Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rocking with Fictional Geography in Morro Bay

Why grouch at home when you can go to Amazon? A few minutes looking for local color and not finding much.

 A Little Respect for Geography and Topography, please?, September 1, 2012
Hershel Parker (Morro Bay, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eyes Wide Open (Mass Market Paperback)
I checked out Andrew Gross's EYES WIDE OPEN because the first sentence on the dust flap was "Jay Erlich's nephew has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Morrow Bay." A fictionalized "Morro Bay," I wondered, adapted for a book published by "William Morrow"? I live in Morro Bay and have not yet seen a good thriller set here, although I have seen in mysteries some weird comments on places in San Luis Obispo County. You would be surprised how often mystery writers mention seeing the Pacific Ocean from streets or highways in the town of San Luis Obispo! Now, in the afterword Andrew Gross reveals that a nephew of his died in a fall from "Morro Bay Rock." That's very sad, and it's downright odd to see meager Google accounts giving the lad's name as both Goss and Gross. The death of his nephew may explain the indications that Gross never came to San Luis Obispo County: why visit the site of such pain?

First of all, I have never heard anyone refer to "Morro Bay Rock" (as at p. 32). It's Morro Rock or simply the Rock. It's certainly not "the rock" (47). Nobody ever refers to high protruding "mesas" around SLO. None of the row of extinct volcanoes is called a mesa. Santa Maria is south of SLO, but 15 miles (98) would not get you there, and while Morro Bay has around 10,000 inhabitants Santa Maria has around 10 times that (see 98). If there is a ranger station at Morro Rock (121) I have missed it somehow. As to the abandonment by the pelicans (124) and the miraculous return of one, just one (327), I am surprised, since they don't take lengthy vacations. Yesterday I saw a V formation of pelicans--12 on one leg and 13 or so on the other. Paso Robles (140) is not on the coast. Santa Maria (149) is not 30 miles south of Morro Bay. Now, Gross is not playing with fictionalizing his terrain like Sue Grafton, so I expect minimal accuracy. I just skimmed for geography after I saw that inaccuracies were accumulating, so this is not a critique of the plot of EYES WIDE OPEN. I did not read every page carefully.

Think of what a mystery writer owes the reader. Whatever Grafton does is OK because we all know she is fictionalizing her terrain. But take John Sandford. I like Sandford in Minnesota better than when he goes to NYC or LA, but I can't fault his geography in NYC (granted I have not spent serious time there since 1962) and can't fault it at all in LA (where I lived a long time). John Camp respects the reader, bless him. Every mystery writer should show such respect.

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