Civil Discourse Now

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John Sandford's "Silken Prey"---a good read from a really good series.

   John Sandford is the pen name of a St. Paul-Minneapolis journalist who writes novels. Most of the novels he has written have been in the "Prey" series. Perhaps John D. MacDonald started this method of titles/series with his Travis McGee novels. Each book included, in its title, a color. The series was about a self-described "marine salvage" expert who, in return for half the money a person lost to a con artist or thief, retrieve the monies lost. MacDonald started the McGee series in the 1950s. He wrote the last of the series, "The Lonely Silver Rain," shortly before his death in the 1980s. McDonald was a fantastic writer and his novels, especially those about McGee, his house boat The Busted Flush in Slip F-18 at the Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale (the slip itself now a state shrine of some sort), and the various characters who were his friends and foes, were brilliant.

   I make the comparison between Sandford and McDonald for several reasons. The most obvious is the common form of the title of each book. Sandford includes the word "prey" in his titles for the series that features Lucas Davenport, an investigator for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who was with the Minneapolis PD. His latest is "Silken Prey."

   The book is great and a fun read. I do not mean to deter anyone from purchasing "Silken Prey." The plot involves dirty tricks in a campaign for United States Senate in Minnesota. To fully appreciate the book, however, one would best be served by reading the series. This is where other similarities between Sandford and MacDonald appear.

   I started reading the Travis McGee series shortly after graduation from law school in 1989. I had not been able to read a novel in ages. There was a used bookstore on Guilford (I think) where now stands a beauty salon/spa. I started with "The Deep Blue Good-By," and read the series in order. The character of McGee ages with the books until, at the end, his reflections on life, as his nears its end, are poignant. The books are full of action and drama, as well as humor. The series is much more than a detective series, though.

   I read the first of Sandford's "prey" series, "Rules of Prey," years ago. "Silken Prey" is the 23rd in the series. Sandford also has written other novels, most notably the Virgil Flowers series, about another Twin Cities cop, and the Kidd series, about a computer-savvy artist who lives on a boat. In "Silken Prey," all three characters enter the story.

   Unlike other current writers, Sandford has not franchised his name---or at least not on these stories. He has a smooth and relaxed style, as when, throughout an entire book, Davenport engages in an ongoing discussion of the 100 best rock songs ever. He also has a good sense of plot and twist.

   The point I make is this---read the entire "Prey" series, plus the six books in the Flowers series and the four Kidd novels, each in order. Then you should read "Silken Prey." Probably it will be out in paperback by then. This definitely is a guy who writes good, interesting novels that make it fun for an adult to read, and not feel guilty about the experience.

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