Soviets trying to find alternative routes from the Arctic to Atlantic Ocean.  In one uninterrupted stretch of dialogue - one stretch! - he references the following geographical locations:

1. The Perry Channel
2. Ellef Rignes Island
3. Amund Rignes Island
4. The Perry Strait
5. The Wellington Channel
6. Barrow Strait
7. The Northwest Channel
8. Lancaster Sound
9. Baffin Bay
10. The Belcher Channel
11. North Kent Island
12. Jones Sound

And this is as they're getting ready to fly off on their mission, not while they're sitting around having a drink.

I actually wouldn't mind if this was part of the book - specific details can add verisimilitude if done right - but why is always done through forced dialogue? 

Random thoughts:

- all Russians apparently refer to their country as "Mother Russia".

- The Soviet foreign ministry officer is named Mikhail Akhromeyev; Dr. Sokolov's first name is Raisa.  Considering the book was written when Mikhail Gorbachev, husband of Raisa, was in power, couldn't he have cast the net a little wider looking for names?

- The central plot in Red Arctic - in which a document is discovered that gives Russia/The Soviet Union claim to much of the Canadian Arctic - is very similar to the Get Smart episode "Hello, Columbus – Goodbye, America", in which an ancient document is discovered that gives one of Christopher Columbus's descendants legal ownership of North America.  Not the same, but similar.  Though I doubt very much Rohmer would have thought very much of the episode title's Philip Roth joke. 


  1. Keep your dialogue as close to "natural" conversation as you can. Normally, that's fairly choppy. The sentences aren't too long.
    - Richard Rohmer, How to Write a Best Seller, p. 49

    Stan, it's hard to tell - and the eyes do glaze over - but if you reread you'll see that it's Boychuk who delivers the dissertation on submarines and geopolitics. This is in response to Raisa "teasingly" raising the subject (p. 73), and continues after Palmer makes his lame-ass joke about the GIN gap (p. 74), The howler is that at the end of it all we get this:

    Inspector Boychuck was anxious to get going. "Enough of this submarine-and-whale chatter. We have to find four of Shalaurov's cairns today. It's going to be a long haul. Are we all set?"

    Jeez, we could've left twenty minutes ago.

    The thing to take away is that the Soviets think of the Arctic Ocean as theirs. The other stuff is there to add three pages to what would otherwise be a 164-page book (maps included). I also think that Rohmer hates to pay for research and then not use it.

    Thoughts on your random thoughts:

    - "Mother Russia" goes and in hand with "vodka". I note the latter appears four times on page 54. That's got to be a record, right?

    - Naming Mikhail Akhromeyev allows for the lame joke that has the Politburo in stitches.

    - On the subject of titles, why all this discussion about naming operations?

    "Would the name 'Operation Red Arctic' be too descriptive, to close to the point?"

    Marshal Akhromeyev thought about that for a moment, then said enthusiastically, "I think it's a good name…"

    Truth is, it's a crap name. There's a reason why Operation Neptune was called Operation Neptune and not Operation Allies in Normandy. You'd think the chief of the defence staff would know this.

  2. Brian - right you are, it's Boychuk delivering that geography lesson on page 75. Luckily, it doesn't change my point - someone is always talking like this.

    The stupid thing is, I thought I double-checked and got it wrong anyway.

  3. Make sure the dialogue suits the speaker and the occasion. The language used will depend upon who is speaking.
    - Richard Rohmer, How to Write a Best Seller, p. 49

    Rohmer's characters tend to speak the same way. Notable exceptions are Texans and George S. Patton, Jr. Unless the speaker stops to pick his nose (HTWAB$, p. 76), confusion ensues.

    In the midst of a conversation involving three or four people you have to be extra careful to identify your speakers.
    - Richard Rohmer, How to Write a Best Seller, p. 76

    What makes it worse here is that the long speech could've been given by Palmer. What makes Boychuk so knowledgable? Nothing. When you think about it, as dean of York's "Russian department", isn't Raisa the expert?

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  5. "But in Peter's day it wasn't known that the continents were separated by what is now known as the Bering Strait, named after the Danish explorer employed by one of the later tsars." Try saying it out loud. You cannot. Maybe Kevin Spacey could. Or the 60's version of Batman and Robin, but they'd have to split it up, like this:

    But in Peter's day it wasn't known...

    ... that the continents were separated by what is now known as the Bering Strait!

    Named after the Danish explorer employed by one of the later tsars.

  6. I just corrected it but it really doesn't matter.

    Since HTWAB$ talks about how much he likes dictating his books -couldn't he tell that his dialogue was so leaden just by playing it back?

  7. I think he dictates them and then goes through the transcript and adds stuff. Electrifying phrases like "what is now known as" "(died) of cancer two years ago." Speaking of eagles, bears and beavers, you know what plane lands easily, almost anywhere? A Twin Otter. It's the large wheels that do the trick.