Recently, while visiting cousins in a small West Texas town, we went to a book sale their local library was having. Actually, the sale was already over, and they were trying to move the books that didn’t go in the sale, so they were letting people buy a grocery bag full of books for five dollars.
For several years now, I’ve enjoyed watching the Jesse Stone made-for-TV movies, which are based on books written by Robert B. Parker. I’ve also enjoyed reading at least one Jesse Stone book for which I haven’t seen a movie, so when I came across a couple of his books, I added them to my grocery bag. Once I finished the Jack Reacher book I was reading at the time, I decided to read one of Parker’s next. The one I picked up wasn’t the Jesse Stone—it was a western called Resolution, about a power play in a small town.
Through the years, I’ve read over 75 Louis L’Amour novels, Dana Fuller Ross’s entire Wagons West series, and a number of other westerns. All of these books left me totally unprepared for Resolution. Unlike those his Jesse Stone mysteries, the characters in Resolution seemed to have extremely limited vocabularies. Every third or fourth word started with an ‘f’—IYKWIM.
I realize from Facebook posts that many, if not most, of my writer friends disagree with me about the use of curse words and vulgarity, but I find it distasteful. I also find it distracting and unnecessary. The action and moods can easily be conveyed without the use of this language, and having to deal with it disrupts the flow of the story.
Louis L’Amour and Dana Fuller Ross managed to write well over 100 westerns between them without having to resort to this. John D. MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Lee Child wrote at least that many mysteries without having to fill them with gutter talk. These writers have all sold millions of books, so they must have been doing something right.
John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart and others starred in western movies for decades without lowering themselves to this. Along the way, they drew millions of people to the silver screen, so there must have been something right about the way they did it.
Writers from Shakespeare to Child have given us a glorious craft to be proud of. Have we suddenly lost the ability they exhibited across the centuries to write stories they could be pleased to let their mothers and their children read? I always think that my daughter or grandchildren or church members might read something I wrote, and I’d be beyond embarrassed if I knew they were going to encounter language in my books that would make a sailor blush.
What do you think about this dumbing down of our craft?
For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.
For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.
Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.