Saturday, August 21, 2010

Canto For A Gypsy by Martin Cruz Smith

Martin Cruz Smith's second book, Canto For A Gypsy, was published in 1972.  Back in those days he was simply Martin Smith.  His first book, Gypsy in Amber was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America as one of the best first mystery novels of 1971.

My good friend, Perry Pringle, first put me on to Martin Cruz Smith when he told me that I must read Gorky Park.  'In contemporary Moscow, Chief Homicide Investigator Arkady Renko unravels the mystery of a triple murder--involving three corpses buried in the snow with their faces and fingers missing--complicated by the shadowy and uncooperative presence ...'

Since that time I've tried to read all of his novels.  My favorite to date is Rose 'Down-on-his-luck mining engineer Jonathan Blair undertakes a mission at the request of Bishop Hannay to find the missing curate engaged to Hannay's daughter, an investigation that takes him into the heart of coal country and into a romance ...'

These days I am all into story structure.  And it was very interesting how close Smith followed the beats espoused by Blake Snyder in his screenplay book, Save The Cat!.  Smith hits each of the beats within two pages of the structure Snyder teaches.  Amazing considering Canto For A Gypsy was written 30+ years before Save The Cat! or Syd Field's Screenplay which teaches a similar structure.  No one was teaching this kind of story structure in 1971 when Canto For A Gypsy was being written.

I think it just goes to show that the Greek 3 Act structure and subsequent refinements simply go along with the organic storytelling structure that is hardwired into our sub-conscious - probably since the first story was ever told. 

Ignore structure at your own peril.

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