John Sandford, in his Prey and Virgil Flowers series, isn’t known as a descriptive writer. He’s known more for his homeboy dialogue, which is often hilarious, often Minnesota coarse. Here’s an example of a rare bit of lyricism, and an image any Minnesota or South Dakota lad can appreciate. “In a cold dry spring, before the trees bud out, the morning sun seems to shine white like a silver dime on the horizon, and the clear air over the still fallow ground gives the prairie a particular bleakness, if your mood is already bleak.”
Another writer I admire is Michael Connelly. In The Narrows he has an aging Harry Bosch thinking about the world’s ugliness that he’s experienced and his need to protect his daughter from that ugliness. He says, “You can become unhinged and cut loose from the world. You can believe you are a permanent outsider. But the innocence of a child will bring you back and give you the shield of joy with which to protect yourself. I have learned this late in life but not too late. It’s never too late. It hurt me to think about the things she would learn about the world. All I knew was that I didn’t want to teach her anything. I felt tainted by the paths I had taken in my life and the things I knew. I had nothing from it I wanted her to have. I just wanted her to teach me.
So I told her, yes, the Burger King and the Dairy Queen were happy and that they had a wonderful life together. I wanted her to have her stories and her fairy tales while she could still believe them. For soon enough, I knew, they would be taken away.” Isn’t that sadly but exquisitely said?