19 January 2024

Detecting Style

“Red Eye” is a short story by Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane. It was published in Face Off and then in The Best American Mystery Stories 2015, where I read it.

David Baldacci, the editor of Face Off, invited established crime writers to write short stories that brought their lead characters together. In “Red Eye,” Connolly’s L.A. police detective Harry Bosch meets Lehane’s Boston private eye Patrick Kenzie.

It looks like Connolly and Lehane traded sections, Connolly writing those parts told by following Bosch and Lehane those tracking Kenzie. Usually Kenzie is the narrator of the novels that feature him, but to match Connolly Lehane wrote in the close third person.

Even beyond the central characters, the sections are easily distinguished by the authors’ styles. Connolly is stripped down, short sentences and terse observations.

Lehane’s sections, in contrast, are full of sentence fragments, aphroisms, metaphors. It’s still hard-boiled prose, but it’s not afraid of style.

The contrast reminds me of the difference between Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. And I like a little more ornament in my prose.