Back when I was a student at the late Jackie “Big Verb” Legazzi’s AAA Correspondence Institute of Writing for Money (motto: Semper Pergamentum, or “a Spillane a day keeps the pretentious crap away”), we had a rule: no exposition in dialogue. In other words, don’t make your characters do the narrator’s job.
In the middle of a fight scene, you couldn’t have your hero say to the bad guy, “Beneath this offshore oil–drilling platform is a volcano that’s going to erupt at any moment! Oh, and by the way, your father, whom you’ve sought throughout your hardscrabble, hand–to–mouth existence, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Take that, you lifelong Hooverite!” Jackie would crucify you via blue–penciled marginal notes for writing stuff like that.
A few weeks ago, when I finally got around to reading The da Vinci Code, which is essentially one long chase scene larded with monologues about art history and church politics, I had a good time imagining what Jackie would have had to say to the author, Dan Brown.
Jackie’s pet phrase, whenever a wannabe thriller lagged, was “Less yakking, more whacking.” In the case of this novel, with its creepy self–flagellating monk and its lack of overt romance, I think he’d have added, “Less scourging, more merging.”
All the same, Jackie would have admired the financial success of The da Vinci Code. And he would have seen in that success an opportunity for his students to do some creative homagery in hopes of scoring some Code cash crumbs themselves. “There was only one Marilyn Monroe,” he liked to say. “But Joey Heatherton lives pretty good.”
In short, Jackie Legazzi would have told his Minnesota students to quit mooning about the weather and their emotionally stunted Scandinavian ancestors and start cranking out some moneymakers. Such as:
The Bemidji Code
A city under the mythic shadow of Paul Bunyan…an Olympic curler with a world–changing secret hidden in a 42–pound granite stone…a climactic shootout at the Mississippi headwaters…in the moonlight…. Come on, it practically writes itself.
The Pawlenty Code
Late at night, poring over a dusty law book, dashing young Governor Tim finds a formula for turning a tax into a fee. But his brave new world is threatened, not only by a loose coalition of guerrilla definition sticklers, but the super–clandestine Priory of Nicotine as well….
The Don Shelby Code
Anagrams abound, à la da Vinci, in this facelift–taut tale of the quest for a local–news Grail known only by its mystifying code name: entertaining slop. When beloved personalities known only by their code names—anchorpersons radiance pie and curt candyboy, sports guy more snark, and weather whiz usual lapdog—fail to crack the cipher, it’s up to the titular hero (hey, blonds!), empowered by a magically tied cravat, to untangle the Grail’s true meaning: top nielsen rating.